Comic Malcolm Hardee remembered by Australian performer Matthew Hardy…

Malcolm Hardee on the Thames (Photo by Steve Taylor)

In yesterday’s blog, Australian performer Matthew Hardy remembered British comedian Sean Lock, who died earlier this week. 

Matthew also mentioned the late comedian Malcolm Hardee – oft called ‘the godfather of British alternative comedy’ – as “the most outrageous individual I’ve ever known”. 

Eight days after Malcolm’s death by drowning in 2005, Matthew Hardy shared this memory. 

Stories about Malcolm Hardee are plentiful but, to my mind, this one from Matthew may be the definitive one…


Malcolm took my visiting elderly parents out in his boat. Goes up the Thames and on the right was some kind of rusted ship, pumping a powerful arc of bilgewater out of its hull, through a kind of high porthole, which saw the water arc across the river over fifty foot.

I’m on the front of the boat as Malcolm veers toward the arc and I assume he’s gonna go under it, between the ship and where the arc curves downward toward the river itself. For a laugh.

Just as I turn back to say “Lookout, we’re gonna get hit by the filthy fucking water” – the filthy fucking water almost knocked my head off my shoulders and me off the boat. I looked back to see it hit Malcolm as he steered, then my Mum and then Dad.

I wanted to hit him and my Dad said afterwards that he did too, but we were both unable to comprehend or calculate what had actually happened. 

Malcolm’s decision was beyond any previously known social conduct. 

He must have simply had the idea and acted upon it. 

Anarchy.

We laugh… NOW!”.

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UK comic Sean Lock remembered by Australian performer Matthew Hardy

(Image by comedy news website Chortle.co.uk)

The British comedian Sean Lock died of cancer on Monday, aged 58. I remember him in the 1990s as highly intelligent, a very very funny stand-up and, most of all, a kind man unspoilt by any discernible ego. I don’t think he changed when he became successful.

Here, Australian performer Matthew Hardy pays tribute to Sean…


(L-R) Matthew Hardy, Malcolm Hardee, Sean Lock (Photograph courtesy of Matthew Hardy)

Rising up the London stand-up comedy club ladder in 1993, I’d started to get paid gigs (after 12 months of poverty-stricken gradual improvement), many of which were ‘Door Splits’ (meaning the Promoter splits the door-take equally with the comedians).

I’d been living in Welwyn Garden City, way too far out of London (grateful though I was for anywhere at all, having landed from Australia without a clue) and needed a room closer to the city, quickly. 

I ended up staying with the most outrageous individual I’ve ever known (who became a great mate, the comedian Malcolm Hardee, pictured above in the middle, but that’s a whole other story) and that opportunity came about because I’d been telling anyone who’d listen within the comedy community (I didn’t know anyone else) that I was desperately lacking in both money and a place to live. 

After an early paid Door Split gig at a well-attended club I won’t name, another act (who I met for the first time that night) named Sean Lock, offered me a lift to Kings Cross station (where most changeover train routes threaded through: trains I couldn’t afford tickets for, so I’d be nervously watching out for inspectors the whole way in and back) and, having delivered a good show, I spoke excitedly to him about how awesome it was to be have been paid £20.

“TWENTY POUNDS!” Sean said, loudly and incredulously.

“Yes”, I said, “I’ve been doing open-spots (free 5 minute trials) for a year now and it’s great to have gotten good enough to get paid”.

“You told the Promoter you were skint and needed somewhere to stay, didn’t you?” Sean said. 

“Yeah – and they said they’d try to help me out if they could,” I replied, enthusiastically. 

“Help you out?” he said. “The rest of us got £120 pounds each!”

I’d been lonely and thought I was about to cry, at which point Sean pulled over, took £50 out of his wallet and shoved it in my hand.

“Now we’ve both been paid the same,” he said, with a smile. 

And then, “You’re not in the outback anymore, cobber. Keep your mouth shut and your eyes open. And, by the way, I loved your ‘Windy Day’ routine”.

He dropped me off and I recall this all concisely because I was keeping a daily diary back then.

People remember kindness. 

People won’t forget Sean Lock.

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A slow UK handclap for the continuing bureaucratic incompetence of the NHS

A standardised NHS container designed for taking the piss

As regular readers of this blog – particularly some recent blogs – will know, I have a very high opinion of the medical staff working in Britain’s NHS.

Equally, I have a very low opinion of all large bureaucratic organisations, of which the NHS is one.

This year I have written several blogs about the NHS’ wild incompetence.

I currently have high calcium level and low kidney function problems which have been going on for over a year – since at least May last year. And the doctors have still got no idea what the cause of the problems is.

That is fine. They are trying.

But it means I have to have dealings with the bureaucratic side of the NHS.

Yesterday I received three letters in two envelopes from the NHS, all dated four days before.

I have had a longstanding appointment to see a kidney specialist in my local hospital at 1030 on Monday 20th September.

The first of the three letters was from my local hospital and cancelled that appointment.

The second letter (contained in the same envelope as the first) was from the NHS Trust/Group to which my local hospital belongs. It said I should ignore that first letter cancelling the appointment. The appointment, it said, was not actually cancelled. I had been put on a waiting list and the appointment would be rescheduled.

The third letter, also from my local hospital and dated on the same day as the previous two, said I now had a confirmed appointment at 1030 on Monday 20th September.

The eagle-eyed may have noticed that is the same time and day as the original appointment which had been cancelled. Sorry! Not cancelled but to  be rescheduled.

I am not 100% certain if the first and second letters are referring to the third letter and the appointment no longer exists.

Or if the third letter refers to the first and second letters and it is rescheduling the appointment, which is now confirmed to be once again on Monday 20th September 2021 at 10.30.

I live on the outskirts of London. All three of the above letters from my local NHS hospitals were posted to me from the NHS in Bristol. 

I have no idea why and, I suspect, neither does the NHS.

The many-headed Hydra of mythology (The Farman Collection, 1987, via Wikipedia Commons)

 

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I can only dream of sleep… and reality often seems more surreal than dreams…

I have not had a single full night’s sleep since June last year.

That’s over a year ago.

The calcium and the kidneys are to blame.

Last night, I woke up from a three-hour sleep on the floor. It was 11.43pm. I went to bed to sleep ‘properly’ after that.

I slept for two hours. Woke up. Then went back to sleep and woke up every hour – extremely dehydrated – until 7.40am this morning. That’s my new normal.

I’m still slightly woozy-headed. Brain meandering.

Until last June, I never really remembered any dreams. Only rarely. Now, because I wake up every hour throughout the night, I sometimes do. 

Just before I woke up for the final time this morning, I was dreaming that I was skateboarding with Paul McCartney round the corridors of some university student accommodation building.

Paul McCartney had slowed down to talk to someone who had picked up his business card amid the detritus of a street market.

I only ever fleetingly encountered Paul McCartney twice – once when, for some forgotten reason, I was giving comedian Charlie Chuck a lift down to the Brighton Pavilion where he was booked to perform at a birthday birthday or Christmas show thrown by McCartney for staff of his London-based company MPL (McCartney Paul & Linda).

Neither Chuck nor I knew exactly where the Pavilion was in Brighton (this was before the time of GPS smartphones and Google Maps).

We decided to ask the first random person in the street walking past our car. It turned out to be Paul McCartney, ambling along, alone, on his way to the venue. This was well after the shooting of John Lennon in New York, but McCartney was clearly very relaxed walking alone in the street.

The other time was when he performed on the TV show The Last Resort With Jonathan Ross, on which I was a researcher. The shows were transmitted live from Wandsworth in studios owned by Keith Ewart, a former Swinging Sixties photographer who tended to wander round the place with a pet bird – I think it was usually a parrot – on his shoulder. 

Since I started remembering my dreams, reality often seems more surreal than dreams.

It turned out that Paul McCartney’s manager, who was there in Wandsworth that night, was Richard Ogden who, as a younger man, had interviewed me for a job when he was head of some division of United Artists in London. I remember he wore no shoes and had his feet up on his desk. It was a different era. I was just about to leave college.

I did not get the job. 

Later I heard that, a few months AFTER the interview, Richard Ogden heard from acquaintances what I was like and said he would have given me the job if he’d known.

I have always done bad job interviews because I make a bad first impression. Most jobs I got through word-of-mouth or, a couple of times, because I had failed an interview about six months previously and they couldn’t be bothered advertising/interviewing when that or a similar job became vacant again.

I never re-introduced myself to Richard Ogden that night in Wandsworth.

Years ago – it must have been 1995 – I was also interviewed by newspaper legend David Montgomery for a job on the not-yet launched Live TV channel, a tabloid-style British TV station owned by Mirror Group newspapers which ran from 1995-1998. They were looking not just for people but for programme ideas which would ‘hold’ viewers.

I don’t think he was particularly interested in me but he briefly perked-up when I suggested they could run live coverage of a sex-change operation over a whole week with reports before, during and after the op.

This never made it to the screen and I never got the job, but it was clear I was at least thinking in the right area as the programmes they did transmit included Topless Darts, the weather forecast read in Norwegian by a girl dressed in a bikini, Tiffany’s Big City Tips in which presenter Tiffany Banister discussed the financial news while stripping to her underwear… and Britain’s Bounciest Weather in which a dwarf bounced on a trampoline while giving the forecast. If he was forecasting about Northern Scotland, he bounced higher on the map. 

There was a lot of weather on the channel.

Live TV failed, but David Montgomery did not. In 2012, he formed a newspaper group called Local World which was sold in 2015 for £167 million.

Now (among other things) he owns the former Johnson Press Group of around 200 UK newspapers. This was valued in pre-internet days (the 1990s) at over £2 billion.

He bought it in 2018 for £10.2 million.

In 2005, The Scotsman alone had been bought by Johnston Press for £160 million.

Times change.

Whereas most newspaper groups have been trying to fight the online world by centralising newsrooms and resources, Montgomery claims he wants to make his papers more specifically local and less filled with generic material. He is also chairman of Local TV, the second largest local TV company with nine UK licences.

It will be interesting to see what happens because, basically, no-one knows what is happening in any business at the moment – not just as a result of the internet but as a result of the still as-yet not-really-finally finished Covid pandemic.

Who knows what the future holds? Life seems to get increasingly like an OTT movie script.

I’m still slightly woozy-headed. Brain meandering.

I have not had a single full night’s sleep since June last year.

I can only dream of sleep.

(Photo by Johannes Plenio via UnSplash)

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Travelling hopefully with Tony Green, Michael Gove, Princess Diana, lizards

Sometimes, to slightly mis-quote Robert Louis Stevenson, it is better to travel hopefully than to arrive.

It’s what happens along the way that is interesting – the diversions and the sidetracks.

It’s a book, not a hairdressing salon…

Celine’s Salon,” Tony Green said to me in the Soho Theatre Bar, back on June 9th, almost exactly two months ago.

“A hairdressing salon?” I asked.

“No,” said Tony. “Celine’s Salon, The Anthology: Volume 1. Poems, short stories, song lyrics, that sort of thing. 

“Celine used to run her ‘salon’ just round the corner from here. Celine Hispiche. That’s her name. I read a few short stories there. At Celine’s Salon. Now it’s going to be a book. Celine’s Salon, Volume One. The publisher phoned me up and said: Could you do a 600 word short story? One of the stories you read at the club? So I did.”

“What’s it called?” I asked. “Your short story.”

Shape-Shifting Lizards.

“Autobiographical?” I asked.

Tony laughed.

How very kind of him, I thought. But then he is an actor.

There are so many sub-cultures in Soho, let alone in London, that no-one can know them all. Tony Green, the comedy performer formerly known as Sir Gideon Vein, knows lots of sub-cultures and people I don’t.

He took me along to Torture Garden late last century dressed as a cricketer – HE was the one dressed as a cricketer – or maybe it was an homage to Sylvester McCoy’s incarnation of Doctor Who – because he (Tony Green) knew Sophie Seashell who was organising the Berlin-Between-The-Wars-type cabaret performances amid the slightly self-conscious fetishism and kinkiness going on in the disused 3-storey warehouse up a back street in Islington.

Celine must have been right under my nose all the time…

I hang my head in shame that I had never heard of Celine Hispiche until two months ago. She started her career as a featured writer at the Royal Court Theatre, progressed to singing duets with Marc Almond on his album Bluegate Fields and playing support to the Human League with her band Nitewreckage.

Then there was touring down the US East Coast with fellow comedians from Saturday Night Live, playing the comedy stage at the Glastonbury Festival, supporting Harry Hill at the Hackney Empire, four consecutive cabaret years at the Edinburgh Fringe and starting Celine’s Salon in 2015 at the Society Club, described as “an arts and culture bookshop in the daytime and a private members Bohemian cocktail lounge in the evening.”

Tony Green in his mask outside Soho Theatre

“So,” I said, two months ago, “Shape-Shifting Lizards?”

“I got the idea,” Tony explained, “because some friends of mine who, at one time were quite well-balanced human beings, have gone… Well, they wouldn’t say ‘Conspiracy Mad’. They would say their eyes have been fully opened to this awful situation…”

“The Covid-19 situation?” I asked.

“Oh no!” said Tony. “Not that! I’m quoting Gilbert & Sullivan here. My eyes are fully opened to this awful situation…

“No, no, not the virus, although they know all about the virus, of course. That’s why none of them are having the vaccination.” 

“Because the world is run by an international cabal of Satanic paedophile cannibals?” I suggested.

“Of course.” said Tony. “I’m not saying this is the truth, but it’s what was told in a pub. You meet some strange people in public houses… So Lady Diana…”

“…was killed by the Cabal?” I guessed.

“Oh definitely,” said Tony. “But this is what was told in a pub… She was ‘nutted-off’ because she found out…”

“…about the Royal Family all being lizards?” I guessed.

“Oh definitely,” said Tony. Prince Philip told her: Whenever you want to see us about anything, always knock on the door first.

“So they have time to shape-change?”

“Of course. And, of course, there was that one unfortunate time she didn’t knock. She burst in and saw and was told If you say anything about this… It wasn’t the fact she was expecting a baby with Dodi Fayed or because the chauffeur was drunk…”

“Whenever you want to see us, always knock on the door first”

“It has to be said,” I suggested, trying to be helpful, “that, in his dying days, Prince Philip did look a bit lizard-like – Did you see that photo in the car?”

“Oh, they’re all lizards,” said Tony with a twinkle in his eye. Well, both eyes. There was more than one twinkle in more than one eye. “On one a occasion, a very well-spoken young actor said to me: Oh, I’ve just heard you’re a ‘Cockney’, aren’t you? I know why all of you Cockney chaps are all so ugly and stunted and stupid. You’re all inbred, aren’t you… And then somebody said: I think he must be confusing Cockneys with the Royal Family.

“You told me you also wrote a novella,” I prompted him.

“Oh – Halfway Up Arthur’s Seat – yes. It’s called that because the story came to me when I WAS halfway up Arthur’s Seat. In Edinburgh. I think it would make a great film, but it would cost a helluva lot of money. It needs 200 extras. It’s an homage to Edinburgh. It ends with what could possibly be described as a supernatural element. My partner read it and she felt it needed more explaining. I don’t think it does.

“A journalist friend of mine wrote a story about a certain notorious serial killer and he said to me: Do you think I made the ending only too obvious? I told him…”

“What?” I asked.

“Have you read any of Jake Arnott’s books?” Tony asked.

“I’ve seen the TV adaptations,” I told him, “but not read them. Have you read The Long Firm?”

“I have. When I wrote my story – Halfway Up Arthur’s Seat – it’s nothing at all like Jake Arnott – but I’d been reading a lot of Muriel Spark stuff. It was reading her stuff that prompted me – that and living in Edinburgh…”

Did I mention Tony spends a lot of time in Edinburgh now? Mostly, he says, “as a result of the bleedin’ virus and the lockdown’s etc.” I met him when he was briefly back in London.

Tony Green in Soho, London, not in Edinburgh

Thus the Soho Theatre Bar location.

I forgot to tell you.

It was two months ago. Other things have intervened.

Apologies.

“The hero of my story,” Tony continued, “is called T. Jellicoe Mungham. He wrote a book in 1902 called Dear Oscar, when he was at Cambridge. He was lauded for this book. He is a mischievous but loveable person in my book but also quite wise.”

“Autobiographical?” I asked.

Tony ignored this and continued:

“Muriel Spark is a hero of mine, like Andrew Marr and my idol Michael Gove. All Scots. All I can say about Michael Gove is that the horror film industry’s loss is politics’ gain. You know he was in a film, playing a vicar? Robert Hardy on one side and Christopher Lee on the other. 

Michael Gove: from movie minister to government minister

“Michael Gove was actually adopted and his parents were Socialists. I can only imagine someone said to him when he was quite young: Michael, you can’t keep backing losers. Conservative is just another name for Winner. You’re a Winner. Join the Conservatives and get rid of that Scots accent… Muriel Spark had no Scots accent either.

“Of course, she left Edinburgh when relatively young and lived in Camberwell in London, for years, virtually turning her back on her Scottish/Jewish heritage and becoming a devout Roman Catholic like her friends and admirers Graham Greene and Evelyn Waugh. Funny that she wrote her must famous book The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie in Edinburgh in the early 1960s on an extended visit to her parents flat in Bruntsfield Place.

“I think my stories have a very Scottish ring… The reason I wrote Halfway Up Arthur’s Seat was because there is NOT a part in it for me. People accuse me of being up my own anus, but I’ve written a story where there’s no part in it for me at all… Did you know Jake Arnott wrote a book about Alastair Crowley?”

“I didn’t know that,” I said.

Fenella Fielding on her 90th birthday (Photo Etienne Gilfillan)

“Just before she died,” Tony continued, “I saw Fenella Fielding do a reading. She was over 90. The reading she did from her autobiography, for a woman of that age, was A1. It was a perfect rendering. The reading was only a few months before her departure. There was a Q&A afterwards and I said to her: It’s very refreshing to hear someone reading as you read. You don’t give the impression of being a luvvie. As an actor, was there anyone you ever worked with you didn’t like?

Oh, that’s a very naughty question, she said. I don’t think I could answer that here. She was a nonagenarian and a likeable one. She knew even months before her demise that she still needed to ‘play the game’.”

Tony Green has returned to Edinburgh now.

Celine’s Salon is published in the UK on 6th September.

Like Robert Louis Stevenson didn’t quite say at the beginning of this blog… Sometimes it is better to travel hopefully than to arrive. It is the journey that is interesting. The sidetracks. And – hey! – Robert Louis Stevenson ended up in the South Seas Islands, which wasn’t too bad a place to end up at the time.

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Seven days in an NHS hospital: Day 7 – Agony, staring and coitus interruptus…

(DAY 1 OF THIS HOSPITAL BLOG STRAND STARTED HERE)

Tuesday 27th July

At some point in the middle of the night, a nurse came round and took everyone’s blood pressure. General Davide was fast asleep. The nurse looked at the Friends of the Hospital woman sitting at the foot of his bed and at the security man and said quietly to them: “I do not think it is a good idea to wake him…”

She left the ward without waking him.

I woke from a DEEP sleep around 7.00am with noisy chaos around me. It turned out to be in the bed next to me, which was curtained-off. All I could tell was that there were several nurses’ voices and a man in a lot of pain.

At the staff shift change-over, the nurse in charge overnight went through the details of each patient but, with General Davide, she added: “…and there is the aggression problem which is why he (pointing at the security guard) is here.”

The man in the bed opposite me had a strange look yesterday. He was totally silent and staring. His eyes were wide open and staring blankly, seldom blinking, but he didn’t seem to be focusing on anything… and there was something oddly twisty about his mouth. Like the top half of his face was solid but the bottom half of his staring face had no bones, just muscles and flesh which floated randomly. Like he was chewing but he was chewing nothingness. He seemed very young, maybe in his twenties or thirties. His was propped up, looking ahead, wide black eyes staring, but maybe sightless.

This morning, there were two nurses and a doctor round him. he was less propped-up, his head lying back on the pillows. So his pointed chin was up and his neck was exposed. He looked like an ancient man, 120 years old, drained of life. He looked like some Egyptian mummy, raised from the dead in some 1950s Hammer horror movie.

He was refusing to eat or drink, but silently. The doctors and nurses were trying to get him to respond. But, from him, no words, no moans, nothing. Alive. But just silent resignation to something. I have no idea what.

The new nurse in charge of the day shift is a man. When he injected me, I said: “You’ve done that before, then…”

“I’ve been doing it for thirteen years,” he said.

The young female nurse today is his half-sister. She is a trainee nurse and this is her second day on a ‘real’ ward. She has kind eyes.

“We have the same father,” the male nurse explained to me.

He is Indian. His half sister is Pakistani. And, as it happens, the security guard today is Bangladeshi. The half-siblings both speak Urdu, the Bangladeshi guard does not. But they are very very friendly. In English.

The Friends of the Hospital woman was no longer at Davide’s bedside when I woke up. She must have left during the night or at dawn.

Davide is in a lot of pain now.

In the course of the morning, the man in agony in the bed next to me was removed and replaced by another man in a lot of pain.

The old/young/old man opposite me was left alone, silently staring ahead.

And then I was discharged from the hospital.

My calcium level was down, though still above the normal band of acceptability.

My kidney function was up though was not doing as well as my calcium level and the kidney function’s level had ‘plateaued’ at its abnormal level.

So all is not well, but I was told my conditions were no longer ‘dangerous’.

I and my bed could be released and I can, from now on, be treated as an outpatient. For my slightly damaged kidneys, my calcium level and the mark on my arm which might or might not be Lyme disease and which has now turned into a red smile on my skin.

Though the doctors still have no idea what caused my calcium/kidney conditions last year or this year.

That narrative continues.

But all the other people over the last week are left behind in freeze-frame. Like a narrative coitus interruptus. Like life, this story has no climax. When you die, the narrative just continues without you. So it goes.

I will never know if Michael’s brother arrived to take him away or, if so, where he went and what happened to him. 

I will never know if the man who swallowed his false teeth and the cancer man died a few days later.

Nor will I ever know what happened to blind Italian Claudio or to the boy/old man with staring eyes in the bed opposite me.

As I left the ward, the last I saw of Davide was a glimpse of him walking slowly the short distance from his bed to a chair in the bay window of the ward, which overlooks the entrance to the hospital. It was raining outside.

A tall, thin man with only one arm.

As I left, in my peripheral vision, Davide stopped and the top half of his body bent slightly forward in pain, his head bowed. I think he was carrying a bag of his own urine, but I could be wrong. 

It’s not important.

It’s all in the past, just memories now.

Just like – as Rutger Hauer said – tears in rain.

“The mark on my arm… which has now turned into a red smile on my skin…”

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Seven days in an NHS hospital: Day 6 – The one-armed African liberation leader

(DAY 1 OF THIS HOSPITAL BLOG STRAND STARTED HERE)

Monday 26th July

During the early hours of the night, the curtains on the interior windows and the main ward doors were closed while a dead body was removed along the corridor from another ward. A nurse told me they didn’t want patients to see it… nor any staff who might have incidentally interacted with the now stiff. So it goes. 

The ward aggro today kicked off slowly at 4.30am when Michael started getting up and roaming the ward like a caged animal, pacing back and forth and touching objects around the ward as if checking where reality started or ended. Sometimes he was up and pacing, sometimes he was lying in bed; sometimes he was up and pacing, sometimes he was lying in bed; this went on for maybe an hour.

One of the male nurses is religious (a Christian) and he told Michael: “Tell them to go away”.

Michael lay on his bed for a time, repeating: “God, tell them to go away. Please God, tell them to go away.”

He refused to have his various daily medical checks, verbally abusing the nurses, randomly saying he couldn’t get to sleep and that he could only sleep.

Around 7.00am, he started grabbing, pushing and tussling with the security man to get out of the closed door of the ward. The security guy, of course, could only passively resist.

After the shift change-over, Michael told one of the new nurses he wanted to phone 999 because he didn’t think he was well and wanted to go to hospital.

“You are already in hospital,” she told him gently.

“No I’m not!” he snapped.

Michael now has four Covid masks hidden under the pillows of his bed, given to him over several days. He asked for each one. He is worried he might have Covid and, I suspect, he thinks that simply owning the masks shields him from the virus. He has never put on any of the masks (and is not required to). 

The ward has twice-a-week rapid Covid tests on Tuesdays and Fridays.

When the Calcium Man came round with his two two junior doctors and found I had had the constant drip on Saturday but no drip at all on Sunday, he was not a happy man.

“I asked for the drip all weekend. What’s the point of coming in for treatment if he doesn’t get treatment?” he said to his underlings.

So I will be back on the drip again after he sees the blood tests which have not yet been done.

Michael now thinks I am watching him. 

Michael to nurse – “Everybody’s watching me.”

He then went to the loo but came out and asked where the toilet bowl was and complained he couldn’t see any toilet paper – There are two big rolls in a bright blue dispenser fixed to the wall, where they always are.

A nurse showed him the toilet bowl and the toilet paper.

About ten minutes later, he asked again where he could get toilet paper. The security man had to show him the bright blue dispenser fixed to the wall,

Michael is probably leaving today. He asked where one of the nurses lived. She told him. About two minutes later, he said to the same nurse that today he was being taken by his brother William to (the town where she lives).

A young Buddhist nurse talked to him about his life – he told her he used to work in large hotels on Park Lane in London. I switch on the recorder on my iPhone.

He asked her about Sri Lanka, where she came from.

“Michael,” the young girl asked him, “have you enjoyed your life?”

“Nah,” he replied. “Do you have children?”

“Yes,” she replied. “A daughter.”

“Married?” 

“Yes.”

“Your husband’s from Sri Lanka?”

“Yes.”

“Have you ever been married, Michael?”

“No.” Michael said. “Are you happy?” 

“Yes… Don’t think about anything, Michael, just relax your mind.”

“How can you relax your mind?”

“Just forget everything,” she told him.

“You can’t forget everything,” he said, “you just can’t.”

“It’s very hard,” she said, “but you need to get better before you go home. So don’t try to fight with everybody. Just relax.”

“I can’t do it though. I’m not that type of person. I wish I was.”

“You need to relax and have a good sleep.”

“I can’t sleep. I keep going through Who wants me? and that type of thing… What do you do at your college?”

“I am studying nursing. I am still studying.”

“I’m still shaking,” Michael told her. “I can’t relax. I wish I could relax like you. Do you do the Buddhism every day, do you?”

“Yes. I am listening to the sermons.”

“What are they like?”

On her phone, she played him a soothing Buddhist Society sermon about ‘the four ways of letting go’.

Eventually, after about five or six minutes, Michael got up and asked the security man, “Why are you doing this to me? You know what you’re doing. Why are you doing it?”

The security man said nothing.

“You’re a liar!” Michael snapped at him. “It’s too late for me to be a Buddhist!”

At 1.25pm, the cancer man was taken away to the other, bigger hospital for radiotherapy.

The ambulance men who were here on Friday and today are from a county out to the south east of London but are subcontracted to this county to the north west of London because this county doesn’t have enough vehicles. The ambulance men drive their vehicle up here each morning and back each night. I guesstimate it must take them at least 90 minutes each way. Longer if the M25 motorway is clogged with traffic.

While the ambulance men from another county are moving the cancer patient to wheel him out, Michael is asking nurses how to work the shower and demanding attention.

By now, Michael has taken to wandering round in a maroon jacket on top of his NHS pyjamas and carrying a green plastic bag containing, I think, some ad leaflets and postcards.

After excessive rudeness from Michael, the security guard took to sitting outside the ward door instead of being inside.

Michael accepted this situation for about ten minutes then (I think) got lonely and went out to talk to the already overly busy Receptionists.

I think he is maybe trying to fill the loneliness gap. Complaining and being angry/paranoid means you are never alone.

“They want to examine the rash on my arm…”

I am told I am going to be kept in at least tonight because they want to examine the rash on my arm which one of the Calcium Man’s junior doctors spotted a few days ago. They think it might be Lyme disease.

Later in the day, the cancer man was brought back from his radiotherapy. About an hour or so later, after seriously dramatic vomiting, he was given more morphine and a suppository.

After this, Michael started offering to help the staff with their medical duties and offered to buy the Buddhist nurse a beer at the bar. He seems to have confused the Reception desk with a pub bar.

Michael in his self-absorbed dementia reminds me of many a stand-up comic I know.

Two beds away from me, one nurse talks with the wife of the almost-certainly-dying man who swallowed his own false teeth.

Across the ward, another nurse is dealing with Claudio the blind Italian in the toilet. 

And Michael is obsessed with what time his evening meal will arrive and I think offering to take multiple nurses out for a restaurant meal tonight. 

He offers to buy the security man a pint of bitter in the non-existent bar.

My unused monitoring screen (top left)…

At around 6.30pm, at 15 minutes notice, the doctors decide to move me to another ward because they need a monitored bed and mine is the easiest one to get.

There are only three monitored beds in the ward. The one occupied by the almost-certainly-dying false teeth man. The one with the almost certain-to-die cancer patient. And my one. And my monitoring screen is not being used.

So I am now moved to a new four-bed ward in another part of the hospital.

One of the beds is occupied by the one-armed African liberation leader Kofi Davide – the tall man from a small African country – who got booted out of my previous ward for hitting a nurse. (All names in this blog have been changed)

He now has a hospital security man sitting permanently by his bed or in the ward’s bay window presumably in case he decides to hit another nurse.

As I arrived in this ward, a Russian nurse – or, at least, one with what sounded like a Russian accent – was berating the one-armed African liberation leader for “losing” the cigarette she gave him yesterday.

When the shifts changed, he asked a couple of nurses, separately, if they had a cigarette. When they said they didn’t, he said, “Go away!” curtly.

In the early-evening, another nurse came in and she started talking with him about the former leader of his country.

She asked him: “Where do you live now?”

There was a long pause while he did not answer because he obviously did not want to tell her exactly where he lived… then he said: “In the world. In the world. I am a citizen of the world.”

In mid-evening, a black woman (could be British but with a slight African accent) from the Friends of the Hospital took him – apparently out of the building (with the hospital security guard) – and they came back with takeaway food.

He told the very attentive Friends of the Hospital woman that his wife is flying in tomorrow, though it is unclear from where. He told her that his wife is flying in from England.

The Friends of the Hospital woman said to him: “I am going to stay here all night to make sure you are safe.”

And she did. She sat by his bedside all night.

(CONTINUED HERE…)

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Seven days in an NHS hospital: Day 5 – “He was punching him in the stomach”

(DAY 1 OF THIS HOSPITAL BLOG STRAND STARTED HERE)

Sunday 25th July

When you twice miss the vein with the needle…

During the night, I woke up to find Michael grappling with a male nurse, trying to push him back with his outstretched hands. The nurse was trying to calm him down by making light of it as if it were a dance. Michael and the male nurse were surrounded by three female nurses and a male security guard trying to calm him down.

I had to go to the toilet. When I came out, the grappling was over. The male nurse was washing his hands and a new security guard was there. He was a stand-in while the night’s main security man had a one-hour break. Michael was back in his bed.

Four or five times during the one-hour break, Michael got up and made a dash for the door of the ward and was silently tussled (reactively – not in an aggressive way) by the security guard.

By the time the main security man came back, Michael was quietly sleeping in his bed.

A bit later on, I was woken by Michael facing-up to the security man who was on his own in the ward. Michael made a lurch at the security man. Michael started punching him in the stomach. There was probably no power behind the punches, but they were still punches.

The security man managed to calm him down by talking to him in a firm but quiet voice.

In the early hours towards dawn, the cancer man asked for and got a double dose of morphine. 

Today, a Sunday, there was no 1-1 nurse care for Michael, just a security guard; there were not enough nurses to spare one full-time to constantly watch over Michael.

The black machine and drip bag on their frame

After the nurses’ shift handover in the morning, I was told that, today, I did not need to have the drips in my arm, but I should drink a lot of water. This made it easier to go to the toilet, because I didn’t have to drag with me the whole wheeled drip apparatus attached to my arm.

Michael was told he could go ‘home’ tomorrow if he allowed them to give him a COVID Rapid Test. At this point he was meek and quietly allowed it.

And for most of the day he was fairly quiet. I figured this was because he had been told he could leave if he behaved. He was fairly quiet. But, mid-afternoon, another possible cause was revealed. He had had diarrhoea all day.

Michael, as most days, was alternating between meekness and aggression but today meekness had the upper hand..

I read a piece in today’s Observer newspaper online:


Pay for nurses and other NHS staff in England will have fallen in real terms by more than 7% since 2010, even if they accept the latest offer from the government, according to new analysis that will fuel rising anger about public sector pay deals.

Figures produced by the TUC show that remuneration for nurses, community nurses, medical secretaries, speech therapists, physiotherapists, paramedics and radiographers will have dropped by between 7.3% and 7.6% in real terms in just over a decade, even after factoring in the 3% rise offered last week.


The nurse in charge of the ward yesterday was telling another nurse that, when she goes home at night, she has to sleep with her legs on five pillows and her head on two pillows. She has a shoulder injury. If she didn’t sleep like that, she said, she wouldn’t be able to come in to work and function properly.

What on earth poor blind Italian Claudio makes of all the current shenanigans in the ward, heaven only knows. Lots of unknown voices around him in a language that he only has a passable not good knowledge of. He has had to learn the words Left, Right and Straight when he is guided by a nurse to the toilet with his Zimmer Frame.

At 4.00pm, Claudio started saying he is going home tomorrow. He isn’t.

He must have picked the idea up from Michael.

And, ironically, Michael has decided that he does not want to leave and go to “that place” tomorrow and is trying and failing to get his brother William on the mobile phone to cancel it.

Michael has now taken to occasionally either curling up on his bed in a foetal position or sitting on the edge of the bed, head bent, gnawing at the fingers of his clenched hand like a caged bear going mad.

Around 6.30pm, after a quiet day, Michael started sniping at other people claiming they were conspiring against him.

At around the same time, there was discussion among the nurses because a Covid non-believer was going to be brought in to a neighbouring part of the ward and had refused to take a Covid swab test before admission. 

One of the nurses said that, although she would, she didn’t really see why she had to look after “people like that”.

Another said: “I’m in the 13-to-24 age group, so I will do it.”

Presumably this is also happening elsewhere in the country and it must put the nurses in a moral quandary – they have to treat all patients even if the people they treat may cause a risk to them by reckless behaviour.

We seem to have two, maybe three security guards tonight.

(CONTINUED HERE…)

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Seven days in an NHS hospital: Day 4 – “You’re doing it on bloody PURPOSE!”

(DAY 1 OF THIS HOSPITAL BLOG STRAND STARTED HERE)

Saturday 24th July

I was woken up from a deep sleep at 07.00am to have my blood pressure checked. 

This is significant because I actually had some real sleep last night. Michael settled down after two or three hours last night and I don’t think caused chaos by wandering around, talking in rambling forgetfulness etc etc.

It is potentially a big day for him today as his brother William is allegedly coming to pick him up at 2.00pm.

No 1-1 nurse care for Michael today, just a security guard; they don’t have enough staff to spare a 1-to-1 nurse.

This morning, Michael didn’t get up until 8.45am, making a staggery break for the door to get out of the ward but not wearing the bottom half of his pyjamas. He was caught and re-directed to the toilet. 

At around 9.20am, there was an almighty crash of crockery, cutlery and loud sundries as he threw (well, I think maybe kicked) his breakfast off his trolley/wheeled table onto the floor. One plate was broken; the rest bounced.

The cancer patient in the bed next to me told the male nurse that there seemed to be blood on his (the cancer patient’s) pyjamas. It turned out it was jam from his breakfast.

At 10.45am, Michael started complaining that he was hungry and had not been given breakfast today. 

Round about midday, without warning, I was taken in a wheelchair to some imaging unit – a slightly-better than X-ray place. I had no idea why. A porter pushed the wheelchair and a nurse accompanied us.

All three of us wore Covid masks. 

Reception at the imaging place said that an appointment had been made by my Calcium Man but at no specific time. So no spot was booked. After about five minutes of the nurse and the receptionist discussing this, a woman coincidentally came along with the paperwork. It turned out the appointment was to look at my liver.

When we were waiting outside the actual imaging room, another patient was waiting with us. He either was – or was the spitting image of – a middlingly-famous actor in British B-movie gangster films. He told me he had been put in a ward with mad people. No sleep at nights for him because (like Michael) they were speaking all the time.

He mentioned the name of the ward.

My nurse said: “Yes, that’s a dementia ward.”

“They said it was the only bed they had free,” the maybe-actor replied.

My liver was said to be OK and I was taken back to my ward.

The grand daughter of the cancer man was in for a one hour visit. She had travelled up to North London from Brighton.

Normal visitors are not allowed in the hospital but a close blood-relative can come in to be with an end-of-life relative. The man has incurable cancer. They are going to start giving him radiotherapy treatment. It will not cure the cancer but it may (or may not) stop it spreading further. 

The man with cancer and his grand daughter talked about what was going to happen after he died. Cremation. No church. Money in a Cyprus bank account. 

Simultaneously, Michael was complaining to a nurse that the chain in the ward toilet had been taken away. In fact, it never had one. It is just a handle-flush toilet.

The grand daughter was telling the man with cancer: “No, we won’t forget you.”

Michael’s brother William arrived at 1.15pm and said, in fact, he isn’t taking him home but that it has now been arranged that Michael will be “released on Monday” and “taken to a hotel” for “consultation, to see what you want to do”. 

I think this means he is going to be taken into a care home. My iPhone voice recorder is a wonderful thing. (All names in this blog have been changed.)

William: Well, you been here about two weeks, haven’t you?

Michael: No! About three months… four months… It’s driving me mad. I’m very nervous, very anxious.

William: Yes, I would be, too. 

Michael: How you doing?

William: Well, Carol, my son’s wife’s got cancer, you know. This is the hospital where you were having the cancer treatment done, wasn’t it? But you haven’t got cancer.

Michael: Well, they say that. They say that.

William: They told you you haven’t got cancer. You’re definitely leaving Monday now. I’ve booked it. You’ve only got one more day, tomorrow, here. It’s Sunday tomorrow and you’ve just got one more day. You’ve only got tomorrow. On Monday, I’ll be here to sort it.

Michael: I get about three meals a day here; that’s all. It’s not worth the money.

William: Don’t worry. Everything’s free in the hospital. It’s just one more day here.

A couple of hours later, Michael phoned the police and said he was in Hospital and was imprisoned, unable to go home and do what he wanted and it was “like being in a concentration camp”. They said they couldn’t help and told him to talk to the staff.

“Did you just call the police on us?” a male nurse asked gently. “Why did you do that?”

“I can’t go anywhere. I can’t do anything.”

“We let you move around,” the nurse said. “We listen to you.You can talk to us as often as you want. You should be speaking to your family, not talking to the police.”

“I never see my brother,” said Michael. “He doesn’t come here.”

Michael again refused to take the eye drops prescribed by the doctor then, later, complained about his declining sight and that he was going blind. That is his latest obsession:

“I am going blind and need to see a doctor about it!”

The nurse offered again to put the eye drops in, but Michael yelled: “Eye drops ARE NO USE! I’m GOING BLIND!”

Meanwhile, in the bed next to him, Claudio the Italian actually IS blind.

Michael’s thoughts about going blind seem to have started when Claudio arrived.

“What do you put in the eyedrops?” Michael was saying accusingly to the young nurse. “They make my eyes bloody worse. I don’t know what you’re doing, do I?”

“Please, please?” the young nurse said.

“I’m diabetic,” Michael told her.

Later, a soft-voiced young Asian nurse came to give Michael his nightly medication. 

“Take your tablet now… Please.”

Michael pretended to take the tablet with water but threw it on the ground.

She noticed.

“This is not fair,” she told him reprovingly. “This is not fair, Michael.”

He bent down to pick the tablet off the floor.

“I will give you a different one,” the nurse told him. She gave him another tablet and watched him take it.

“Why are you doing this to me?” he asked her. “What have I done?”

In today’s nursing shift, coincidentally, one of the black male nurses and the Indian security man speak Italian.

Occasionally they talk to Claudio in Italian. He talks happily to them. His English is very weak.

Sometimes the person Claudio is talking to in English has to deal with something elsewhere in the ward and, without telling him, they wander off. Blind Claudio does not realise this, so carries on, believing he is having a dialogue but actually he is talking into the nothingness in front of him.  

With the Italian-speaking security guard, Claudio was (I think) sharing his life. He was talking animatedly about Roma, the Pigalle and Hertfordshire. 

The security guard went off to attend to something else and Claudio carried on unknowingly talking to no-one for about 5 or 6 minutes. He eventually realised there was no-one there and sat back in his chair looking into space, a sad smile on lips.

After a while, the security man came back and said a few words to him. Claudio replied but the security man wandered off again. Claudio again kept talking into space and eventually sat back again, his fingers feeling the smooth plastic surface of his wheeled trolley.

Meanwhile, the cancer man got more morphine.

At about 9.00pm in the evening, Michael threw a wobbly.

“I don’t know what I’m doing. I want to get out. My brother is  coming to see me.”

“Michael,” a male nurse said, “He came at lunchtime. I need to take your blood pressure…”

“Come on, then.”

“…and I will give you your eye drops.”

“I want to get to see my brother. Get away from me! Please, hurry up, come on… You do it on purpose. You do it on purpose. My brother’s coming today… Come on, you’re doing it on bloody PURPOSE!”

“What?”

“You’ve done it on purpose, yes you did!”

“Did what?”

“Ive already had the eye drops today.”

“What time?”

“Earlier on. I don’t want them again today. I’m getting out. I’m getting out of here. My brother’s coming. I don’t want to stay here! Get out of it. Stop it! STOP IT! STOP IT! You do it on purpose, don’t you?”

“Do what, Michael? Why are you fighting with me?”

“I want to get out and see my brother! He won’t come here.”

“What,” another nurse asked, “is your brother’s name, Michael?”

“Michael,” he replied then, after a slight pause, “William… William!”

“Why don’t you call him on your mobile phone? Phone him and ask him what time he is coming.”

Michael left a message on William’s home answerphone. 

A couple of minutes later, someone (I guess William’s wife) phoned back. I heard only Michael’s end of the conversation:

“I’ve just given you a phone call. What time is Will coming today?…… He’s been? He hasn’t been here. I haven’t seen him yet…… No, but I’ve seen him yesterday. Today I’m seeing him…… No, I didn’t see him today! I didn’t see him! I didn’t see him at all today…… He hasn’t seen me…… (STARTING TO SHOUT) He DIDN’T see me today! He HASN’T!…… So what now?……Hello? Hello, it’s Michael. Hello?”

A few minutes later, Michael said to a nurse: “No, I’m not going anywhere because I haven’t found him. (STARTING TO SHOUT) No, I HAVEN’T FOUND him… No, I haven’t seen him today. I haven’t seen him. He said he’d be about eight-ish o’clock. That’s now. I don’t know what to do. I know, you’re laughing at me. You’re bloody laughing at me. I can see you. Why did you say he’d seen me? He hasn’t seen me.”

Michael crossed the ward to another nurse.

“Bloody liar,” he said to her. “Bloody liar.” And he walked away from her.

Ten minutes later, William phoned him.

Michael said: “So you’ll see me Monday again. What do you mean you saw me today? I didn’t see you…… You didn’t see me…… Yeah, well, no, what’s the day today anyway?……Saturday? That was yesterday, though…… Look, I don’t want to spend it in a place like this, Will. I hate it, you know? I don’t want to spend my last days in a place like this. I hate it Will, you know?…… Well I probably won’t see you Monday anyway……The people here are trying to stop me coming out…… Monday, yes.”

(CONTINUED HERE…)

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Seven days in an NHS hospital: Day 3 – The blind Italian and an old obsession

(DAY 1 OF THIS HOSPITAL BLOG STRAND STARTED HERE)

Friday 23rd July

I find I am very attached to the equipment…

A new patient was wheeled in last night and put in General Davide’s former bed. The new patient is Italian and is blind. His name is Claudio. (I have changed all the names in this blog.)

He shouts: “I am blind!”

A nurse replies: “You are blind, not deaf. You don’t need to shout.”

Each patient has different toilet requirements.

When I get out of bed and go to the toilet, I have to disconnect the drip machine from the mains power; it then runs on battery and I re-plug it in when I return. 

At 11.10pm last night, I got up to go the toilet and, half-asleep, ripped the whole plastic tube and needle out of my arm. I went to the toilet. I went back to my bed. Using the torch light on my iPhone. I looked at the bloody torn-flesh gash on my arm.

Then I wanted to go to the toilet again. I did. This time I disconnecting myself from the wall. 

When I opened toilet door to come out again, a bed was being wheeled in through the main doors of the ward.

I saw the haggard face of an old man on it. I think he had a surgical cap on. I think there was a surgeon in attendance and maybe six people round the bed as it was wheeled in. They put him on my side of the ward, two beds away from me.

Later, during the night, Michael got up and started aimlessly, absentmindedly walking around, confused. He went over to the foot of my neighbour’s bed and started rattling the bottom up and down. The young security man in the ward stopped him.

There is now a security guard here 24 hours a day.

Michael wandered off, then turned round and round in tight circles. His face, side-lit in the mostly darkened ward, was uncontrollably distraught and almost in tears. I switch on the recorder in my iPhone.

“I’m going mad,” Michael says. “He’s got money.” (Referring to General Davide) “He can do anything.” A few minutes later, Michael was grappling with a female nurse’s hands. She was trying to control him. “You’re a woman,” he said.

Third time lucky: torn arm, re-inserted tube

About ten minutes later, a young nurse came to re-insert the drip in my arm. She tried to put the needle in the back of my left hand. She tried again. Neither attempt worked but it was very painful. Then she got a more senior nurse to come and the more experienced nurse managed to put it in the back of my left hand at the base of my thumb. 

This must be the rule of thumb – Try to put the needle in twice and, if you fail, call a trained nurse.

A little later, Michael starts saying to a nurse: “You know it’s not fair. You know it’s not bloody fair. He can do what he wants and I can’t do anything.”

He is again talking about Davide. Two nurses are moving Claudio the blind Italian off his bed – with some difficulty – onto a commode chair by the bedside, so he can sit and shit.

“He can do what he wants and I can’t do anything,” Michael repeats, still talking about Davide. “I’m going out of here. I want to get out. It’s not fair. The system’s not fair.”

Claudio the blind Italian shouts out something in Italian.

Michael continues, obsessed: “It’s not fair. You know it’s not fair. He can do what he wants that feller.”

The two nurses have managed to get Claudio the blind Italian, who speaks only rudimentary English, onto the commode.

“Why not,” one of the nurses suggests to Michael, “go to bed and you can sleep?”

“He can do what he wants,” replies Michael, as if accusing the nurse. “You know yourself.” 

Michael continues talking about Davide while Claudio the blind Italian sits and shits.

“You know what it’s like,” Michael says. “He can do anything he wants to do. He’s got money. That’s why. It’s true. I know it. You know it. He has £500,000”

A little later…

“Blanket!” says Claudio the blind Italian.

“You want another blanket?” asks a nurse.

“Yes! “shouts Claudio the blind Italian.

“You say you’re a Christian,” Michael says to the nurse. “You should worry. You know it’s true.”

“We love you,” a nurse tells him, consolingly, “and we are doing the best for you.”

“No, no,” says Michael. “You know what this is. Tell the truth. I hate it here.”

“Don’t say things like that, Michael,” says the nurse gently.

“You know it’s true,” he replies.

“Can I do your temperature?” asks the nurse, gently.

“Oh!” snaps Michael. “That’s all you care about! I hear that every night, near enough now. You know what this is!”

“Sit down and let me check your sugar level,” says the nurse.

“No. Let’s get going.”

“You are safe in here…”

Michael wanders off to the other end of the ward.

A little later, there were loud yells of agony from the man in the next bed to me. 

He has cancer. 

They give him a lot of morphine. 

The handover between the nursing night and day shifts takes place in middle of the ward at around 7.30-8.00am and all patients can hear it.

The plan for the man with cancer next to me has been to take him for preliminary radiotherapy at a larger hospital at 10.00am but this morning the hospital’s Transport Dept said they can’t take him until noon.

The new supervising nurse, coming on shift, asks: “Has the appointment moved?”

The nurse going off shift says: “It is still at 10.15. You will have to keeping phoning up and pestering to try to get them to collect him before noon.”

Michael still has a female nurse looking after him 24 hours a day in case he does something silly; and there is still a hospital security man there 24 hours a day making sure he does nothing dangerous.

In the online edition of the Guardian this morning, I read:


Ministers are forcing the NHS to cover part of the cost of its 3% staff pay rise in a move which health service chiefs say could lead to cuts in patient care.

The NHS in England will have to find about £500 million to help fund the 3% increase that the health secretary, Sajid Javid, announced on Wednesday, despite already struggling to meet the extra costs of the pandemic, including the care backlog and treatment for the soaring numbers of people with ‘long Covid’.

Ministers are also facing mounting anger from the medical profession after it emerged that tens of thousands of doctors have been excluded from the 3% deal, despite the government’s advisers on NHS pay specifically recommending that they also be rewarded for helping to tackle Covid-19.

Traditionally, the Treasury meets the full cost of annual pay rises for NHS personnel. However, Boris Johnson has decided that the service will have to help shoulder at least part of the bill for the 3% uplift, payable to more than a million staff for 2021-22 and backdated to April.


My Calcium Man and his two junior doctors come to see me.

My calcium level is down to near but still not perfect normal. My kidneys have not quite recovered as well. One has slight damage, I think. I am not absolutely sure. It is all a bit vague.

I am seeing the Kidney Man this afternoon.

The Calcium Man says I will be on a continuous drip all weekend.

As he and his two junior doctors turn and walk away, suddenly a loud alarm goes off, seemingly in the ceiling of the ward. Almost immediately, there are doctors and nurses everywhere and a heart resuscitator is brought in – for the man two beds away from me who, sometime in the last few days, swallowed his false teeth and they went into his lungs. 

A crowd of doctors and nurses look on, as if round a car crash; just observers.

The man’s heart is restarted.

A little later, Michael and his new Sikh security guard start talking about religion.

Later still, two ambulance men are in the ward with a bed on wheels – for the man with cancer in the bed next to me. The ambulance man is telling a nurse that he knows someone (not an ambulance man) who is getting a £33,000 pay rise.

A little later, one of my Calcium Man’s junior doctors comes back in to ask some more questions. She tells me Junior Doctors will get no pay rise. But, she says, nurses deserve anything they get. 

Yes indeed they do.

At lunchtime, an older security man tells a younger one about the best physical moves to take when attacked by a patient.

The Tokyo ‘2020’ Olympics have started. Just like the Euro Football Championships, because of the delay caused by the pandemic lockdowns, 2021 is still called 2020. Future generations will be numerically confused.

I am now not seeing the Kidney Man today. 

I am told, if my kidneys don’t get better, he will see me as an outpatient and maybe arrange a kidney biopsy. I will also be given another PETscan at another hospital – I had one last year. That’s the one where they put radioactive stuff in my blood and watch it go round.

I am told the hospital has started my discharge process but that doesn’t mean I’m getting out today.

They are putting me on a constant drip but – because of weekend – the earliest I can imagine anything happening is Monday or Tuesday. The main medical men don’t work weekends.

Michael is lying on his bed literally praying to God for help.

“Please God, help me. Dear God, help me…” he mutters, lying curled in a foetal position.

He refuses to allow a nurse to put in the eye drops the doctors have prescribed for him and, as normal, starts getting fully manic around 8.15pm, just after the change in nursing shifts.

(CONTINUED HERE…)

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