Don´t try this at home, kids


One boring Sunday afternoon at home with an overwhelming urge to ‘sort the flat out’.

One heavy suitcase full of stuff to be stored for the winter.

One metal stepladder.

One pair of hiking socks- thick, woolly and slippery.

One fitted wardrobe in a fairly narrow space opposite a fitted shelving unit.

Pick up suitcase, hoist onto shoulder, mount stepladder. Come down again slowly, thinking ´that’s a really bad angle and that suitcase weighs a ton. It might tip me off balance when I lift it up and into the wardrobe.’ Move stepladder back a step, hoist suitcase onto shoulder, again mount stepladder, lift suitcase and think ‘I´m still not sure that gives me enough….oh bugger, I’m losing my balaaaaaaa……… ´ THUMP. Fall backwards onto shelving unit then floor (luckily missing rack of glass shelves that could have severed arteries etc). Lie face down in a tangle of stepladder and, like Wily Coyote, wait a nano-second for the suitcase to fall, adding insult to injury.wily coyote

Like I said, DON’T try this at home.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen! Having worked for 7 years in tourism, escorting groups of British tourists all over the world, I used to find it unbelievable that people could so easily slip in the shower, throw themselves down steps, fall off pavements, trip over flagstones and so on. How the hell did they manage it? They seemed to be hurling themselves, like lemmings onto the ground and into casualty, as if to spite me – as if my days weren’t complicated enough. Now I see how easy it is to have an accident. But this is not a treatise on risk assesment or Health and Safety.

My foot hurt, but being British out came the stiff upper lip (and the wobbly bottom one). And the cockroach community scuttled into action. First the Incredible Ponce, the Mother of all Cockroaches was round feeding me, tidying up and rubbing Ibuprofen gel into the wounded foot. Then Cocky, to offer a generous helping of piss-taking and entertainment. Tito called round to leave me a little something to stave off the boredom and pretty soon the flat stank like a student basement and everyone was grinning inanely and eating crisps. Another friend offered to do a food shop today after work and to bring me some dvds. I may have been sqaushed and injured, but the colony were not going to leave me behind to curl up and die.

Meanwhile, enthroned like Jabba the Hut on the sofa I arranged a hosptial visit for an X-ray.

I am not here to criticise the Spanish Health Service – there are plenty of Spaniards who will do this for me, but having had a serious operation 2 years ago, which I decided to do in Madrid, I have no complaints. I was lucky in that election money was being ploughed into the Madrid health service at the time, there were promises of 40 day waiting lists, and I had a great surgeon. He even booked the exact week I asked for, to help me with time off work and sick pay issues. Then, when I askedTiredDoctor British friends and family whether they advised coming back for the operation, the common response I received was ‘Don’t, for God’s sake, come back and have it here. Whatever you do, DO NOT come back to the UK for the operation. MRSA, waiting lists, DON’T DO IT… stay there…’ Something told me I ought to stay here.

I knew there would be a fair amount of arsing around to get this done, but had to have the sick note and diagnosis, so took myself off to hospital, as advised by my GP.

I bumped into a friend in the waiting room at Urgencias, also needing an X ray, so at least had someone to gossip with, eyed sourly by the other people there who didn’t. The X ray was done, medical report handed over, and I was processed and out of there in a couple of hours. The worst humiliation was the scornful or indifferent treatment from the medical staff but when you live in Spain, you know that ‘customer’ and ‘service’ do not sit comfortably together so you ought to know what to expect.

Sympathy? Forget it. This is a country whose national ‘sport’ involves being gored by or trampled on by bulls. My wrist band was yanked onto my wrist so tightly my hand started to inflate. I was singled out and pointed at in the waiting room by a sneering security guard who thought he was a drill seargent- ‘I said family members out of here, no family members allowed in this waiting room, only patients. Are YOU a patient?’


are YOU a patient?

Heavily made-up nurses with perfectly tonged hair took my details while they continued a private conversation over me, not making eye contact and only half-listening to my responses. I asked the examining doctor a question as he stood up and dismissed me, but was presented with the back of his white coat receding as he walked away either ignoring me or not hearing me. I’m sure a lot of these things happen in British hospitals too, and much worse. So, all in all a relatively painless and efficient follow up.

I say relatively painless. Hobbling via metro to hospital and GP and back home (when I was told not to put any pressure on the fractured foot) has left me laid up today worse than before. An extra few days to recuperate. But then I could be blamed for not having a car, or friends with a car, or enough money to get taxis there and back. Or being stupid enough to get on that metal ladder in those slippery socks with that heavy suitcase. I’m not asking for better client care or sympathy here. I don’t need it- I have the love, support and sympathy of my own little colony of insects, and who needs love and support from The System when you have that?

3 Responses to “Don´t try this at home, kids”

  1. Ian Hillier Says:

    The NHS is a pain too: some months ago I ran upstairs, barefoot, to use my printer and bent a toe right back after tripping up the stairs; I yelped with pain and dropped my laptop on the bruised toe, thereby breaking it! I rang NHS Direct, they said “oh we don’t really do anything about broken toes nowadays – just try using an elastoplast and a couple of matchsticks [as splints!].”

    So next week, I thought I might have a go at removing my spleen with a penknife and an HB pencil…

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