“They didn’t ’ave no bananas,” my health care assistant informed me as she plonked my dinner tray down in front of me. “So they've given you an apple instead. Is that alright?”
Perhaps it was the barely concealed look of disappointment on my face that prompted her to say: “But it’s fruit, innit?”
I didn’t bother arguing with the woman. When you’re incarcerated in an institution it’s the little things that matter. I was really looking forward to a nice banana. The curvy yellow fruit is packed full of goodness: vitamin C, riboflavin, magnesium, carbohydrates and potassium. Bananas are rich in iron and that can be very helpful in cases of anemia. And if I’m to make it through this sojourn of sickness without coming out looking like someone who’s just built the bridge over the River Kwai single handed, then I’m going to need all the bananas I can lay my hands on. The shrivelled French Golden Delicious in front of me with all the appeal of a freshly skinned snake just won't do.
I suppose I ought to make allowances. This is a weekend and at weekends the hospital runs on a skeleton staff. In fact you’re likely to find more people at a meeting of the BNP’s Social Cohesion Committee than you are to find staff on the wards at the weekend.
The lack of staff also means that English becomes a second language. It appears that most people with English as their mother tongue have an allergy to working at the weekends, so a selection of Slovaks, Czechs, Poles and Slovenians tend to us instead. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. My Eastern European nurses and carers are charming, well-educated and polite to a fault. I just find it puzzling that the indigenous population seems so unwilling to shoulder the burden of my care at the weekend.
This evening England’s football team is playing against Slovenia so I’ve made a note not to have a coronary or request a bedpan as I’m certain my pleas will fall on deaf Slovenian ears once the ward TV has been turned on. Instead I turn to the Daily Mail for some entertainment and read a lovely tribute to the late Keith Waterhouse by the devil himself, Richard Littlejohn.
Keith was Fleet Street. He used to drink in my favourite pub. Common sense and deadpan humour flowed as freely from his pen as the Champagne of which he was so fond. As one of my three literary heroes, I longed to speak to him but his demeanour just didn’t invite a friendly approach.
My other two favourite writers – Miles Kington and Bill Bryson – proved utterly charming when I met them. Miles was a lovely man who was the most unassuming gentleman you could ever wish to meet. I remember how encouraging he was during the time I was writing a weekly column for a local paper. But how I would loved to have heard the same from Keith. Now I shall never know what he was really like. I’m told he was a charming man and the complete opposite suggested by his rather dour and glum appearance.
And on that slightly reflective note I think I’ll say goodnight. The football match is about to end and I’m just praying that Slovenia will win. I don’t want to contemplate what the reprisals will be if they don’t… the thought of a salt water enema is too much for me to bear right now.