Thursday, November 30, 2006
One afternoon I arrived at Shipmanville Hospital’s Accident & Emergency Department to begin a late shift. It was a weekday afternoon, traditionally a quiet time, and so there were only two of us per shift, on this occasion Dick and I. The casualty officers we were relieving had very little to hand over to us apart from two patients, a little old lady sitting quietly on a chair and a skinny young man groaning on a stretcher.
Dick made a beeline for the little old lady so I went into the cubicle with the young man and drew the curtain. The smell hit me instantly and I wrote in his notes: Ethanol +++. He was wearing a grimy T-shirt spattered with blood over one shoulder. His bleary, unfocused gaze wandered over me.
‘You doctor?’ he slurred. Liverpool. I nodded and introduced myself.
‘Gorra fuckin’ help me, mate,’ he moaned. He delivered the ck sound as though he was hawking up catarrh.
‘What happened?’ I asked.
He stared at me. ‘You’re the fuckin’ doctor, you tell me.’
Jesus. ‘You’re bleeding from your shoulder,’ I remarked. He frowned and tilted his head jerkily to peer at his shoulder. His eyes widened and he began to scream.
‘I’m bleeding! I’m stabbed!’
I managed to calm him down eventually. It turned out to be a wooden splinter from a door frame he’d barged into.
‘How many stitches am I going to need?’ he asked fearfully.
‘Perhaps an Elastoplast,’ I said.
In those days I was still a bleeding heart do-gooder so I decided to try a little counselling with him before he went home. I suggested that it might be in his interest to cut down on the daytime drinking.
‘Ah, fuckin’ grow up, ya bastarr,’ he snarled, and spewed rich brown vomit over the side of the bed.
I took my leave. Dick’s little old lady turned out to have a nastily fractured wrist, which she had been sitting with stoically and silently for the previous two hours.
About a month later, I had a day off and was doing some shopping in the morning for a party I was throwing the following weekend. I went into an off licence – liquor store to you unBritish – and loaded up a trolley with beer, wine, vodka, Scotch, gin and cider. I reached the counter. Standing behind it was the man with the shoulder splinter.
The transaction passed in silence, which was probably just as well. And if you think this is a bit of an anticlimax, remember that even small embarrassments can punctuate a life far more acutely than can conventional moments of drama. Here endeth the lesson.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
The Kremlin has issued a statement casting doubt on whether former KGB colonel Alexander Litvinenko is really dead. President Putin said this afternoon, 'He's looked too healthy to be a dying man. In that picture of him in the hospital he's positively glowing.'
That was a joke. Read it carefully.
Saturday, November 25, 2006
Blogging can creep all over your life like a yeast infection. Only a couple of nights ago I was seized by a terrible dream in which I was on the run from people who were trying to harm me because of inaccuracies in my pork pie post. I was taking a detour through a park when chainsaw-voiced troubadour Tom Waits came bouncing up on a pogo stick.
‘The origin you gave for the term pork pie was wrong,’ he said, bouncing gently on the spot like Zebedee from The Magic Roundabout. ‘The man who fell into the grinding machine was a dwarf, a Person Of Restricted Growth. So the name is a corruption of PORG pie.’
And away he bounced, boing, boing.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
Interview with the Wolf
Earlier this week I caught up with recently deceased former East German spymaster Markus Wolf and was granted an exclusive interview, which I conducted using a nifty piece of software called SeanceNet that allows you to communicate with people beyond the grave. A transcript follows.
Foot Eater: Markus Wolf, thank you for agreeing to this interview.
Markus Wolf: My pleasure.
FE: First of all, the Cold War. How cold was it?
FE: Ha ha, just a joke. Seriously, your name. Markus Wolf. Pretty cool, isn’t it?
MW: Sank you. But it voss not my real name –
FE: Hang on a sec. [Adjusts accent mode on SeanceNet program] Sorry, go on.
MW: I was saying it wasn’t my real name. I was christened Helmut Scheissburger. I chose Markus Wolf because it sounded kind of funky.
FE: Fair enough. I mean, East Germany was a happening place, wasn’t it? Bit of a groove going?
MW: Yes, but remember that I changed my name before Germany was partitioned. My father had fled the Nazis and taken me and my mother to Moscow.
MW: And Stalin was about as hip-hop as they come.
FE: I was going to ask about that. That whole Communism thing you got into, and set up in East Germany. What was all that about?
MW: Good question. We had this idea that a centrally planned and controlled system would bring about paradise on earth for everybody.
FE: Kind of like the British National Health Service.
MW: Yes, but with torture chambers.
FE: The NHS has those. They’re called wards.
MW: Well, our system had chronic shortages of basic supplies…
FE: Yes, ours too.
MW: …Interminable waiting lists for everything…
MW: …And a network of secret police to monitor the activities of people living and working within the system.
FE: Hospital managers.
MW: Our buildings were either crumbling ruins that hadn’t been restored after the war, or soulless modern concrete architectural outrages.
MW: Our food was terrible, our staff surly and our populace demoralised, angry and drunk.
MW: And the only way to escape our system was to buy your way out, or to die.
Mr Wolf, to the end of your life you maintained that your side won the Cold War. Would you care to elaborate?
But he’d vanished into the ether.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Toby and the Toy Inspectors
Toby was a well-loved lad,
He made his parents proud.
He never cried or wet the bed
Or sulked, or played too loud.
One fault, though, ’smirched this paragon,
This virtuous little gem:
He’d strew his toys about his room
And never tidy them.
Toy cars, soldiers, guns, bricks and balls
Lay knee-deep on his floor.
Grandma, after nine nasty falls,
Stopped coming to his door.
No matter how his mother wailed
And gnashed her teeth, and wept,
The toy-strewn chaos yet prevailed
And in its midst he slept.
One night he woke in dim moonlight,
Roused by a hissing noise,
And froze in wide-eyed mortal fright
For, there amongst his toys -
Stood two men. One was short and fat,
The other tall and thin.
Each dressed in black coat and top hat
They stood there watching him.
‘Tut, tut,’ hissed the tall man as he
Surveyed the mess of toys.
‘What do we do, Mister Eerie,
With such untidy boys?’
‘Well, Creepy, mate,’ said his fat pal,
A smirk about his face.
‘This gross abuse of toys is vile,
A really serious case.’
‘I’ll tidy up the mess I’ve made!’
Cried Toby on the floor,
Scrabbling to pack neatly away
The bits of a jigsaw.
‘Too late!’ laughed the Toy Inspectors,
Advancing on Toby.
And next day, bringing his kippers,
Mum found his bed empty.
He’d disappeared for ever more.
His parents sold each toy.
The jigsaw’s scattered ’cross the floor
Of another small boy.
The puzzle, a bland Constable,
Shows little trapped Toby,
Face twisted in a silent wail
For all eternity.
So, children, put away your toys,
Or by God’s blood, it’s true:
The Toy Inspectors, girls and boys,
Will come and visit you.
Friday, November 17, 2006
Anyway so like I’m in this new job yeah, and Brenda the social worker says it’s like a good opportunity but it’s well boring right, but if I stick with it for six months they’ll forget about that shoplifting offence which wasn’t even my fault anyway yeah.
So anyway like in this job I have to go to this office in this building with all these gates and walls and guards with dogs and I have to be there at half eight in the morning which well pisses me off yeah and my solicitor reckons it’s against my human rights to have to get up so early and she’s looking into it. The first day I go there in my hoodie and these well wicked trackie bums and trainers which are real Nike though my mate Kez said they wasn’t so I decked him. Anyway I’m there at the gate in my well hard get-up right, and they won’t let me in and I have to go away and come back in this well gay shirt and tie and trousers like someone posh off the telly.
Like so anyway in this job I have to take messages from one part of the building to another, and the messages are like so secret they can’t phone or email them to each other right, but the messages get put in this suitcase and it gets chained to my wrist, it looks well gay like a handbag. The other people who work here are all like well old yeah, thirty at least, and there are a few right posh old farts in gay suits and waistcoats who never even look at me when I go past them. My boss is this old bird but quite fit, but she walks round like she’s got a broom up her arse and never smiles, she needs a good seeing to yeah. The guards at the front gates look well hard like Vin Diesel with their uniforms and guns, but they never say anything when I talk to them either right.
So like anyway one day I’ve got nothing to do and I’ve got my Gameboy out and then there’s this big panic on and people running everywhere and my boss calls me and she’s looking shit scared even though she’s not supposed to show it yeah, and she chains the message bag to my wrist and sends me underground to some bloke I’ve never delivered to before. And I go down there yeah, and there’s all these wicked steel doors I have to go through and then I get to this bloke’s room and he’s well old, like sixty, and I give him the bag and he opens it and says can I read the message inside because he’s forgotten his glasses, and I’m like shit, nobody ever said I had to read in this job, reading is so gay, but I read it out best I can and he’s well scared and shaking and he sends me away.
Anyway like so I’m playing on the Gameboy later and my boss comes over and she’s still shit scared and well pissed off yeah and holding a piece of paper. She says what does it say here, and I look at the paper and it’s the one I read out to the old fart right, and I say it says select nuclear response and she says no it doesn’t it says reject nuclear response.
Like whatever yeah. Maybe they’ll sack me now. This job is so gay anyway.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Hats off to the pork pie
The pork pie is truly one of the marvels of British inventiveness. Compact, nourishing and flavoursome, it ought to be part of every Briton’s daily diet as it is of mine.
For you Johnny Foreigners who don’t know what it is, the pork pie comprises an oily pastry shell in the shape of a stumpy cylinder surrounding a gelatinous meaty filling. Despite the name, the meat is not in fact pork, but an amalgam including mutton, tripes and human flesh. The delicacy came into being by accident in 1853 when one Guy Trumpton, a worker at a meat pie factory in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, fell drunkenly into one of the grinding machines and got mixed in with the sheeps’ brains and offal which formed the traditional filling. His absence was noted only after the next batch of pies had been delivered to retailers, but the altered filling proved a surprise hit and soon orders for the new ‘Poor Guy’ – of which pork pie is a corruption – were being churned out as quickly as the local prisons and graverobbers could supply the constituent material. Before long they began to appear on Queen Victoria’s table, and it is said that the Kaiser’s surrender in 1918 was celebrated by the ritual partaking of a giant pork pie in the shape of Germany (along with much Morris dancing and sodomy).
Here are some reasons why pork pies deserve to be better known.
1. You can eat them as a snack or a complete meal, so many different sizes do they come in.
2. You don’t have to cook them.
3. After refrigeration or freezing, they make excellent cricket balls, ice hockey pucks and projectiles for hurling at the enemy team during football matches.
4. With a slow-burning fuse attached, they would serve well as incendiary grenades. I have never heard of them used as such, but the amount of oil in the pastry suggests high flammability.
5. They are hardier than human beings. Try this experiment: throw a pork pie and a person from the roof of a thirty storey building. Which makes the bigger mess?
6. Their glutinous character induces drowsiness after eating them. This is excellent news for parents and teachers, as they can be fed to children to pacify them and thus reduce the risk of the little shits engaging in the crack abuse and devil worship we hear so much about these days.
7. They are an ideal culinary accompaniment to the use of pornography, as they impart a greasy slickness to the fingers which facilitates lubrication.
8. They repel the fairer sex, which will be appreciated by those of you subject to the exhausting attentions of nymphomaniacs.
9. The English gentleman abroad cannot afford to let his sartorial flair slip for even a moment. So what happens when the heel on one of your Gieves & Hawkes patent leather spats breaks off at an Embassy bash after all the heel bars have closed for the night? Humiliation, that’s what. Unless you happen to have with you some glue and… need I say it?
10. At Christmas time the pastry shells can be used in miniature Nativity scenes as authentic-looking frankincense and myrrh pots. The meat filling can also be flattened out and used to represent the Christ child’s afterbirth.
I hope I’ve persuaded you. With the festive season coming up, why not treat yourself?
Saturday, November 11, 2006
Not filler at all
I'm in a foul mood, so for one post only I'm turning the comments over to gratuitous abuse. Feel free to try and insult me, and rest assured that no matter what you say, my reply will be four times more offensive.
If this doesn't interest you, then fuck off and click on my new links, Kieran and Kav. No, I don't know why they both start with a K either. I suspect they're lovers.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Ode to a nightingale
Perhaps I’ve given the impression in previous posts that everybody who works in a hospital is a backbiting snake. This is not the case, as the following heartwarming tale shows. Unlike most of the shit I write on this site, this story is completely true.
In my second six months as a house officer I worked on a medical, as opposed to surgical, unit. Our stock-in-trade was diseased lungs, guts and limbs for the most part, with other organs like the brain and the kidneys going to the specialist disciplines of neurology and nephrology. One night I was on ward call. These vicious exercises in sadism consisted of carrying the bleep for 16 hours between five p.m. and nine a.m. and responding to any calls, emergency or otherwise, from the inpatient wards, as opposed to casualty. During this time you were the sole doctor responsible for the care of some five hundred patients. You were lucky to get two hours’ sleep, and broken at that. Furthermore, there was a full eight-hour working day on either side of this stretch. These young doctors nowadays don’t know how easy they have it, etc., etc.
Anyway, a couple of hours after my ward call started I went to the canteen to have dinner with a fellow house officer who was on call for casualty. We shuffled in line like Soviet factory workers and watched the local swill being slung into our bowls. It was the early 1990s and we used to call the stuff Dan Quayle stew because it was thick as pigshit. At the till I insisted on paying for us both. Chris, my dining companion, looked at me sharply.
‘What do you want?’ he asked.
We sat down, I grievously insulted by his suspiciousness, he still battling a hangover at seven in the evening. He looked as if he was recovering from an autopsy.
I tried making small talk but he asked again what I wanted so I asked him if he could swap shifts with me in a couple of weeks’ time as I wanted to go on holiday but he said no and I asked again and he still said no and I tried to bribe him and then threatened him.
He put his fingers in his ears and said, ‘La la la, not listening.’
As the surgeon said when he accidentally severed a major artery, aorta known better.
So I was in a foul mood when my bleep went off and I stormed out of the canteen. The extension number of one of the gastrointestinal wards came up on the screen of the bleep and I didn’t bother to ring them, just headed straight over. I was greeted at the entrance to the ward by the sister in charge who told me that I had been summoned to certify a patient as dead.
‘Liver?’ I asked. The hospital didn’t have a separate liver unit and most patients with hepatic failure were on the more general GI wards. They were the patients who tended to die on these wards, as the liver doesn’t repair itself very well. She nodded.
I checked that my pencil torch was working (for observing the patient’s pupils) and filled a large syringe with water (for squirting in his ears to test for a reaction), then wandered over. I paused at the patient’s bedside for a moment, then went back to check the bed number with the sister again, then returned to the patient.
He was a young man with a wasted physique and an abdomen swollen from the fluid that accumulates in chronic liver failure. His eyes were the dead yellow of jaundice. And the moans coming from his throat were those of a slowly dying man.
I went back to the nurses’ station. ‘Sister,’ I said, ‘he’s still alive.’
‘I know, but he’ll probably die tonight, so we thought we’d call you to certify him now to avoid having to wake you up later.’
The patient passed over some time in the early hours of the morning, and I came and certified him dead at about four a.m. I like to think that his final hours were made more comfortable by the peachy glow engendered on the ward by such a display of altruism, and that he greeted St Peter with a smile on his jaundiced lips.
Friday, November 03, 2006
Send 'em back
Now I’m as open-minded as the man on the Clapham omnibus, but allowing Romania to join the European Union next year is just asking for trouble. Before you know it we’ll have hordes of vampires streaming across our borders. It was bad enough when that earl or baronet or whoever he was landed at Whitby more than a century ago bringing his murderous foreign undead ways with him, and there was only one of him.
After I’d disposed of the last of the zombies* – which I ended up doing single-handedly despite my appeal, so thanks for nothing – I barely had time to draw breath before a new menace announced itself. Four doors down who should move in but a Romanian family, the Klavinses: Valdis and Anna and their two children, Kaspars and Monika. Technically they’re Latvian, but I’m not going to let a geographical nicety get in the way when the fate of the human race is hanging in the balance. The father, Valdis, was friendly enough but his name is a giveaway, containing as it does the name Vlad, as in Vlad Drakul, the grandfather of all vampires. So I started to do some detective work.
First I checked their dustbins, as you can discover all sorts of things about people from what they throw away. What should I find but sunblock, and lots of it. Granted, it was a hot July and the twins, Kaspars and Monika, were fair-skinned and only six, but really, you do have to wonder about such a fear of sunlight, don’t you?
Next, the little girl Monika came up the road one day to say hello while I was watering the lawn with the garden hose. I sent a stream of water in her direction and she ran away crying. Fear of running water? Yes? Do you see a pattern emerging?
After that I sneaked out one night and planted a six-foot tall wooden cross in their front lawn. I got up at daybreak and watched their house through the net curtains. Before long both Valdis and Anna were at the front door, staring at the cross. Looking perplexed and, yes, scared.
The clincher came just a few days ago on Halloween. At about seven in the evening the doorbell went and Anna was there with the twins, who were in costume, Kaspars as a pumpkin and Monika as a ghost. Ha! I went to fetch the special chocolates I’d prepared earlier and handed the box to Kaspars. He bit into one greedily and cried out and spat it on the ground. Anna hurried them away with a look over her shoulder at me. Well, well. The little undead bastard hadn’t liked the taste of garlic. Funny, that.
Today I went to Homebase and bought a mallet and a dozen lengths of wood, the ends of which I’m sitting and whittling to sharp points. When I’m ready I’m going down the road. I might not come back. If I don’t, please remember this message. There’s too much at stake not to. (That was a pun.)
*My wife and the police claim I imagined the zombie invasion but I know you believed me.