To say Blameworthy and I drank rather a lot during the eighties is something like saying the Pope prays a bit. The amount we drank throughout the eighties would have had today’s health lobby in epileptic fits. Fingers would be violently wagged and predictions of doomed kidneys not far behind; with the added threat of a badly battered liver thrown in.
Nowadays it’s all referred to as Units of Alcohol and if you go over a certain amount of units then you are in the danger zone. Trouble, ailments galore…and lashings of tut-tuts!
Well, despite us being well over the unit safety limit – many times over in a night let alone a week – Blameworthy and I have survived reasonably well physically. That’s not to condone the copious amounts we drank but more to say we are doing ok considering…
In later years we have found a way to curb what the health critics would call excessive alcohol intake – we rarely drink together this has a tendency to curb our drinking by fifty percent…or at least I try to convince myself it does.
Some wags have suggested that as Blameworthy and I rarely frequent the pubs together like we did in the ‘old days’ it’s a possible explanation as to why so many Public Houses have closed over the last twenty years or so. Their profit levels dropping rapidly after our semi-retirements – if that is what our abstinence can be described as.
It has to be admitted that The Duke of Wellington – so frequently blessed with out custom – is no longer a pub. Whether this is evidence of their reliance on booze hounds like Blameworthy and I is anyone’s guess…
However much the doomsayers of old condemned our capacious ability to consume beer, there was little warning of another beverage which was in recent times to do me more damage than alcohol ever did.
And that is Apple and Blackcurrant squash.
How so, you may ask. Well, get comfortable and I shall tell you the woes that accompanied the pint of the aforementioned concoction.
Ever since my brush with Doctor Calm and the need to take medication for my rather OTT blood pressure, I have been taking a pint of Apple and Blackcurrant squash up with me to bed in the evenings. The main reason for this is down to one of the pills I take for my blood pressure in the morning. There is a particular tablet that whilst keeping the old BP down does drain the liquid in my body necessitating me drinking more liquids than I have ever done before to replace those the pill gets rid of.
Even beer didn’t disturb my sleep as much as this tablet does. Three times a night! Three times! And each time it’s during a good bit in a dream I’m having!
Anyway, a particular night in 2012, I was in bed early as I needed to be up early in the morning. I got out of bed at around 1am to take care of a need precipitated by the tablet and returned a minute or two later to replenish the liquid lost.
Being half asleep pouring the liquid in worked ok but when I went to put the glass back down on the bedside table I misplaced it on top of a pen which unbalanced the glass and sent the contents pouring across the bedside table and the floor.
With an exclamation of ‘Oh dear’ (or perhaps something a little harsher with about the same amount of characters) I switched on the light to commence a mop-up operation.
Needless to say once finished I was wide awake.
Back into bed I found I couldn’t get comfortable. The quilt wasn’t quite in place; it wasn’t covering one corner of the bed. Not vitally important but after the debacle with the Apple and Blackcurrant squash I wasn’t happy. I wanted it to be in the correctly place…
However, anger and stubbornness had me shaking the quilt from the top to try to get it into place. The more it didn’t the more I became angry with it and increasingly aggressive.
I know it would have been easier to get out of bed to get the thing in place. I know that trying angrily to shake it from a semi-laying down position was totally the wrong way to do it!
But anger removed all rational thought and I became determined it was going to be shaken into place without me having to get out of bed.
The fight went on for about twenty minutes – such was my stubbornness – before it finally fell into place and I had secured the victory I wanted.
Another hour and the adrenaline had died down and I drifted off to sleep.
The next morning, I managed to get up early and into work. I ached a bit but all seemed to be fine.
However, by 8am that evening I began to feel some chest pains; aches I couldn’t figure out where they came from.
That night I was in quite a lot of pain and found it difficult to sleep laying down so had to sit up. This stopped the chest from hurting so badly but had the effect of every hour on the hour of me having get out of bed to shake my arse – hula dancer style sans grass skirt – in order to restore the circulation in my buttocks quickly enough for me to get back into bed for another hour’s asleep.
I dread to think what the neighbours – if for some reason insomniac – would have thought if I hadn’t had my curtains closed and me being observed going through the hourly arse shaking ritual.
I am not sure I have much of a reputation for sanity in the street where I live. In the early part of this century I did some gardening – not something I do often – and filled about a dozen large sacks with garden waste. These I stacked in the small area outside my front room window. My friend Anecdote offered to load them in his estate car and take them to the tip.
All went well. We loaded the car – after a couple of beers – then made off to the tip. But, we were too late and it was closed. We had to bring the rubbish back.
Unfortunately, the neighbour who saw us load the car also witnessed us unloading and putting it back at the front of the house.
I could imagine him saying to his wife: ‘That bloke next door. He just loaded his garden rubbish into his friend’s car and took it for a ride round for half an hour…’
Anyway, I digress…
Finally, as is so often the case, a new day dawns and the pains are worse. Walking and breathing were difficult but I managed to get into work; albeit later than planned.
More or less as soon as I walked through the door Mrs Immediately noticed I was not well.
‘You look pale,’ she said. ‘Are you alright?’
‘A little achey,’ I responded.
Within five minutes of sitting down Mrs Immediately commented again. ‘You don’t look well.’
‘I’m alright,’ I replied, despite the pain.
‘You should get a doctor’s appointment.’
‘No, no I’m fine. It’ll probably go by the end of the day.’
Five minutes later.
‘You’re no better. You should ring the doctor,’ said Mrs Immediately; yet again.
I inwardly sighed. I knew I wouldn’t get any peace until I rang the doctor. When Mrs Immediately got the bit between her teeth she wouldn’t let go; never give in. It was unwise not to do what Mrs Immediately told you do…er..um well immediately.
And to be quite honest I wasn’t getting any better. I felt pretty bad the breath was becoming even more difficult and painful.
‘If you don’t want to do it then I will,’ she said.
I hadn’t reacted within a split second so she was onto me again.
I dialled the doctor’s number and got an appointment for 16:30 that day. If nothing else my ears wouldn’t get a bashing from Mrs Immediately.
Shortly afterwards I informed Topman and he was insistent that I go home now and not hang about. Topman wasn’t prepared to listen to a word of argument and went even further to tell me that he did not expect me in the next day.
So some half an hour later I was on my way home. I was walking quite slow but allowed enough time to get to the bus stop on time.
Once home I dozed and wake up half an hour before I was due for my doctor’s appointment. I decided I would get there early and began making my way.
It was this walk, normally no more than six or seven minutes, which brought home to me how bad the old chest was. I took twenty minutes to get there. It also helped me understand why Grandfather Fitrambler couldn’t walk very far in his later years.
Grandfather Fitrambler had breathing problems and, as I was finding myself, if you couldn’t take in enough oxygen then movement of any kind was difficult. It depleted your energy levels.
I got to the doctors, managed to get my breath back enough to tell them I had an appointment with the emergency doctor.
Ten minutes after my appointment was set for I got to see Dr Calm. I explained what was wrong.
‘Hmm,’ he said with a frown.
Then he got me to stand up and stood up himself. He stretched his arms straight out in front of him.
‘Put your arms on the outside of mine…’
I frowned but did as I was told. If this was the first stage of the beginning of some sort of Morris Dance…however the lack of the sound of bells from the direction of his knees took that thought out of my head. Besides, if he wanted to Morris Dance I would have pointed him in the direction of the Pink Lady; she was far more experience in that than I ever would be.
‘Now try and push my arms inwards,’ said Doctor Calm.
I did as he said and although it hurt managed to move his arms a little.
‘Hmm.’ he said.
He got me to sit down and then got me to do some deep breathing, which also resulted in pain. After that he clipped a device to my finger, checked the reading on it.
I babbled within this time telling him that I thought it was probably strained muscles. Or probably hoping he’d say it was…
He then got me to strip to the waist, listened to my back and chest.
‘Hmm.’ Then: ‘Ok, you can get dressed, please.’
I got dressed and then, once settled back in our respective seats he began to fill out the ‘Hmms.’
‘It could well be you strained the muscles in your chest. This would have the effect of making breathing painful. Shallow breathing means you’re not getting enough oxygen. The oxygen levels in your system seem to back that up. However, just to be safe, I’m going to book you in for an immediate ECG with the nurse. I’ll arrange an appointment for an x-ray tomorrow…’
Being the devoted drivelling coward that I am I asked: ‘Any chance of some painkillers.’
‘I’m not sure that would be a good idea…’ Doctor Calm replied as he tapped the keys on his computer.
I thought it was a great idea. Painkillers equals no pain and a happy Fitrambler…what’s not to like?
‘You can take some Paracetamol. But you need the pain so that we can see if you are getting better or not.’
For a few seconds I did consider grizzling but felt that probably wouldn’t change his mind.
Ten minutes later I was in the waiting room awaiting the call from the nurse.
Once I was called I shuffled my way into her office she smiled at me. I tried to smile back but because of the pain I probably grimaced; an expression more at home in a Hammer horror film.
She got me to strip to the waist and take off my footwear. My walking trainers were coming to the end of their life so some nose twitching accompanied this; but in a very English way nothing was mentioned.
I moved over to the trolley which was where I would lay down. I suddenly felt a cold sweat form. Laying down caused pain…I didn’t like this one bit.
What I didn’t predict was the pain I was going to go through trying to get on the trolley to lay down in the first place. I couldn’t use my arms to lever me on because that caused pain and I couldn’t lift my leg high enough to use that to get me on top.
However, while the nurse went to get the ECG machine I saw a chair by the trolley.
I would use that as an intermediate stage to getting on the trolley. I raised my leg to the chair with minimal pain but then when I put the weight on the chair I must have been at the wrong angle. I slipped and sent the chair ten feet away from the trolley.
Unfortunately, I let out what can only be described as a girly-scream. If I’d had more chance to evaluate the pain I might have been better prepared and been able to let out a manlier scream but no, a girly one issue forth…
I got my breath back after a minute then went to get the chair back just as the nurse was coming in. She frowned at me.
‘I thought you would’ve been on the examination trolley by now?’
‘Working on it,’ I said.
She sat back on her seat while I struggled to get onto the trolley. She was untangling the wires for the ECG and then filling out some more paperwork while I struggled a second time only sending the chair a couple of feet and this time managing to suppress a potential girly scream!
Finally, I got on top of the trolley but when I tried to lay down and relax pain went through my chest and there was another stifled girly scream.
It seemed like hours I was there laying in pain but was only minutes and then the nurse got up and started to place the wires on the strategic parts of my anatomy.
‘You should have asked for help if you were having trouble getting on the trolley…’ she said.
Personally, I felt the yelps of pain and sending the chair flying a couple of times might have given her a clue but hey ho!
Once the tabs were placed on she started the ECG and then walked away just as tab felt off my side.
‘Tab’s fallen off.’
She carried on walking to the desk.
I repeated myself. ‘Tab’s fallen off!’
She seemed not to pay attention and went back to tapping her computer keyboard.
A few minutes later she came back and looked at the ECG then at my body and saw the loose tab.
She sighed. ‘You really should have said one of the tabs had come loose. We don’t want to be here all night…’
I went to say something but was in too much pain. She re-applied the offending tab and then walked away while the machine did its stuff.
This time there was a reading and she smiled. ‘Right, you can get down and get dressed now. All over.’
‘A bit of help, please,’ I said as I tried to get in a more upright position.
It was a wasted remark on her receding back. I struggled stifling an excessive amount of girly screams as pain shot through me.
I got to the chair a few minutes later just as the nurse looked up from her computer.
‘Not dressed yet, are we?’
Well, I wasn’t but she seemed ok.
I managed to get my clothes on and left the bow tie to sit in my pocket. I felt I didn’t want to inconvenience her any more than I had.
I slowly left the surgery and began what now seemed a long walk home. The physical pain I’d just been through was fading but the memory was pretty clear…
I hadn’t eaten since breakfast so bought a tin of soup from the corner shop before going home. It would be a simple thing to cook. And for what could be termed a red-letter day in diaries of those who knew me, I didn’t feel hungry.
Fortunately, there was not any permanent damage and I was surprised that the pain eased off within days. However, all those dire warnings about the dangers of alcohol and it turns out that the spilling of a pint of Apple and Blackcurrant squash was far more dangerous than any beer I’d drunk in the past or was likely to drink in the future…