|Cartoon from www.avconline.avc.edu|
Every now and again a pedantic nit-picker will take issue with me on something I’ve written pointing out that the British Government hasn’t actually introduced the draconian and barbaric law which threatens the very triple-knit polyester of our society that I’ve railed feverishly against. My answer to which is usually ‘how could you tell?’ In any case, it is bound to one day. No lesser person than Harry Belafonte was on Radio 4 this week warning that ‘governments are always finding new ways of oppressing people.’ I’m sure I haven’t thought of everything. I have had emails from both Gordon ‘Scrooge McDuck’ Brown and John ‘Chopper’ Reid thanking me for giving them some very good ideas for further impoverishing the disadvantaged and frightening the socks off anyone even thinking about coming to Britain to conduct any business other than emptying their wallets at the box offices of our great West End theatres.
In the past I have never had a problem reconciling my forthrightness of view with the complete lack of detailed knowledge that I bring to the multitude of subjects that I embrace. However, I’ve reached a time of life where I would like to be taken seriously as a journalist, so I have done a very unpants-like thing and gone undercover for some factual research. Actually, I was under quite a lot of covers. Don’t worry, Robbie Williams was not involved, that’s another story. I will now reveal where I have been for the last week.
As you know, the British Union of Medicophobes (BUM) has its headquarters right here at House of Pants. I have pilloried our healthcare system from afar whilst basking in the state of perpetual fitness which I sincerely believe is a combination of genes unpredisposed to any of the tedious present day maladies, good food, regular exercise and a sneering disregard for the pathetic letters that seem to arrive weekly from our local medical practice begging me to have this and that scanned for fear that they might fail to meet some pointless target. I have always said that if something wanted me badly enough, it could have me. What I had not taken into account was what that ‘something’ might turn out to be.
In my own defence I was thinking of a romantic condition where I could swoon a bit and then expire painlessly. To be honest, I hadn’t really thought it through. But events overtook me and I was breach delivered, somewhat belatedly, into the world of illness and pain that most adults of my age have known quite intimately, many times. I was a stranger in that place.
On the evening of Friday last when I staggered down my hallway in my grubby pink terry towelling dressing gown clutching the phone and trying to remember whether it is 999, 000 or 911 for an ambulance in
Cut to me slumped in a hard plastic chair in A&E at Homerton Hospital on a Friday night at 10pm in only my pink terry towelling dressing gown. I had neither contact lenses nor glasses so could not see a thing. In retrospect this is probably just as well. I remained there for three hours before anyone came anywhere near me. I moaned, groaned and whimpered but, having never been in a hospital before as an emergency patient, I did not know that although anywhere else in the world these utterances are universally recognised as signifiers of pain, in a controlled medical environment they are indicators of bad character and lack of consideration for others’ feelings. Even if you think you are dying, in a British hospital it seems like it’s not good etiquette to make too much of a fuss about it. I’m OK with that if it’s really a rule but they might have said. I’m sure I would have taken account of a leaflet about that if I’d got one.
I was not to know at that moment – to be fair I did have other things to worry about – that Pants had gone Gonzo. I always wondered why my reasonably fit 77-year-old mother who is quite often hospitalised because she has asthma, took so much care and attention over her hospital bag. Now I know. When you land in hospital in a manky dressing gown with nothing underneath and no shoes and in a dishevelled and confused state because you have spent the last twenty-four hours pondering what is wrong with you rather than packing matching pyjama sets, you translate as mad.
What was wrong with me? A faecal fur-ball which would eventually reach the size of a grapefruit was growling away, begging to be recognised by a competent physician. Sadly, Maimonides was not answering his pager. When I said that if something wanted me badly enough it could have me, I was not thinking that ‘something’ might be constipation. I’d not had it before and didn’t recognise the early warning signs. I’d never taken laxatives nor would I have known what to ask for if I’d needed them. What I did manage to intuit in the early stages of this ordeal is that constipation is not a romantic death.
Next - Pants' hospital ordeal unfolds like a roll of Andrex for you and the rhinoceros of your choice...