Day 21: Sudbury to Hadleigh

Well, only one more day to go and then our own bed. Not that today’s experience was anything to carp about: a beautiful warm and sunny day where the cows all smile milkily at us as we pass by. We travel through some of the loveliest countryside we are blessed with in this blessed plot, this England. We spent too short a time in Long Melford church, a jewel with heavenly light cascading towards us through mellow, stained glass windows.

Francie walked with us, a lovely person and a friend from way back. She is commonsensical and kind in equal measure and runs a business where tact and diplomacy stand at a premium. She has forged an enviable reputation advising clients who seek her assistance in how to furnish their houses. Amazinly she manages to bring together her expertise and their opinions without causing ructions. Anyone who has tried to chose wallpaper with a partner will know how hard that can be!


Back to Basics

I recently stayed at the excellent Nuffield Hospital in Oxford. It was my second hip operation, and I have to say that the sheer quality of the medical experience, at no direct cost to any of us, has to be one of the major reasons why so many of the have-nots in the world are scrambling to come to the UK. The care in the Nuffield is as excellent as anyone could reasonably hope for: professional, attentive and kind.

But I had forgotten just how basic life gets when the rubber hits the road. Mothers, of course, will know the full extent of the raw indignities of childbirth, but to be frank I managed to confine myself to the exhortatory and head-end side of the business. I never had any ambitions to be an active participant.


Pleased to Meet You

So there I was, well into my prime and reasonably respected in the community, and well used to looking after myself. Shortly after coming round from my operation, I found myself in a tent with lots of people staring down at me: apparently my blood pressure had dropped and I had fainted, a not uncommon experience after recovery from anaesthetic.

A nurse told me insistently I was to empty my bladder. “How,” I pleaded, “am I to do this when I am numb from the waist down?” How, to be frank, would I know if the process was underway or not?

Another nurse appeared and in a flash ripped up my nighty and rammed a catheter up (or is it down?) my willy. And we hadn’t even been introduced. What is the world coming to?

A couple of days later, I awoke to hear a stranger hissing in my ear: “Have you peed?”

I nodded dumbly. The catheter was now but a sordid memory and I was meant to be going it alone in that department, if you know what I mean. The nurse stared fixedly at me, and her voice hardened.

“Are… you… telling… me… the… truth? It… is… very… important.”

How on earth can you convince a sceptic that such an event has occurred? I crossed my heart in a imploring sort of a way and she thankfully vanished.


August Words

Before I could leave hospital, a couple of occupational therapists demanded that I had to first demonstrate my versatility at sitting on and rising from the loo! I kid you not – and they claimed they had to watch my performance in order to tick various boxes. So there I was ascending and descending on the loo like an aged yo-yo in response to the encouragement of a couple of immensely earnest young women.

Let us hope we never cross each other’s paths again. Imagine the small talk if we did: “Oh yes, I’m sure we have met before, now where was it exactly?” And then the grim reality will dawn on us.

I recall the time that Jane and I were out hunting when we ran into her gynaecologist just a few months after he delivered our last baby.

“I’m sure we’ve met before?” he cried with a glint in his eye. Jane cantered away at speed.

There is an old Catholic saying: Inter faeces et urinam nascimur. When I first read it, I was unsure why the great Augustine favoured it so much. I won’t translate it, but I imagine that even the most rudimentary grasp of Latin will allow you to guess more or less what it means.

So when you are next in hospital, brace yourself, leave your dignity at home and remember good old Augustine.



The other day was one of those days where the wind stripped the flesh from my bones and then came back to collect the marrow. It set me thinking, what’s it all about? I haven’t a clue!

Someone suggested that to start with we should go round our houses with labels saying “temporary” and stick them onto furniture, paintings, jewellery, stamp collections and cars.

Then we should dash back to our family and the friends we love with labels saying “permanent”.

That might set our priorities straight anyway.



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