‘Who’s at home with you?’ asks the ambulance man. We are bumping over the potholes on the outskirts of Aberdeen.
‘My wife and whippet.’ This gasped through the pain of another jolt.
Through the pain, I think that the ‘Wife and Whippet’ could be the name of a Yorkshire pub. I picture a sign with a broad shouldered woman in an apron, her arms folded, and beside her a little lean, grey, miserable-looking whippet. ‘Ee, I’m off to the Wife and Whippet for a pint, luv.’ I check myself. This fantasising has to stop. Maybe it is a side effect of all those pain killers. Or maybe it’s a memory of all the fantasising you hear from other patients in hospital ‘I remember when…’ , ‘When I get home I’m going to….’ and saddest of all ‘I wish I hadn’t…’
It is always a strange feeling returning home after an absence. Some things are not quite as you remember them. And the ambulance men as they heft me through the front door see things with a stranger’s eyes. ‘Nice house, lovely garden.’ They are being polite, of course, but I suppose I’m seeing things afresh, too. That threshold at the bathroom, for example, the one I stumbled over a few days ago, when life was pain-free. That now seems deeper and more forbidding. Certainly if you’re negotiating it with a zimmer.
Some things are constants though; Johanna’s love, Archie’s tail-wagging welcome, the kindness of neighbours.
In order to give the thing a bit of humanity, I have christened my zimmer ‘Cedric’. Cedric belongs to the NHS of course, and I’ll be a happy boy when I can return him to his rightful owners. There must be thousands of Cedrics out on short or long-term loan throughout the land, and an army of their temporary owners wistfully remembering the days when they could roam free and didn’t require this metallic companion to accompany them about the place – slowly.
There I go, fantasising again. It must indeed be those painkillers. Which reminds me. It’s time to ask my ever faithful wife and whippet to bring some to me.