Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Semi-Final Destination

So I mentioned last week that an over-running gig at the Edinburgh Fringe had resulted in a slight injury for the Ocelot. Here's the full sorry story:

I'm at the Blind Poet pub with Mr CJ Hooper to see the highly entertaining Deborah Frances-White perform her Friend of a Friend of Dorothy gig. As long-time readers will be aware, the Ocelot's Fringe timetable is a thing of intricate precision and beauty, cramming the maximum amount of shows into every day. This sort of thing takes - in the words of Jack Burton - crackerjack timing, with just enough time in between shows for me to get from venue A to venue B. On this occasion I have 30 minutes from the end of this show to start of the next - The Lost Hancocks - across town in the Assembly Rooms, which is just about enough time.

So when her show gets to the 1 hour mark and she's still talking, I start to get nervous. When it's 5 minutes over and she's halfway through a Jehovah's Witness story, I really start to panic. But when you're sat in a brightly lit pub bar with the performer between you and the exit, there ain't no way you can leave without looking like a grade A tool. So I sits and I panics.

Suddenly she stops and asks the time. She gasps in shock. Evidently the clock behind the bar, which she's been using to time her show, is woefully slow. Hence the padding out of her set with the JW material. She is both apologetic and understandably annoyed, as she really wants to get to the end of her story. So she she goes on for another 5 minutes.

I am now 10 minutes late. I bid goodbye to CJ and bolt from the pub, jogging down to the main road phoning Herself to explain the delay and simultaneously scanning the street for an available taxi.

Nada, they're all occupied. I reach the main road, still jogging. About 18 minutes to get across town. I could probably do it if I ran all the way, but Edinburgh is not the flattest of cities, and August not the quietest of months. The streets between me and my destination are thick with Fringe-going crowds and tourists.

Still looking for a taxi, I trot over to a traffic island near the Pleasance Dome off Potterrow, looking over one shoulder. My feet don't get the message from my brain to keep going in one direction and I stumble. One, two three breakneck steps, with my body lurching further toward the horizontal with every tottering footfall. And then I hit pavement.

I strike hands first, so my fall is more or less broken, but it's a jarring impact on my palms all the same. I tumble to the ground on one shoulder like a drunken judo fighter and then roll up onto my feet almost immediately, even as thoughtful flyerers and passerby rush to my aid. I attribute my speedy recovery as much to the power of embarrassment as my cat-like reflexes.

Staggering on, and finally getting a taxi, I have time to examine my wounds: two grazed palms, a worrying ache in the wrists and - as I later discover - a snapped bracelet. I was probably quite lucky to have avoided more serious woundage. All thanks to a slow clock. And my inability to keep one foot in front of the other.

That sorry incident put me in mind of another story, not so very long ago, in which the law of unforeseen consequences also struck, with moderately unpleasant results for the Ocelot. Such incidents are leading me to suspect that the universe is doing its best to slightly maim me through an increasingly Byzantine series of unfortunate events. It's a bit like the Final Destination films, but with Horrific Death replaced by Minor Disfigurement And Inconvenience. I call this story

The Curse of the Pox Mother

Warning - this story contains unpleasant bodily humours

I notice a tiny lump on my head, possibly an insect bite picked up while visiting Birmingham. This is by no means an indictment of that redoubtable city's track record on pest control. I am certainly not suggesting that the delightful B&B in which I overnighted was host to Bloodsucking Head Bugs. Oh no.

The tiny lump gets scratched. I admit it. I'm a scratcher. It gets infected, I guess, and gets a bit bigger and doesn't go away. After 5 days I am persuaded by Herself to get down to the doctors' and get it checked out. Those of you familiar with the 'start phoning at 8am and keep redialling for the next hour until you get through' style of GP booking protocols will appreciate the funtimes I had that Friday morning.

But I get through eventually, and by using the magic words 'urgent' and 'infection', I manage to get in to see someone that morning. One of the prescribing nurses, as it happens, which is to say a nurse who can deal with minor cuts and bruises and who can prescribe medications of the painkilling and anti-infectional variety. Just what I need.

I get to the GP clinic and sit down in the waiting room. 5 minutes to go for my appointment. So why are there so many people ahead of me?

The answer becomes clear when a woman emerges from the consulting room, child in one arm, phone in the other hand. Thanks to her stage whispered conversation with - I presume - her mate, it is apparent that she is unhappy with the service she is receiving from the prescribing nurse. Something to do with 'not getting a letter'.

She paces up and down the corridor in obvious annoyance. Then she turns and I get a good look at her child's face. He's covered in chicken pox. Not late-stage crusty chicken pox, no. The early very-infectious little red spots sort of chicken pox. Thanks for bringing your poxy kid in for the rest of us to enjoy, lady.

A doctor is called in to mollify the Pox Mother, who we can hear raising her voice from within the consulting room once more. Eventually, after some 20 minutes of haranguing, she leaves, red-faced and irritable, not unlike her child. I am then called in to see the nurse.

Of course, health care professionals are supposed to be, well, professional, but she is clearly rattled. Being the sort of Friend To All Mankind that you know the Ocelot to be, I make sympathetic noises and surmise from the nurse that the Pox Mother was trying to secure a letter of transit for the child to board a plane (not unlike the plot of Casablanca), despite being highly chicken poxy. By all accounts she became verbally abusive to the nurse and left the good woman in something of a distracted state.

Just how distracted I would not appreciate until many days later.

So she has a quick look at my bonce, writes a prescription for antibiotics and sends me on my way. Our entire appointment has probably taken but 3 minutes, 2 minutes of which were taken up with me sort of apologising for the behaviour of the Pox Mother who preceded me, because I am British and that is what we do.

I gets me antibiotics and I starts taking 'em, confident that the nasty infection will soon go away, as such things do.

A few days later I am in the hairdressers, getting a very expensive hair colouring treatment from a nice young man with a tiny tattoo of a pair of styling tongs behind one ear. This detail is by no means important but it is a lovely little touch to my real life tale. In retrospect, I probably should have cancelled the hair appointment and avoided exposing my aggrieved scalp to a chemical bath of ammonia and chromonite (I made that one up), but I was well into my antibiotics course now; surely the infection was clearing up?

Only it wasn't. It was getting worse. By now the lump had swollen up under my hair like a tiny volcano, oozing and aching as it stretched the skin. It wasn't getting better, and I was beginning to worry. But not enough to actually go back to the doctor's because I didn't want to make a fuss (see 'being British' above).

Eventually it is 2 weeks after the initial Birmingham Bug Bite and Mount Ocelot is still growing. Not only that, but we are now driving to the lovely Shropshire town of Ludlow for a week away with the parents. The weight of the lump on my head is probably causing my head to loll on one side; it feels like I could be claiming child benefit for it.

Fortunately, where my head is addled with ooze and Britishness, Herself's is clear with take-chargeness and peculiar ability to get things done on behalf of someone else who is too sheepish to sort themselves out. Using the Power of the 21st Century, she uses her smartphone to locate the nearest minor injures unit to our holiday destination, and directs me there as soon as we have decamped the parents at the holiday home.

There, on a quiet Saturday evening, we find the hospital practically deserted apart from ourselves and a couple of lovely ladies of the nursing variety. I go straight in and plop down in an amazing reclining chair that is - wonder of wonders - actually made for an adult over 5'6", unlike the local dentist's chair, which is permanently configured for the more compact patron. How my back aches after a long scrape of me molars.

But I digress. The nurses take a look at Mount Ocelot and proclaim that it is not infected, but full of pus. A very large amount, as it transpires. It is the source of my discomfort and needs to be dealt with promptly. At which point the senior nurse places the palms of her hands on either side of my scalp and gives me a good squeeze.

I would like to say that at this point there is an audible pop and we are all showered with vileness, like Humpty Dumpty cracking his head, but in reality I at least am spared the horrors of the squeezing. The nurses, professionals that they are, do not blanch at whatever John Hurt in Aliens imagery that confronts them a few inches above my eyes. Doubtless they've seen worse on a Saturday night.

I am sent away with a small bandage clamped to my wounded scalp and reassurances that it has all been cleaned out now and will start to heal properly from now on. But all is not 100% well. There have been casualties in this sorry tale, to wit: a small fistful of hair, about the size of an old 50p piece which perforce had to be wrenched out by the nurse in the squozing process. I am left with a bald patch and must now artfully sweep my remaining locks over the bare expanse like a young Bobby Charlton attempting his first combover.

This follicular folly would not have been necessary if the first nurse I went to hadn't been so distracted and she in turn would not have been so distracted had it not been for the monomaniacal efforts of the Pox Mother to get her sweet little Patient Zero aboard whichever hapless flight she was intent on.

Perhaps I do the Pox Mother a disservice. Perhaps she absolutely had to get little Jack on the plane to see an ailing granny, or to get that vital bone marrow transplant he needs in Sweden. But if he didn't, if it was just for a bloody week by the pool in bloody Spain, then you owe me, lady, you owe me a fistful of hair.

* * *

Or maybe this is just how all accidents occur, if we but took the time to analyse how they came about. Where I see cosmic malevolence and catastrophic butterfly effects, there may simply be random chance and the rubbishness of humans. You decide.

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