Home again: dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones - Have this woman washed and brought to my tent - CycleBlaze

Home again: dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones

TWO OR THREE days passed. Nothing happened. Specifically, nothing happened to my foot: it became neither better nor worse. Then one morning it stung suddenly, inside, and I realised the time had come. I was going for an X-ray.

The receiving doctor in urgences was dismissive.

"You'd have a hollow in your foot if you'd broken a toe," he said, prodding me, anxious to get on with more urgent, painful cases. People bleeding or with bits hanging out of them, that sort of thing. I couldn't blame him. And, anyway, I didn't know that I had broken a bone. I just worried that I had.

I was wheeled down corridors for an X-ray, then back again to my original plastic chair. People came and went, as they do in hospitals. You can never tell the doctors from everyone else. They should rush about with stethoscopes round their neck, like they do on television. But they don't. Nor would I, if I were a doctor. It would be to invite constant interruptions. You'd never get round to saving humankind.

After a while a woman with a tired face and bushy brown hair came to speak to me in an Italian accent.

"I have looked at your radios," she said, "and you will need screws in your foot."

"You're going to need an intervention," the tired-looking doctor said in an Italian accent.
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It seemed so unlikely that I misunderstood. I don't know what I did understand but it obviously wasn't that I had to be bolted back together because, when she passed again half an hour later, I asked if she had any news for me. I was getting bored on my plastic chair.

"But I told you," she said, as puzzled as she was irritated. "You need an intervention."

I was fascinated. I had that sudden interest in my immediate future, something new and exciting, and that smug satisfaction of "I told you I was ill!" The anthem of the true hypochondriac.

Instructions were given. Don't eat or drink from midnight tonight. Come back at 9. Do this, do that. Prepare to be sliced open.

I spent all that day in a room by myself, like you dream of when you just fancy being left alone and pampered a bit. Apart from having to shower in something orange and industrial and wearing a baggy gown and not getting anything to eat, I couldn't be happier. I read a history of D-Day, read the paper, nodded off, got woken up for tests, went back to the paper.

That afternoon, at 5, a hefty man arrived to wheel me through the hospital on a stretcher. Nobody in hospital is allowed to go anywhere except on his back and backwards. It's like being a backstroke swimmer.

"Is that what you do all day long, wheel people about?" I asked my chauffeur, deeper topics being hard to explore when you're going backwards on a stretcher.

"Not a bad life," he said. "I'm indoors and I'm surrounded all day by pretty girls."

"I told you I was ill!"
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I couldn't see if the girls in the operating theatre were pretty. They wore gowns and head coverings and masks. In fact, except that they were in blue, they looked just like the more severe women we'd seen in Morocco. I told them so, thinking it was a good joke, but they didn't get it. Or they thought it more important to prepare pipes and scalpels and syringes, trivial stuff like that.

I woke up next morning after a night of people pushing thermometers in my ear and taking my blood pressure. At 5 next afternoon, they told me to go away.

I now have two screws in my right foot. I am getting around - wonderful black humour - on the very crutches that I brought back from America after breaking my pelvis. A nurse is to attend to me every day, changing dressings, injecting me daily against the phlebitis I am sure to contract because I can't ride my bike.

In a month or so I can walk again. No trampoline or ballet classes for a further couple of months, though. No hardship, that. And then I can ride. And then, as it happens, my new touring bike will arrive.

Excitement, excitement!

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