TWO – A whiter shade of pale
The AA traffic planner measures the distance from Sandown Park to my house as 18.3 miles, with a journey time of forty-five minutes, so I guess I drove for forty-five minutes or thereabouts. I blocked out the noise and bustle of the world and drove every five yards as if it were the last five yards. I must have been in a state of mental hyper-refrigeration because I remember absolutely nothing about the journey. For all I know, aliens could have transported me home. My next recollection is turning the engine off.
I sat in the car, waiting to go into the house. So far, I had survived through an inward intensity that had crowded everything else out. I think it was the getting home that changed everything.
Though my heart rate seemed to have eased a little, I felt the first real inklings of fear. I waited. It was either about five minutes or a couple of hours before I got the guts to get out and enter the house. The first person I saw was my brother (who was living with us at the time).
How did you get on?, he called, reference to my trip to the races.
I can still hear my reply. It rings in my mind like the end of break at school (oh that it could have been such). Fine, I said I won ninety quid but I think I’m having a heart attack!
I suppose it was a bit of an odd answer.
My heart’s beating really fast and I haven’t got a pulse I said.
He walked over and took my pulse. I can’t remember if he swore (he doesn’t do that sort of thing as a rule) but he certainly looked anxious (under-statement). I would have sworn, of course, second nature to me. Odd really, same upbringing, same convoluted education, pretty much the same environment but end result, chalk and cheese. What’s that all about? Chaos theory is probably in there somewhere. I wasn’t thinking much except that this wasn’t good and that it wasn’t going to end well, the beginning of something, rather than the end. Or if it was to be the end, it would be the ultimate end.
Next thing I remember was shambling into the A&E at East Surrey Hospital. Fortunately I live within the proverbial stones throw so it hadn’t taken long, but as I say, I don’t recall the trip anyway. The place was, of course, heaving with the usual Saturday evening ragtag bunch of self-inflicted injuries and failed self-immolations, interspersed with the odd legitimate A&E candidate. Which was I? I wasn’t sure.
I would have laughed if I wasn’t in a bit of a pickle, it was a management consultant’s paradise, cost savings everywhere, under-resourced, under-paid, under-qualified but what joy, cheap, cheap, cheap. Heaven.
My brother did a bit of queue jumping and accosted a nurse who happened to be passing. You could see the initial scepticism on her face. Not surprising really, she must have got her fair share of over-eaters with chest pain. Didn’t last long. She took my pulse and I was slowly rushed out back. Oh what joy. No four hour wait for me. The rest of the waiting room was not amused. I could imagine their outrage, I was here hours before him, for fuck’s sake.
I stumbled through double doors. What was chaos on one side was also chaos on the other. Still, to be honest, I didn’t really give a toss, I wasn’t sure what the hell was going on so I was going to take whatever was on offer. I do remember thinking, I’m really in the shit now.
Lie down there she said, indicating a trolley.
I did exactly as she said and promptly arrested. I don’t recall any pain. I didn’t see the crash trolley or the paddles or anything else for that matter. Only a sort of blurring as the ceiling flew away (it was indeed a whiter shade of pale and suddenly the song made sense. I could die happy).
I was 32 years old.