Thursday 13th June 2024 – IT’S REALLY STRANGE …

… how the smallest thing can change your balance of humour when you are in what amounts to captivity like this.

Having been cheered up this morning by an e-mail from the hospital administration to say that my complaint about the food here has been taken up by the Director of the Hospital, and having received a computer printout that I should receive two (and the “two” highlighted in yellow by a person) portions of steamed potato, only one was served to me.

Good humour has never ever evaporated so quickly.

One day someone will write a Ph. D thesis on the effects of captivity on the human soul, and it will make very interesting reading, I’m sure. Just a handful of steamed potatoes being the difference between life and death.

To be honest, it’s not really “captivity” here. An able-bodied person who wasn’t a vegan could simply walk downstairs to the cafeteria to buy a sandwich (but then again an able-bodied person wouldn’t be in a hospital anyway) and if the person were a local, it could simply ask its partner or a neighbour to bring one when they visited.

But here I’m on my own 40 kms from the nearest neighbour who doesn’t drive with no public transport and I can’t even walk to the end of the corridor and back (more of this anon).

Yes, if someone were to want to write a Ph.D thesis on this subject I would make a pretty good case study. But they’d better get a move on because I have a feeling that if things carry on much longer like this and I continue to pour out my vitriol to the Director’s office in response, I shall be out on my ear before much longer. Especially if I have to continue to encounter the je m’en foutism of some of the staff who “work” here.

It’s a sad state of affairs really because I’ve been feeling, both physically and mentally, better than I have done for a while despite the dramatic deterioration recorded in my blood and other tests.

Apart from the odd visit by the nursing staff during the evening for my anti-coagulant injection, I was left alone and could write my notes and read my articles in peace.

Once more, it was about midnight when I crawled into bed and tucked myself in. And I must have been asleep quite quickly because I don’t remember anything at all of my bedtime mantra (about which I’ve spoken previously).

For a change I slept right through until all of … errrr … 04:15 and then I had to go to walk the parapet. I just don’t understand the logic of why they would give me a diuretic in the evening. It’s just totally illogical.

And, of course, once I’m awake, I’m awake. I lay there for quite a while making all kinds of plans, none of which will ever come to fruition. I can’t even hold a bass sitting down, never mind standing up in a concert.

We had the usual 06:30 hurricane but today it was just blood pressure and oxygen count. No blood test and no diabetes test.

There’ a new little student nurse on the wards today. She came to give me the diabetes test later, just as breakfast was being delivered so I didn’t qualify for an extra orange juice this morning.

Later on I reminded her about the test for diabetes and I asked if there was a similar test to see if a person needed a coffee, so she went away to ask. I really must stop teasing these students, but they are usually cute and there have to be some benefits from being stranded here on starvation rations.

Once breakfast was finished I hauled myself off to the bathroom and had another shower and clothes-washing session. There’s not much room in there and I don’t have much in the way of facilities but my principle is to do what I can where I can when I can with what I have. A quick hand-wash and rinsing off while I’m showering will have to do

A few years ago I bought some pillows and they came in some kind of plastic cover sealed with a zip. I saved the covers and in one of them I stuffed an old tee-shirt, pair of undies and an old pair of trousers, and that waterproof pack lives at the bottom of my rucksack. It’s my “change of clothes” whenever I’m in a place like this

A short while later a nurse came to fetch me. They are going to search my left arm to see if there’s a vein suitable to take a dialysis port. This search involved the use of an echograph and as there’s a unit across the corridor from here we went on foot.

On our way we rounded up the little student. She can come and watch the proceedings, and I told her that she could even manipulate the machine a little if she likes, although the doctor in charge was pretty quick to veto that, which I thought was a shame. How are these kids going to learn if they don’t have the practice?

Firstly the student had to take my blood pressure etc. The machine wasn’t working so they had to go back to the 19th Century and test me manually. There was this little student sitting next to me on this bench thing, holding my wrist as she took my pulse. I began to think of Roxanne holding my hand years ago, began to wish that I had a daughter holding my hand right now and that was, I reckon, when this latest cycle of depression began.

Lying on the bench listening to the doctor as she ran her detector up and down my arm. She found a few veins in my lower arm, all badly damaged by misplaced needles.

Eventually, she found a really good one and she’s going to keep it secret because she doesn’t want anyone else to use it until they are ready to perform the necessary surgery. I’ve no idea when that might be but things seem to be moving quickly here. I’m beginning to wonder if we aren’t in a race against time.

Back in my room I let the student give me the anti-coagulant injection. She deserved a reward after sitting through all of that just now.

The physiotherapist turned up too. She simply took me for a walk down the corridor and back, a walk that involved several pauses for breath, and then back here she showed me a few exercises of the type that I do already and then she cleared off.

And strangely, there seemed to be a little more movement in my lower leg. If we aren’t careful, we’ll be back to where we were a few weeks ago before this latest bout of illness and I might even be able to lift my foot up over the edge of the stairs.

But seriously, talking me for a walk. I felt like barking and cocking my leg up against a rubber plant.

So the physiotherapist turned up. But my second portion of steamed potatoes didn’t. I complained to the person who came to take away the empty tray (and I wish that I’d noticed earlier when she brought it) who seemed to take no notice, but a few minutes later a nurse came in to enquire about the problem.

After I’d explained, she seemed to simply shrug her shoulders and clear off. And that was that. I’m not doing very well in respect of my food, am I?

This afternoon, everyone kept their distance. I imagine that they had worked out that I was like a bear with a sore head after my disappointment about my lunch.

Consequently I spent some of the time transcribing the dictaphone notes from last night. I was dreaming about the fate of five bomber pilots either fallen into the hands of the Germans or Japanese, how their treatment was different, how the PoWs captured by the German were lucky compared to those captured by the Japanese. I didn’t really know or believe which group I was in while I was asleep, whether I’d been captured by the Germans or captured by the Japanese. Later on I was in Belgium and Laurence had been taken away by the Occupying Authorities or something. When I returned to our apartment in Rue Duysburgh Roxanne was living there on her own with the food that remained in the apartment just using the 30-second timer just pushing that one or two or three or four our however many times it needed to cook the food as best as she could until I returned. The first thing that I did was to make a great big dish of pasta and vegetables in a vegan cheese sauce.

Yes, I really must stop reading these aviation reports that I discovered yesterday. And it’s certainly true that prisoners were treated differently depending on who captured them. Bomber pilots always prayed that if they were going to be shot down, it would be by flak, because flakartillerie and the accompanying searchlights were manned by the Luftwaffe, they would inevitably race to capture the parachuting airmen as “trophies of war” and the Luftwaffe looked after its own prisoners and generally treated them with respect.
Parachuting out elsewhere over Occupied territory, you never knew who was going to capture you. The local Police risked handing you over to the Gestapo when anything could happen, and as I said the other day, landing in the middle of A BUNCH OF ENRAGED CITIZENS AND BEING BEATEN TO DEATH was not an uncommon end.

That was a nice little apartment our little family had in Jette, the three of us and our two kittens. And the microwave with its 30-second pulse button. I use that probably the most in my kitchen. And I’d made sure that Roxanne was a very self-sufficient and independent child as much as I could. I’m sure that she would have coped on her own had she had to, even at 9 years old.

As well as that, I carried on reading the papers about Lack of Moral Fibre in Bomber Command in World War II and spent some time on the radio stuff too. There’s not actually much I can do about the radio here. This laptop with its 8GB of RAM isn’t powerful enough to work the program that I use and the screen doesn’t have enough resolution. I really need the 64GB of the big desktop machine but that’s of course back at home

The nursing staff came past at the end of the afternoon. And in spades too. I couldn’t even begin to count the number of pills that there were in that batch that they just gave me. I can’t believe that it’s possible for anyone to take as many pills and potions as I’m taking right now. I thought that it was extreme when we made it to over 20 but now it’s just ludicrous.

Had my cute consultant put in an appearance as promised today, I might have said something but she must obviously be a new reader of these pages because after what I wrote yesterday she’s keeping her distance … "and who can blame her?" – ed … Tomorrow it’s her male sidekick on duty so I imagine that he’s drawn the short straw and will be here to fill me in (on the hospital’s plans, not “otherwise”)

Tea tonight was a surprise. It actually contained some protein! There was a batch of lentils along with my puréed pumpkin.

Bearing in mind the official guidelines that I need between 70 and 80 grams per day, I’d be lucky if there were 7 or 8 grams of protein in the amount of lentils that I was served. Still, why am I complaining? It’s 7 or 8 grams more than I would otherwise have received.

What is the irony of all of this is that in these papers on “Lack of Moral Fibre” that I’m reading, there are several reports of the chaos in Eastern Germany in winter 1944-45 and the 500-mile march through the bitter winter by the Prisoners of War from the camps in Silesia out of the way of the Russian advance where no food was delivered and they were living on frozen turnips and whatever else they could find.

At the end of the march the average weight of the prisoner who survived was 6.5 stone. I’ve not reached that stage yet but it is coming to the stage where I’m afraid to be weighed. As I have said before … "and on many occasions too" – ed … who’d have thought that 80 years after D-Day it would have come to this?

But you think that I have problems? They are nothing compared to the guy in the next room. I happened to overhear the conversation that he had with his consultant.
"There has been a mix-up between you and another patient" said the doctor. "I’m afraid that instead of giving you the heart transplant we’ve given you the sex change"
"What???" said the patient in surprise. And after a moment of reflection he asked "Do you mean that I’ll never get another erection?"
"Of course you will" reassured the doctor. "Of course you will. You’ll get plenty. They just won’t be your own."

Wednesday 12th June 2024 – I’M CLEARLY NOT …

… as ill as I think I am. That’s obvious.

Bu more of that in a moment.

As seems to be usual these days, they leave me pretty much alone after tea. There might be the odd diabetes test here and there and a nurse might stick her head in the door to give me my anti-coagulant injection and to make sure that I’ve not absconded, but that seems to be that.

At some point I drag myself off to bed and it’s becoming later and later. Last night it was midnight when I finally slid underneath the covers but it doesn’t make much difference because the bed’s uncomfortable and what with the Autoroute out at the back here and the amount of noise in the building, most of which seems to be just outside my door, and the odd Air-Sea Rescue helicopter here and there, I don’t have much sleep.

Nevertheless, I was away with the fairies soon enough but the nursing staff coming here at 06:30 when you are fast asleep, coming like a tornado making enough racket to awaken the dead, and taking a blood sample and diabetes test, making you go to the bathroom, all of this kind of thing with so much commotion and then when they leave they say “have a nice day” and close the door. How the hell is it possible to have a nice day after you’ve been awoken like this at this time of morning?

That was probably the first decent sleep that I’ve had since I’ve been here too but at least, out of all of this and the diabetes test in particular I managed to blag a glass of orange juice. And in exchange they departed with a couple of bottles of of Chateau Eric Hall Appelation Controlée 2024

It was a waste of time trying to go back to sleep after all of that so I just lay there watching the clock and hoping that breakfast wasn’t going to be too late.

At least I know that my e-mails over the last two days seems to have worked. After breakfast had been and gone, and while I was busy in the bathroom scrubbing my back (I’m keeping a healthy distance between myself and my ex-Chinese Tong Hitwoman for the moment) there was a knock on the door.

It was the dietician who had come to see me. She presented the usual excuses and apologies which were really meaningless in the grand scheme of things but the fact that she was here was something. We went through the menu and I was able to choose – in only some kind of very limited fashion – what I was going to eat for the next few days.

We agreed at least that if something were to be withdrawn they would double up something in replacement and I could ask the serving staff for as much bread as I liked.

It’s not really suitable or the ideal solution, but it’s the best that I can get and at least it’s an improvement, I hope. It remains to be seen now if I can keep the momentum going for as long as I’m here.

The cute consultant came to see me today. My Creatine is now officially a disaster. Despite receiving treatment it’s now risen to 476. Just a reminder – a healthy person’s is less than 100 and it’s panic stations at 300. Dialysis is definitely on the cards and there might not be time for me to have the system fitted to my arm. I may well have to have a thoracic port of the type that I had at Castle Anthrax.

The good news is that she’s talked to someone in Physiotherapy. They’ll be coming to see me soon and give me a few mobility tests. The results of those tests will decide …

  1. Whether I can go home
  2. Whether I go into Convalescence
  3. Whether I have to stay here

We shall see

Even better, she’s seen the food issue unfold, and so her unit is to write to the Director of the hospital to formally protest the situation. That’s taken me be surprise because much as I would have liked the situation to be escalated to that level, I didn’t expect it.

Her concern, and quite rightly too, is the question of protein. For an official guide that says that an average person needs about 1 gram of protein per kilo of weight per day, I’ve just received protein twice, and tiny portions of a couple of grams each, in 11 days and that’s ridiculous.

However, knowing how these things work in places like this, the Byzantine nature of French administration means that there won’t be any change before the end of the decade at least, far too late to be of any benefit to me.

But sitting on the edge of the bed demurely right next to me on my chair, we were chatting about many things that had only a very indirect connection with my health and well-being It was one of those conversations that you have that seems to go on for ever and I could be thrown out of the hospital for what I was thinking by the time she left. There’s obviously life in the old dog yet. It’s not all doom and gloom.

Later on, one of the nurses came by to bring me my anti-potassium stuff. "I was just speaking to the specialist. She says that you Creatine figure is dreadful "
"I know" I replied "But I’m quite happy with that, as long as it’s she who comes to tell me". I’m clearly not as ill as I think I am

At this point I transcribed the dictaphone notes from last night. I was actually surprised that there were some. Then I was asleep dreaming about a gangster who had some kind of involvement with the hospital. One of his sons was a weak, spineless cowering type who would wriggle out of anything on any occasion. HIs other son was quite a lot tougher than him but was still the last one of very quick at passing the buck where anything went wrong. It was always a very bad thing to become involved with these two youngsters because sooner or later they would drop you in the soup and you’d end up having to carry the can for what it was that they were doing. This dream seemed so life-like. I suddenly realised that what had happened was that I’d awoken. Two nurses outside the door were discussing a surgeon and somehow I’d tied all this in with this surgeon to represent the fact that he had two unruly children. I hope that he doesn’t have any unruly children and I hope he’s not the surgeon who’s coming to deal with me.

But don’t ask me if it really was a discussion taking place outside my door. I have absolutely no recollection whatever of this dream. But it seems that hospital life is having some kind of unsettling effect on me. I can’t think of any other meaning or interpretation.

After lunch, which failed to live up to expectations and was just more (but not more, if you know what I mean) of the same – the dietician presumably wasn’t quick enough to talk to the computer – I’ve been a busy bee.

Firstly, I’ve been revising my homepage. My homepage is simply a list of the most common web pages that I visit, written in *.html coding so I can just click on a name and it takes me directly to the site.

When I wrote it, it was quite comprehensive but times have changed. There were several dead links there, several had changed address and there were several more that I’ve been using in more recent times that were never added in so I thought that it was due for a rewrite

The second thing is that a whole shed-load of papers have been released into the public domain and which address the issue of “Low Moral Fibre” in Bomber Command aircrew in World War II

“Low Moral Fibre” was a serious issue as the Bomber campaign intensified and more and more was being asked of aircrew. The first signs of it were dealt with ruthlessly, even down in a few well-recorded incidents of public humiliation, for fear that any panic would spread throughout the Command

So much so that everyone who lost his nerve was punished equally, whether he was a novice who refused to take to the air at all or an experienced hero with 60 missions over enemy territory and a string of medals under his belt.

But as Leonard Cheshire said, station commanders were airmen, not psychiatrists. Their job was to produce results about the obliteration of enemy targets so naturally they were much more interested in keeping as many people as possible up in the air as often as possible and had no time for anything else, including the careful handling of individual waverers.

There were the usual interruptions. A couple of nurses (I notice that the younger ones come here in pairs now – they clearly don’t think that I’m as ill as I’m supposed to be either) came to check up on me and to ask if I needed anything.

When I mentioned “coffee” one of them sailed off to see what she coull find but came back empty handed.

A couple of hours later another nurse, the one from earlier thin morning, came by to take my blood pressure.
"And the diabetes test?"
So she gave me the diabetes test
"0.87. That’s near enough" and slipped me an illicit glass of orange juice and an apple purée.

For tea, the dietician had caught up with the computer and I had a double-helping of rice and oven-baked tomatoes. No protein again, but at least my stomach is full, for about the first time ever since I’ve been in this wretched place.

Things here though are definitely looking up. From going from situations where there were bevies of beautiful nurses wrestling with my lethal weapon and it not being able to salute them, I’m now inviting hospital consultants into my lair and my evil clutches are beginning to flex their muscles again. I must be getting better and there’s definitely something going on in this place that I don’t quite understand and I wish that I did. I wonder if it’s something that they’ve put in the orange juice.

No physiotherapist, so I’ve no idea when this promised review is going to take place, but I’ve had a good on-line chat with my faithful cleaner who knows all about these Convalescent places due to several of her clients having passed that way.

She reckons that there are a couple in Granville, and if I’m incarcerated there she’ll bring me some food parcels. She confirmed my worst fears about the TRICATEL food in these places.

But this morning after breakfast had finally arrived and been disposed of, we’d had a touch of excitement.

That was when I’d just stepped into the bathroom when door opened and a voice asked "Monsieur Hall, when was the last time you produced any solids?"
"Yesterday evening" I replied.
"Yesterday evening?"
"That’s right" I replied from the depths of the bathroom. "But if you come back in 5 minutes you’ll have a different answer"

Tuesday 11th June 2024 – I’M NOT FED UP

Not on today’s food anyway.

Having had a discussion with my specialist guy who handed me a leaflet telling me to avoid inter alia potatoes in a hospital that publishes that "Les diététiciennes prendront en compte les indications et prescriptions médicales et vous proposeront un repas adapté à votre état de santé." for lunch I had mashed potato, and for tea I had … mashed potato.

And that’s it. Nothing else.

There was a helping of soup and bread at tea, some strawberries and melon at lunch, and with my bread and jam for breakfast that has been it.

It wouldn’t surprise me if prisoners at Auschwitz and Belsen had more calories in a day than I have had today. Never mind the “following your dietary needs according to your health programme”.

Considering that physically I’m feeling much more “like it” at the moment, I have had a wretched, lousy day today and none of it has been health-related which is a surprise.

Anyway, yesterday evening I was pretty much left alone. No-one bothered me and I spent a good couple of hours simply reading a few articles on the internet. Once more, it was late when I went to bed – getting on for 23:30 in fact. Not that it matters much because I’ve given up all track of time here.

It did however matter at about 01:55. That was when the Air-Sea Rescue helicopter came in to land with a patient. And as regular readers of this rubbish will recall, it’s an odds-on certainty that my hospital room is going to be right by the helicopter landing pad.

Mind you, the Air-Sea Rescue helicopter makes enough noise to awaken the dead in the cemetery up the road so I suppose that it doesn’t make much difference where my room is here.

Nevertheless, the amount of noise had disturbed me to such an extent that I couldn’t go back to sleep for ages. And just as I finally managed to begin to drift off to sleep round about 04:30 the blasted thing started up again and took off

And believe me – it makes twice as much of a racket when it’s taking off as it does when it’s coming in to land.

Any thought of sleep was totally flattened after that. I just shrugged my shoulders and curled up under the blankets. There wasn’t much else I could do.

Round about 06:30 a nurse came in to take my temperature and blood pressure

"What? No diabetes test?" I asked
"Not today" she said on leaving. So I curled up under the blankets again where I had been nice and comfortable.

Two minutes later, just I was drifting off into a dazed semi-stupor, the door to my room burst open
"Seeing as you’re awake we’ll give you the diabetes test."
"GRRRRRR!"

Anyway, the score was 0.78, just below the lower limit of 0.80 so I was able to blag a free glass of orange juice. There have to be some benefits in all of this.

At some point shortly thereafter I must finally have gone to sleep because suddenly two nursing auxiliaries burst into the room to make my bed. It was 08:30 and that was the best sleep that I’d had up to that point.

You won’t be interested in what I told them but it had the effect of telling them to go away and come back later.

After breakfast and while my room was being tidied I was squeezed into the far corner of the bathroom washing my clothes and then I had another glorious piping-hot shower followed by the clean clothes out of the rucksack. I’ve no idea how long I’m going to profit from the exclusive use of this room so I want to make the most of it.

The doctor came round with his handy little leaflet. I pressed him on the food issue (and now that I’ve read it I shall press him further on the issue) but he told me that he was pretty powerless in this respect. Nevertheless, by the time that I finished, he was under no misapprehension about how I was feeling.

His opinion is that if all goes well and the blood test results are good I might be able to go home tomorrow. So in the course of conversation I happened to mention the 25 steps (and no lift) up to my font door.

He was taken aback and genuinely horrified. He asked how I accomplished it so I explained.
"You can’t do that!" he ejaculated.

So now there’s some talk about Convalescence. But …

  1. I’ve heard talk like this before
  2. It’s not going to do any good – in the sense of helping me go upstairs
  3. I’d rather face the 25 Steps than any more of the food that I’m having right now

While he was here I asked him about seeing a physiotherapist and a dietician, but I have the feeling that I’ll be lucky ….

After he had left I managed a couple of hours of my Welsh class, with just a couple of interruptions to liven up the proceedings

After the class and my mashed potato, I transcribed the dictaphone notes. And listening to the helicopter in the background coming in to land, I wasn’t wrong about the racket because I could hardly hear myself speak. But anyway what I dictated was that I was awoken by the Air Sea Rescue helicopter bringing a casualty into the hospital at 01:55. I’d been dreaming of something going on with the Spanish Revolution about a girl who had befriended a Spaniard. She had for some reason wanted a dictaphone so she’d gone to Argos but they didn’t have what exactly she wanted but she knew a local store that had one so she sent the Argos one back and went to the local store which was next to another store that she wanted to visit so she did the two visits in one trip. She then went on a long cross-country drive, all the way across to the other side of the country from where she was, with her dictaphone to go to meet her officer boyfriend for whatever reason she wanted. There was much more to it than this but the helicopter awoke me and most of it vanished.

And if you are wondering about the significance of this dream, don’t worry because so am I. It means nothing to me and rings no bells at all.

This afternoon I’ve not done much. Just read a few articles and sent another stinking mail to the hospital. Someone from the hospital rang me but it was a different department ringing about an accounting issue.

But I’m continuing my attack on the hospital administration, knowing full well that being in charge of the food, they are in the chair here and pull all the strings. It might make me feel better, my outpouring of vitriol, but it’s ultimately to no real purpose. It reminds me of Pyrrus Of Epirus (After The Battle Of Asculum) and his famous "If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined"

After what passes for tea Rosemary rang me to continue our conversation from the other night. She’s off on her travels next week, to a marriage in Italy. All these things that I’m missing. We had a good time on THE GOOD SHIP VE … errr … OCEAN ENDEAVOUR going across from Aberdeen to Greenland when she had to go home and I carried on

Right now though I’m going to carry on to bed. But talking about the helicopter awakening the dead reminds me when I was going to have my spleen removed, and I was offered the choice of two venues in Montlucon for it to be undertaken.

My choice wasn’t made on clinical grounds but on the fact that the one that I turned down, its back wall was the back wall of the local cemetery. I had visions of secret tunnels between the two along which they dragged the surgical failures, or heaving lifeless cadavers over the back wall under cover of darkness.

Honestly, I couldn’t go to sleep for a week.

Monday 10th June 2024 – I HAVE JUST HEAVED …

… a rather large shark into the swimming pool here at the hospital.

This afternoon and evening I’ve been chatting to Rosemary and to Liz and of course as you might expect, the subject of food came up.

As regular readers of this rubbish might recall, I would give all that I own and much more besides if someone were to send me a pizza but that’s obviously out of the question.

Instead, I’ve been browsing the hospital’s website and I found the following remarks on the “Admissions” page –
"LES REPAS
Un choix de menus vous sera proposé chaque jour.
Les diététiciennes prendront en compte les indications et prescriptions médicales et vous proposeront un repas adapté à votre état de santé."

It goes without saying that I have never been offered a choice of menu in all the time that I have been here, and I’ve never even seen a dietician, never mind discussed my dietary requirements with one.

Browsing deeper into the hospital’s webpage I found a contact e-mail so I have launched my offensive. And believe me – “offensive” is the correct word to use in these situations.

My mail finished with "I would probably have dealt with this issue by going on a hunger strike, but by the looks of things, I seem already to have been on one since I came here"

Of course, it goes without saying what will happen about this. 99% of me knows that my mail will be discarded, lost, unanswered or ignored. But 1% of me tells me that someone might actually do something about it. And after the news that I’ve had today, I’m living on the 1%s

Firstly though, apart from the odd nurse sticking her head in the door once or twice, I was left pretty much alone for the evening and hauled myself off to bed at 23:30. Going to bed is much easier since I’ve lost all that weight over the last week, that’s for sure. It’s just as it used to be.

Lying semi-awake for a while I was listening to “Simple Minds” again. I seem to be stuck on them for the moment. But I eventually turned everything off and went to sleep.

At about 04:15 I was obliged to go to walk the parapet. I was surprised that that was the first time that I’d awoken during the night. No heated discussions outside my door last night and, it seems, far less clattering and banging.

At 06:30 the night-nurse came to take a blood test
"No diabetes test?"
"No"
"So make sure that I have my jam at breakfast."

Later on, at breakfast, "where’s my jam?" Here we go again.

Actually, breakfast was quite late this morning. I’ve no idea why. But once again, they came to take a diabetes check just as I was stuffing a jam butty down my throat. I’ve no idea what they hope to achieve with results from a test like that.

They came to interrupt my breakfast to weigh me too. What strange idea is that? They should have weighed me before I started eating. I made them wait until I’d finished. Mind you, I should have made them wait for another 10 minutes after I’d finished and they would have had a completely different result indeed. That laxative the other day was made of powerful stuff.

And the ex-Chinese Tong hitwoman is back. She came to ask me if I wanted a bed-bath. I told her that these days I can manage myself in the bathroom so she asked me if I wanted my back scrubbed. I shall really have to do something about this before it gets out of hand.

There was the endless stream of visitors to the bathroom door while I was doing what I was doing. Apart from my ex-Chinese Tong hitwoman who stuck her head in and several other people too, a nurse came to see me about an echograph for my heart.
"Are you nearly ready?" she asked
"I’ve only just begun" I said, and added a few things under my breath that I hoped she didn’t hear
"OK. I’ll come back later".

But now the bad news.

When I finally made it back in my room the doctor came to see me. The Creatine, which reached crisis level at 300 and saw me hospitalised at 330, is now at over 400.

Add to that one or two other complications, and this means that dialysis will start quicker than planned. He was trying to persuade me to have it done at home but as I have said before … "and on many occasions too" – ed … that’s out of the question and I wish that they’d stop trying to insist.

The Potassium, which they are now treating with that ghastly powder, has risen out of control too. So three a day from now on for that. That should be fun and no mistake.

He said “see you on Wednesday”, which means that I’m going to be here for a few more days yet. Can I survive the awful food?

After he left, everything quietened down for a while and I was able to listen to the dictaphone. There was a Japanese World War II bomber pilot who actually made it to Germany. He was based in Germany and flew with the Luftwaffe with his particular aeroplane. At least, that was what people suspected. He lived on the edge of a camp somewhere by where there was a stream. They suspected that he was catching the live trout and eating them along with the rations that he was given but they didn’t say anything for fear of upsetting Germano-Japanese relations. One day he didn’t turn up for a mission which was most unlike him because he was the keenest pilot of them all. They wondered if there had been some kind of incident at his camp that had stopped him from appearing but they wondered how they could go along and broach the issue with the camp and actually manage to see the guy because even though there was just half a dozen people down there, the pilot and his staff, it was very closely watched by his people. They didn’t really like the idea of intruders going there but they began to be really worried when he didn’t start turning up for missions or missed this one mission. What exactly was going on with him?

Any Japanese person who came to Germany during the war would have come and gone by one of the German freight submarines running between the East Indies and the mainland of continental Europe. However, as far as I’m aware, there’s certainly no record of any Japanese airman going on active service in Europe, and certainly not in a Japanese ‘plane. There were several incidents of ‘planes going in the other direction – from Germany to Japan and back.

We finally had the echograph this afternoon and it was one of the most uncomfortable examinations that I’ve had, lying there on my side like that while he ran his detector covered with grease all over my body.

They are concerned about my heart apparently. It’s not doing what it’s supposed to do and moving the water around my body quickly enough. However when the examination was finally over, the doctor told me "there are a few problems that we’ve identified but overall it’s functioning well enough."

So what happens now? I suppose that we wait and see

While I was on my way to the echography unit I noticed a patient being helped along by a physiotherapist. That looked like a good plan to me if I’m going to be stuck here. At the very least it’ll break the monotony. "So what are my chances of having some physiotherapy?" I asked. And she put things in motion which was good news.

But that nurse has a lot to learn about the disabled and the elderly. Autonomy is everything. While it’s very kind of her to try to help by manoeuvring the patients around, helping them dress, trying to lift them up, for many people in my condition we need to struggle for ourselves. Once you surrender to convenience and expediency you are on the slippery downhill slope and there’s no way back. It’s a question of keeping going as long as possible, keeping your pride and keeping your self-esteem.

"I bet that I’ve missed the afternoon coffee" I said, noticing the time
"I’ll go and find one for you" she said, and sailed off.

But then she sailed back. "There is no coffee this afternoon". No coffee? What kind of place is this? This really is the end.

Later on, both Liz and Rosemary wanted a chat, as I mentioned earlier. And also as I mentioned earlier, food was an important part of the discussion. And when I saw my evening meal tonight, this spartan affair that wouldn’t keep the lupus from the porte as they would say in Ancient Rome after we had been discussing pizze, so I began my attack on the hospital administration.

Not that it will work of days, but these days, with not having a spleen to vent, I have to find other channels to let out my anger and frustration. As Gotthold Lessing once said, "A man who does not lose his reason over certain things has none to lose" and where food is involved I can certainly become unreasonable quite easily without any provocation.

While I was eating my frugal fare a group of nurses came along with an electrograph machine and stuck these electronic stickers all over me. I can’t even have a meal in peace now. It’s all getting completely out-of-hand, the whole lot of it and I’m sick to the back teeth of all of this.

But whichever way you look at it, the outlook is grim. I really don’t know what I’m going to do about all of this and how I’m going to do it.
"THere’s no need to feel like that" said the doctor. "Look on the bright side"
"Is there a bright side?"
"There certainly is" said the doctor. "The man in the next room wants to buy your slippers. You won’t be needing them much longer"

Sunday 9th June 2024 – I OUGHT TO BE …

… selling tickets every time I go to the bathroom for my morning ablutions. As if the crowds yesterday who came to see me shower while riding the porcelain horse wasn’t enough, we had an endless stream of visitors this morning while I was trying to have a wash. If I had had $1:00 for every time that I’d been interrupted I’d be writing this article from the deck of a yacht in the Bahamas, sipping on a cocktail and surrounded by gorgeous floozies instead of my comfortable chair in a hospital ward on the edge of Avranches.

But at least for one of the interruptions I managed to blag a second bowl of coffee, so it’s not all doom and gloom.

As for the morning medication, the nurse and I counted them today. I’m up to 13 pills and potions together with at least one (and sometimes more) injections. And that’s just the morning. We have midday and the evening servings too. I haven’t counted those as yet, but I bet that I’m setting records somewhere for something or other.

Not that I’m complaining of course. I fully realise that I’m way past the point of no return and have been for ages but even so, the hospital and everyone else are still helping me limp along to the final conclusion, doing their best for me, and no-one can ask for any more than that.

Mind you, there is one thing that for which I would like to ask, and that it that they would stop holding meetings between doctors, nurses, ancillary staff and so on right outside my open door at 03:00 when I’m trying to sleep. I had to ask them to close my door if they were going to stand there and chat. So instead of taking the hint and moving away, they closed the door and carried on chatting.

10 minutes later, a doctor opened my door. The depth of his medical examination of me at something like 03:20 was to ask if I was OK. As this is a family website with strict rules about what can and can’t be published and with sanctions against offenders, any reply I might or might not have made was not recorded.

There were two diabetes checks too – one at about 03:30 and the other at 06:30. I failed both, believe it or not, being under the limit so I made sure that I had two glasses of orange juice and that I had jam with my breakfast bread.

Add to that a couple of nurses sticking their heads in here every now and again during the night and a couple of journeys to walk the parapet, you can see that I’ve had a nightmarish night. On a Sunday too. Whatever happened to lying in bed until 13:00?

But a couple of trips to walk the parapet? I’m not convinced of the wisdom of giving me a diuretic just before I go to bed, regardless of whether I need one or not. We’re back on this “medical necessity versus quality of life” thing again.

Things were looking so good last night too. No-one came to bother me and I put myself to bed with no trouble whatsoever, which is certainly an improvement from how things have been just recently.

For a while I dozed off listening to REM on the headphones before switching everything off and going to sleep.

And we managed a couple of hours of decent sleep too before the pantomime began.

To my complete surprise, and yours too, I expect, there was something on the dictaphone. At some point I must have gone off on a nocturnal voyage. I was at a football match last night. Crewe Alexandra were playing Doncaster Rovers at Gresty Road and were 0-1 down. We were coming very very close to injury time. The Alex had been under pressure in their own half for some considerable time but a long kick out upfield had caught the Doncaster defence by surprise. A Crewe midfielder had taken the ball upfield and dribbled it towards the goal. Of course we were all there saying things like “he’s bound to kick it over the stand” or something like that but instead he actually managed to slot it home. The Alex ended up at the final whistle very shortly afterwards with a very unlikely point. The fans streamed onto the pitch at the end of the game to find their way home and mix with the Doncaster players. You could see the disappointment in the Doncaster manager’s face. Then I went into the pie hut. I wanted something to eat. My brother who was with me always had a lightly-done toast so I thought “two lightly-done toasts with coffee would be great for the two of us” so I stood by the bar. I couldn’t really attract anyone’s attention behind the bar. They were all busy serving everyone else. I had my umbrella so I raised it and waggled it around a little but it still didn’t attract anyone’s attention. I was standing there waiting while everyone else in this crowd was being served.

Everyone has surely been to or seen games where one team is camped in the opposition’s half throughout the entire match only to be stunned by a breakaway out of defence right at the death. I seem to recall a match in Cymru not so long ago where we saw something similar. I wish that I could remember which game it was.

But once again, we have one of my family members intruding on my nocturnal voyages. Why do they keep on appearing? And whatever happened to TOTGA, Castor or Zero?

During the day, I hardly saw anyone. They brought me my meals, the cleaner came in, a nursing auxiliary stuck her head in to make sure that I was still alive, and the nurse came in to give me my medication.

We finally took the count to see where we are. In the morning, there are thirteen pills and potions. At lunchtime there’s only one but in the evening there’s a total of seven.

Add to that the Vitamin D supplement on a Thursday (or whenever they give it to me), the Binocrit “Last Resort” injection once per week ditto, and the two anti-coagulants in the thighs every day, one morning and one at night.

There can’t be too many people receiving more than that.

Apart from catching up on my sleep (which I have done today) I’ve been watching films.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that I’m a big fan of ARCHIVE.ORG. That’s a site on the internet where books, films, music, radio programmes and all of that other media that is out of copyright is collated and stored. It’s free to watch, listen to, read and, more importantly, download

You’ll be surprised at the stuff that has passed its 28-year copyright limit and never renewed, and is stored on there free to use, and I’ve downloaded tons of stuff from there. My travelling laptop is a veritable library of films, books and music.

So this morning I watched THE FIRST OF THE “INSPECTOR HORNLEIGH” FILMS. Made in 1935 or thereabouts it features the vastly under-rated actor Gordon Harker in the title rôle, accompanied by his young but balding-nevertheless sidekick Alastair Sim.

In each of the films they bumble their way through to the final solution in films that invoke a beautiful bygone period of British life that was rapidly coming to an end as the War enveloped them all at the end of the series.

But this afternoon I was watching War break out with “NIGHT TRAIN TO MUNICH. Directed by Carol Reed, father of Oliver and one of the series written by Launder and Gilliat who wrote many similar films of that period and were famous later for their “St Trinians” films.

The film features, as did many films of that period, a cameo appearance by Basil Rathbone and Naunton Wayne playing “Chalmers and Caldicott”, a pair of elderly cricket-mad individuals who somehow stumble into the action..

Interestingly, a great many of these films, including this one and the three “Hornleigh” ones and many others feature a small girl at some point, gradually growing older as the series of films progresses. And I’ve never been able to work out whose daughter she is. She must be in these films for a purpose.

There have also been a couple of ‘phone calls too, which was a lovely way to break the monotony and the boredom.

Ingrid rang me, and we had a really good chat for an hour or so talking about Normandy, the Auvergne, our various illnesses and her father, who has just had a major operation.

Her mother, who is a celebrated artist, had been holding an exposition and I was keen to find out how it went.

And then after the evening meal Isabelle, one of the pair of District Nurses who deals with my area of the town, rang up. She was aware that I had to be in Paris tomorrow and was wondering how it was all going to work out with me being here. I old her that the hospital appointment has been postponed for a week and we had a little chat about things in general relating to my health.

She agrees that the clinic is the best option for dialysis. She thinks that if I were to have it at home, I’d need someone to sit with me and watch me while the procedure takes place. It’s an ideal solution where there’s a couple living together, but not for a single person in a cluttered apartment.

And let’s face it – I have far too much stuff in my tiny apartment.

So just having had my evening injection, I suppose that that’s it and I ought to clear off.

But before I go, Ingrid this afternoon told me a funny story..
She had a dog once that was quite sick and the vet had prescribed a cocktail of medication for it.
She was also quite ill at the time and took an assortment of pills and tablets, so every morning before going to work she’s prepare one pile of medication that she’d feed to the dog, and take the second pile herself, washed down with water.
One morning she was in a dreadful rush but dealt with the medication issues and set out for work.
Halfway there she was overwhelmed by a strange taste in her mouth and blessed with a fiery energy. She suddenly realised that in her hurry, she’d given her pile of medication to the dog and she had taken the dog’s pills herself.
So there she was, at 09:00 that morning, a young, healthy Dutch girl having to ring up a Vet for medical advice.

Saturday 8th June 2024 – I HAD NOTHING ON …

… the dictaphone from the night last night.

For the simple reason that I didn’t really have a night last night.

There were several nocturnal voyages, but in every case I was wide awake, knew where I was going and what I was trying to do. There were some rather uncomfortable situations and moments as Bibendum deflated and disappeared and I resumed something like my normal self

And you’ve no idea – or maybe you have, I dunno – how good it feels to have had a shower after all this time. There I was, riding the porcelain horse in the rather cramped bathroom, and the flexible shower pipe and shower head were right in front of me. I didn’t need an invitation.

It was the most peculiar shower, sitting there like that, but it worked and it was wonderful. But one thing is that I should have been selling tickets, the number of people who stuck their heads into the bathroom to check that I was OK.

So here I am, sitting on my throne in my office here in my bedroom in my own clothes rather than a hospital nightgown and you’ve no idea how good that feels either. Just like Marvin Lee Aday and EVERY SATURDAY NIGHT
I FELT THE FEVER GROW
DO YOU KNOW WHAT IT’S LIKE?
ALL REVVED UP WITH NO PLACE TO GO

It’s a different throne too. Now that I am unplugged and much more mobile than I have been of late, the … errr … convenient chair has been consigned to the dustbin of history and I’m now sitting on the comfortable seat that I have recovered from its exile. This is an improvement to my situation too.

But as for last night, I was left pretty much alone for most of the evening. No-one came to disturb me so I put myself to bed again, and it was much easier than it has been recently too.

For the first hour or two things went according to plan and I had a good sleep. But that was all there was.

Round about 02:00 we had the first of our nocturnal voyages which wasn’t much of a success but bearing in mind previous difficulties, involved the intervention of some of the nursing staff. But once things started, they didn’t stop and as Bibendum slowly deflated at last the nocturnal voyages became quicker and more frequent. While all this was going on, sleep was out of the question.

The nurse came around at about 07:00 and asked "Have you been?"
An accompanying orderly, sticking her head into the bathroom and looking at the contents of a certain container, said "I think he’s been"
And I had the feeling of being in a 1960s British television programme dubbed for the foreign language market.

They gave me the test for diabetes and when the morning nursing team took over I had a second. The good news was that not only did I qualify the first time round for a glass of orange juice, I qualified the second time for jam with my morning bread

No-one came round for ages to deal with me or my bed. By the time that they did, I was already in the bathroom making the most of freedom. It was lovely, as I said, but next time I’m going to barricade myself in. It was embarrassing but really, do I care?

The prescriptions that I have include a Vitamin D supplement on Thursday and the injections of Binocrit (replacing Aranesp) as the Injection of the Last Resort on a Wednesday if necessary. So God knows what day it is today because the nurse came round to give me the Vitamin D and the injection. What with all of the blood tests, the needles, the anti-coagulant injections twice per day, I’m becoming something like a dartboard. One with all of his problems not a double top but at triple nineteen.

After all of this, I was pretty-much left alone. I took advantage of this by curling up on my new comfy chair for an hour or two. But they also forgot my afternoon coffee. When the nurse came to check in later to ask if everything was OK I replied "No" and complained about the lack of coffee.

But bless their hearts, an orderly sailed off in search of a coffee and having scoured the hospital, came back 10 minutes later with a piping-hot mug of the aforementioned. They are lovely.

However, while I was away with the fairies I had the impression of being the Procurement Officer of a small country trying to obtain some aeroplanes for our nascent air force. I shall really have to stop reading these World War II aeroplane technical notes when I’m not doing anything else

A doctor (not one of the usual two) stuck his head in too. He asked if everything is OK so I told him of my adventures.

He wandered away and ten minutes later the nurse came back with yet another pill "Take this" she said. "The doctor thinks that you aren’t losing enough water"

If the truth were known, neither do I. So here goes. How many is this now?

Having made suitable enquiries, It looks as if I’m now back on the Burinex again. That’s a tablet that I’d been taking since right at the very beginning of my adventures all those years ago but they stopped and replaced with another a few weeks ago and all of my troubles began.

Now it seems that I’m taking them both. How long will this scenario last? As I have said before … "and on many occasions too" – ed … these doctors are sailing in uncharted waters with this illness being so rare and it’s all being done by trial and error. But let’s hope that there isn’t another error like this last few weeks otherwise we might end up with some kind of trial somewhere and that would be unfortunate.

The nightnurse has just come by to give me my evening injection of anti-coagulant. That means that shortly things will be winding down for the evening. She asked me if I needed any help in going to bed. Well, had I been 20 years younger I would have made a remark but these days I’ll just think it instead. This particular nurse is quite a nice girl.

So before I go, talking about trials has reminded me of one of the times when I was steaming down the M6 near Tebay with a party of holidaymakers on our way from Central Scotland to the Continent with one of Shearings’ coaches.
On the fells opposite, there was a Sheepdog Trials taking place so for the want of anything better to do, we pulled off the motorway to watch the proceedings.
Having parked the coach and disembarked to passengers I went to buttonhole a local. And he was a very vocal local yokel too.
"How are they getting on?" I asked.
"You’re too late" he replied. "All of the dogs have been acquitted."

Friday 7th June 2024 – EPIC HALL UNPLUGGED!

But not, unfortunately, undrugged.

The price that I have had to pay for having all of my pipes and tubes removed is to be pumped full of yet more pills and potions and I don’t think that it’s ever going to end.

That’s not the only thing that didn’t end either. Last night, being already in bed after my “incident” in the earLy afternoon, I was left pretty much alone. I was reading a long, involved article on the internet and the next thing that I noticed was that it was 00:40.

Something must have changed somewhere with my condition because I found it much easier to lie on my side last night and I would have had a good nights sleep except for all of the clattering that started up shortly afterwards, followed by the stabbing pain in my left heel

Just after 06:00 someone came round with a glass of orange juice and the instruction to remove one of the tubes.

In my opinion it’s too early but they know best, I imagine. And it came out much easier than it went in. I am the first to agree that it was necessary but I will never in the whole of my life forgive them or forget them for doing it. I’ll have nightmares about it for ever.

After that, they left me alone to sulk for a while.

There was a blood test later followed by breakfast. No jam because my blood sugar is too high. So why give me the orange juice earlier? It beats me. But at least they won’t have a reading of 3.48 while I’m stuffing a jam butty down my neck this morning.

The former Chinese Tong hitwoman came to give me a bed-bath afterwards. She previously worked “with old people” before joining the hospital service, so she said, and believe me, I don’t ‘arf feel old right now so nothing much in her work has changed.

Once we’d finished someone came by and removed the remaining tubes and took the needle out of my arm. I’m now a free man.

However, as I said, I’m disconnected in exchange for taking yet more pills.

Next person to call was the person who takes my blood pressure and so on, and then I had a rather uncomfortable visit.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that three years ago at Castle Anthrax I had a surgical intervention on my kidneys to remove a part that was infected with the cancer that I have.

The fact is that the operation failed – in the sense that the infection is back, and in spades too. My kidneys are now only functioning at 25% and failing rapidly.

At this rate it won’t be very long before the fail altogether so apparently now is the time to discuss preparation for dialysis.

She began to explain, in a fashion that might have suited a five-year-old, the do-it-yourself version but I stopped her before she had gone too far and told her that I would select the other version, where I have to come to the clinic three times per week.
"But I haven’t told you what it is" she wailed
"I know" I replied "but you’ve told me enough about the d-i-y version for me to know that I’m never going to do that."
So for those of you who tell me that I ought to get out more often, is three times per week enough?

Seriously though, for everyone who comes to the clinic (everything paid for, even the taxi) there’s so much support and I have a feeling that it won’t be long before I need much closer medical supervision than I’m having. But what kind of state is this to be in?

They are in fact building a new extension where selected patients who are more autonomous and less at risk might come for overnight dialysis. Now wouldn’t that be ideal?

However, it does make me wonder – with my legs, my eyes, my kidneys – what’s going to ack up next and, more to the point, how are they going to fix it?

So having re-arranged my office to the other side of the bed nearest to the bathroom now that I can go there, I transcribed the dictaphone notes. Firstly I was trying to collect all of the details of yesterday all ordered out into the proper chronological order in my head ready to dictate which was silly because I’d already written them out but it’s the pain in my right … "you mean “left”" – ed … heel that’s at the moment killing me that I’m really suffering. I don’t know where this pain is coming from but I do know where it’s going and it really is awful. I’m going to have to amputate my leg if it continues

Yes, this pain in my heel during the night is astonishing. I’ve no idea why it should happen either. They seem to think that it’s due to an oedema becoming impounded into the flesh of the leg by the weight of my body as I sleep but I dunno.

And then we were in a group doing some case studies at University. One of the cases was to be a murder victim, which of course aroused everyone’s attention. We were wondering how on earth we were going to manage to do this. But someone had made some kind of remark about this woman who’d been seen trying to board a bus and what kind of pig’s ear she was making of it so I happened to mention that that was my mother. She’d just been in to see me and was in fact a murderess, having just killed someone on her way out. That seemed to calm everyone down for a moment while they digested the news. The stuff that we were doing was really ancient stuff going back to the Eighteenth Century and that made it really interesting

As it happens, I could well imagine my mother as a murderess. Her egg and chips was enough to wipe out a regiment during the war. However, my money would have been more likely on her as a murder victim, and I know plenty of candidates for the culprit.

But as usual, I have no idea why she and the rest of my family keep on intruding into my dreams. I wish that they wouldn’t.

After lunch of diced beetroot followed by potatoes and green beans, I really was left alone for a while to carry on reading about the Anti-Comintern Pact and the Pact of Steel, and to chat to Liz and one of my neighbours on the Internet. But there was the usual chaos at about 18:00 when they all appeared at once to take my blood pressure, diabetes count and so on

They asked me if I was ready for bed too. Really? I’m happy to sit up and just enjoy the freedom until much later than this. probably 5 hours later too. I won’t be rushed into bed, unless it’s by Kate Bush or Jenny Agutter.

What I’ll do is to add this post in and then go back to reading my article

But one of those suggestions about the pain in my heel was that it was "…simply old age."
"That’s rubbish!" I retorted
"Why is that?"
"Because the other heel is exactly the same age and there’s nothing wrong with that"

Thursday 6th June 2024 – HAPPY D-DAY …

… from Normandy where everyone is celebrating the 80th Anniversary of the Débarquement or “Normandy Landings” of 80 years ago and all of the Résistants, those who were continuing the struggle ever since the Fall of France and even one or two Résistants de la dernière heure, as those who waited until the very last moment to join the struggle once they saw which way the wind was blowing are contemptuously called, were out in the streets continuing the battle face-to-face with the enemy.

Well, almost everyone. One or two of them were stuck in here tending to me.

Do you know those funny turns that I have occasionally when I cease to function? I had another one of those this afternoon and that, regrettably, was that. A couple of nurses helped me to bad and one of them stayed for a while to keep an eye on me

That’s rather more than happened last night. Having been at 22:20 to remind me that she’ll be back in 10 minutes to put me to bed, the night-nurse forgot me.

At 23:40 I gave up the wait and tried to put myself to bed but gave up the struggle after a while and had to press the emergency bell so that she would come and untangle me from the mass of tubes and cables that there are around here and around me.

Eventually she came and sorted me out, and I was able to go to bed.

We followed the usual pattern. For a couple of hours I had a reasonable sleep and then round about 01:40 the cacophony began. Any sleep after that can be best described as “intermittent” .

At about 06:30 the night nurse stuck her head in to make sure that I hadn’t died during her shift. She can’t go home and leave an empty cadaver for her friends to clean up
"No blood test?" I asked. "Nope"
"No diabetes test?" I asked. "Nope"
So what’s happening here then?

They even brought me breakfast before the bed-bath, and that’s an innovation. Delicious it was too, but I don’t see the sense of giving me a diabetes test while I’m munching on a jam butty. A figure of 3.48 (norms are between 0.85 and 1.20) can’t be helpful to anyone.

It was eventually the bed-bath and it was the student nurse who drew the short straw today. She’s older than the usual run of students, probably re-training after a career elsewhere, judging by her mass of tattoos, as a hit-woman for a Chinese Tong

She set out to give me an in-depth scrub.
"There’s no need to be ‘maniac’ about my cleaning" I told her
"Don’t worry" she replied. "I’m a maniac for other things" and gave me a conspiratorial nudge and wink.

Well, I’ll be …. I’m not sure what bus she’s waiting for but my last bus left a good couple of years ago. You might in fact say that life on THE GOOD SHIP VE … errr … OCEAN ENDEAVOUR was the desperate last stand of the few remaining troops of a dying Empire

My cute specialist came to see me a little later, at a rather inconvenient and embarrassing moment when I was occupied making myself even lighter than the scales had indicated 10 minutes earlier.
"You’ve lost another 3 kilos" she said with a smile
"Yes" I replied. "But it’s not as a result of your treatment" and then I launched into a tirade about the (lack of) food in this place.

What followed was a long discussion about the differences between a hospital and a 5-star hotel but in the end she agreed to see what she could do. "Afer all, it is 2024, even in France" she conceded.

However, in the middle of all that, she told me that my last series of results are “optimistic” (she obviously hadn’t seen the diabetes test at that point) and if the next 24 hours are equally positive, they’ll unplug me completely from everything (hopefully not my computer).

And if they still continue to be positive I can go home on Saturday.

"I’ll still try to cancel your appointment on Monday" she said. "You’ll need to rest after being in here like this."

Rest? Rest be badgered. Who can rest when there’s a nurse who comes here every morning at 08:30? And in any case, I’ll be cooking. Plates of pasta in tomato sauce with steamed veg, taco rolls with rice and veg, leftover curries with garlic naan, vegan pizzas, vegan pies with potato and gravy.

And that’s just Saturday!

When I was younger I read dozens of books about prisoners in prison camps in World War II spending all their time drooling about what they would eat as soon as they returned home at the end of their captivity. Who’d have thought that 80 years later, on the 80th anniversary of the Débarquement I’d be doing the same thing?

After she left, I transcribed the dictaphone notes. The police raided our house last night. I was the only one who was not in bed so of course I bore the brunt of the interrogation. They wanted to know about some correspondence I’d been having on behalf of my brother and another company . I certainly wasn’t going to give them anything like that that might incriminate me so I had to hold them off for a while. In the end I agreed to search through my papers to see if I had anything that might correspond with what they were looking for. I left the police downstairs and went upstairs to search through my papers. A few suspicious noises came from one of the bedrooms so the police rushed upstairs thinking that I was burning papers. Instead they found my brother and his wife in what could only be described as a “compromising position” that the News of the Screws would have loved to have seen. They made their sarcastic and caustic remarks and in the best traditions of the aforementioned newspaper, “made their excuses and left”, and I went to carry on with my search. In the end they asked about certain other evidence, one of which was a pair of bathing trunks. I recognised a pair of bathing trunks that corresponded with that description. They were in my bother’s room so I had to go back to disturb him to look for these bathing trunks. His room was quite frankly in a dreadful mess. When I found the bathing trunks he said “you don’t want to pick those up without washing them”. He explained to me a few things about them and I replied “I suppose that I better had wash them” . That was what I was doing, washing a pair of bathing trunks.

“A dreadful mess” is actually a pretty good description of our lives and our habitations, that’s for sure. Most of you learned to tidy up by your mothers saying “now put your things away” when you were small, and showing you how. However firstly, our mother was never there and secondly, we never ever had any possessions to put away when we were small.

That latter bit is probably why I have collection mania and live in a mess, and why I have had to spend all this time trying to fight it.

Later on last night I was with Mickey Gee and all that lot from South Wales. I was being questioned but I didn’t really understand the questions so I had a great deal of difficulty with the answers. There was a panel of people there. Several of them were kids. The answers that I was giving made me think that I was in the wrong programme because they didn’t seem to correspond at all with what was happening with this panel. There was an older guy there who seemed to monopolise everything. It seemed that this programme was ending up to be a little bit all about him instead of the contestants. Everything about this particular panel game seemed to be wrong. Nothing seemed to fit. I’d been away from home for a long time and was slowly on my way. I was thinking that this panel game was making me worse rather than making me better because I’m starting to become so stressed out about it.

And weren’t those the days? Of LLanelli and Mickey Gee, Micky Jones, Martin and Georgie Ace, Deke Leonard, Clive John, Ray Williams, Ray Phillips? I should have moved to Llanelli when I was at the crossroads in my life, but I chose a different path and that path led me here. And into this hospital too where the food is positively awful

Maybe I should have gone to Llanelli.

But being stressed out in normal daytime operation is a habitual state of affairs. Sleep is supposed to be about rest and relaxation, but what good is it if I’m being stressed out even as I sleep?

Meanwhile, in other news, the food at lunchtime was light-years of improvements away from previous meals. I don’t know what my specialist said but whoever she said it to sent me the first protein – a bulghour salad for starters – that I think that I’ve eaten since I’ve been here.

And how I enjoyed it too.

The rest of the meal was an improvement too, I’m happy to say. Let’s see if it continues.

This afternoon I was sitting down reading an article on the Messerschmitt Me410 and the Junkers JU88 when I had one of my attacks and locked up, totally unable to function.

For a change I pressed the emergency button and eventually a couple of nurses came by to help me into bed where I lay totally comatose until the smell of the teatime soup awoke me when the tray was placed under my nose.

Ahhhh! Bistro!

The rest of the food was an improvement on yesterday too (not that it could have been any worse) – a plate of potato and carrot. No protein, but it looks like baby steps forward.

Later on I spoke to one of the nurses who had come to rescue me earlier. They had taken my blood pressure in mid-crisis and it had struggled up to a mere 8.0. She thinks that it’s one of the medicaments (and she pointed to one of them pumping away into me) that’s responsible. It’s notorious for reducing the blood pressure, so she said, so they have reduced the dose.

And so that’s that then. Now we know. It actually does tie in with what we know about the changes of medication and this loss of function.

That’s everything for tonight then. I’ll curl up and go to sleep if they let me.

But before I do, I’ll just ask you to stop for a minute and spare a thought for everyone, soldiers and civilians of both sides, who found themselves on or near the Normandy beaches 80 years ago today and all of whom without question, no matter who they were and whose side they were on, must have wished that they were somewhere else instead

Many places still bear the scars of what happened. St-Lô will never be the same again with its breezeblock cathedral and human remains are, as we know, still even today being washed up on the beaches.

Thanks to them, I can dream about my Saturday night meal. Life would have been much more difficult without their sacrifice.

Wednesday 5th June 2024 – THERE’S A SCAM …

… going around right now, apparently.

“Your bank” rings you up to tell you that you’ve been the victim of a phishing attack. "Can we check your account number?"
And then "can you confirm your four-figure security code?"

if it looks like a rat and walks like a rat and smells like a rat, then it’s a rat. So this afternoon I’ve been cancelling bank cards, cancelling payments, applying for new cards, all that mullarkey. Anything to keep me busy and out of mischief;

It’s not actually for want of anything else to do today. There has actually been quite a lot of it going on but we’ll get to it in due course.

But last night I was hurried off to bed quite early – 22:30 in fact and they would have liked it to have been earlier than that. Apparently we have a couple of patients here who require more care than others and they don’t want anyone interrupting them when they might be busy.

So off I crawled (and I DO mean “crawled”) into bed and lay awake listening to Simple Minds for a while before I fell asleep.

Apart from awakening to turn off the computer, that’s all that I remember, at least for the first part of the night. But round about 03:30 the banging and clattering began and that awoke me every now and again.

When they came to take a blood test at 06:20 this morning I was reliving the life of a young boy who was a rear gunner in a Bf110 at the time of the Battle of Britain describing a couple of his sorties from his point of view including the one where he was shot down and was pulled from his ‘plane by civilians because his ‘plane was on fire. He thought that he was going to be beaten to death but was surprised that they put him in an ambulance and sent him to hospital etc. Just as it was really becoming interesting in came this male nurse and I just don’t know how people can be as cheerful as that at 06:20 – I really don’t.

And there is plenty of evidence, by the way, of airmen, both enemy and friendly, baling out of crashing aeroplanes and being beaten to death by the civilians of both sides on landing during various wars.

Surprisingly I went back to sleep after that, even with this dramatic pain in my left heel, and was eventually awoken by the nurse who came to give me a bed-bath. She summoned a colleague to show her my right wrist, where tube goes on. Swollen like a balloon, it was this morning.

They had to disconnect the pipe, take out the fitting, put another fitting in my left wrist, to add to the mass of bruises already in the left arm. I wished the nurse “good luck finding a vein” but surprisingly she managed it, first go too. Not many people have done that.

They weighed me too, and when everyone had finished they brought me breakfast. While I was eating it a Traction Avant went past on the motorway across the field at the back here. And what’s surprising about that is not the fact that someone is risking a vehicle of technology of 80-90 years ago in modern motorway traffic, but that it’s in the outside lane passing everything in the inner one. And what’s surprising about that is not the fact that they’ve managed to wind it up to 130kph or whatever, but that they are hoping to stop it at that speed with an 80-90 year old braking system. I thought that I was crazy but it wasn’t until I had discs all round that I joined the 130kph revolution.

But that made me all nostalgic for my “Traction”, sitting in my warehouse in Montaigut with its two Cortina stablemates. I bought it on a whim 30 years ago with the idea of restoring it when I had some spare time. Whatever was I thinking of? It’s a later model, with the larger boot rather than the traditional one with the imprint of the spare wheel at the back. Nevertheless, I hope that whoever inherits my possessions has more fun with it than I did.

Later on my cute little specialist stuck her head in."I see that you lost another two kilos today" she said
"Weigh me now" I replied. "That laxative works far better than you can ever imagine".

But the news is not so good. She’s talking about dialysis and “you won’t want to be coming here three times a week”. Ohh won’t I? It will probably be the only excitement that I’ll have, assuming that I’ll be able to leave and go back to the apartment. But imagine doing that three times per week for the rest of my life? What kind of life is that?

But even more darkly, she said "I haven’t yet spoken to your doctor in Paris about postponing your appointment for another 10-15 days but I will do, and I’m in contact with your taxi company about it".

So guess where I’ll probably next Monday instead of in Paris? My food supplies won’t hold out that long.

Once she’d left I began to type out the dictaphone notes from the night, and that wasn’t easy because the valve on the port the nurse put in my left wrist this morning is catching underneath the table. There was another long, rambling dream and I only remember the end of it. Five or six of us were chasing through London to catch a railway connection. We ended up in an Underground station, one of our usual recurring dreams. One or two of the people managed to buy tickets. The rest of us didn’t. We raced for the turnstiles – those with tickets passed through and the rest of us leapt the fence and ran down the hill. We found ourselves on the wrong side of the wall at the bottom and the station was on the other side. The Underground train that was going to take us to connect to our main line train came in and we couldn’t reach it. We eventually managed to make our way onto the platform but we reckoned that by the time the next train came in it would be far too late. One of the locals thought that it was amusing and was mocking us about it but we paid very little attention. He began to become rather aggressive with his “are you listening to me?” “can you hear me?” “why don’t you reply?” type of remarks as if he was actually looking to provoke some kind of confrontation. We were just completely devastated by missing our train

This is a recurring dream that I have, of being in a London Underground railway station in some kind of panic. And I’m not sure why either because being on the London Underground never played a great role in my life, even when I was living in Wandsworth. I seem to remember that I walked everywhere – miles, in fact.

Then I was at a Southern rock concert, something like the Marshall Tucker Band with a few multi-instrumentalists who varied the usual guitar solos with flute solos etc. What had happened had been that there had been some kind of competition in some kind of newspaper of magazine. I’d actually won it so I had free seats in the auditorium right in the centre front row first floor, the most perfect seat you could imagine to sit and watch this concert. I’d watched it from start to finish and could at one point sing all the songs that they were playing. Then I had to leave to catch my last train home. Just as I entered the house the girl of the house where I was staying tried to sneak in. She’d obviously sneaked out during the night for some reason. As she walked in her father pounced on her and asked her where she’d been so I piped up and gave her this perfect alibi that she’d obviously been with me at this concert and I could vouch for her good behaviour etc but you’ve no idea how sad that felt when I was doing that because I really did wish that she’d been with me. It would have been a wonderful evening. Instead I chose to give her an alibi for doing something else. As I said, I was just so really disappointed. But the music in this auditorium was magnificent and I wish that bands would play as well in real life as they do in my dreams.

And this girl! I can still see her now. She reminds me of someone I know or knew, but I can’t think who. She was young but had the most beautiful shape. She was wearing black tight-fitting silk-effect black trousers, a black waistcoat and a black cotton shirt with white stripes. Short, blonde, curly hair. In my younger days I would have taken a girl like that absolutely anywhere. But then, of course, nostalgia ain’t what it used to be. Right now I’m feeling very, very old.

After lunch, fighting off (sometimes unsuccessfully) wave after wave of sleep I dealt with the bank, a few spam ‘phone calls trying to sell me solar panels (and that reminds me – there are all the tubes and pipes of a solar hot water installation down on the farm, still in the box, never installed, that’s worth a good few thousand Euros).

And then a ‘phone call from the hospital in Paris.

They have found a copy of my latest blood test and want me to go there as a matter of urgency, if not emergency. I explained that it had all been picked up here o Friday and I was being hospitalised. He asked for details of my treatment so I told him, and apparently his treatment would be the same so I may as well stay here.

But if I do stay here, it won’t be for the food. Tonight’s tea was spinach in cream. As I have said before … "and on many occasions too" – ed …. don’t be a vegan in a French hospital

So that’s about everything tonight, I reckon. I’ll post this and go back to reading my book on Iron-Age Hillforts.

But before I go, you have all probably guessed that I wasn’t assembled correctly and nothing is as it is supposed to be. And that includes my veins. The first person who ever succeeded in putting a needle into one of my veins first go was a nurse in a hospital in Belgium.
"How did you manage that?" I asked her
"In 1982 and 1984" she said "I was Belgium’s national ladies’ darts champion"

And for the love of God SOMEONE BRING ME SOME FOOD!

Tuesday 4th June 2024 – I’VE JUST HAD …

… an exciting wrestling match with a pile of cables.

First of all, you’ve no idea how many pipes and cables I have plugged into me. And then there’s all of the cables that are, have been or will be plugged into the computer.

So the nurse, having finished what she’s doing, passed me all of the cables but forgot the mains cable for the laptop.

From where I was sitting I couldn’t reach it and the nurse having put the brakes on my chair, presumably to stop me punting off out of here using my crutches to propel me, I couldn’t move to reach the cable.

Consequently I’ve just spent a pleasant 20 minutes trying to lasso it with the cable of the headphones. And I managed it too, hence this posting.

But that’s about the only excitement that I’ve had today.

Plenty of excitement last night though. As the nurse was putting me to bed she found my empty crisp packet and went berserk. Apparently that’s one of the worst things that I can have.

But they were delicious all the same. What do I care?

Percy Penguin once told me a story of an old woman in a place where she worked. The old woman had just received a box of chocolates and was stuffing them in one after the other
"You’ll make yourself ill eating them like that" said Percy Penguin
"I’m 98" said the old woman. "What do I care now?"
Kingsley Amis once said "No pleasure is worth giving up for the sake of two more years in a geriatric home in Weston-super-Mare" and that’s how I feel right now. Pass me the crisps!

The nurse helped me into bed by making matters far more complicated than they ought to be, and I settled down for a very long night.

It was a totally turbulent night last night with the stabbing pain in the left sole of my foot for a change, and a dreadful pain somewhere else too.

What with the noise too, it didn’t seem as if I’d had more than half an hour’s sleep. By 05:30 I’d given up the struggle once again.

No orange juice this morning and no blood test either. Probably something to do with the diabetes test they gave me at 03:30 I suppose.

By 08:30 no-one had come by which was a good thing in some senses but bad in others, especially when they forgot to replace the … errr … receptacle in your chair

That was what I call an emergency but they didn’t. It took them 15 minutes to answer my call.

It took me nothing like 15 minutes to take advantage of it when it was finally installed. A good job that the rapid method that I wanted to use last night was actually a rapid method or it could have been embarrassing.

It took them ages too to deal with things like bed-baths. A doctor came by too to tell me their plans for tomorrow. So much for “going home on Monday”. This is going to take a while.

The good news is that when they weighed me I was 4kg less than yesterday. No wonder it’s a little easier to move about. But there’s still a long way to go before Bibendum is no more.

Mind you, if this rate keeps up, it’ll only be a couple of weeks before I’m gone completely

By the time that they’d finished with me I managed about 20 minutes of my Welsh lesson before lunch came round. And there was a little more food on my tray this time.

But in punishment for my misdemeanours with the crisps they “forgot” my afternoon coffee and put my backpack so far across the room that I couldn’t reach it and had to bribe the cleaner to pass it to me.

First thing to do this afternoon was to transcribe the dictaphone notes. To my surprise there were plenty.

I was in Beverley last night doing some investigation or something. We ended up in this museum a Museum of Childhood. Instead of following the signs we found some kind of tunnel. We crawled through the tunnel. Eventually it said “Exhibition to the right” but we turned left. We came to a grille-work that led out onto the street. Some woman had to come along to undo the grille-work from the outside to let me and the ten people in front of us out of there as well before we could go out.

It’s been absolutely years since I’ve been to Beverley with its buses with weird-shaped roofs to pass under Beverley Bar. We’d catch the train from Hull to Beverley, go to Old Nellie’s where she still served beer out of a jug, and then walk back to Hull after closing time, stopping at Arnott’s Bakery for a fresh fadge on the way.

The Olympic Flame had come to town. They’d surprised Eddie Waring with it. He’d been one of the celebrities who had been handed the flame and he’d had to run with it. In the end, he ended up in Port Stanley where there’s a street with an unpronounceable name. He ran the length of this street to the cheers of the crowd, the population of the town and some of the Army that was there while he was carrying the flame.

Port Stanley is one of the few places I’ve never visited so why should that feature in my dreams right now? But there’s always a place for Eddie “up and under” Waring.

Later on in Wembley Stadium there was a veterans’ football match. He came onto the field for two minutes or so as a right-back. They also had a celebrity goalkeeper for two minutes whose name I didn’t catch. In the end they won 3-0 and it was Caernarfon’s First XI that was basically a load of trialists who had gone out and won. There was a report on all these trialists some of whom were exceptionally good and some of whom were quite awful and some were in between. I can’t remember any of the names now but they did say that at least 15 clubs in the English Second Division would be disappointed if a certain particular player signed for Caernarfon instead of signing for one of them but their own team was excellent. They were 2-0 up and scored a third in extra time but I’m not sure how the game finished at the final whistle

In the close season last year one team played a friendly match and had “Trialist” in every position. I thought to myself “he’s going to be a busy player”. Seriously though, you’ll always see “Trialist” in many friendly matches in the close season. A lot of players are trying out to receive a contract and clubs don’t publish their names, thus no-one knows who is where and can’t be poached from under another team’s nose.

Later on still I was with Marianne. I’d been invited to an exposition of jewellery and things like that. Although it wasn’t my taste I thought that I’d go along. I was feeling really tired and exhausted from an overnight trip that I’d made back from the UK. In the end I couldn’t keep going so in the corner of the room they found a little kind-of shelter for me, a ten-kid of shelter thing and laid me down in there. I was dozing away half-asleep when I heard someone say in English “here’s some tell-tale signs” so I asked “tell-tale signs of what?”. They replied “all these bruises and everything on your feet and lower legs”. They began to chat to me. In the end a group of people began to sit in this shelter underneath this umbrella-type of shelter thing. I had to squidge up. A lively conversation sprung up. Then Marianne sat down on the outside of this shelter thing right next to me. She said “famous technician? Are you really famous?”. I replied “well, I’ve come here but if you want to know why I’m a famous technician you really need to ask the people who made the sign and put it here and see what they have to say about it

Marianne would have loved an exposition like this and we probably went to one or two. I took her to quite a few places but mostly concerned with religious observation. I always seemed to find religious girls and women, but I suspect that they only ever prayed when they knew that I was coming around.

But seriously, apart from a trip to Dover to pick up a lorry-load of slates in 2013 and to Aberdeen in 2019 to pick up THE GOOD SHIP VE … errr … OCEAN ENDEAVOUR for our Transatlantic crossing to the Frozen North of Canada, I’ve not set foot in the UK since 2011. And even if I were well, nothing would change in that respect.

So apart from dealing with yet more correspondence and reading my book that’s about it. Tea was an improvement (but let’s face it, it could hardly be worse) and so having done everything that I need to do, I’m calling it a night.

But talking of nights … "well, one of us is" – ed … after what went on during the night I’m reminded of the guy in the Bois de la Cambre who hobbled over to the ice cream van and asked for an ice cream cornet
"Crushed nuts?" asked the vendor.
"No" replied the man. "I always walk like this."

Monday 3rd June 2024 – THS HOSPITAL FOOD …

… or lack thereof, is driving me nuts.

Tonight’s tea was soup and lettuce followed by an apple purée. I even had to beg for bread because they didn’t bring me any.

The stage has been reached where I’m beginning to plan to apportion my food so as to save some for later if ever I’m given a surplus at one particular meal.

In all the old books about prisoners in prisoner-of-war and concentration camps you’ll read about prisoners doing just that, concealing food for later. I can’t believe that we’ve come back round to this. Plus ça change … And it’s only Monday.

We’re not quite at the stage of guard dogs going missing and turning up in the cooking pot but one or two of these nurses look quite tasty. However, that is another story.

But whoever thought that we’d be at these depths?

It was Sunday last night when I finally crawled into bed just after the sun set. For a while I had a listen to Brute Stringbean and then switched everything off and tried to go to sleep through the usual banging and clattering that there is in a hospital

Not much luck there though, as you might expect. And to make matters worse we had a phantom alarm at 03:30 – the alarm going off and someone asking to speak to The Who, one of the musicians but it wasn’t actually one of the musicians at all they wanted and I can’t remember at all the name of the person they said but at least they made out that it was someone from The Who even though it isn’t

Not that that makes any sense, but since when has anything that I’ve ever written, never mind a dream, made any sense?

Once again, I gave up the struggle at 05:30 and lay awake simmering. At 06:30 someone took a blood sample (my left arm is a mass of pinpricks and bruises right now) and gave me a glass of orange juice. No taste of lemon so they must have learnt their lesson from yesterday.

Breakfast came round eventually and then we went through the usual performance of bedbaths and stuff like that, and then I was stuck in my special chair in the window where I could watch the World go by on the Autoroute. Plenty of Plenty O’Toole’s dad’s lorries going past, I noticed.

There was another visitor today. Hans came to say goodbye as he has to head for home. It was lovely of Hans to come in to say goodbye. It was lovely of everyone and I hope that I’ll be able to see them again.

There was yet another visitor too. There’s another British guy here and he’d heard us talking yesterday. Seeing as he was leaving the hospital today he thought he’d come in for a chat. A very nice, interesting guy too.

A third visitor was my consultant. She gave me the news that my condition has stabilised – as in “not improved”.

Much as she is impressed that the rapid deterioration that caused the panic has now stopped, there is no date as yet as to when I’ll be going home. She wanted to know who was handling my case in Paris so I gave her the details.

She came back later to wish me a good evening as she was going home. What’s happening here?

Transcribing the dictaphone notes was next. To my surprise, there were some. They were experimenting with a new type of aircraft checking its take-off and landing abilities. Unfortunately it failed to come up to the mark. There were many people who flew as passengers in these planes who were injured in crashes or during tests including Dennis Wise, a South African footballer The sad part about it was that the counting was very casual so that when they counted the people off the plane afterwards they didn’t realise that they’d left someone behind, and they set fire to the fuselage to simulate an escape rescue. This was when they discovered the dead body of one of the passengers who hadn’t been counted correctly. This started a big scandal throughout the entire aeroplane industry. There were probably five or six attempts at a take-off and landing from various airports with this plane , all of which failed and people were injured or even killed.

And what provoked that, I really have no idea. It doesn’t relate to anything at all that I’ve been doing.

To occupy the time and to plan for any extended stay, I’ve been negotiating my mail-server around the hospital’s firewall and I can now access my e-mails. So I replied to some of the messages that I received, I can’t of course reply to some others (I prefer the innocence of LIONHEART and THE KICK INSIDE Grahame) because I’m still locked out of Gmail, and I’ll reply to the rest in due course.

So that reminds me – firstly, you’ll notice the “Amazon” links. I’m an “Amazon” associate so I receive a small commission on purchases made by people who click on the links. It costs you no extra but helps pay for my web hosting.

Secondly, there are plenty of new readers to these pages these days. Some have said “hello” but to the rest of you, don’t be shy. Click on the button on the bottom right of the page and send me a message to introduce yourself.

The rest of the day has been spent reading my book on Iron-Age fortresses. Where would I be without ARCHIVE.ORG?

On the subject of dreams and music though, I was mulling things over in my head, like you do … "like some people do" – ed … thinking about the Brother John Glacier from last night, and what came into my mind, as you might expect, was
"It’s been so many years now I still can’t forget
Love flew like an eagle in God’s wilderness
Shadows were falling oh my heart beat inside
We kissed on the bridge above the river of ice"

One day I really must fill in the posts for those missing three days in the High Arctic that changed my life for ever.

So the sun is about to disappear now, and so am I. But something else that I’m thinking about as I retire is food and Hans’ visit. And given the foregoing, it’s a good job that they didn’t allow the Hound of the Baskervilles to come in with him. Hans would have gone home on his own with a lovely fur rug to keep him warm.

Sunday 2nd June 2024 – I’M BACK ON …

… this horrible anti-potassium stuff here too. The nice bubbly nurse has just this minute been by and dumped a ladle full of it into a glass and said “here, drink this”.

My potassium is quite high, that’s for sure, but I’m surprised that it’s taken them this long to find out. And at least, late in the evening, it’s not too bad if I fall asleep and have hallucinations.

In fact, if the truth is told, I could have done with some last night because I didn’t have much sleep at all. As regular readers of this rubbish will recall, I’m quite a light sleeper and the slightest noise awakens me. Ad I’m not sure what it was last night. It wasn’t the staff disturbing me, that’s for sure

By about 05:30 I gave up the struggle and that was that – and on a Sunday morning too. Who would have thought it?

At 06:30 I had another blood test and they gave me a curious orange drink that tasted of lemon

"What was that?" I asked
"A laxative" replied the nurse.

But don’t worry. I had my revenge. Ohhh yes! So much so that they sent the second laxative back to the store later.

So most of the day I’ve been reliving the past, listening to Bruce Springsteen, as well as writing out the dictaphone notes

I was trekking towards the North Pole with a party of people. At the end of the night I’d sit around the end of the bed of a woman who was travelling with us. When she dropped off to sleep, what would then happen without her knowledge was that two guys from another party would come across, borrow two chairs and the three of us would sit around the bed with her in it and talk about all kinds of different events and different things while she was asleep in the middle. I’d be at her head and the two guys would be sitting at her feet on some chairs that they’d borrowed from somewhere else.

Nothing as exciting as that ever happened to me when trekking towards the North Pole. We reached 700 miles from the North Pole, standing on the Greenland Ice Cap at the Brother John Glacier and then we were having a yoga session in a snowbank in a blizzard on Philpot’s Island off the coast of Ellesmere Island (and God knows what would have happened had a polar bear come to join in) but that was about it.

What I’d done later on was to go through the front door of someone’s house and up their stairs. I was talking to a couple of their kids and was about to climb out of the window on the roof when the householder spotted me and began to make an issue out of it. I explained that they were living on an old Roman trackway. This was a Roman established right-of-way and if they were to look at the Deeds of their house they’d find that the Deeds of their house accorded passage for people to do just as I was doing. Of course they didn’t believe it and began to make quite an issue out of it. Quite a crowd gathered. Then people realised that there were in fact some Roman remains in a field not too far away and there was some kind of old church or something that no-one knew what it was. They began to put two and two together and realised that in fact the Romans had been in this area and it was very likely that there was a road. Of course the householder was very disappointed by this and still refused to believe everything but more and more people began to believe it. I ended up with quite a crowd, giving them a lecture on the Romans. They all seemed to receive it quite enthusiastically although one person whom I knew came up to me to tell me that I was always finding good and unusual ways to drum up business.

There are several true stories of this kind of thing, careless drawing-up of deeds in the housing explosion of the 1920s and 30s and the “back to the land” movement of later years discovering that some had been built on ancient Rights of Way so we have hikers nonchalantly walking through people’s kitchens

By the way, anyone care to guess the subject of the book that I’m reading right now?

And me, drawing a crowd?

And then I was running my taxis. We were doing reasonably well but I had a lot of trouble retaining staff. People would come and leave quite rapidly and it continued. I had a hard core of regular staff and a lot of casual people. We were doing the paperwork, a couple of us. My mother had left outside a huge pile of papers that she’d been sorting so I had to go out and bring them in before the wind blew them away and before the neighbours began to complain about the untidiness. I was laughing and joking with one of my workers while I was doing it. There was one of the young girls there helping too. This worker with me asked the girl “are you happy here?” which I thought was something of a provocative statement. They had a long discussion. In the end I asked the worker what came of the discussion with the young girl. She said “people don’t like your attitude at the moment”. I replied “well, yes but don’t they now that I’m dying? Don’t they know that naturally my mind is elsewhere focused on other things, all that kind of thing when you’re dying? A lot of things are just quite simply left to find their own way”.

Staff always was the big issue. It was a very itinerant business with plenty of comings and goings, and for all kinds of reasons too.

But the nicest part of the day was the visit of Hans, Jackie and Alison. The girls were setting off on the start of their trek home so they came o say “goodbye”. Fancy coming all of this way and spending it as hospital visitors.

Anyway, as long as they don’t mind sleeping on my sofa they are welcome back any time. If Hans and the Hound of the Baskervilles can manage to sleep on it, so can anyone else.

And on the subject of the latter, my cleaner tells me that she’s fallen in love with him.

It’s a good job actually that they came by today because they bought food supplies. And I needed them too because tonight’s tea was soup and lettuce. I traded the vanilla yoghurt for some bread and the crisps that the Terrible Trio bought me disappeared as an after-meal snack

Anyway, right now, I’m off to bed as soon as my stomach stops rumbling. I’ve not moved from the chair by the window all day. Firstly, because of the gorgeous sun we’ve had and the beautiful sunset that I’m watching.

And secondly, because the chair serves another purpose. That will teach them to give me a laxative.

It’s probably the talk that I overheard yesterday that’s done it. They were saying something like "if he doesn’t produce soon we’ll have to give him a suppository"
A friend of mine was once given a suppository to take to help him cure his piles
"Did it work?" I asked him
"Not at all" he replied. "In fact, for all the good it did me, I may as well have shoved it up my *rs*"

That is probably what has scared the s*** out of me.

Saturday 1st June 2024 – CAN YOU IMAGINE …

… opening your eyes mid-doze and seeing three of your favourite people standing there right in front of you?

Yes, there was Hans, all the way from Munich, Jackie, all the way from Cologne, and Alison, all the way from Leuven, standing there in front of me as large as life.

This was the weekend when our little travel group is due to meet up, so of course it’s the weekend when I’m in hospital. I bet that they never dreamed that they’d come all this way to see the sights and all that they would do would be to see me in a hospital nightgown.

These are people whom I’ve known for years. Hans since we first sat next to each other at Grammar School on our first day there in 1965. Jackie was Secretary when I was President of the North European Students Association of our University, and Alison and I worked together at that crazy American company and found ourselves to be the only sane people there.

And here they were, as large as life. And how pleased I was to see them after the night that I’d had.

There won’t be any dictaphone notes because there wasn’t any sleep. The night was spent arguing and arguing properly too, with a couple of nurses who doubtless flew home on their broomsticks at the end of their shift in time to cast a few more spells and incantations and then go to bed before the sun comes up.

The new nursing team that came on at 06:30 was no more tractable, but at least they were nicer. One of the nurses fetched a specialist from over the road to help her but they couldn’t manage.

Eventually they fetched a surgeon and shortly despite the stabbing pain for 30 seconds I felt the greatest sense of relief that I have felt for quite some considerable time. If this keeps up, Bibendum will be no more and I’ll be able to climb into bed so much easier.

Food was as usual its rather depressing self. I missed breakfast with all of this nonsense going on. Lunch was mashed potato and grated carrot, and tea was vegetable soup and grated veg. Don’t be a vegan in a French hospital. You explain what a vegan is, and they then present you with a banana yoghurt made with milk.

So with no sleep at all last night, the day has been spent dozing off and being awakened by something. But I’ll trade all the sleep in the World for a visit from friends. It really was wonderful to see them.

The specialist from across the road came over for a chat too. I gave her my usual spiel about quality of life being more important to me than desperately clinging on in miserable conditions just for the sake of it but I’m not sure if it made any impression on her.

She raised a few eyebrows though when she said "I hope that we have a good night’s sleep tonight after last night"
"What the …" exclaimed a nurse
"N-n-n-no" stammered the specialist."Not together!"
And there I was, already moving over to one side of the bed.

Friday 31st May 2024 = I’M IN HOSPITAL…

… recovering from a kind-of diabetic coma.

It’s amazing the things you learn. There I was, sitting in my hospital chair late this morning, and I must have dropped off … "to sleep, not off the chair" – ed … on one of my usual deep sleeps and the next thing that I knew was that three nurses had me on the bed tearing off my clothes.

“My lucky day” you might think, but they were busy trying to stuff jam sandwiches and orange juice down my throat and put a hospital gown onto me.

These sleeps that I’ve been having, or, at least, that one, have been diabetic comas (and they used that phrase to describe them, not me) caused by low blood sugar levels.

That’s no surprise because I never use sugar apart from in the odd bit of baking here and there. The sugar in the sugar container is replaced every year if it’s lucky, and the sugar lumps, I’m on my second box since I moved here in 2017

As for my brown sugar for cooking, I’ve just started the third lot of that.

Anyway, lest night I actually managed to go to bed at some kind of reasonable time and, strangely for a night before travelling, I actually fell asleep, at least for part of it.

When the alarm went off I was asleep, that’s for sure. I fell out of bed and did half of what was necessary, when I was interrupted by a series of text messages.

Basically, the Olympic Flame is doing a lap around the town today and they’d begun to close off the streets. The car that is to take me to Avranches is on its way or else it’ll either be stuck here or else it won’t be here at all.

So taken by surprise by this, I’ve left my apartment in quite a mess.

It was my favourite young driver – and two other passengers – who were in the car and we had a pleasant drive down to Avranches. There’s another part of the hospital opposite the main building. I didn’t know that but my driver did which was just as well because that’s where I’m going.

The driver leapt out of the car and fetched a wheelchair for me. That’s where we are now, people. Can you believe it? Even a taxi driver is worried.

A nurse went through all of the preparatory questioning and so on, and then I had to wait around for the specialist.

It only needed one look, and he made up his mind. “I’ll telephone them to see if there’s a bed spare”.

And there was too, but I had to wait around for quite a while before I could be picked up and taken across the road.

For some reason, and I dared not ask, the windows were wide open and it was blowing a gale through here. So we closed the window and we went through the induction process.

Then I settled into the comfy chair to type out the dictaphone notes, and that was when my troubles began – as if wrestling on a bed with three nurses would ordinarily be described as a trouble, but that shows just about where we are too.

Don’t ask me what happened after that because I don’t know. Something must have gone on somewhere somehow because the next thing that I remember was that is showed 09:50 on an analogue clock on the wall.

At first I had no idea what time or even what day it was but in the end I worked out that it was actually 21:50 the same day. What happened to the rest of the day?

All I’d had to eat all day was some cauliflorets and bread. I was starving but that’s too bad. And were I to tell you my current weight instead of my target weight of 75 kilos you’ll probably think that it’s a good thing.

But I was exhausted. In a wretched state and all I wanted to do was to curl up under the blanket and go to sleep. I dashed off a few words on the phone because I couldn’t reach the computer, and that was that.

The induction process reminds me of the induction process at one hospital in Belgium
"You are allowed one person of your choice to sleep in your room with you during your stay" said the nurse.
"Right ho!" I replied. "You don’t happen to know Kate Bush’s phone number, do you?"

Thursday 30th May 2024 – SO HERE WE GO.

Yes, by the time that some of you (but not others, of course) will be reading this I’ll have been tucked up all nice and cosy in bed by a bevy of beautiful nurses at the hospital at Avranches.

Some hopes.

Knowing my luck it will be a retired female Bulgarian weightlifter or hammer-thrower and she won’t have tucked me up at all; never mind smoothed my fevered brow. I shall have to do that by myself.

Before I leave here in the morning I’ll have done all that I can and the rest is in the hands of the Gods.

If it’s anything like last night, it’ll be extremely difficult, that’s for sure. The lethargy about which I spoke … "at great length" – ed … carried on and I couldn’t summon up the energy to leave my comfy chair until almost 01:00, well after my usual bedtime.

It’s difficult to explain what’s happening to me right now. I can’t seem to find the effort to do the simplest of things and it’s so dispiriting.

At least, getting into bed was so much easier and apart from the difficulties that I’m having with my legs right now, even turning over and over in bed was much easier too. Things seem to be pretty much back to normal … "for now" – ed … in that respect, and aren’t I grateful?

When the alarm went off I fell out of bed to switch it off and then crawled off into the bathroom.

After that it was the medication. 13 different capsules or potions if we count the anti-potassium stuff. I must be reaching a world-record of some kind at some point. I hear that the French Government is putting up taxes quite soon. It’s all my fault.

For a change, the nurse didn’t have too much to say for himself. But he couldn’t make his card reader connect to the internet to read my health card so after much binding in the marsh he said that he’ll do it next time. I hope that there will be a “next time” anyway.

After he left I had a “rest” for a while and then transcribed the dictaphone notes. Last night there was a group of young girls taking part in a singing competition. While the singing was absolutely excellent they made life extremely difficult for the judges by crowding the backstage and confusing themselves with the other groups so people lost track of who was who because there were so many of them. In the end the judges had to ask several groups to perform again which led to a lot of chaos from some of the groups of parents whose children were feeling excluded by this. All in all, what should have been a simple singing competition turned into absolute chaos coupled with the fact that some jewellery went missing at some point. Of course The Saint was in the audience so everyone suspected him. Some of the parents wanted him involved in helping to find it. It all went on throughout the night in the usual turmoil and complete mess. Nothing was ever decided.

These “Saint” DVDs are a long way from being finished too. I’m about halfway through the black-and-white episodes and then I have all of the colour ones to go at. And all these wonderful British cars of the 1950s and 60s too. Not a single mainstream British car anywhere these days. Hard to believe that at one time the UK led the World

There was another thing about being on the roads of Maine in a snowstorm on I-98 going north. There was a huge pile-up and they were announcing things on the radio “2 women injured” then the total went to “5 women injured” and gradually increased. I heard someone in the background say “what the heck is going on there? Aren’t there any males in that traffic queue?”. I thought to myself “that’s a really nice thing to say, isn’t it, seeing as I’m stranded in this queue but near the front nowhere near where these collisions are taking place?”.

As regular readers of this rubbish will recall, I’ve been on Interstate 95 in Maine on numerous occasions, but rarely in the snow. But we’re back to this theme of “token womanism” again where “x people were hurt, of which Y were women and children” Imagine the outcry if they had said “X people were hurt, of which Z were men”.

We once did a study of “minorities” listing all of the people from different classes of minority and subtracting them from the total population. We eventually reached the conclusion that a white middle-class middle-aged man was very much a minority when it came to today’s scale of things. Of course, our report was … errr … mislaid.

After my coffee and flapjack I fell asleep again but this afternoon I’ve been packing and making myself ready for the road tomorrow and the hospital at Avranches as well as doing some stuff for the radio. I’m not sure what they want of me but I know what I want of them and I’m hoping that they can do something to alleviate my suffering.

On that note, I’ve baked a loaf of bread and I shall take half of it with me. My invitees can share out the rest amongst themselves. But with my half a loaf and half a flapjack I’m hoping that at least there will be some food for me to eat somewhere.

That’s the big problem – who do I know who can bring me some food parcels?

But I’ll worry about that in due course. I’ve had a nice tea tonight of baked potato (seeing as I had the oven going) sausage and beans.

It’s been ages since I’ve had baked beans so, listening to my stomach right now, I won’t need a taxi to get me to Avranches in the morning.