TWO – A whiter shade of pale
“The room was humming harder, as the ceiling flew away” – Procol Harum
The AA traffic planner measures the distance from Sandown Park to my house as 18.3 miles, with a journey time of forty minutes, so I guess I drove for forty 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. Arriving home, things began to change. I think it was simply the relief of getting there that conjured up the ointment whilst at the same time invigorating the fly. Bottom line – 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. Time was fucking with me again. 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 were such flatulent detritus. I know. You cannot have flatulent detritis, but how else does one describe such tedium posing as adversity. I’d like to go back and scream at myself, Get a life, you whinging fucker! Well, maybe not quite so harsh but I would certainly point out that things could have been worse).
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. Bring that back, I cried. Seriously, I can’t remember if he swore (he doesn’t do that sort of thing as a rule) but there was definitely a worried frown to his brow. I would have sworn, of course. No end of obscenity. Second nature to the likes of 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. As for my predicament, I wasn’t thinking much except that things were looking decidedly sticky and weren’t likely to end well. The beginning of something, rather than the end thereof. 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 it wasn’t for the pickle I found myself in, (don’t end a sentence with a preposition, I was always told. Unless, of course, you don’t give a shit. You can guess where I stand on such matters). Anyway, putting to one side the small matter of the pickle for the moment, what pray, the cause of my would-be merriment? The National health Service, of course, management consultant’s paradise. What two things do you associate most with said management consultants. No question, chaos and confusion. Oh, and a third thing, an open wallet bulging with money, someone else’s money, it’s idiot owner gone for a slash. And now I found myself gaping at that wallet. Opportunities for cost savings everywhere. Give us a plethora of meetings and a few long words and we can turn this under-resourced, under-paid, under-qualified bunch of what-nots into an under-resourced, under-paid, under-qualified bunch of what-nots. I laughed. But they’d already been here, of course. The evidence of management fossil fuel lay everywhere, like a massive footprint. Chaos and confusion remained but wallet gone. And now that we’ve wiped our muddy boots all over them, what can we sell them next?
Back to the matter in hand. Reluctantly I put my prejudices aside. My brother did a bit of queue jumping and accosted a nurse that happened to be passing. You could see the initial scepticism on her face. Not surprising really, she must have had her fair share of over-eaters with chest pain. Didn’t last long. She took my pulse and I was slowly rushed out back. Platinum service. No four hour wait for me. As you might expect, 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, the dramatic change in the nurse’s demeanour had shaken me and I was ready to take whatever was on offer. To be honest, looking back, everything is a bit of a blur but 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 fading 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.