The Happy End

On Saturday at 7am, the Velcro on my splint gave out. Half an hour later, my second-string splint also packed up. And the orthotics department was shut until Monday…

On Monday, I got a lift to Ipswich Hospital, hobbled along the corridor to Clinic K, sent off the second-string splint for repairs, and got the first-string splint patched up. But it was only done with Velcro, and on Wednesday it again gave out…

On Friday, I had word that the second-string splint had been repaired, so my plan was to pick it up and give the first-string splint in for more thorough repairs. But the 20-minute drive to the hospital turned into an hour’s drive, as a result of an accident on the A12… And at 4, the time when the orthotics department closed, we were still only just past Tattingstone…

The weekend was here again, and I was still without a proper splint. Irritatingly, I was also due in London on Sunday to go to Joan As Police Woman, my first concert since Kraftwerk in 2013, five days before the stroke. I wasn’t going to miss it. (And it was extraordinary…)

On Monday, I awoke in PENGE to find my foot grotesquely swollen. I decided to go to A&E. But, after six hours of tests (x-rays, DVT, blood…) I was given a clean bill of health. And yet my foot was still swollen…

By Thursday, I was back in Essex and contemplating another trip to Orthotics. To be courteous, I rang them to say I was on my way. But the Spanish receptionist got the wrong end of the stick, and tried to book me in. I was frazzled by this stage and – in a moment of UKIP-esque weakness – wondered if I could speak to someone who actually spoke English. This went down like a bucket of sick, but at least resulted in a change, a familiar voice at the end of the line – and an acknowledgment that my (second-string) splint was indeed ready for collection…

I got a lift to the Hospital, only to find the Spanish receptionist on duty when I arrived. I looked at her, she looked at me, and we both just knew

This was a new experience for me: a woman (Spanish, very thin, about 40, quite stylish a la Almodovar…) whom I’d abused on the phone, standing in front of me…

So I apologised. I said it wasn’t like me at all. It had just been 12 days since both splints had failed, and I was sorry, but at the end of my tether…

And she was LOVELY! So gracious. I had to turn away before I cried…

So, two weeks and one day later, the first-string splint is ready, and I decide to combine fetching it from the Hospital with a trip to the solicitors’… (Which costs me £475 an hour, and she failed even to come…)

Afterwards, I get a taxi from the solicitors to the Hospital. And, despite the £475 loss, I’m feeling OK, because – for the first time since the stroke – SOMEONE ELSE has failed to show…

And, while the taxi man waits, I stroll into the hospital, exchange a greeting with the three ‘do you know where you’re going’ volunteers, and head for Clinic K…

And immediately the Spanish woman – who’s on duty at the reception window – just beams at me. (You could tell she wasn’t English, just because her clothes were too svelte…)

I’m wearing shades and a red shirt, to ‘celebrate’ my divorce, and I’m starting to believe L when she says I am sexy… The Spanish woman gets the new orthotic, I say has she got a bag, to which she replies, flirtatiously, that she’s got an especially good one…

I say: You’re Spanish? Where are you from?
She says: Bilbao…
I: You’re Basque?
She: Basque/Spanish.
I: What d’you think of ETA?
She: Bad.
I: Really?
She: What d’you think?
I: I have no opinion. I’m an impartial observer for the United Nations.
(She laughs…)

I: But I must ask the crucial question: why does anyone leave Bilbao [which my sister and a Pierce Brosnan Bond film tout as ‘a good place’] for Ipswich?

She (fluttering her eyelids): For love!
I (incredulous): For an Ipswich man?
She: No! For a Scouser [great pronunciation].
I: But the fact still remains: why Ipswich?
She: We were in London…
I: That’s good so far…
She: But then it all went horribly wrong…
(I laugh…)

She: No, seriously, he got a job in Felixstowe.
I: In the docks?
She: Yes! For Maersk, d’you know them?
I: Yes! I live in Mistley, travel a lot to Harwich, where I can look across the harbour at Hanjin etc [shipping companies].

(There’s no one else waiting, but I have a taxi on hire, so I ask one more question, which is OK because she’s told me about her love for her man…)

I: What’s your name?
She: Barbara.

(And now I’m getting close to ‘turn away before I cry’, because she’s been SO NICE and she’s about 40 and petite and well dressed – and in fact I’m crying NOW… And also because Kurt Weill wrote Barbara Song (from The Threepenny Opera) AND Bills Ballhaus in Bilbao aka The Bilbao Song (from The Happy End)…
I say: Well, I look forward to seeing you again in six months, Barbara…
And turning and walking swiftly away, I just make it into the corridor before I cry….
I think I’ll call this: The Happy End.


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I had a stroke on July 26th, 2013. I was a screenwriter. Don’t do that anymore. But have found another way to write.

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