|Armidale sunset 7 August 2013 [Photo: Tracey James]
It seems that my waking time here for that sleep in hospital is usually 5.20 pm - just in time to freshen up a bit before dinner arrives. What a coincidence, you say.
Come on now, don't be mean.
Yesterday afternoon, it followed that pattern. I woke on cue, found one of my secret store of pristine paper serviettes entirely untouched by human hands apart from mine and those of the person who put it on my tray. I sprinkled its folded surface quickly with water from my drink bottle and dabbed my eyes and face with it, and disposed of it in the waste bin on the floor at hand's length.
In the first weeks I came here, this was my only way of freshening up after sleeping, because of my lack of mobility. I admit I've kept it up even though I now do have the mobility to get to the bathroom with a zimmer frame. I have my reasons for doing it this way unrelated to laziness.
For people with physical disabilities in particular, everything in an unfamiliar environment is about solving new little problems. Little for you, big for us. I could write an entire blog posting on that, but I'd have to finish it before I knew whether I thought it was good enough to post, so... another time. Dave will know instantly what I'm talking about.
It's nothing for me now to slip across to my chair even without the frame. When I first came, there was the frame and one or two nurses standing by. Physio guidance and newfound determination to stand and get mobile have done the trick. Well, let's be accurate, have begun to do it.
Before dinner arrives, a nurse trundles in with the routine blood pressure/temperature monitors.
"I'll bet my blood pressure has gone up since this morning."
"You've just woken up," she says. "It shouldn't have."
"It will have."
It has, by twenty points. She doesn't know that yesterday morning when it was taken I'd been exercising not long before. I'm funny like that but it's always been the way. Exercise half an hour before a reading is taken and it's way down.
The moral is, don't panic if the doctor measures yours and it's higher or lower than normal. It could be significant but it mightn't be a true indication of what your blood pressure really is on average.
So mine was quite high.
"I don't like that systolic reading," I say, "and the other one... the – it won't come to me but I improvise – the PREhistolic one's not the best either."
She laughs loudly.
"Well," I say, "I'm an historian by trade, and if there's historic stuff and prehistoric...."
"DIA-stolic!" she says,"The big one's diastolic and the little one's systolic."
"Funny," I say to her, "I always thought it was the other way round."
She's definite, but as soon as she's gone I google it. I'm bloody well right.
I'm gonna see if she's willing to take a bet on it next time we meet. This is going to be fun... I have to think what the stake is though.
Dinner came. (OK, pedants, I know I changed tense, but hell, musicians can change key, so don't try to stop me.)
What did I order? I never have the faintest notion. Soup. OK. It's vegetable soup, now I remember. It's good. Good-ish then.
I don't think the general food quality's gone up. Maybe it's just that my expectations have dropped and/or my choices are slightly better.
What next? Looking at them, I remember them from my order also. Vegetable patties. Two of. Bigger than the palm of your hand except if you're a top-grade AFL player or maybe a discus thrower who's won a medal, any colour, at the Olympics.
This is Friday, and my proteinuria test's already over. Why am I not hoeing into a steak composed of some portion of what my almost-vegan friend calls "dead animal"?
Here's the sad truth. Not only is it that an eye fillet or tender piece of flesh hacked from the hind quarters of a cute little woolly animal are not on the menu, I can't comfortably digest it any more. I know, it's shattering. I'm horrified myself.
At least this time it is correctly named, unlike the "salmon"-vegetable patties in the first week that a fish of some description may have swum over in the making, and I decided on baby carrots alone, having resolved never to go back to the poultice described on the menu as mashed potato. That was the first and final occasion.
I don't know if it's policy, but there's invariably the same quantity of veg. on the plate, no matter what the variety. I suspect each plate is put on the scales and whatever is ordered is ladled on until the needle tips.
When I hastily banished "mashed potato" from mine, the space was filled by extra of beans, broccoli and carrots. I dropped the beans because they looked so sad, and more broccoli and peas bravely gave their lives as a result.
This time, I dropped everything from my order but the baby carrots, and whaddya know. Some ripped-off carrot farmer's entire harvest surrounded the vegetable patties on all sides and completely controlled air space as well. The patties stood their ground strongly, and I ate them with my fingers like giant sized ANZAC biscuits, forking in at intervals as many baby carrot rings as I could manage.
For dessert, a clear plastic square container boldly exhibited two pear slices looking for all the world like foetuses in yin-yang orientation (that's 69 possie if you haven't yet grasped one of the fundamentals of Chinese philosophy but have learned a bit from SBS late-night movies). These foetuses were in an amniotic fluid of unmistakably yellow custard. Not, I suspect, the sort of amniotic fluid you would want to have.
The metaphor's getting way too murky, but it tasted pretty good.
That was my sunset interlude and, as Dale Kerrigan says in the wonderful Oz movie, The Castle, that is my story THE END.