After an exhausting few weeks attending to every snap of the fingers from the ever petulant and demanding Ms Raccoon, Mr G thought he had left me in Bordeaux with a staff of several dozen to attend to my myriad needs, in the hands of trained professionals who could cope with anything I could cook up, who had even promised to knock me spark out the following day so that he could, just the once, watch his Grand Prix in peace and have some well-earned ‘respite’.
Come on – be honest! You’re expecting a drama aren’t you, and would I disappoint you? Ms Raccoon’s unerring and devious ability to make herself the centre of attention is both disturbing and worryingly Machiavellian. You can anaesthetise her, probably knock her unconscious with a ten ton hammer for all I know, and she will still make sure that you daren’t take your eyes off her for a nano-second for fear she might be brewing up another blog post – so says Mr G.
First I was so busy scolding Mr G for his stupidity in not having his mobile phone number immediately to hand when I was filling in the booking in form that I failed to notice that I had inadvertently booked myself in under a different name from usual. His fault naturally; I don’t ask much of him, just a simple number when I need it. He’s had the same number long enough.
You see, in France you never lose you maiden name. You start life as ‘Anna Jailbait’, when you marry, you become ‘Jailbait – Anna – Raccoon’. Every single document follows that format, and if I hadn’t been so distracted by a man who couldn’t even tell you his own phone number, then that is what I would have written. I’m not stupid. Enough with the recriminations, I had managed to put my name to a written document, which in France has a higher status than Moses’ flippin’ stone tablets, to the fact that I was ‘Raccoon – Anna – Raccoon’. The daft bint behind the counter did try to point out that I might have married one of my own cousins, but I didn’t take any notice of her either – it really felt as though the world was conspiring to wind me up. I’ll grant you I might have been a tad nervous, understandable under the circumstances, but there really was no cause for folk to try quite so hard to tempt me to take their head off.
Mr G had promised me lunch in Bordeaux as part of the deal allowing him to leave me in the hospital early in order to get home for his damn Grand Prix, or Motor GP or whatever it was – he seemed excessively keen to see the back of me to be honest, so I wasn’t overly happy to find that he was now complaining that it was raining, and there wasn’t anywhere to park, and he said that I was lucky he didn’t just slow down and push me out of the passenger door as he passed the Bergonie. So much for love, honour and obey – one day I was a bit grumpy, one day, and I get dumped in Bordeaux with a left over stuffed tomato from the dinner trolley, a jug of water, and twenty hours to kill before surgery was due to start at 8am. Harrumph!
Still, Damian McBride’s new book on my kindle – absolutely brilliant! I read it from start to finish in the early hours….by 3am I was starting to think that maybe Gordon Brown wasn’t as bad as I thought – Damian is still an excellent spin master; poison tipped barbs depart stage left in no apparent particular direction and whizz back stage right to land right between the shoulder blades of someone who’s presence had only been casually mentioned to you several paragraphs before…..
A couple of hours sleep, a team of hand maidens to scrub and buff me to perfection by way of apology for the total lack of a mug of steaming Yorkshire Tea that is habitually rushed to my bedside as a peace offering at the first warning sign that I might have stirred, in fact even the jug of water seemed to have vanished whilst my eyes were temporarily closed, but they did give me a nice sweetie to go under my tongue, and I drifted off back to sleep again. I awoke at quarter to eight with much gabbling of excited French going on, myriad waving of arms, the room seemed to be full of people. There are times, like when you’ve just woken up, that you just want your mug of tea, not to have to translate 10 concurrent conversations; mostly demanding my date of birth. I muttered something approximately, well near enough, in French, and tried to go back to sleep. The jabbering of the natives continued. Seems the porters had arrived to take me to a theatre that was full of surgeons standing by to perform intricate surgery on a ‘Jailbait – Anna – Raccoon’; indeed had got up specially early, and supplies of blood had been specially ordered, and they were not about to be fobbed off with this sleepy object labelled at every point ‘Raccoon – Anna – Raccoon’; they wanted the genuine article. One ‘Jailbait – Anna – Raccoon’ as expected.
I am the last person to complain about this attention to detail, having 40 years ago been the unwilling recipient of a hysterectomy that was intended for someone with a very similar name. But, you know, I had been awake until the early hours reading Damian, nobody was proffering tea, so I turned over and went back to sleep and left them to sort it out amongst themselves. Mr G tells me now that it was four hours later before theatre agreed to accept this interloper – how they resolved it I don’t know, I only know that days later when I looked in my dossier they had photocopied every mortal thing in my handbag down to my Shropshire library ticket. Not that they told Mr G at the time that I was to be four hours late; he was still expecting a phone call at 2pm to tell him it was all over.
Strike One to the Raccoon, and I wasn’t even awake yet.
The day stretched luxuriously in front of Mr G; an entire day without having to give me a thought! Perhaps a post lunch glass of wine, without the inevitable ‘whine’, and a little light snooker? Who knows what he had planned? As 2pm approached, his resolve weakened. He was quite fond of the old Raccoon after all, and a few hours absence had reminded him that she did match his socks up for him if nothing else, and he did hope that she was alright…..4pm came and went….6pm…and still the phone didn’t ring. By 7pm he decided to try his hand at navigating the notorious ‘voice recognition’ central hospital telephone reception.
It is one of those annoying ‘multiple option’ thingiess that you have to keep replying to. Thus. ‘Are you having a baby?’ ‘Non!’ ‘So, you don’t want to be put through to maternity then?’ ‘Non!’ ‘Is your left leg hanging off?’ ‘Non’. ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t understand your last answer – is your left leg hanging off?’ All in French of course. Buried somewhere in the middle of the nonsensical suggestions is an option ‘Would you like to speak to a human being? – who probably doesn’t speak any English, but you never know’. ‘Oui!’
But he didn’t get that far. By 8pm he was beside himself. A future full of unmatched socks stretched before him. He fled to his French friend’s house, probably well and truly over the limit, but he no longer cared. I always told him he’d miss me one day – but he’d never paid any attention until then….his friend deftly navigated the ridiculous voice recognition service and got through to my ward – but I wasn’t there. Still in ‘intensive care’ – they’d put him through! And I wasn’t there either – still up ‘in theatre’ – they’d put him through! What? 12 hours later? I was still in theatre?
Strike Two to the Raccoon.
They were very sorry they hadn’t phoned him, actually I’d only (only?) been in surgery for six hours, but, er, they’d had a few problems since then, they kept putting off phoning him until they had found out what was wrong….but I was semi-conscious, and they couldn’t tell him any more right then, could he phone back in an hour? Off stage an operatic howl could be heard slicing through the dead of night that Fabrice was sure sounded just like a Raccoon. He was right too…the Diva Raccoon was stirring, and keeping everyone fully occupied….
Modern anaesthetics are wonderful things. You don’t get sick any longer, you just gently drift back to consciousness; they’d even given me an epidural so I would feel no pain from the hips downwards. A bit of ‘torn muscle’ pain above that, but that wouldn’t be a problem so long as I lay still – which the epidural should ensure that I did. No need for morphine, everything going according to plan. I’d lost a fair bit of blood, but all things considered, the Kevin McClouds of the French Health Service were pretty pleased with their Grand Redesign of the Raccoon – a touch Le Corbusier perhaps, modernist, with the wiring and the plumbing on the outside – and Superman only wears his underpants outside! Superwoman, however….
Then the Raccoon stirred. Not with a murmur – but an almighty hiccup. Not one of your gentile hiccups, emerging shyly from behind a loosely clasped fist with an accompanying ‘ooh, excuse me’. Not even a full throated Arabic belch of appreciation at the sautéed sheep’s eyeballs. No, this was more of your back arching, hips off the table, shuddering through every torn muscle in the abdomen, old fashioned turbo charged hiccup. Another one emerged with metronomic precision fifteen minutes later – and another – and another. Each accompanied by a howl of outrage. Argghhhh!
Two and a half bloody days before they managed to shut me up! Days, not hours. I drove everyone mental.
I. Will. Be. The. Centre. Of. Attention. If. It. Kills. Me.
I bust my stitches twice. The first time they were very good natured about it, scrubbed up and did me again. The second time they resorted to gaffer tape of some variety. Patience was wearing thin. They x-rayed me, nope, nothing left inside. They gave me morphine, they bumped up the oxygen. Every so often they would lift the oxygen mask and sweet faced little girls would say ‘Vous-avez OK? Madame Raccoon’ ‘No I’m bloody not’ was the inevitable graceless response.* They shoved tubes up my nose into my stomach – God how I hated that tube – it attached to some sort of timed ratchet just by my right ear – not that I dared turn my head to look, far too painful, but I could hear the bloody thing. Tic, tic, tic, and then just before it automatically fired into life, snaking and shuddering like a garden hose under pressure, up my nose and down my throat – no tic! Tic, tic, tic….noooo please tic, please. Snap, crackle and pop it would fire off again. Arggghhhh!
I promised God so many different manner of things if he’d just stop me hiccuping; that I even promised to search diligently and discover M-TWAT’s one and only good point. I’m going to have to keep that one, even if it takes years, because that one did persuade him upstairs to let me just have a hiccup every half hour or so. And it did rid me of that bloody pump. And so they moved me down to intensive care, 24 hours later and let Mr G come come and see me. I dug my nails firmly into the fleshy part of his arm, the better to keep hold of him – and fell asleep. Every time he tried to extract himself from what was supposed to be a good natured hug of greeting, I would surface and dig my nails in another half inch – he has the scars to prove it. Four days he sat there. Unwashed, Unshaven. Virtually Unfed. The first two I was still hiccuping, the last two was just the sleep of the dead…..I have never been so mentally and physically beaten in my life.
Mind you, by that time, I’d reduced everyone else within earshot to the same state. What finally shut me up? Bizarre! For a couple of days they’d been appearing with a tiny brown bottle, and cautiously shaking three drops into a full glass of water. Must be something homeopathic, I thought. Ground warthog and rat’s tails. Finally I managed to grab the bottle as they leaned over me. ‘Vous-avez OK, Madame Raccoon’.
‘Bloody Hell G’, I said, ‘have you seen what this is?’ Well, we started this saga with them thinking I was two different people; I seemed destined to end it with them thinking that I thought I was two different people. Largactil, the 60s cure all for schizophrenia…..
Seems ‘schizophrenia’ sounds just the same in French as it does in English, because she immediately said, ‘Non, non, ce n’est pas pour le schizophrenia, c’est pour le OK’. Well, it works.
*Now that I’m home again, I’ve caught up with my dictionary and looked up ‘hiccup’. It’s hoquet. Pronounced the same way you would pronounce the game of croquet, except you don’t pronounce the ‘h’. Hmmn, that’s right – you end up with ‘O.K’. That’s what they’d been saying for days….! ‘Vous-avez hoquet‘.
So it will come as no surprise that just as soon as my ‘nursing care’ as opposed to my general ‘pandering care’ was reduced to half an hour or so a day – they have sent me home with the nurses coming to me. I am roughly mobile, I can gather up my varied bags and accoutrements like Grandma Giles hitching her skirts, and scuttle cautiously sideways wherever I want, well, so long as its no further than ten foot from my starting position; tomorrow I’m aiming for 12 foot…I can’t go anywhere further ‘cos the nurses will be here every day.
Mr G is being gradually licked, kicked even, into shape again – amazing how quickly they become undisciplined after even a few days inattention. He actually spoke this morning before handing me my tea, and he knows that’s not permitted. He hasn’t got much time, because he’s got to get me in shape to go back in ten weeks time, and do it all again. They have ambitious plans for the new internal plumbing and wiring. Perhaps they’ll throw in underfloor heating too. He’d love that, he hates my cold feet, and it is our wedding anniversary today – 21 years he’s hated those cold feet.
I bet they’re really looking forward to me coming back….