A Surprise Discharge

There’s not much more to tell you about my time in hospital, or rather there’s very little left that I can wring a bit of humour and/or a tune or two out of. So I’m going to rattle through the rest of the incidents of note and wrap things up.

Firstly, there’s something I omitted to tell you; in between the nurse’s call to my folks and them walking in on me mid-grease, there is some news as to what exactly I’m still doing there.

The nursing staff remain concerned about my vomiting episode. It is thought that I may have a tear ‘somewhere’ which has led to any liquid I’ve consumed to fall into places not intended to store liquid (you’ll let me know if I get too technical, won’t you?). I am to remain on a water only diet for the time being.

Added to that, and more definitively, on a couple of occasions, it has been observed that I get short of breath rather easily. Test results are now back in and I am told I have a pulmonary embolism, which is a blood-clot on my (left) lung to you and me. As a result, I am placed on a oxygen mask, which makes talking to my parents when they visit rather difficult.

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Radiohead – My Iron Lung

For the record, I am not placed on an iron lung, but this post needs breaking up a little bit and I can’t think of any other songs which are even vaguely appropriate.

Although, maybe this:

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The Sweet – Love is Like Oxygen

or perhaps..

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JJ72 – Oxygen

In other news, in a conversation with one of the consultants, I am told that my “sepsis is now under control”. This is a condition which has never been mentioned before and doesn’t crop up again; I assume at the time it is to do with the alarm over my blood tests which first led me to hospital, but it is also omitted from my discharge report.

However, a little research tells me that sepsis is not necessarily, as I thought, a blood problem, it’s a serious complication of an infection, which, if untreated, can lead to multiple organ failure and death. Not so funny anymore, right?

Symptoms of sepsis include:

  • a high temperture
  • chills and shivering
  • fast heartbeat
  • fast breathing

…all of which I have presented with or complained about at some point during my admission and stay in hospital.

Although it’s not specifically mentioned in my discharge papers, it seems pretty clear to me that the alarm the hospital showed when they got my blood tests back just before I was admitted was because I probably had sepsis due to the pulmonary embolism.

(After I’m discharged, I go to stay with my parents for a week or so, to convalesce. During that time, various family members visit me, including an aunt who for many years was a nurse, and whose opinion is often unwanted, but on this occasion is gratefully received. She reads my discharge papers, and mentions that it was a pumonary embolism that killed my grandmother. Later, she sends me a message where she mentions me having had a “near-death experience.” I show it to my mother, and flippantly comment that she’s exaggerating things a tad. “No,” says my mother, “I don’t think you realise how serious things were.” Having done the research, I get it now.)

No clever song for this bit, so you can let it sink in just as I did.

Oh ok, maybe one:

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The Housemartins – Think For A Minute

For the rest of the week, ¬†friends visit: Hel, Kay and Ian on Monday; Richie on Tuesday, Jo on Wednesday. It’s absolutely love to see them, to know friends are true friends concerned for my well-being (that’s not to sound like I’m dissing those who didn’t visit; I got texts from everyone who knew I was in hospital asking how I’m doing and wishing me well). I am snowed under with fruit, magazines, books and an ipod charger.

This last thing is essential as by Monday evening I’ve decided that the in-house entertainment leaves a lot to be desired. There is a television in my room, attached to one of those moveable crane-arms. But here’s the thing: you can only watch the terrestial channels (which is fair enough, I suppose a Sky subscription is a little too much to ask of a cash-strapped NHS), and you can only watch those between 7am and midday.

My morning routine now includes catching the end of the BBC’s Breakfast show (I’m ill, but not so ill that I’d choose to watch Piers Morgan on ITV), followed by a progam about celebrities tracing family members who fought in the First World War, followed by Homes Under The Hammer (seriously: what is former Manchester United striker Dion Dublin doing on that show?), followed by the first fifteen minutes of some sort of ‘criminals caught on CCTV’ show, hosted by short-arse slaphead do-gooder Dom Littlewood, and then the screen is filled with a message asking me to purchase credits if I wish to keep watching.

I pay my TV licence, and I pay my National Insurance contributions, so I feel a little put out by this demand. I decide I’m not sufficiently obsessed with Bargain Hunt or Flog It! to pay for (what I consider to be) a third time for the privilege of watching them. Thankfully, the radio is free, but none of the digital channels are provided as options. No 6Music then. I end up listening to Radio 2 from mid-day onwards, to idiots calling in to Jeremy Vine, and then Steve Wright, who I find hasn’t changed since the last time I listened to his show, around thirty years ago on the bus home from sixth form (this is not a recommendation).

Alarmingly, repeated exposure means I find myself quite liking the new Michael Buble single. Ipod it is then.

Over the course of the week, I have some physiotherapy, designed to help me walk better again. This is more because I have been laid up and have not actually used my legs for days, rather than addressing the pain, loss of strength and grip in both my hands. But still, on the second session, I progress from standing and walking from my bed to the door, to completing a circuit of the hosiptal floor.

Rem Murmur demos

R.E.M. – We Walk

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Helen Shapiro – Walkin’ Back to Happiness

On the Wednesday morning, I go to have a scan on my left arm, to see whether or not I have a blood clot there too. As I am wheeled out of my room, my physiotherapist happens to stroll by. He tells me that he probably won’t come to see me again today (as we had arranged) but he would definitely be back before I am discharged. He gives me the impression this is not going to be soon, that there’s no real rush, and that I’ll be here until the weekend at least.

Back in my room, I’m visited by a consultant who rather sheepishly tells me that they may have lost the results of the biopsies they did the week before. I think she is expecting me to kick off, but it’s not in my nature.

“Ah well, these things happen,” I say. “So you’ll need to do them again, I suppose?”

She looks at me, somewhat surprised.

“If we can’t find them, yes. We have got somebody going through all of the results trying to find them, though. I must say,” she adds,”you’re taking this very well.”

“Well, what’s the point in getting angry about it?” I reason. “It’s not going to make the results magic themselves back into existence. It’s an admin error, as far as I’m concerned, and I’m always blaming admin for things going missing at work, so I can’t really complain when I’m on the receiving end, can I?”

But the following day, before I can have any more physiotherapy, or find out whether my biopsy results have been located, I am told I am to be discharged. Given everything that has been said or alluded to previously, this comes as a bit of a surprise. But several hours later, after a lot of paperwork is completed (the discharge report lists not just the pulmonary embolism and the vomiting event, but also tells me I had pneumonia. As far as I can recall, this is the first time this has been mentioned during my stay) and I have been given a load of medication and creams and strict instructions about how to use at least one of them, I am waiting outside for a taxi.

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Simon & Garfunkel – Homeward Bound

And that’s it.

But.

I can’t leave it hanging there, so let’s rewind a few days.

It’s just after my first session that my physiotherapist suggests the catheter should be removed so that I can build my strength up by actually having to get out of bed to go to the toilet. The day before, I had summoned the nurse and advised her that having not had a bowel movement of the solid variety for several days, the urge was now not quite overhwelming or urgent, but certainly imminent. She provides me with a bedpan, offers to help me position myself upon it (“No thanks!”) and then leaves me to my own devices.

I climb on board.

Have you ever tried to use a bed-pan? It’s really difficult. For although you know that everything is in place to catch whatever emerges, your mind remains resolute.

“You learned a long time ago”, it says, “that having a shit in your bed really isn’t the done thing.” I’m not Spud from Trainspotting, for God’s sake. I have control.

And so my body resists, and I have to ease myself back off the bed-pan and admit defeat, mission unaccomplished, .

The next day the catheter is removed. Just so you know, it hurt more coming out that it did going in. Ouchies.

And the combination of these two events (the failure to crap, and the begrudging knowledge that I now have to get up to pee) leaves me with a song in my head, the title of which explains my thought process now I have to actually get up to perfom my daily ablutions in a normal way:

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Slim Whitman – I’ll Never Pass This Way Again

More soon.

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Late Night Stargazing

The post-Berry R.E.M. albums generally get a fairly bad press, and there’s a reason for that: they’re mostly nowhere near as great as what had come before then.

But to write them off completely is madness, for each of them has one or two absolute jewels hidden away: there’s usually something just drop dead gorgeous, and/or which fits the jangly guitar template of their earlier records.

Tonight’s record falls into the former category, a song I’m really rather surprised I haven’t already posted. I was torn whether to plump for the album version or the demo version which pops up as an extra track on the lead single from that album, Imitation of Life. But since I’ve just banged on about hidden jewels on their later albums, I guess album version it is.

As with many of their piano-led tracks, this is quite lovely:

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R.E.M. – Beat A Drum

More soon.

Ba Ba Ba Ba-Ba Ba Ba Ba

When listening to today’s track, try to ignore that this cover version of an old Troggs record was purportedly the inspiration for Wet Wet Wet releasing a bloody horrible version themselves in 1994, which stayed at #1 in the UK charts for 15 weeks until the band finally put us out of our misery by deleting the record from sale.

Instead, think about what a different band R.E.M. would have been if Mike Mills had sung lead vocals more often (I can only think of¬†two others where he does: Near Wild Heaven and Texarkana, both¬†from Out of Time). And then realise why that is, when Michael Stipe’s backing vocals really swoop in towards the end of this:

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R.E.M. – Love Is All Around

More soon.

Mock the Weak

Back in 1983, when I was at secondary school, there was a General Election.

To provide some context, the Conservatives under Margaret Thatcher had swept to power in 1979. Labour were led by Michael Foot, portrayed by the press as a scruffy ultra-left threat to national security Communist (sound familiar?). The Social Democratic Party (SDP) had formed in 1981, but had not yet established itself as the third main party; that would take a rebranding or two before the name Liberal Democrats finally stuck.

The Falklands War Conflict had finished. Unemployment was high, but about to get higher. The Miners’ Strike was on the horizon.

My school, deep in the Tory homeland of Cambridgeshire (John Major was our MP, which gives you some idea) decided that they would hold a mock election, and my year was designated the year who would form the political parties to battle it out.

And so it was that one day in our English class (we didn’t have¬†a Politics class), we were randomly split into groups, asked to decide which political party we were going to be, and instructed to prepare a manifesto and speech which we would have to present to the rest of the year, who would then vote.

We could act as one of the established parties, in which case our manifesto had to accurately represent that of the party we were emulating. Or, we could make up our own party, party name, manifesto and speech.

The class were separated out into groups of four people, and it soon became very apparent in my group of wallflowers that the person who would have to stand up and make the speech was going to be me. Which led me to insist on complete artistic control, that I would have the final say over which party we were to represent, what was in our manifesto, and what we were going to say in our speech.

The other three in my group realised this was a perfect opportunity for them to do absolutely nothing, so basically left me to it. All they had to do was stand on stage behind me as I made my speech, look supportive, and remind me not to speak too fast.

And so, I decided we would be an all-new party, and wrote a manifesto and speech which was basically a satire of the Conservative Party’s. I can remember very little of it now; however,¬†since I wasn’t particularly politically engaged back then, at the age¬†of 13,¬† I¬†banked on very few of my year-mates having either watched or remembered¬†BBC sketch show ‘Not The Nine O’clock News’, pinched a few gags from that and padded it out with a few of my own in the¬†same vein. The only (stolen) joke I used that I can recall was one¬†about increasing the age one had to be to receive a pension, and axing benefits for the disabled, because it made sense to attack those who were unable or unlikely¬†to fight back. All strangely prescient in these days of Universal Credit, it seems.

On the day of the actual general election, my year trooped into the school hall, where each “party leader” took it¬†in turns to stand behind the lectern and deliver their¬†speech.

When it was my turn, I was terrified. I’d had to talk to large rooms full of people¬† before (at junior school, I was often given the role of Narrator in the school play because I could read), but never before (with one notable exception, which I’ll tell you about sometime) had I read out something I had written myself, even if much of it was plagiarised. My eyes never left¬†my A4 pad. I read at a frantic speed.¬†My fellow party members were lined up behind me. One of them, Robbie Watson, leant forwards and hissed “Slow down, mate” in my ear. I slowed down. And managed to get some laughs from the audience.

I left the stage, glowing with pride, back appreciatively slapped by my comrades.

We came second, losing by a handful of votes. To¬†the Conservatives, of course. I’m used to it by now.

But whilst I can’t recall much of the detail of the manifesto or speech, I’ve never forgotten the name I came up with for¬†my pretend political party: the Northern Irish Political Party to Lead the English.

Or, the N.I.P.P.L.E. Party, for short.

I imagine you can work out why I was reminded of that this week.

Here’s a song:

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R.E.M. – World Leader Pretend (Live “Tourfilm” Version)

Dear Theresa. Can I have my ¬£1 billion now please? I promise to support you.¬†Except on the occasions when I don’t want to.

More soon.

Wem-ber-ley

It’s a big day for me today.

I’m off to Wembley Stadium for the first time ever, with my old mate Rich, to see my beloved Spurs play European Champions Real Madrid.

Until the away leg two weeks ago, I had no real hopes at all of us getting anything out of either game, but a frankly heroic draw away from home gives me just the slightest glimmer of hope that tonight may be something special.

At the very least, after tonight I will be able to say that I’ve seen one or all of the following (injuries permitting) play: Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Dele Alli, Harry Kane.

Two songs whose titles sum up how I feel today. Firstly, an obvious one:

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The Candyskins – Wembley

And then, from a much maligned, wrongly so in my opinion, album:

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R.E.M. – Hope

COYS as they say on that there Twitter.

If I go all quiet and moody after tonight, you’ll know why.

More soon.

Eponymous #1

When I last could be arsed to write The Chain, I mentioned that I sensed a new series of posts coming, based on a suggestion by George.

The source record was a track from what is commonly known as The Beatles’ White Album, but which is actually called “The Beatles”.

George pointed out that this was one of those rare things: an eponymous album which wasn’t the artiste’s debut album.

I gave another couple of examples (by the usual bed-fellows, ABBA and Metallica, in case you didn’t read it) and it got me thinking.

But thinking isn’t something I’m all that good at, so I decided to look at eponymous albums, irrespective of whether or not they were the first album or not.

(Props at this point¬†to Alex G, who also mentioned in passing that the track was from an eponymous album, but didn’t point out the oddity of it not being their first album.)

To compound my laziness, to¬†kick things off I’m going to cheat and look at an¬†album that isn’t named after the artiste providing the tunes at all. My blog, my rules. La La La La La can’t hear you.

I’ve talked before about how when an established artiste first piqued my interest, I would generally buy a “Best Of…” compilation to see what else I liked by them and what I should next buy by them.

Today’s choice source sort of fits that mould, but is a little different, in that by the time I bought this album, I already had their “Document” and “Green” albums safely tucked away on my racks (“Green” actually came out shortly after “Eponymous”, but it took a little while for today’s compilation to make it’s way to Rainbow Records in Pontypridd…).

To be honest, I could happily post every song from this album, but some self control is called for. So, as you will see from my selection errs towards their earlier material, which, back in 1988, with a Smiths-shaped void needing to replaced, I became borderline obsessed with. And with good reason:

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R.E.M. – Radio Free Europe (Original Hib-Tone Version)

R.E.M. – Gardening at Night (Different Vocal Mix)

R.E.M. – Romance

R.E.M. – Fall On Me

And finally, of all the R.E.M. songs which I adore, this is the one that means the most to me, for reasons that I may explain sometime:

R.E.M. – (Don’t Go Back to) Rockville

More soon.