Oh the joys of modern communication via the internet.
Imagine my surprise then, yesterday, when I received an e-mail from Saigon… and the cyber conversation that ensued.
MATT: I am hospitalized in Saigon. God giveth but he doesn’t piss about when he takes it away again… But I thank him for Cuban trained nurses and free wi-fi! Hope you are well!
JOHN: You are hospitalised? Seriously? With what? Are you insured? Are you OK? If there is a ceiling fan, you can live the start of Apocalypse Now! – “Saigon… Shit, I’m still in Saigon…” Are you OK? (Given that you are in hospital) Actually, yes, Cuban levels of healthcare will be a bonus point.
MATT: Cubans train some of the finest doctors and nurses in the world. Latin America is very, very lucky to have them. Some of the staff here trained in Cuba, Vietnam being communist and all, the two countries have a strong relationship. They’re amazing with me.
JOHN: So how are you?
MATT: I’m fine but for my right leg. Deep vein thrombosis. Specialist reckons it can be healed back to normal 100%. But then she also thinks footballer Wayne Rooney is the British prime minister. I’m in a fucking wheelchair and on a drip. But strangely enjoying being waited on and given the opportunity to rest as much as I want. Franco-Vietnamese Hospital, Ho Chi Minh City. Fully covered for travel insurance. Thank fuck.
JOHN: How/why are you in Saigon? Your trip was to India.
MATT: I don’t fucking know. Why does the sun rise in the morning and then set again in the evening? Life leads me John and not the other way around.
JOHN: Deep vein thrombosis? Jesus. That’s the thing you’re supposed to get from long-distance flights, isn’t it? Keep a diary of your stay. It could be an Edinburgh Fringe comedy show.
MATT: That remains to be seen.
JOHN: Have you been elsewhere in SE Asia? Laos is interesting.
MATT: I spent a week or so in Bangkok. From there I came here. First time in Vietnam for me. When a new nurse comes to deal with me they ask if I live here in Saigon. When I say “Just a holiday” they sort of throw their heads back and laugh. What luck I have! What sort of a man gets deep vein thrombosis from a 90 minute flight? I ask you.
JOHN: What are your impressions of Saigon?
MATT: The ceiling in my room. The pisspot by my bed. The steady wheels of the commode, gliding gently across the polished floor of the ward. Seriously, the night before I was in the hospital, I was in the rooftop bar of the Caravelle Hotel sipping coffee, looking out over the rooftops of the city, my heart filled with joy. Isn’t there an Arabic proverb? One minute your hand is in your pocket, the next it’s up your arse… ?
JOHN: I was in Saigon in 1989. I remember having drinks atop the Rex Hotel.
MATT: During the Vietnam War (it’s called the American War here) the Caravelle Hotel was the base for all the foreign journalists. That hotel was bombed, they managed to hit one of the rooms, but they reckon if they’d have targeted the bar instead they would’ve taken out every last one of the hacks.
JOHN: How did the hospitalisation happen?
MATT: I thought I’d torn my calf muscle. After three days I couldn’t walk, so I ended up coming in for a check-up. They gave me an ultra-sound scan and it turned out to be thrombosis. A public statement to the fact that I am suffering and I continue to suffer. Even Lewis Schaffer couldn’t lay claim to this.
JOHN: I wouldn’t be so sure.
MATT: I have only just let go of the notion that actually they’re going to amputate my leg. The things that have crossed this restless mind… If they did amputate it, would they show it to me afterwards? Would I want to see it? I doubt it. But, on the other hand, my chances of getting a series with the BBC would increase tenfold.
JOHN: I will blog about this tomorrow. Do you have a picture of yourself in a wheelchair or similar?
MATT: You’re a sick man, Fleming.
JOHN: Seriously. Send me a photo. When are you out?
MATT: When I’m allowed out. I don’t know. I think maybe a week or so more. I still can’t walk proper, so…
JOHN: Are you going elsewhere? Or coming straight back to the UK?
MATT: I really don’t know. I have either to stay put in Vietnam as they need to monitor my blood regularly or get back to Bangkok overland until it’s safe for me to fly again. Still, there’s stacks of material. Stacks of the stuff.
JOHN: It is an Edinburgh Fringe show. Trust me.
MATT: Nurse Than Thiet Sang must be credited for taking the attached photos of me. She was on a mission checking blood pressure before she was stopped to take these. If you really want a wheelchair shot you will have to wait until the male nurse who wheels me out for a strictly forbidden cigarette is on shift (later today).
JOHN: Too late. I will survive. I hope you do too.