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.

Oh Bugger


I’m not very patient. No, really I’m not.

I’m still persevering with my NHS walking stick and, to be honest, for the most part I feel a bit of a fraud. Ok, ok, I do still feel a little bit drunk all the time (at least that’s how I’m told it feels) so I understand I shouldn’t drive or operate heavy machinery, but most of the time I really don’t see the need to walk with a stick.

Right up to the time when I fall over, that is.

For some reason I list to starboard. Whenever I attempt to walk ten yards without the aid of my lump of wood, I end up scraping my shoulder on the wall, or taking dangerous lunges towards the kerb. It’s difficult to explain. At least I thought it would be before I remembered this:

Oh Bugger.

Walking back to Happiness (woopah oh yeah yeah)


It’s ten days after suffering a Stroke. I must be getting better cos I’m becoming bored shitless.

In the words of the ever-popular french pharmacist Émile Coué, “Every day in every way I’m getting better and better”. I think he said that just before he topped himself.

Anyway, it’s true that my face is still numb, I have a dividing line running down the middle of my head and face and to the right of it my face feels like it’s just received several novacane injections. The Docs are not sure when or even if it’ll return to its normal self, which is worrying I admit. But it hasn’t drooped or dropped. It’s still as ugly or as beautiful as it’s always been. Many people after an attack of, say, palsy or after a botched operation suffer much worse than I have, So let’s say I have had a result.

It’s also true that I have to have daily blood tests. My blood samples are sent back-and-forward between my house and the hospital. A different nurse each day takes turns to extract a pint (that’s nearly an armful) of blood from me. I have the arms of a Jewish soul singer.

I then have to take Warfarin to to ensure that my blood is thin enough to bypass the blockages and clots in by brain. My blood is as thin as a James Murdoch testimony.

My legs are not working how they should be, but today is better than yesterday and I’ll be even better tomorrow. I’m cruising around the house like a toddler at the moment. The NHS has given me a walking stick, which I am using less and less each day. I used a Sainsbury’s shopping trolley the other day as a Zimmer frame. In the heart of Crayford, I didn’t stand out at all. I reckon I was still fitter than most in there.

I still have trouble writing. This paragraph will take me several attempts to weedle out the misspelled or erroneous words. And you’ll still find typos in it, cos my brain’s just not working that way at the moment. But it’s only a fortnight after the event and I reckon I’m doing just fine thankyouverymuch!

People look almost shocked when they see me and I don’t have tubes up my nose or am not wearing an iron lung. I’m better than I could have possibly imagined a week ago and I am sure a lot of it is in no small part to the many many cards, messages and gift expressing their concern and love from so many of my friends out there. Thank you so much for all your heart-felt well-wishes.

But I have to draw the line somewhere.

Monty and Clive are two people who not only consider themselves friends of mine but also, presumably, humerous.  I’m sorry but I fail to see the funny side of delivering a pair of pink size nine roller-skates to a bloke who’s just had a stroke. What the fuck am I supposed to do with them. ? The Incumbent has refused to push me up to the pub in them, and pink is just not my colour. Please let me know their cost so I have some idea what price I can start them off on eBay.

Funny fuckers.

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

Fed Up to the Front Teeth


BBC News:

New ‘superbug’ found in UK hospitals
By Michelle Roberts Health reporter

A new superbug that is resistant to even the most powerful antibiotics has entered UK hospitals, experts warn.
They say bacteria that make an enzyme called NDM-1 have travelled back with NHS patients who went abroad to countries like India and Pakistan for treatments such as cosmetic surgery.
Although there have only been about 50 cases identified in the UK so far, scientists fear it will go global.

Scary innit ? Well maybe. It’s August, there’s nothing to write about, so let’s scare the bejeesus out of the population and announce a new killer virus (see “Gnu Flu” in It Is Written – earlier post).

I got an infection when on holiday last week, apparently. Fortunately for me it wasn’t fatal, unless the BBC or the Daily Express tell me different. My aforementioned wobbly crown started to get even wobblier, and worse, started to ache. Infected. Now as we all know, there’s nothing worse than a toothache (if you discount nuclear war or a coalition government) and this one really did put me off my stride no matter how much Medico San Miguel I administered to the troublesome spot and surrounding areas.

For three days the pain came and went, pulsed and throbbed in the back of my mouth, often forcing me to prescribe more numbing fluid than was decent. I didn’t want to fly with toothache (I didn’t really wanna fly at all), so imagine my relief when the day before we were due to return home the pain subsided a little. Happy days. To celebrate I chose to cook a slap up meal (pizzas) for the kids, went to the fridge for the ingredients, picked up some cheese, went to tear the packet open with my teeth and promptly sheared off half of a front tooth. Bugger.

So that’s how I landed back in Blighty on Friday: swollen molar and deficient in the front tooth department to the tune of half. I was carrying a healthy tan, some undesigner stubble and a dashing, windswept look to the barnet, but had a mouth like Nanny McPhee. If I could have bitten the bullet I would have done, instead I was left to grab the bull by the balls and call my very least favourite phone number: The Dentist.

I’ve always hated the dentist. It used to be the pain I feared, now it’s the bills. My present situation isn’t conducive to me wanting to chuck wads of cash at a dental surgeon, but needs must so off I popped to my appointment yesterday lunchtime.

“Hello there” said the doc “haven’t seen you for a while. How have you been ?”
“Well I’m in a bit of a state, to be honest” I whined.
He looked at his notes (or rather mine).
“Three years. We haven’t seen you for three years !” he sounded surprised. I don’t know why. If he’d missed me that much he could have always phoned.
“Probably why I’m in the state I’m in” I said, embarrassed, as I climbed into the chair.
“But three years ! that really is far too long”. I could see he didn’t want to let this one go.
“Yes, sorry” I was kinda hoping he’d have looked into my mouth by now. “I’ll make sure I don’t leave it so long next time. Can I tell you what’s wrong?” I proceeded to tell him the tale of the teeth, and eventually he deigned to take a peek.

A clatter of steel on enamel and the odd poke with a spike into my gums later he re-emerged into the daylight.
“Is the front one hurting you at the moment ?”
“No” (I’d already told him that)
“And how about the crown?”
“Yes” (ditto)
“Well let’s have a look at that one first then”. So saying, he re-entered the pain scene and began poking, scraping and levering.
“Does that hurt ?” he redundantly asked.
“Ot earry” I raised my eyebrows. he had both hands in my gob, what else could I do?

Emboldened by my lack of pain he set about me again. Lever, lever, scrape, tug, lever, lever. He stepped back. “You want me to numb you up ? We’re almost there”
I wiped a slight tear from the corner of my eye. I decided to be brave. “No, no, I’ll be fine”

After what seemed like an age of us tangoing around the swivel chair, him orally fisting me and me with a tight grip on his forearms, he pulled the crown from my mouth. “Hmmm…… how long ago did you have this fitted?”
“Oh about three years ago I would think” I replied, wiping the saliva from my chin.
“Where?”
“Here”
“Oh”
“Something wrong?” I wondered.
“No..no.. just it seems to have moved”
“Oh”. I didn’t know what else to say.
“Well. you have a slight infection in there and the posts seem to have separated”
“Oh”
“I’ll try to clean it up and get the posts back in, otherwise we’ll have to loose the tooth”
“Oh” (my ‘ohs’ were becoming higher and higher)

After a few more scrapes, and squirt or two of air and a smidge of suction, he returned to my mouth to reverse the process. He was now pushing in as opposed to pulling out, which in turn caused our dance routine to rotate the chair in the opposite direction. His assistant showed some pretty nifty footwork when dodging the doctor’s ankles as I swung him around the room. This clearly wasn’t going well.

After a few more verses he removed his mits, admitting defeat.
“No. No I can’t get it in” He sighed. The posts have splayed.
“Oh” (well what would you have said?).
After some further thought on the matter, he filed off one of the posts, covered the crown with cement, held me in a half nelson and AT LAST inserted the crown back into it’s rightful place.
“Now bite down” his beads of sweat was threatening to drip on my forehead. “How does that feel ?”
“A little proud” I panted through clenched teeth.
“Really? Bite again”
“Still feels proud.
“Really?”
“None of my other teeth touch. It’s not right. You sure it’s the right way round?”
“Yes, yes. Now look, ” (moving swiftly on) “bear with it and if the pain persists pop back and I’ll write you out a script for some antibiotics to get rid of the infection.”
“But I can’t bite”
“That’ll settle down” he said, almost as if he meant it. “if not I can have another bash at it next time”
Have another bash at it ?????? Which page of the Dentist’s Handbook was that phrase from ?
Whatever was going on in the back of my mouth, I still had a gaping hole in the front.
“What about my front tooth? Will it need a crown?” I inquired.
“We can discuss that next time” he smiled, de-rubbergloving himself. He’d clearly had enough.

My time was up. Between now and the next time I’d be wandering around south London with a wonky jaw and a gap in my smile, in the unlikely event I choose to employ it in the near future.

“Oh”

.