Handlebar’s Water Music


(The story so far: Mike has had a stroke at the tender age of 48, and many tests ensue)

I’d had enough of this falling over shit. My Doctor had had enough of me moaning about this “I’m dizzy” bollocks. It was time for my MRI scan. What was going on up there in that alleged brain of mine ? Why did my head keep exploding, which resulted in me sitting on my arse, blinded by the light, revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night.

I washed and shaved early, trying out the Honda handlebar moustache for the for the first time. Shoehorned my ample frame into one of the few pair of trousers which I both own and still fit me. Thank Allah that my appointment came when it did – any later and they may have had to grease me up to slide me into that scanner.

The literature which the hospital had sent along with the appointment told me to leave all metal bits n pieces behind. Phones, watches, keys, belt buckles (haven’t needed one of those for a while) plates in my head and piercings in my nipples, none of these would be allowed within a UNISON picket line of the MRI scanner.

When the day came, we (I was ably accompanied by The Incumbent) arrived at the hospital, took advantage of the Costa Coffee in the foyer, then headed off for the MRI dept. We entered, gave my name and, virtually free of metallic objects, sat in the waiting room. The silence was broken after just a few minutes.

“Mr Bealing?”
“Er…yes, here” I even put my hand up like a boy at the back of the class.
The nurse looked me up and down. “Those trousers got a metal button?”
“Er, yes. yes I think they have” I replied (well after all, I had paid over fifteen quid for them at Sainsbury’s. No rubbish here, mate).
“Well they’ll have to come off. You can’t wear them in the scanner. Come with me you can change in there [points to room up the corridor], then you can come back, give your trousers to your wife (sic) and wait to be called.”

I went white. A cold sweat came over me. Although I was still able, unaided, to have put my Sainsbury’s trousers on, wearing underpants underneath them had become a bit of a luxury. My burgeoning waistline and arseline leave no room for boxer shorts. Jockeys or Y-fronts are a distant memory and so I had arrived at my local hospital a la Commando. Sans trolleys. Born Free. Without knickers.

The thought of the nurse handing me a gown to get into and me having to walk back to the waiting room with my bare arse hanging out for my fellow patients’ entertainment and enjoyment filled me with fear and dread. I shared my fears with The Incumbent who nearly imploded with laughter. I wasn’t laughing.

I followed the nurse to the changing room and was relieved to see a pair of sky blue cotton drawstring trousers hanging there. They were huge, fortunately, and I managed to slide into them. Indeed so big were they that the drawstring didn’t pull tight enough to hold them up. I had to clench wads of material with one hand, and keep my thighs and buttocks together to ensure they stayed up at a decent level, sparing my blushes.

I rolled up my own, now discarded strides under my arm and left the room to return to the missus in the waiting area. On the way I noticed a handily-placed WC and thought this would be a good opportunity to get rid of the tepid Primo Latte which Costa had provided me with earlier. I was due to be in the scanner for 90 minutes and I didn’t want to be caught short while I was in there. In my half-clenched, bent-over state I shuffled my way over to have a pee, carefully ensuring my arse didn’t take a peek out the back of my slacks.

There is a type of cotton (cheap chinos are made of it) which, no matter how hard, how vigorous or how many times you shake your willy after urinating, will soak up every little speck, each and every drop of pee it can and show the evidence of this so-called “willy drip” to one and all in the form of a huge dark patch around your goolie region.

I have to tell you now that these hospital trousers were made of this very same material. And I wasn’t wearing pants.

There is nothing one can do about it. 2 tiny drips had hit the cotton and were now joined together and were spreading, leaving a dark blue patch the size of a CD in the general area of my penis. Can you imagine how mortified I was ? I left the loo. Picture the scene of me, hunched up, buttocks and knees together, one hand holding the flystring of my newly-acquired blue leg ware, the other holding a perfectly good pair of Sainsburys drills in front of a big blotch of wee. With my new face fuzz I must have looked like a balding, fat Fu Manchu with a bladder complaint. Oh happy days.

As luck would have it, I was called in to be scanned way before the patch dried. I had to pass my old trousers to the still-giggling Incumbent and resorted to hiding my moist nether regions with the front tails of my shirt. I entered the scanning room.

The nurse greeted me and said the scan would be in three stages.
“And Once in Evening Dress ?” I offered, trying to be witty. And titter came there none.
“No. Head, neck and then blood flow” she informed me sternly.
“Oh, ok then”.

She then explained that I’d be in the scanner for well over an hour and it’s a really boring experience, when you “must MUST” keep your neck and head still throughout. She went on that also, as brilliant as this technology is, it’s really very noisy as the scan goes through its phases, so she popped a pair of headphones on me which act as both ear mufflers and through which they would talk to me and play music throughout the procedure- to give me something to take my mind off it.
“Is there any music you don’t want us to play ?” she asked.
“Rap or anything by Morrissey” I replied, quick as a flash (it’s a knee-jerk reaction).
A blank look came across her face. “I don’t think we’ve got anything like that anyway” she said. “What about anything you’d really like to hear?” she asked.

Seasons in the Sun by Terry Jacks or Old Shep by Elvis” I quipped. But by the stoney look I received, my joke had, again, fallen on deaf ears. “Classical will do” I told her. Christ, she was a tough crowd.

I climbed onto the machine bed, and lay back onto the head rest. She brought down a plastic grid over my face, and put wedges either side to prevent movement. I knew how Hannibal Lecter felt at that airport. As the bench slid half way into the machine, I lay head and shoulders inside, torso and legs al fresco. I half expected to hear John Mills or Hardy Kruger to shout “Fire One” and I’d shoot off out of the scanner, in the general direction of Orpington.

Nursey explained she needed to inject me with some chemical or other (thankfully my words not hers) in order to track my blood flow. As I lay there, wedged into in my cage I felt her pull a tourniquet around my bicep, then grab my hand in readiness for the injection.

It then dawned on me, as a chirpy Strauss waltz drifted across the airwaves, that if she was leaning down to spot a nice bulging vein in the back of my hand, her head would be a matter of inches away from my urine-soaked winkle.

“Now you might feel a little prick” she announced.

Did I ever.

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What’s the Bleeding Time ?*


“If you give us the name of your GP, Mr Bealing, we’ll write directly to him”
“I don’t have a GP.”  That was on Tuesday.

Wednesday: “What we’ll do is release you from hospital into the hands of your GP. Let us have his name and we’ll pass on your notes to him.”
“I don’t have a GP.”

Thursday: “What’s the name of your GP, Mr Bealing ?”
“I don’t have a GP.”
“What do you mean you don’t have a GP? General Practitioner ? Your local doctor ?”
“I’m a bloke: I don’t have a GP. I’ve never needed a GP”

Just three of several conversations had with doctors and nurses at both Darenth Valley and Kings College Hospitals last week. Most of them with female members of staff, all of them with an incredulous look on their face. “What do you meeeeaaaaan ??  You don’t have a GP ???” I might as well said I didn’t have a cellphone.


GPs, as any bloke will tell you, are a last resort. We don’t go to the GP unless something really ‘orrid ‘appens which prevents you from either a) going to work; b) going down the pub; c) playing sport or: d) all 3 of the above. For women, a GP is like a hairdresser – someone to go see once a fortnight for a chat. Blokes just aren’t made that way.

Boots the chemist is very much the same. Ever popped into Boots or Superdrug  and bumped into a bloke ? No, of course you haven’t. And if you have he’s either waiting at the door for his missus, or has been sent down for a packet of tampons or one of those individual, gender-specific packets of tissues for his wife while she’s at the hairdressers or the GP. Blokes don’t go to the chemist on their own accord. We buy our toothpaste at the supermarket and our headache tablets from the garage. Our deodorant at Millets

I’ve had GPs in the past but only when I needed them. Last one I had was in Blackheath when I needed to get my back and knee fixed (my poorly knee stopped me playing cricket and my bad back prevented me standing at the bar). So I registered with the GP with the sole intention of being referred to someone else.

When I moved to Dartford, finding a new GP wasn’t on top of my list. It was down there with finding a local french polisher and a nearby locksmith. But having been stuck down at the tender age of 46 by some ‘heart attack of the brain’, it’s clear I needed to find my own local doc. And if I didn’t realise that, there were hundreds of doctors and nurses on hand at the hospital to remind me I did.


But let’s get things into perspective: I can have no complaints whatsoever about the NHS. They were quite brilliant to me. During the week I spent with them the service and treatment was first class. Now at home (though still technically under their care) they have followed it up with regular visits, calls, prescriptions and injections. Pop over to The States and ask for free regular home health visits and see how far you get before being labelled a communist. And they don’t even mean it as a compliment.

It wouldn’t be me if I didn’t have a row now and then while I was up there. The main one was with the consultant who wondered why I was so aggressive and angsty: it only being 3am and I’d had my stroke 2 days ago. Silly me, I should have known better than to worry. However, her apart, the medical staff were wonderful, wonderful, people and fit to marry my sister any day. If I had one.However the less said about yer average auxiliary staff:- the jobsworths on the front desk, the sub-contractors slopping out the …er…slop, the better.

The Doctor and the Medics sent me home probably 3 days sooner than I would have done so, given that I could neither walk, write or constantly open my…erm…parts, but it now seems to have been not just some cynical ploy just to get their bed back (as some of your rotters have suggested) but a measure which would see my health improve daily. And that has proven to be the case. Progress is good, the balance/walking seems to be coming along wonderfully, largely due to the “Standing Up Straight” lessons I’m receiving as part of the home visits. I tried to crack a couple of Kenneth More jokes buy my physio is far to young to understand.

The successful function of my lower regions seems to improve when I take a weighty tome into trap one with me to take my mind off it. Only the typing is still troublesome. I seem to have emerged from my medical traumas with dyslexic fingers. Every paragraph gives me problems, sometimes misspelling every other word, sometimes typing in completely the wrong washing machine. Only an avid re-reading of that which I’ve last typed prevents me publishing complete lawnmowers.

So onward and upwards. Time for another course of the 53 pills I need to take three times-a-day, just before The Incumbent injects me with some blood-thinner or other.  Or at least that’s what she says it is. The minute she reaches for the ‘saline solution’ I shall limp down the road as fast as my wobbly legs will take me.

*  “Ten past ten sir”

Only When I Laugh


The end of day three after my stroke. Or is it day four ? Who can remember ? All I know is this illness stuff is not all it’s cracked up to be.

I’ve already had a row with a doctor over my attitude (me!), been told to get off my blackberry (good luck with that one then) and almost be judged ‘nil by mouth’ twice (again, me!).

I’ve come to the very quick decision that I’m rubbish at being a patient, but then again who is any good at it ? So I’ve decided to moan and bear it and make the worst of it. For starters, blogging on a phone is a pain in the arse as I can’t type or spell properly in the first place let alone on this thing so apologies for the worse than usual grammar.

(I pause here to take in the delicate aroma of the bed next to me being cleaned by the nurse after it’s 87 year old occupant-a serial solier- relieved himself all over it. Sorry, what’s that ? No, no trifle for me thanks all the same).

I digress.

Those who know me will recognise my symptoms: I cannot move my head about, and have a constant dreadful headache. I have slighlty slury speech, a scary stare and I cannot walk around unaided. However I now do all this all day, not just before 11pm. So there’s no need to wait til pubs chuck out to see me in my natural state. I’m in constant pain, knackered all the time and terrified I’ll stay like this forever. But I know I’ve been lucky: It’s not as if I’m like poor old sods in my ward, lost limbs or woken up Welsh or anything.

The Incumbent has been truly terrific: feeding me in my prone position with paracetamol and choccie biccies, informing all and sundry of my plight and drawing up a visitors list. Only the nearest and richest get into see me. Forget a bunch of grapes and a get well soon card. You wanna see me? You’ll need a wad of cash, a litre of gin and some large-breasted physio with you (all the better if she’s female).

Having said that, thanks go to my old mates of The Still Thoroughly Decent American Press who had flowers delivered this afternoon, beautiful and welcome that they are, and Steve the Sculptor who brilliantly brought me hard boiled eggs and nuts (and if you don’t understand that you shouldn’t be reading this).

I’ve been feeding from the Hallal menu, it being the only place around here you can get a curry: Chicken Korma, Chicken Byriani and a Lamb with Lentils number have all been eaten by me on my back with plenty of relish but not the required outcome. On my notes beside my bed it reads “B/M: no”. This is nearly day four of no B/M and it’s starting to make tears well up in my eyes. I have tended to have a b/m 4 or 5 times a day, and have so ever since I was 16 yrs old. Often against my will.

What is happening to me? I shall let you know how I get on. Though you’ll probably hear it or smell it yourself.

Just after you start your trifle.

Enjoy your tea.

Luv u all xx

Greaves’ Rules: Once More With Feeling


Ok. There are only so many time I can post this. This may be the third time, but judging by tonight it’s clearly not getting through.

I make no apology for boring stupid again those of you who I’ve droned on to for years about Greaves’ Rules. But for the uninitiated, (and there seem to be a lot of them out there judging by tonight’s performance), here are William Greaves’—scholar, journalist and right-hand opening bat— cast iron rules of how to conduct yourself in one of her majesty’s boozers.
So, with appropriate acknowledgement to Bill, and the Today newspaper (formerly of this parish) I present to you :

GREAVES’ RULES

1.When two or more enter the pub together, one – usually the first through the door – will begin proceedings with the words “Now then, what are we having?” He or she will then order and pay. This purchase is known as “the first round”.

2.This player, or “opener”, will remain “in the chair” while other friends or colleagues come through the door to join the round. He will remain in this benefactory role until either (a) his own glass sinks to beneath the half way mark or (b) another drinker finds himself almost bereft of his original refreshment and volunteers to “start a new round”.

3.In the absence of new arrivals, any player other than the opener may at any time inquire whether it is “the same again?” On receiving his instructions, he will then order and pay for “the second round”. (N.B. The second round is the last one to be specifically numbered. Beyond that point, nobody wishes to be reminded how many they have had and, anyway, no-one should be counting.)

PD*2172610

“His Eminence” Greaves (right, in jacket) with the late, great Preston

4.The round acknowledges no discrimination. All players, regardless of sex, age or social status, are expected to “stand their corner”. (Pedants might like to note that we are talking here of the only “round” in the English language that also contains a “corner”.

5.Any new entrant, joining the session after its inception, is not expected to “buy himself in” but should be invited to join the round by whoever is in the chair (see Rule 2). If, however, he is greeted by silence he may either (a) buy a drink just for himself or (b) attempt to buy a round for all present. If (a) or, worse still, (b) is not acceptable to the congregation then the new entrant has been snubbed and should in future seek out more appreciative company. There is one important exception…

6.For reasons of haste or poverty, a new arrival may insist on buying his own with the words “Thanks, but I’m only popping in for one”. If he is then seen to buy more than three drinks, he will be deemed a skinflint, neither broke nor in a hurry to get home, and will be penalised for his duplicity by being ordered to buy the next round.

7.Although everyone in the group is normally required to buy at least one round before leaving, the advent of either drunkenness or closing time sometimes renders this ideal unattainable. In such circumstances, any non-paying participant will (a) have “got away with it” and (b) appoint himself “opener” at the next forgathering. However, any player who notices on arrival that the round has “got out of hand” and has no chance of reaching his turn before “the last bell”, may start a “breakaway round” by buying a drink for himself and all subsequent arrivals. This stratagem breaks the round in two, keeps the cost within manageable proportions and is the only acceptable alternative to Rule 5.

8.When a pressing engagement elsewhere precludes further involvement, it is wholly unacceptable for any player who has not yet been in the chair to buy a round in which he cannot himself be included. In such circumstances Rule 7 (a) and (b) therefore apply.

9.In the event of any one glass becoming empty, a new round must be called immediately. This should not necessarily be called by the owner of the empty glass, however, because this place the slower drinker at an unfair fund-saving advantage. (N.B. Whereas it is permissible for any member of the round to decrease the capacity of his individual order – “just a half for me, please” – the opposite does not hold good. A large whisky, for instance, may be offered by the chair but never demanded of it.)

10.Regional variations. In various parts of the country, a particular establishment will impose its own individual codicil. In one Yorkshire pub, for example, the landlord’s Jack Russell terrier expects to be included in every round. Where such amendments exist, and are properly advertised, they must be piously observed. We are, after all, talking about a religion.

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