It’s been a while since I updated this blog. That’s mainly because I’ve been getting better, and if there’s one thing I’ve learnt so far, it’s that I’m a lot more blog-worthy when I seriously ill. I mean who wants to read about a bloke who’s got a bit of a tight chest and a grumpy demeanour. But since the last mini-scare when I panicked a bit a week ago, I’ve been gradually and slowly recovering. I’m on the mend.
The best news is that my INR levels are now 2.5, right in the middle of the desired range, and that means that I no longer need the injections in my belly every morning. My thumb is relieved, as I would dig my nail into it to divert my brain from the sharp stinging pain of the Clexain, and the occasional time when the needle would hit some sort of nerve under my skin.
I feel quite normal when I am inactive, and only suffer any discomfort when I try to do something strenuous like answering the phone. But I have managed to get out to watch some football, though I’ve forced myself to sit well away from the pitch so that I don’t get too involved. This hasn’t stopped me from screaming at Gruff when my frustration boils over, but I soon regret losing control when my head starts spinning and my breath gets short. People try to start conversations, and I can manage about three sentences before running out of wind.
The downside of feeling better is that I want to do more and I can‘t. I lost another couple of pounds last week but when the highlight of your week is checking the scales, a 2lbs loss after a week of tuna and grass is a little disappointing. I am desperate to get on a bike and start training. The evenings are long, long, long when you’re both confined to a chair and sober. Tale last Friday. Normally I would either enjoy a bottle of wine and shout abuse at the idiots on telly, or throw myself into training. Instead I found myself tapping the arm of my chair, and boiling over as I watched an endless episode of “three in a bed”, a slightly bizarre show in which Bed and Breakfast owners compare each others facilities. The next time I see a programme advertised called “Three in a Bed”, I won’t make lusty assumptions about its content. I did learn something however. I absorbed the astounding news that the average price for a room in a B&B seems to be about £110.
I’ve stayed in lots of B&B’s. They all smelled. They smelled a smell which nobody can describe, but everybody can recognise. It’s a smell that matches the browny/yellowy colour that infiltrates guest house interiors while the owners aren’t looking. It’s a combination of bleach, cigarettes, sweat, stale grease, grandmother’s tights, and shake’n’vac. When I smell that smell I am transported back to a world of clinging shower curtains, 3-channel portable tellies, 1970s golden sundial clocks and broken shower heads. When I toured with WNO, I would stay at a lot of these places at a dozen inner cities around the country. I should have learnt my lesson from that initial experience in Liverpool on my first tour.
I had arrived at the Empire Theatre in 1989 as a complete innocent. I hadn’t pre-booked any digs – I didn’t know you had to. And at 4pm on a Monday afternoon I went to look for somewhere to stay. We had passed some B&B signs in Lime Street and they were my first call after leaving the Lord Nelson pub. Waynetta answered the door when I rang the bell at the Paradise Guest House. Yes, she had a single room, but I would have to pay in advance. It was £11 a night. That sounded fair enough and I wrote her a cheque – I mean how bad could it be? She gave me a key to my room on the top floor and I climbed the creaking stairs.
I had never seen anything like it, not even in Rhodri Thomas‘s student flat where rats lived in the oven. The ceiling was stained yellow with the nicotine of a decade of smoking labourers. The carpet was threadbare and the green wallpaper borders were peeling off. But all this was nothing compared to the bed.
The thin zero-tog quilt was wrapped loosely in a flowery cover which bore the stress of a thousand washes. Unfortunately the bed sheets had suffered no such stress since the previous occupant. There were stains. I don’t even want to think deeply enough to write about the stains I saw. They may skirt my memory but I won’t let them in to my conscience. Then something caught my eye under the bed. I gingerly peered into the shadows and saw that it was a heavily blood-stained tissue. I recoiled, retched and left without putting my bag down. Waynetta was not happy and burst with indignity when I asked for a refund. “You won’t find a better room this side of the fockin’ Mersey”, she screamed. She tore up my cheque in my face, and as we drove home in the lorry that Saturday night, she stood in the doorway flicking the “V”s.
And so here I was on a Friday night, 22 years later, watching a succession of needy, strange, neurotic innkeepers deducting marks from each other’s assessment due to the discovery of a pubic hair in the bathroom. This is what it had come to. I couldn’t drink, I couldn’t munch, I couldn’t go out, and I couldn’t sweat the tedium out of my body. I think I preferred being ill.