I was too awake, and too aware, and I was going over an edge and I was scared and shivering and then I was shivering so hard that people came and wrapped me in hot blankets and put heated packs round me and someone put something hard between my teeth to save my tongue and then someone else put something else into the cannula, gently this time, and then a tiny, tiny woman hugged me and stroked my head and started singing. That was when I knew I had gone completely woofing mad and was probably dying – until slowly, slowly, I began to unclench, and to relax. It was as if someone had turned the intensity button down and I could start to focus. Without saying another word the anaesthetist left the room, and I never saw him again. Gradually my heart slowed and the shivering slowed, and the stroking and singing went on and I felt myself soften into the mattress and sleep.
When I woke the next time, it was a proper awakening. Eeyore was there, and Chelsea Godmother, and it was two days later. Of course there was no soft, Holby City style romantic reunion of a man and his wife of many years, the mother of his three children, the companion to his soul and the watcher of his back. ‘Ah’ he said, looking round the side of his newspaper. ‘About bloody time.’
It seems I’m ‘sensitive to morphine’ and that I’d had them ‘really quite worried’ for a while. HAH! I found it hard to be sympathetic. I might have been well and truly out of it for most of the time, but I felt I’d lived life pretty hard during the few moments I had been alert: I too had been a little nervous. Now however, life was good. My side felt safely, tightly bound and utterly, blissfully pain free. The analgesic drip into the back of my hand was mine to control, and as I lay there revelling in being alive and in a sunny room full of flowers with Eeyore, and Chelsea Godmother, and the promise of The Archers later on, the door opened and in walked the tiny, tiny woman.
Over the next week I got very used to the quiet rhythms of the day – and to the telly at the end of the bed. Breakfast (ordered the night before) arrived at a civilised hour and was whisked away in due course. There followed some exercises, firstly with help and then on my own, and then a little lie down before lunch. A snooze, some more ‘up and about’ as it came to be known, Bergerac on the telly – usually interrupted by another snooze – and then lo and behold, more food. More wobbling up and down the corridor, an exciting phone call or two and a couple of visitors, yet more to eat and then bed, and deep sleep. I knew I was getting better when I began to feel bored, and then to lie awake at night. The novelty of the peace and quiet wore off and the view from the window became grey again: it was time to go home, and as soon as I could prove that the stairs weren’t a problem, I was officially dismissed.
I don’t do slush. All I can say is that the moment when the car turned off the lane into the drive was, and remains, one of the very best of my life. I had never, ever had ten days go by so slowly – and believe me, over the years I’ve done some very boring things for what has felt like a very long time. While I was away someone had turned up the brightness and colour controls on my life: the children were more wonderful, the house more homely, the smells and sights of rural Lincolnshire more beautiful than they had ever been. And more than anything else, the grass on my side of the fence was certainly, irrefutably greener.