Saturday, 5 September 2009

Yes we have no bananas

“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.


  1. Oh dear, I didn`t know Keith Waterhouse had passed away, the same Keith Waterhouse that wrote in the Saga magazine??

    Since living in Crete I have lost touch with reality, on my return to good old Blighty I plan to write a book, and what a true horror story it will be.

    To buy an English newspaper here cost`s 2 Euro`s 50, and I am reluctant to buy one at that price as the quality is poor and some times you get 2 pages repeated.


  2. Peter Donaghy, Sydney20 September 2009 at 01:09

    Hey, the weekend staff issue is also occuring in Australia. Instead of East Europeans it is South East Asians. As you suggest, they are good carers and have a good work ethic. The only issue I've got is the lack of clear communication with their patients. Elderly patients struggling with a lack of energy and ability to talk loudly find the task of receiving and transmitting verbal messages extremely difficult if not impossible. I've worked in a Japanese company for 10 years and have spent time in Singapore but I'm still struggling to converse with staff when I visit. It is interesting that both NSW and UK health systems are so similar

  3. Just to clarify, bananas are not rich in iron!

  4. That's been a waste of time then. Mind you, my anaemia is much reduced and it can't be down to meat.