1: It Wasn’t The Drink, Honest!

 

Wednesday evening usually starts around 8pm where Neatentidy (a best friend of many years standing; known for his immaculate ways) gets a taxi to my house and from there we go to the first pub. Quite often the first hour is only us but after that we are joined by Pointyview (who has rather strong views on many a subject) and Movinon (who seems to always want to move on after each pint.).

We began at the Railway, Old Town, Swindon. From one of a selection of six beers we chose “Proper Job”. Forgot to check the brewery, though.

We talk a little on the new design of this very Blog – which from Neatentidy’s comments led me to believe I’ve got two readers. (It’s a start, it’s a start, ok! Little acorns and all that!)

I try to explain why I was doing it but sometimes explaining things can make them seem even more pointless than before you explained them…if you see what I mean?

In the end I settle for the fact I’ve got a lot of words trying burst out of my head and they needed to go somewhere, lots were siphoned off to the six books I’m at various stages with. The Blog seemed an appropriate home for the balance.

We moved on after Neatentidy finished his second pint and I my first (I’m not the drinker I once was). We are to meet the other two, Pointaview and Movinon in the Plough.

The Plough is an Arkells pub in Old Town, Swindon. Many years ago I loved Arkells, despite it’s reputation of going through the intestines and stomach rather like a sweep’s brush through a chimney.

I braved a pint in the Plough but not to my taste.

Soon Movinon and then Pointaview joined us and the conversations, as they do, fragmented. From work to cars, cars to beer, beer decorating…

According to type, Movinon, wanted to go elsewhere after the first pint. So we ended up back at the Railway, and Proper Job. Somehow, second time around it didn’t taste as good. In fact after a few sips and knowing I’d be leaving in less than half an hour I intended to bequeath the remains of the beer to Neatentidy; whereby he and Pointaview would go on for another hour.

By this time we’d got onto the subject of Laurel and Hardy. It was the one where Stan has been guarding a post on a island for some years after WWI. He’s found and put into a nursing home to much publicity and Ollie decides to visit. We’d got to the bit where there was a mix up over Stan’s legs and Neatentidy and myself were wheezing over it and the cough began and didn’t seem to want to stop…

After a minute my head felt ready to explode and I was going to try and take a swig of beer to dampen the cough, when….

Well, that’s it, I don’t know. Wednesday seemed to disappear. It was gone, over, home, other things were done, new days began and went, or so it felt…

Then…

For some reason, for a split second, I feel I’m in bed. Quite comforting, really, then it begins to get noisy and I open my eyes. I feel carpet next to my cheek and Neatentidy kneeling over me…

“Are you alright, Fitrambler?” he asks.

“Of course,” I respond, “Why am I on the floor?”

A young woman from the bar brings me a glass of water and asks if I’m alright? I say yes and drink the water gratefully. Although I admit to being a little shaken (not stirred) and surprised I didn’t actually hurt myself. The girl moves away and after a few seconds I wonder if she really belived it was the cough or just thought I was some old fart who couldn’t handle his drink anymore…

Although, I left feeling a little disorientated, I felt I was alright. That turned out to be a false dawn as I found on the way home when my left temple began to throb and by the time I slipped into bed my shoulder was aching like mad!

On the way home Movinon tells me they thought I was just messing about when I fell out of the chair…

Pratfalls in my fifties, I think not. I mean the old body just isn’t up to it these days!

Movinon convinced me I should see the doctor tomorrow. I was also annoyed that I broke my glasses in the fall. I was overdue for an eye-test, but kept putting it off. Now I hadn’t any choice. It was weird seeing most things around me as a blur, after only three pints!

As we said Goodbye, Movinon said ‘I hope you wake up in the morning…’

Hope you wake up in the morning? Hope you wake up…

As if I wasn’t worried enough. I’d passed out, the aches and pains were coming, thoughts about the expense of new glasses…Now he’d planned doubt about whether or not I’d get up in the morning! I mean, what if the bop on the nut was more severe than I thought? What if there was more damage – a nasty concussion? Maybe I was leaking blood already to the brain?

Aahhhhhhh!

All those thoughts went through my brain as I got into bed. I began to wonder if I should drag my copy of “War & Peace” off  and use it to fill in time until morning! No, too much trouble with the names of the characters. It’d been difficult enough getting through “I Claudius”, and “Claudius The God”, with all those Roman names!

Eventually, I turned the lights off – hoping my personal lights wouldn’t be turned off – and tried to get to sleep. It took about an hour but I managed it as tiredness defeated the fears!

Next morning, booked an appointment with the Optician’s for later that day and then got an emergency appointment with the doctor.

He checked me out and sort of agreed with my own diagnosis (obviously an intelligent man) but flowered it with technical terms (smarty pants). Excessive coughing (in layman’s terms) stopped any oxygen getting to the brain and shut something down that caused me to faint! Hmm. Faint? I prefer passing out, less girlie. He’d get me fixed up with an X-Ray, because I’d had the cough for so long; and then sent me away with a prescription for some liquid to ease the old throat.

Getting that at the Pharmacist’s almost led to my first (of two) muggings. The 500ml bottle would cost with the prescription £7.25! If I took the 200ml bottle, and didn’t use the prescription, however, £1.96. It was the proverbial no brainer!

Later at the Optician’s, I was having the eye test. You know how it works, half-blinded with a pencil flashlight, then asked to read things. After the tests, he asked what glasses I was using now.

“None,” says I.

“None,” replies he.

“None,” confirms I.

“With your eyes, you need glasses. I’m surprised you haven’t got any.” It was then I placed the two pieces in his hands. “Ah,” he said.

“Ah,” I replied, because I agreed with him. I quickly explained, however, offers to repair came there none!

He then finished the prescription for the glasses and took me downstairs to choose my frames. It was here that the second mugging came in. The young lady started to tot things up. I was expecting around £150.

“You want photo chromic lenses,” she said, to which I nodded (always did, saved on sunglasses. “Two pairs for the price of one..a pair for reading?” Again I nodded. “So, the optician recommends anti-glare?” I shrug and finally nod. “Anti-scratch?” I hesitate and then nod. “Then there’s the cost of the eye test.” To which I had no input.

Kerching!!!

“£266,” she says.

“£266,” I croak hesitantly. “Seems a lot compared to last time. Over one hundred and two quid more.”

She frowns, looks at the records, a little worried, and then smiles as she’s found the perfect out… “Ah,” she begins, and I lean a little nearer. “Last time the anti-glare was on special offer and the photo chromic lenses were free for a short time.”

The smile told me I should be grateful I didn’t pay that last time and so shouldn’t be so surprised to pay it now. She was a little put out that I wasn’t falling over with gratitude, kissing her hand, singing ‘Praise be,’ to the Company.

“I need to do a fitting for the glasses, so that we have the vari-focal lenses made correctly.”

For some reason I lingered on the word ‘fitting’ and part of my brain amended the phrase to ‘fitted up’ for the glasses to the tune of £266.00. Oh the pain, the pain of it all! It was becoming an expensive bash on the nut!

Finally, “Shall we go up and pay now…?” The ‘we’ therein, gave me false hope. She didn’t actually chip in a penny…

A few minutes after I left I got a text from Movinon. ‘Did you wake up that morning?’ For a second or two I lived with the hope that my visit to SpecSpenders was a nightmare…

Unfortunately, it wasn’t and my wallet was £266.00 lighter!

It’s quite amazing what comes back after an incident. I could compare my hitting the pub carpet to being drunk.

How so? Asks you?

Well, says I, sometimes (ok, all the time) an excessive amount of alcohol blots out a lot of what happened the night you guzzled it back. Often, bits and pieces are put together by the memory, and other bits by friends who may have shared the same volume of alcohol.

The same sort of thing applied to my passing out and hitting the pub floor (scoring high on Richter scale, I might add) where things come over a period of a few days. Like eleven days ago when the laughing and coughing fit starved the nut of oxygen, and then a second or two after grasping my pint, to refresh the throat, I’m out.

Dead to the world. For ten seconds, thereabouts.

I suppose the weird thing is that usually when I slip into unconsciousness it’s because I’m overcome by tiredness. But on those occasions, from falling asleep in the chair (more often these days as I get older) to just being overtired and getting my nut down late at night. However, the thing in coming with these things are that I usually dream, a sort of narrative that might not make sense, but something that is with me the moment I wake up and throughout the day, if I think back.

I have never passed out like I did in the Railway; not even in my high guzzling days with Blameworthy; that great man who introduced me to the delights of Real Ale when I’d all but given up beer.

Anyway, the night I dropped to the floor. Well, then, it was like nothing happened inside my head from the moment I was about to swig at my beer, to the moment Neatentidy was shaking me to see if I was alright. Even then, for milliseconds afterward, information started to come back slowly.
First, I concluded I was at home, in bed, and the Wednesday night was some time ago, even though there was no memory of its conclusion easily assessable. (This was incorrect.) Then, there was the realisation that I was lying on a carpeted floor, not in bed, which seemed to make more sense that Neatentidy was kneeling in front of me. More information trickled through in those milliseconds. The smell of beer, a familiar pub chair and the bloody annoying fact my glasses were in two pieces.

It was then that Neatentidy asked if I was ok and I answered. After that memories came back a lot faster. I was getting up when I saw a man, just below one of the televisions, thick grey-white hair, brushed back, leathered complexion, I guessed about late sixties. I remembered he was reading a paper long before I passed out, on his own, fresh pint in front of him. As I was getting up, that flashed through my mind and now the present, him still reading a newspaper, as though nothing had happened. Unlike others in the Railway, he seemed quite disinterested. What went through my mind was that he probably thought I was some ‘youngster’ who’d drank too much and suffered the embarrassing consequences for it; it was all beneath his interest.

Next thing, Neatentidy is helping me back to my feet. I note that my beer glass is in my hand empty. Fortunately, especially as I was wearing one of my best jackets, it’d spilt all over the floor and not on me. Well, pub carpets can take it; it’s a pub carpet occupational hazard. At least they didn’t have to contend with the cigarettes anymore.

As I was settling back into the chair, concerned comments coming from Movinon and Pointaview, I noticed the young girl from the bar. At first, I thought I might be thrown out for drunken behaviour, which would have been upsetting for Fitrambler, having only drank two pints and never been forcibly ejected from a pub in nearly thirty-seven years. Fortunately, it was concern and a glass of water she brought over.

Of course, since then, a lot of thought has passed through the noggin. Coughing particularly became something worrying rather than just irritating. Hitting the deck was not something I wanted to be a regular feature of my life.

I am happy to report that coughing occasionally makes me a little dizzy, but with the medicine I’m taking it’s become rare.

In my quieter moments, like walking to work, the experience did make me wonder whether it was like (often reported) near death experiences. Somehow I doubt it. But if it was, then…

No white light, no St Peter, white gown with flapping wings and a harp beckoning, just lights out, that’s your lot mate, hope you enjoyed it because you aren’t going to get another go!

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