Bedpan Humour

I’ve been in hospital for 5 days and sitting on my backside for 4 weeks. This has not been easy for me. I twitch unless I am doing at least two things at any one time as I fear Something Bad will happen due to my sloth. But once I recovered20170112_134705 from the anaesthetic, which felt like a really dirty Bank Holiday weekend with Morpheus, and learned to handle the fact my knee joints feel like horrendously short elastic bands on fire, I did a lot of reading. And a lot of thinking. The first was good (mainly). The second was bad (mainly). ‘Twas ever thus.

So for the record, here is what I have been reading:

The Victorians by A N Wilson saw me through the first few days when I was entangled in a cats’ cradle of sleep and pain. I doubt I did the book justice.

Himself (Jess Kidd) was an odd little thing, about a man returning to a village where his mother disappeared.

Die of Shame is Mark Billingham’s latest, about people undergoing therapy – though if you’re reading the post in 40 years then you will consider it one of his earlier works. What an odd thought. Will this blog still exist in 40 years? Will the internet still be around? Think of how may amazing letters, journals and notebooks we uncover from many centuries ago. What will we, our generation, have to offer historians of the future? Emails in draft form? Fake News and Facebook posts? Has history finished?

Blimey. Went on a bit then. Where was I. Yes. Die of Shame. Mark on sparkling form again, with an ending as satisfying as scraping up the crispy bits that stick to the bottom of the Yorkshire Pudding pan.

Saturday Requiem, the latest Frieda Klein book by Nicci French, and the first time I actually like Frieda. Which is a shame seeing as if the series follows chronology the next book will be the last about her.

The Haunted Library, a collection of ghost stories by Tanya Kirk. Wonderful gothic stuff – obviously ghost stories set in libraries, but apart from The Tractate Middoth (the MR James classic) I’d not read any of them. This was a real gem.

My Story by Jo Malone. An interesting autobiography and particularly pleasurable for anyone who feels fragrance is a vital part of life. I do – my quest to find a replacement for Dune by Dior (the new formulation is a bland shadow of the rich, salty 1990s version) has been going on for about 7 years and I still haven’t found the new Me.

Blacklands by Belinda Bauer. An easy to read, sinister thriller. I liked this, so much so that I ordered Dark Side from the library immediately afterwards.

A Life in Questions, Jeremy Paxman’s autobiography. Oh, how I loved this! It was like going out to dinner with Jeremy and ordering a twice-baked cheese souffle, fillet steak in peppercorn sauce with fries and chocolate mousse, all washed down with very fine red wine. It made me howl with laughter, but also made me think. I stored up some of the more pertinent sentences to use in conversation and make myself sound intelligent. Unfortunately I can’t remember any of them now but it is the perfect excuse to read it again.

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante. Quite good, but not something which I would rave about. I will still read the others in the trilogy then. And yes before someone gets smart I know she’s not really called Elena Ferrante but that’s what she wants to be called, so she can bloody well stay Elena Ferrante.

Elizabeth: The Forgotten Years is a different reading of Elizabeth I by John Guy. The strong, sharp-tongued Gloriana we have come to adore throughout history is not completely disassembled in this telling of her life, but the myths built around her as tall as one of her collars melt away to reveal someone utterly human. In fairness, you couldn’t be a child of Henry VIII and expect to come through life completely unscathed. Fascinating stuff.

The Secret Lives of the Amir Sisters by Nadya Hussein – only it’s not by Nadya Hussein, she of Bake Off fame. It was ghost-written apparently. An average story; interesting to learn about Bangladeshi customs and ways of living, but not something which will stay with me unlike the taste of one of her cakes.

The Chalk Pit by Elly Griffiths. This is apparently the latest in a popular detective series. Popular why I’m not sure as the book wasn’t particularly well written, and as a crime story it was pretty dull. There were holes in the plot (cannibals? is all I will say about that) and the end of the book was supposed to make you want to read the next one. It has just made me more determined not to – but I’m funny about things like that. No spoilers in this post! Move along, nothing to see here! But anyone who has read it will know what I mean.

A Smell of Burning: The Story of Epilepsy by Colin Grant. Incredible that I knew so little about epilepsy, and yet the first time I was introduced to it was aged 11 when we read Julius Caesar and the poor sod “fell foaming at the mouth”.

The Collected Stories of E F Benson  – fabulous ghost stories, like M R James but just a bit nastier. There were a lot of them though.

The Unseeing by Anna Mazzola. A historical crime story based on TruFac – the murder of  a young woman whose body turns up in various odd places around London. I enjoyed this because the author built up very genuine characters and didn’t embellish the facts too much, but still created a bloody readable book. I will look out for more from this name.

The Matrix by Jonathan Aycliffe. I do enjoy this chap and his spooky little stories. This one is about finding a way to bring the dead back to life.

Don’t Look Now by Daphne du Maurier (and other stories). Why has it taken me so long to read the story upon which one of my favourite films is based? Oh I loved these short stories. Each with a sting in the tale as delicious and sharp as sherbert.

The Binding Song by Elodie Harper. A story about a psychologist investigating several suicides in a prison. Not perfect, but intriguing. The story lost its way towards the end, but it was spooky and brutal enough for me to read more by the author.

Her by Harriet Lane. This built up beautifully, although blimey doesn’t the writer like describing EVERYTHING…. and then the denouement (that is before the actual denouement – when you find out why Nina is so full of loathing for Emma) is really disappointing. The ending of the book though has stayed with me. I keep thinking about, wondering if what I imagine happened next really did, and what was in the author’s head. That is the sign of a good book; like you can forget the disappointing egg mayonnaise in the middle of a sandwich if the last crust is really chewy and tasty.

That was the reading. Now for the thinking.

Two weeks ago I used a bedpan for the first time EVER. Even when I had my appendix removed I didn’t get to use one – the nurse brought me a commode and I had a meltdown when a boy in the next cubicle peeked through the curtains at me. I was naked (why, I don’t know.) I was 9 – they don’t care about segregating you by gender when you’re little. This time I was in my own suite at the private hospital. I got to choose food from a menu and my sheets were changed on a daily basis, whether they needed it or not. 

The evening of the operation, I  wake up at about 1830. I’m cold, so cold. The nurses are talking to me and they lift my sheet up and blast me with a massive hairdryer which is the best feeling I have ever had IN THE WORLD because it makes me warm instantly. I go back to sleep. I wake up again this time in bed. The hairdryer has been turned off and two white pads pummel my calves. They are attached to the bottom of the bed. I’m pinned to the top by oxygen to my right and fluid to my left. It’s like a pleasant version of Misery. 

Come midnight I need a wee. Really, really need a wee. I can’t move – even lifting my hand to have my blood pressure checked is such hard work the nurse has to do it for me – so she says she will fetch a bedpan. The thought makes me go cold, remembering episodes of Casualty where the patient has an icy stainless steel pot slipped under their hips. But this one is cardboard and environmentally friendly. She pulls back the sheets and expresses surprise that I am still in my “knick knacks”. Not for long! With one deft tug she sees more of me than anyone has in seven years. The bedpan is slipped efficiently in place and I am left alone relaxing with my thoughts. 





I am stranded on my bed in a half-bridge position like a desperate whale. When I was very little I had bed-wetting problems. And when I was not quite so little, if I’m honest. (I mean aged 10-11, not last year.) The horror of that I’m-on-the-loo dream and waking up to find out you’re really, really not has never left me. Now I’m entitled to pee in the bed, nay, encouraged, and I simply cannot. My manners and upbringing refuse to give me the release I need. 

The nurse, Rosa, comes in. She is foreign – that is all I remember in my sedated state – with very tight shiny brown curls and a glossy pink mouth like an exotic flower. She mumbles something kind at me. I drool something back. She goes away. Twenty minutes later she comes back. She mumbles something again and I bleat my distress at her. “It will come, it will come,” she says phlegmatically, as if predicting the arrival of the second Messiah. 

An hour later – I even fell asleep in that position, like a cat – she comes back in, slips into the bathroom and subtly runs the tap. That does the trick. Boy, the trick is done. “Heavens, you can pee,” she says, visibly impressed, as she staggers out of the door under the weight of my bladder. Please God, I pray, don’t let her bump into the fit anaesthetist on her way out (he really was very handsome, the kind of man they don’t make any more, like Cary Grant or Jimmy Stewart) – and please God don’t let her TRIP.


I don’t think I want you to know the things I have been thinking about … and I don’t think you would like to know them, either. So I will leave it there.

Next time I write a blog post I promise I won’t have a glass of wine beforehand. Yes, that really is all it takes…


Bedtime Reading

I am feeling a bit rubbish this evening. The missing little girl in Wales is really disturbing me. I think the older you get the easier you find it to put in other people’s shoes, and empathise more, and with that comes the horror of having some tiny inkling of how they might feel. If I feel this worried, if I wake up in the wee sma’s and my automatic thought is to murmur a prayer for her, if I feel sick with dread every time I hear the news come on – what’s it like for people who actually know, and love her? What’s it like for her parents, not knowing where their little one is, the endless dreadful images going through their heads? The pillow smelling of her hair, undented by her head? Kurtz said “The horror, the horror” when he Realised, and I think Realisation is the big abyss into which every human looks into at some point. Not everyone does, obviously. Hitler and Stalin didn’t. A guy at school who chased another boy around the kitchen with a knife cos he ate some of his cheese (long story) didn’t. But most normal human beings Realise at some point and I think the 30s are my Realisation decade.

On top of this I finished Bloodlands last night. I am very glad I read it, because it is important to know what ‘really’ happened. Before I read this I thought that the Holocaust had been mainly concentration camps. This underestimates the effect of Stalin and his starvation policies and the mass shootings done by both the Nazis and the Soviets. I was reading the book in the waiting-room at the hospital on Monday and an old bloke next to me asked if I was a student. I said no, I just liked reading to learn things. He looked at my book and said “Everyone ought to read books like that. Lest we forget.”

I was in the waiting-room waiting for my hand to be looked at. I had a rather odd incident on Friday night/Saturday morning. I went to bed with a cold worrying about a spot; I woke up having punched the picture of Sappho above my bed. I was dreaming that someone was coming out of it. Probably not Sappho, who would not have been frightening. But Someone. My instinct was to scream and punch the glass, and so I did in my dream. I woke kneeling on my bed with a slight stinging in my knuckles. I started to wake up and realise what had happened, and thought putting the light on might be a good idea to see if there was any glass on my bed. Not only were there slivers of glass, there were huge puddles of blood all over my pillows and my hand was covered.

I was frightened. Very frightened. I can’t remember being so frightened – it was probably when the police came through my window and I thought they were burglars and that was in 2009. I ran to the loo to get tissue to try and mop the blood up. As I couldn’t stem it I tried to ring the non-emergency ambulance number but, still half-asleep, I couldn’t get the digits right and kept getting through to BT. In the end I rang 999, by this time sobbing like a two year old. I tried to explain what had happened, premising it with “You won’t believe this, but …” and believe me the woman certainly did not. She kept asking me if I “still felt violent” and if I still had a weapon. She then told me that they were very busy, she hadn’t asked an amublance to come to me as she didn’t think I’d need one, and I should blot my cut with a tea towel. I’m ashamed to say at this point I started crying even more. A clinician came on the phone who snapped “I’ve got people unable to breathe, and you’ve cut your hand.” A fair point, but not one that was helpful, so I hung up and realised I’d have to get myself to hospital.

I tugged on a pair of trousers with one hand, and set off in my Wallace and Gromit nightshirt, still hiccuping and sobbing like a loon. Fortunately at half midnight the roads were fairly empty, and the drive wasn’t too difficult. I must have looked like someone out of Shameless: tear-stained, no make-up, hair everywhere, dressed like a tramp. I was lucky – A & E wasn’t madly busy, and I was seen fairly quickly. The doctor also seemed convinced that I had hurt myself deliberately, and it wasn’t until he inspected the wound that he admitted that I would have been hard pressed to make the injuries on purpose.

My hand needed to be x-rayed to ensure there was no glass in the cut, and the X-ray technician tried to talk to me about God, praying, and the Bible. I wanted to call my dad. I was cold and couldn’t stop shaking and I wanted someone with me. I sent a few texts to see if people were awake, but didn’t want to ring anyone because – who wants to be woken at 0100 by someone covered in blood?! But I thought I might call my dad. The technician said no; that he must be in his 80s, and I’d be waking him up for no good reason. How often did I go to church? Did I pray? Who did I pray to? Did I study the Bible? He was trying to be kind, but I felt so very tired.

My hand was stitched up. Isn’t it ironic how painful local anaesthetic is. I’ve never got irony right; someone’s going to post on here “ooh you’re like Alanis Morissette”. But it bloody hurt. Hurt far more than smashing my fist into poor old Sappho.

I drove back home, picked the glass out of my bed, and soaked my blood-soaked pillowcases in the sink. I probably wouldn’t have done that with my old Kays Catalogue bedding, but White Company linen doesn’t come cheap. I couldn’t sleep, had to take a diazepam in the end. My blood was throbbing in my injured hand and my thoughts were throbbing too.

As it is – I am alright. I was ridiculously fortunate. I punched with my left hand, not my right, for some reason. The tendon in my finger was visible, but unsevered. I’ve got sensation and movement. And I’ve got a wonderful dad who rang me as soon as he got my text telling me I should have called him because “that’s what dads are for”; took the morning off work to help me; came round and hoovered up the glass; cleaned up the blood and made me lunch; then drove me into town so I could have my hair and make up done for the hunt ball, before driving me to that. I was surprised I went, as well. I didn’t really think I could go. But I did, and had a great evening, even if I did have to ask my friend’s husband to cut up my dinner.

The next day is when the shock set in. I felt so very tired, and very nauseous (and no, it wasn’t the wine!). I curled up on the sofa and slept. (As an aside – how wonderful it is to have a Real Life sofa, rather than one which feels like sitting on Kate Moss. Thanks to my work colleague who gave it to me. The simple pleasures of life, eh.) Shock, and anger about how I’d been treated. I’d been frightened enough as it was, to wake up covered in glass and blood; if I’d been in a bad enough state to wound myself deliberately, my treatment by the 999 staff would scarcely have helped me. I suppose it helps that I am in the position of someone who has wielded a blade deliberately, and knows what goes through your subconscious in a lightning-fast flash which bypasses your logical mind and goes like wicked quicksilver right down your wrist, but I didn’t call an ambulance over it. I would never have done that. The one time I was in hospital because of that, my neighbour rang my mum, and she drove me. We sat in the waiting room and she put my head in her lap.

Well, so much for my early night.

Anyway I was talking about bedtime reading. I’ve got a book about the Bronte sisters: The Taste of Sorrow by Jude Morgan. I absolutely loved The Secret Life of William Shakespeare which I read by her earlier this year. She has a unique gift of taking historical people who seem so distant they are like fictional characters, and making them real. I wanted to go to bed early and read that. Instead, I’m watching a film about Hillsborough. Like my Bloodlands book, it feels like it’s something that is so important to learn about. But it’s hard to take in. I must have been about 11 when Hillsborough happened and I never really understoof how hideous it was. “The horror, the horror” again. Imagining how it was to be in the ground, and crushed. Unable to breathe, suffocating. This article by Adrian Tempany is the most graphic I have read, and also the most powerful. I have thought about those people an awful lot since the latest enquiry, and like Bloodlands, it feels like I owe it to those people to know The Truth. Sometimes I get a bit worn out by all this learning though.

I need another round of Wodehouse. I need to write more about Wodehouse, and read him too. I think we would have been tremendous chums, and I was very excited when Wooster used the phrase “sharper than a serpent’s tooth” in the same way I do, although it’s a bastardisation from King Lear. It reminds me of my resolution to speak more like Wooster, because he is so entertaining and original, and behave more like the Queen, because she is dignified and kind to everyone, even dreadful people, and I can’t imagine her doing anything wrong, ever. Nothing anyone would find out about, anyway.

I’ve rambled terribly. I might delete this post in the morning.