On Christmas Eve I came down with a severe flu-like cold that kept boomeranging back. On March 24th,Â the day the UK coronavirus lockdown began,Â I was finally diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. It was spectacularly bad timing. Getting into the system for treatment proved impossible for a month, because our hospitals were daily rethinking their structure. Doctors managed to devise a complicated multiple-therapy system for me and I’ve now started treatment.
On Monday I was in a ward that was being dismantled around me. The staff didn’t know where the unit would be the next day, somewhere further out of the city. As there was no time to print up schedules I was handed a DIY pills-and-injections regime involving many loose photocopied pages of baroque instructions. Everything was there, it just needed deciphering.Â I fear for first-time patients, ill and tired, navigating a dated, labyrinthine NHS system. I’m reminded of John Cleese’s abstruse public school instructions for hat-pegs and sex.
However, the system hasÂ evolved overnight, a bit ramshackle and cobbled together, but working.Â It goes without saying that this is largely down to the the NHS nurses and doctors who are efficient and caring, and nearly all from countries hated and feared by Brexiters.
For a service that still serves five types of biscuit in every ward (ginger nuts, bourbons, custard creams, shortbread and digestives) it’s moving faster than it’s moved in decades.Â Over the next five weeks I’ll be advised of my progress, and we’re all learning. Yesterday I was due to be taught how to use a syringe at home, but the doctor broke it. The odds could be better and I’m not thrilled about making dozens of visits to a hospital battling COVID-19, but we all have challenges at the moment.Â
So let’s move on. London continues to bask in delirious sub-tropical sunshine and has done ever since the Lockdown (do we capitalise that first letter now?).Â The grubby centre of the capital has become a flower-filled bird sanctuary where you can actually hear the breeze in the street. I’m blowing my nose and nothing black is coming out. Since the local McDonald’s burger-cum-drug-drop closed down the litter has all but disappeared from the streets. Even the junkies look healthier. The Lockdown can stay as far as I’m concerned.
I’m not one of those people who can proudly say I’ve never been sick a single day in my life. I’m more like Proust minus the bed-sores and the cake obsession, but I’m still hard at work on ‘London Bridge is Falling Down’, the 20th Bryant & May book, which is outlined and researched but not, you know, written. I can compartmentalise my thinking, though, and can promise you that no sub-standard jokes will slip through.
Being sick on lovely sunny days like this turns the mind to loss. Writers seem susceptible to early demise; I miss friends; Iain Banks, Douglas Adams, Graham Joyce, Victoria Wood and too many others. I’ve been meaning to check their websites and see if they’ve been posthumously updated. If this site flatlines, you’ll know I have. But it won’t. What an adventure! Onward!