Here are two very different words. A tattoo can be a military display or a piece of permanent body art. An additional definition, as I’ve just looked it up, is a drum or bugle signal recalling soldiers to their quarters. When I was ten the army planted themselves in our local park. They were showing of a lot of their equipment to the public. Being next to a real tank was pretty exciting.
At the weekend there was a proper tattoo. It was fantastic. I only have vague memories but it was a chain of spectacular events with mock battles, motorcycles and the usual marching band. They even landed a helicopter in front of us. For a brief time, as it came down and took off again, I was confronted with the strangling roar of its thumping engine and the resulting maelstrom from the blades as it sent volleys of grass and mud into and around us. I was roaring with delight.
How about the word urgency? Pressing, driving. The Concise Oxford gives us a simple definition. But the human response to the word is a multi faceted complex affair. It can send fear and panic screaming around your body. It might mean sweaty palms, mental stress or being out of breath. Urgency is something we would never choose.
It comes about as an outcome of one or many events. Some of it may be our own fault. When I was a piano teacher, I had three cases of urgency a year. A lot of my pupils liked to do exams. This involved me collecting the fees and writing their names on a form. I would then have to buy a stamp from the post office and place it in the post box outside.
If ever I was guilty of that lovely Cornish term “directly” (that’s like manjana but without the urgency), it would be relating to the act of getting the damn thing in the post box before the cut off date. After an enormous sigh of relief I would go on my knees before the great red pillar and pledge an oath for it to never be like that again.
I’m sure there were two knee-shaped dents in the pavement from the countless times I’d made that promise. Most people just assumed I was drunk or off my head on some mind altering chemical. It was always on a Saturday just before the post office closed and the final collection was to be taken.
Perhaps the biggest culprit of creating urgency is time. This is where the same old platitudes run off our tongue: There aren’t enough hours in the day. Everyone wants it yesterday. People need to be more flexible. Life is too short to be organised. Obviously I was a firm adherent of the final statement. I’m still the same with form filling.
Let’s called it the Macca challenge. It could become a TV show called “The Great British Put Off.”
You know how the programmes always have the serious slightly lowered tones of a jobsworth narrator, fuelling the drama with short earnest statements: Will Steve get to the post box on time? Then there was a problem; his pen ran out. With a cheque only half written, time was running out. He was parked in the car. Not a pen to be seen. Does he scrabble through the loose sheets of music and old cassette cases of the car floor or race into the post office to buy a new pen and finish it from a standing position?
Now if you are familiar with the symptoms of MS, you’ll know where I’m going with this urgency business. It’s something everyone is familiar with the world over; not just those poor souls blighted with some form of chronic illness. Shall we shout it together? Prepare yourselves. You need to inject a sense of panic and sincerity into your voice. Perhaps a little dance might help. Can you river dance? Even better. Here we go; one, two, three: “I NEED THE TOILET!”
I’m very familiar with this urgency. It often involves gouging great holes and scrapes in the door frame as I frantically steer my lumbering wheelchair towards the the sanctuary of the bathroom. Now to bring the two words together. Despite all my past bewilderment at the sanity of those people strutting around with painted arms or tiny butterflies in naughty little places, I decided that I was going to get a tattoo. A tattoo virgin at the age of sixty. My daughter is called Rose, I used to grow roses when I was younger and so my tattoo would be a rose. It was at 3.30 in the afternoon and would take an hour and a half. Adding on the fifteen minutes travel time either side, that was two hours away from an accessible toilet. I’ll spare you the details but provisions have to be made. Then I have to deal with anxiety; my biggest problem with urgency. All the time I was having a conversation with the jolly little bearded gnome-like man who was scoring me with his needles, I had the background anxiety. I wasn’t in my wheelchair and yes there was a door which said toilet. But the studio was tiny. I can’t do tiny.
On good days I leave a trail of devastation.
On bad days the devastation includes falling over as my feet get in a tangle. I need space. If only every public loo was like the one at Cherwell Valley Service Area on the M40. Well it’s good news. There was no urgency. And my tattoo is sitting proudly on my arm.
But every day is a challenge. It has to be a masterpiece of timing. No longer can I just think hold on. It’s that thirty second warning. Like Corporal Jones says “Don’t panic.”
Thank-you for reading.