The English Patient


I’ve heard tell of people who have recently had a near-death experience, or find themselves living on borrowed time, reporting a sort of dialed-up or enhanced perception of reality. It’s variously described as like living life in Technicolor, or a sort of super high definition, hi-fidelity, surround-sound version of your old plain vanilla reality, where everything is just a bit brighter, louder, tastier and altogether more enjoyable.

I can’t say I’ve really noticed anything like that happening to me yet. Everything looks much like it always did. Waiheke Island has always been beautiful, and with the onset of spring it is certainly no less lovely than usual. I do find myself drawn to spending as much time a I can out of doors either walking the lanes and beaches or just sitting out on the front deck. I am aware of a desire not to waste or squander the days, or at least to fully notice and appreciate everything that’s going on.

What I am observing though, is a king of amping up of the emotional volume.

Now, it’s been a pretty torrid couple of weeks. Ambulances. hospitals, blood, shit and guts, and now the dreaded C word. All three of us are fairly traumatized, and between carefully contrived displays of stiff-upper-lip and good old British reserve, there has been a fair bit of wailing and gnashing of teeth, and a lot of hugs and tears. All very understandable and forgivable under the circumstances.

But beyond a simple knee-jerk reaction by an admittedly frightened middle aged man and his equally scared family, I think the new bond of closeness and love I am feeling between us is very real and here to stay. It’s always been there, it’s just that we’ve always been a little reluctant to show and share it for some reason. Pride, propriety, Englishness. I don’t know… The same goes for my friends. My real friends I mean. (You know who you are). I have had some truly extraordinary conversations , in person and over the phone in the last week. When the walls are taken down and the truth is spoken out loud, it’s both intense and beautiful.

One thing I do know is that a serious illness and a stay in hospital is a sure antidote for pride and propriety. Pubic hospitals, and the medical profession in general seem to devote a significant part of their time and R&D budget coming up with cutting edge and innovative ways of invading your personal privacy, defiling your flesh – preferably in front of an audience of complete strangers – and generally dismantling your dignity. Those bizarre back-to-front gowns that the insist on making you wear are a good case in point. What evil genius came up with that design? You would have thought that concealing your knackers and pimply arse would be a minimum requirement for a successful item of hospital bed-wear.

Then, there is the daily ritual, where a posse of doctors and housemen scuttle into the ward, pull the 12 micron thick curtain around your bed with a flourish, then proceed to hold a full volume debate about the precise color and texture of your stools and the recent performance of your bowels for the general edification of the other occupants of the ward, and their assembled guests and visitors.

And I know it’s only going to get worse.

They’re only just getting warmed up. Just hitting their straps. There’s no telling what horrors and abominations against decency they are cooking up for me. I’m going in for another “procedure” on Friday. I can almost hear the deranged and maniacal laughter from here.

No Fuck it! Propriety and English Reserve be dammed. I’ll be holding hands in public, and taking all the hugs and kisses I can find from here on in.

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  1. Jo 2 says:

    I’m so glad Jen sent Ben the link for your journal Linds! I had already imagined you might do something like this…. but then I wondered if anyone would in fact have the courage to share like that and whether they would want to spend their time doing it. Thank you, thank you for your wonderful wit and wisdom…. and the beautiful, raw and graphic (of course) detail which enables us to share your journey…. to see it… in technicolour…black and white where appropriate….but no shades of grey. i found the star shaped splatter particularly evocative!

    but I LOVE this entry in particular….. because of the ‘amping up of the emotional volume’ and the fucking spectacular ending. I take it you won’t be telling me and Ben to ‘go get a room’ again!! oooxxx 000xxx (1 set from me and 1 set from Ben)

    • Linds says:

      Thanks Jo, glad you like the blog. I’m actually quite enjoying the writing, and It helps me to process the information and the emotions myself if you know what I mean? Sorry we dropped of the radar there for a while, it took us a wee while to adjust to our new reality, and I wasn’t feeling particularly sociable.
      Let us know when you and Ben are going to be back on the island, It would be great to see you guys. Linds x

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