Monsieur So British #30: Health Kicked Part 2

Saturday, March 14th, 2020

#30 Health Kicked Part 2

I’ve always taken a fairly fatalistic approach to health matters. I’m not one to cling to a silver lining or look for the upside, there’s many an optimist that lays slain on the battlefield, a look of betrayal on their innocent faces, whereas I expect to be disappointed and therefore never am. But that’s when illness is a personal thing, it’s you stoically fighting the ravages of some sinister attack, a man alone against the dark forces of malady. Coronavirus, and trust me I’m washing my hands after every typed word here, makes you one of the numbers. It ruins the singularity of your existing ailment. There’s no comfort in a crowd here, you’re just an ordinary snook, your individuality torn from you, you’re anonymous. People cope with these things in different ways. There are the ‘the authorities are lying, it’s a conspiracy theory’ people; there’s the panickers, stockpiling loo-roll and pasta, thereby proving that all those ‘Britain will survive a No-Deal Brexit, because of our Blitz Spirit’ speeches were just bollocks; and the wait-and-see-ers. The quiet ones, taking heed of medical advice and precautions, scoffing at the panickers, buying maybe the odd extra bag of toilet roll and blaming the authorities anyway. And those, like me, who have paid in advance for an Italian holiday and who finds it all too horrific and depressing so spends their time trying to re-write the lyrics to Greased Lightening.

‘First it was just en-demic, then it was epi-demic, now it’s paaan-demic… it’s Plague Frightening…’

I just want to be informed, that’s all. Give me something concrete to fret over not an information vacuum where my imagination runs wild and I start compiling a Funeral playlist on Spotify. And I’m not talking about COVID#19 here, I’m talking about me.

It had been over two weeks since a combination of colonoscopy and gastroscopy – seriously I had more cameras in more tunnels than a Badger’s set on Springwatch – had revealed Duodenal haemorrhaging. Biopsies had been taken to determine the exact cause, and I had heard nothing since. Nothing. Now, I appreciate that medical test laboratories may have other priorities at this pressing time, but come on people! Life goes on, hopefully, let’s concentrate on those we can help, not some 95 year old living on the Italian border.

Then the letter from the hospital came, and I opened it nervously.

It was bad news. The worst.

It was the bill for my hospital stay. Twenty-four euros. Of course, someone given to a brighter disposition could cheerily laugh something like this off. Treat it like a perfect release of tension. Write the cheque, yes we still use those, file the bill away and go chuckling away into a corner shaking their head at the absurdity of it all. But you know I’m not like that right?

Oh. My. God. That was my first reaction. Oh. My. God. They’ve sent me the bill in advance of bad news so that I pay the damn thing, rather than telling their accounts department to go and hang, and to send any reminders to my fire pit in Hell.

I paid the bill immediately, hoping like the parent of a kidnapped child, that it would be swiftly followed by the release of good news.

I spent the next week in England, with the stress of being away from home mixing with increasing tension about my results. I was in England with the boys, Maurice and Thérence, visiting their older brother Samuel at his grandparents’. Normally I don’t like being away from home and Natalie, but she was keeping me regularly informed and it sounded like I was better off in Crawley to be honest. First Kipper had run away, eventually returning. Then the goats had escaped the fence. Natalie read out the morning roll-call of livestock escapees like the weary Kommandant of a POW camp. Kipper, a regular Steve McQueen, was out more often than in until Natalie found his tunnel and put an end to his antics. The goats had been found by a passerby who’d knocked on the door to ask Natalie if she was missing any goats. It happens a lot around here that. He’d spotted them at the roadside, and unsure of what they’d done or why they’d done it they were nervously standing by a fence that they’d breached one way, but had no idea how to re-breach, sending the horse into a furious frenzy at the stupidity of her companions.

I’d have let them go, personally. That was the mood I was in.

My new found high blood pressure was reacting to things as one might expect. A loss of breath for one, but also a permanent twitching of the left eye, Inspector Dreyfus-style. I couldn’t control it and more than once got some angry looks off people in the street who thought I was being over-familiar and not, actually, in something of a dither over missing farm animals and missing biopsy results. The crossing home, a supposedly relaxed overnight ferry from Portsmouth to Le Havre was the roughest I have ever known. The large ferry lurched constantly, sending furniture  and people flying and it felt like a portent, a signal of doom to come. That’s how low I’d sunk. I’d barely slept in days, certainly not on the ferry, my eye twitched and blinked like it was signalling Morse Code, I was constantly heard muttering, ‘bastard, bloody goats’ and I was, I’m not ashamed to admit it, scared. I feared the worst, because while I’d been away there was still no news and I was convinced that meant it was bad. You know, like the old saying, ‘No News is Bad News.’ No? Just me?

I rang the hospital on the Monday. I should have rung before but like a lot of people where medical information is concerned, I think I actually prefer to get angry that I have no news, rather than having something concrete that may raise anxiety levels, or worse, require action.

For once though I decided something must be done, and also for once, my phone French didn’t let me down. I got through to the secretary of the Gastro-Enterologist and she told me, quite politely, that she’d sent the results to my Medecin Traitant, my GP. She had, however, on further investigation sent them to my old GP. The one who hates me, and the one who had now been sitting on potentially life-changing results for a fortnight.

Everybody should have an outlet for frustration. Some need exercise, some need a drink, some need quiet, calm reflection. I can’t exercise, it was too early -even for me – for a drink and calm reflection wasn’t going to cut it here, so I went out and swore at the goats who had the good grace to hold eye contact all the way through and never stop chewing the cud. They looked like Nick Park characters. I looked like an idiot.

It’s obviously at times like this when cool heads are called for, a strong personality is needed to overcome the raging heat of fear and frustration. A serene, Matrix-like third eye to cut through the red mist of anger and gibbering paralysis. That’s where Natalie comes in. She rang the secretary back while I frothed imprecations from a foetal position on the sofa and Kipper ate my slippers as if in sympathy.

The results were clear, the secretary said. Nothing to worry about. Well, not until we go on that Italian holiday anyway.

Monsieur So British is a weekly blog and carries on from my two best-selling books ‘À la Mod…’ and ‘C’est Modnifique…’, both are available here. It is also a fortnightly podcast, sometimes with extra bits thrown in and all the major podcast platforms.

Browse the rest of the website for gig news and other stuff and remember ‘Playing the Martyr’, my first crime novel, and set in the Loire Valley is also available.

I’ve just finished my new novel, a humorous mystery caper and have signed with a literary agent, so hopefully there’ll be news soon.

All feedback on the blog most welcome, well, you know, within reason…

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