Sunday, 19 September 2010

An unexpected phone call and a choice gift

It is time to proceed further and at this point I will heed my kindly critics and clarify the chronology of this story. The narrative, being written—inevitably, for reasons that will become clear soon enough—some nearly two weeks after the events recorded, has now reached Monday, 6 September. In other words, we are moving to the next working day following the date of my blood test. The week moved fast for me from this point and, while I hope that this speed will be mirrored in the rate at which the posts after this one appear, it is always possible that my energy will desert me at points; mind you, I am perfectly capable of faffing around with the best of them!
This particular Monday dawned as they do with all the familiar feelings on my part of reluctance to emerge from under the duvet and face the week. Even though the morning was not warm I was, at I had begun to notice increasingly during the past few months, drenched in sweat on waking. Odd, that…
Into the bathroom, down to breakfast and out, as Monday is one of the days I have been accustomed to go to the gym near my office. Friday is the other gym day, while on Wednesdays I have exercised at home. This has been the régime for nearly a year now, barring holidays. At least sweat is not out of place in a workout. Indeed, maybe it was the fact that I had seen people at the gym emerge from a bout of common exercise differing wildly in the degrees to which they finished up either shiny or matt that deflected me from paying closer attention to my own perspiration.
A bit of rowing that left me suitably knackered; 26 press-ups and other bits and pieces; review with my trainer (“see you Friday!”); shower, dress and back to the office just down the road, buying my reviving post-workout banana on the way.
The call on my mobile came shortly after 2pm. The phone, which is new and much loved and is now redeeming itself by taking photos for this blog, showed that the incoming number was “blocked” (an apt word, as you will discover). I picked the phone up quickly from my side table and took the call. The caller was a doctor from my GP surgery, not well known to me, who was brief, suitably reassuring and to the point. My blood test had shown up a haemoglobin count of 9, where one would normally expect 13; in other words my red cells were not as numerous as they should be and I was anaemic. “It’s nothing to worry about” she said and I envisaged a course of iron pills or something similarly innocuous as being all that was needed to rebalance things. She went on to advise that the haematologist at a hospital not far away from my house, but in the next county and where I had never been before, was asking to see me at her clinic in the afternoon of the following day. There was a distinct impression that the specialist was clearing her diary. Three minutes, tops, and the phone was once again dormant on my side table.
I was unsettled and no less so when I told the vicar with whom I work (we will call him “Father Milligan”) that I would be unable to come into work the following day and the reason. “Oh dear” was his immediate response. Coming from anyone else this simple reaction might not have been so concerning, but such is the size and warmth of this man’s heart and the energy and time which he devotes to pastoral care that I was reminded in that instant that he was someone who had been present at many bedsides and stood by people in all kinds of distress.
There was much to do that day as the church where I work was preparing for the launch in the evening of a lecture series on Dante’s The Divine Comedy. Tables had to be moved and laid out with food and drink; a laptop and projector needed setting up; there were musicians and book publisher’s staff to welcome and put at ease; people to greet, money to collect and an evening of music and meatballs, poetry and wine to be had. All went well, but I felt more than usually drained as I trudged from the church to the Tube station. Where was my usual sense of adrenaline?
In my rucksack was a wonderful book, a copy of Dante’s great work. Father Milligan had slipped it discreetly under my arm earlier, having written in it a simple dedication “in memory of this evening” and said with a gentle smile that I would need to have something to read at the hospital. I wish I could say that I was able to concentrate on the translator’s introduction as the District Line train slushed steadily to its final destination in the torrential rain that fell on London that day. Some of the words went in, but a large part was lost to the extreme fatigue that now gripped me and the sense that the course of my life had somehow already changed.

The greatest poem ever written

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