No, the north is not a wasteland. I just associate the days of my homeland with getting wasted. This was no exception. It was the last few days of freedom before being locked into 12 weeks of daily radiotherapy. Or so I thought.
When I saw the consultant on Monday he thought I’d already started. Now I need more scans. If I were a rodent, I’d be squeaking vociferously.
The main difference with this trip was my new body state. I’m still having trouble getting from chair to chair to bed to chair up the foothills of Timbuktu.
I’m not sure if a town in the South Sahara has anything more than dunes but try getting up dunes in a state of shifting sand.
The packing was stressful. It was new. Gone were the precautionary items which took up all the case space. In were the new tools of a far more convenient method of waste disposal. But there were things which didn’t change. First class train travel was quiet and calm. I had my usual 2 miniatures of Famous Grouse and a cup of black coffee. The cheese and mushroom toastie was tasty.
In Liverpool, the driver of the first 437 bus didn’t let me on, claiming there were two prams there. This was not in accordance with the bus signage. So he’s been stitched up via email.
I met my good friends.
We chatted and laughed about times old and new. I was grateful for the freedom to do this without frequent calls of nature. I must say that the ginger cake was a triumph in Cortsway.
Is ginger the cake the new croissant?
Wetherspoons was its usual hubbub of life’s forgotten people. I find it comforting. It’s a place to drift in and out of. Despite the phone app and the facility of ordering from the table, it does seem lost in time. It’s noisy but quiet, light but dark, empty but full.
Some taxis, whilst displaying the disabled symbol told me they couldn’t take me. Too heavy. No powered wheelchairs. So here’s me in a town of big (big big big big) people: I weigh 80k and the chair is 25k. You do the maths! (Did I just say that? I hate that phrase. It’s creeping into all forms of media. What a supercilious patronising little drop of verbal poison it is.)
It needed two buses to return to Greasby. This involved a wait at Birkenhead bus station on a Thursday night. During the daytime, it’s a soulless space of plain concrete, hard bright plastic and glass.
At night it becomes engulfed in a cloak of dark desperation. Other people are silent. They move slowly. With static blank faces the stare unblinking at the timetables. The air is awash with the faint bleep of phone buttons. And they are virtual buttons in a world suspended between reality and insanity.
My bus arrived. The silent driver, resembling Bluto, lay down the ramp and stood sentinel-like in front of it. “Show us your pass,” grunted the real-life stalker of Olive Oil. That’s all he said. It was a “You rang?” moment. If he didn’t look like Bluto, I’d have alluded to Lurch.
The night air of Greasby was cold and penetrating. Now I usually have to fight with the narrow doors of the hotel so I took the easier route via its pub.
Rude not to. “Large Talisker please.”
I drifted in and out of slumber. A good thing was not buying whisky for the hotel room.
It’s not a new me; I have to be wary of my new status. Grovelling on the gaudy stripes of a Premier Inn carpet is not cool. The following Monday, while the patient transport crew were waiting for me, I flapped about misplacing my phone. One of them dialled the number. My face remained unchanged as I retrieved from my coat pocket. It was the same brand of not cool.
On Friday it was lunch in the pub. Poor Jeanie was too poorly to make it. Christmas, even with the nicest of families can be hard going. Can we blame Randy Alexander? Sorry Brandy Alexander? Overdosing on ginger cake? The constant whirlwind of the season?
I’d had a very quiet few days so I was prepared for the party extension. That’s what it can be like. On the 2nd of January, there is the palpable release of grateful air. All the wild fun was over. The scent of normality sweeps into the living room giving those dazzling baubles on a sensational tree a friendly little reminder that 12th-night approacheth.
Then I turn up with a box of crackers.
Fair play to all my friends. But we are not getting any younger. Thursday morning’s text from Peter spoke of careful placement of the ball on the tee. On such occasions, bending down needs to be tempered by spatial awareness and the fact that one needs to resume an upright position for the purposes of projecting said ball into the wilderness of the fairway.
So after a rather exquisite steak sandwich, I had a snooze before Hedda turned up with wine and nibbles.
Before I made a habit of more frequent northerly visits, I was slightly nervous of meeting old friends.
Would we still get on? Or would we sit there in the empty space of extended separation?
Nah! I’m bloody lucky. What great friends I have.
Thank you for reading.