Friday, 11 September 2015


He was at the next table to me when his lungs rebelled. He ran from the refectory, coughing and spluttering. Returning a few minutes later, he said:

I hope I didn't put you off your lunch.....


Only I have lung cancer.


Aye, an' there's a bloodclot, just behind it...

Behind the tumor....
And sometimes it presses......


And I start coughing-up blood...

Yes, I said, smiling and nodding, furiously benign, abandoning my lunch.

Most people here have cancer. I am staying in a cancer patients' hotel, close to the hospital;  always the outsider, I don't have cancer; even in a home for the damned I am the exception,  the one who doesn't fit.

Most days, I just get the minibus, carrying only me, to the National Hyperbaric Centre's  Tank of Healing, don the Helmet of   Accursed Perpetual Itch - it happens within a couple of seconds of the helmet closing and lasts for two and a half hours, an itchy, untouchable nose or eyebrow - return and sleep for the afternoon.  I only have to walk amongst them, the cancerous, in the refectory, and even then, I try to  eat my M&S readymeals outside the conventional rush hours.

Invisibly printed on my tee-shirts are the words I am here for treatment, not society; the same rubric is invisibly tattooed on my face and arms.  I am never openly rude, I just avoid eye contact and conversation, save for Good morning and Excuse me, please.  It is just that,  like most people, I cannot stand the sick.  I don't want to catch whatever it is that they have.  I am sure that I can catch lung cancer from this bastard at the next table, spraying our shared air with his ancient, now bloodied cigarette smoke, coughing his filthy disease all over me AND eliciting my sympathy.  He should have stopped fucking smoking, yet even now, bussed, daily, for chemo- or radio-therapy he limps outside for a fag.

Oh, I know, all men are brothers, there but for fortune, no man is an island but I have a good stab at being one.  I have a liberal's theoretical empathy with the ill, I have been ill for thirty years with an incurable disease, not self-ignited, just hereditary and I know that sick people can't or shouldn't be judged by the same yardsticks as those which measure the healthy and I am always amused by the sniping at those who miss doctors' appointments, as though they were Ruin's fifth column. Sick people miss appointments because they're sick, maybe they are grown forgetful or confused, maybe their medications mess with their minds, maybe they are depressed and amotivational, who knows, but that they are sick,  their shortcomings forgivable; instead, Dr SmugCunt, a busy GP, blames them for being his customers, for being messed-up by his careless, mercenary over-prescribing, by his nine-to-five contract, which transfers their care to a call centre.

There is a lot to forgive, when it comes to health, among patients and practitioners and I do forgive this man his stupidity and his loneliness and  his urge to share his icy misery with complete strangers but I don't forgive him enough to be his friend, to engage with him in his death.
I never can understand this hospice business, either, dying is as personal as living gets, the idea of a place in which to go and do it, among strangers, ministered-to by trained mortality symbiotes “is wholly repugnant, the ultimate commodification, something which, so long as I have any physical agency, I will never do.
If I had known how grim was this cheery charity flophouse I would have done something different. I can't bear institutions at the best of times, existing, as they must, entirely for the benefit of their staffs, guards and faculties. An institution for those teetering on Death's slippery tightrope is a bad place to be, when you haven't set foot on the ladder, and even, I guess, if you have.
I am only here for three nights a week so I shouldn't grumble and I am not, really, only about this further  manifestation of Britain as a nation of carers; even in illness and approaching death we are encouraged into unseemly, indiscreet and ill-mannered behaviors, like monkeys, picking fleas from each other.
In sickness and in health, it seems, we are a nation of caring, sharing, a Big Society, noisy and hectoring, uber paedophiles demanding our money for Children in Need;  three grand a week charity bosses demanding our money for their business, fuckwit gabshites like Bob Geldof, demanding our money for the IMF and the whole McMillan Nursing scam letting government off the cancer care hook.
Caring, it's your democratic responsibility, dig deep.

Some may remember, in the days of the Great NewLabour Scam, Imelda the Divine, Tony's Consort, as she described herself, having a paid best friend, one Carole Caplin, a colourful lady, adept in the adjustment of chakras and auras and the dispensation of aromas but mainly in being Imelda's official girlfriend - and, if legend is correct, giving Prince Tony the odd handjob. We do not know if Carole travels still in Tony'n'Imelda's court, nor what she cost us while in Downing Street, all the receipts for her services having been shredded by Imelda,  the efficient housekeeper.  Anyway, I see these McMillan nurses as a refiguring of Carole, the Immaculate Wanker, as paid best friends, their role not to walk you through important social occasions but through the Valley of Death, something which is, properly, God's job. Prayer, that's the thing, reflection, contemplation and such atonement as we can muster,  that our souls not trouble those remaining; instead, we have TeeVee campaigns, reminding us that the McMillan Angels need paying for, govament is too hard-pressed, what with bombing niggermen and everything, to hold people's hands, when they are standing at the North Pole in their dressing gowns, and remember, if we forget to pray for the angels, then the angels forget to pray for us.

 I didn't crawl from the sea, climb the trees, hunt'n'gather, revolutionize agriculturally, industrially and information technologically just to go and participate in a public, community die-in, caring my arse off, about refugees, about the sick and the dying, about all the causes which Sisters of Mercy, plc, insist are my concern. Kids Co, Oxfam, Cancer Ree-surch, they are all the same.  Fortunes are made, funds trousered, reputations burnished;  caring, it's the new Gold Rush.



inmate said...

Aye, 'tis the new gold rush. Unless of course you are one of those carers; Zero hours contracts, minimum wage, unpaid for travelling between 'client's' homes, pay for your own transport, one day off a week. I'm sure most carers would welcome £3000 a week for cooking, cleaning, arse-wiping and trying to be pleasant to some old duffer who probably hasn't a clue whothefuck you are.
They are angels, most of em, and after he has erected the shiny Guillotine brother Corbyn should recognise the sacrifice they give for our old and infirm, bring them back under the states wing and reward them accordingly.

As an aside,the CEO of the local, not national, Guide Dogs charity 'earns' £250,000, while the trainers work as volunteers.

Anonymous said...

Here it comes. Sydney Morning Herald.

One of the surviving passengers of the boat paid $10,000 for their passage but did not think to buy her own children so much as a rubber ring. Just give me strength. She says she paid it via an intermediary to Mr Kurdi, the one who has conveniently lost his wife and children, who was in fact the skipper of the boat.

But the fucking idiot couldn't drive the thing and was playing silly buggers, with the result that they hit a wave and capsized. I don't think that you need particularly bad weather to flip those over if they are over-loaded and wrongly handled.

I repeat: do not make public policy on the basis of weeping parents who are in the understandable grip of trying to shift their own culpability for the death of their children. And that goes for the weeping woman, too.

Mrs Raft (just back from the Bowes Museum YSL exhibition, which is strangely poignant as his working life charted the glamour years from 1958 to 2002. It will enrage some but I urge you to see this as there is more to it than just frocks.)

Anonymous said...

Did you see the piscivorous automaswan while you were there, Mrs Raft? (Not sure what the nowaday equivalent might be, in the more-money-than-sense department - buying a berth on Brancid's spacehopper, perhaps?)

Thanks for the Australian newsfeed - Mr K claimed "the captain jumped into the sea and fled". On the back of a passing porpoise I expect.


mongoose said...

rule no7: stay away from hospitals - they are full of sick people
rule no8: eventually it is the blasted doctor who kills you

I received my getting-fucking-old invite to a medical the other day. This came complete with a toddlers' guide to drinking and eating. Do I eat five or more once a week, once a month, once a... Do you skip breakfast - more than once a week... It was at that point that I knew I was one my last legs because I skip breakfast seven days per week, and have done since I managed to escape Primary School. Anyway, it has been binned. Impertinent fuckers.

call me ishmael said...

I was watching a sign-zone version of a Panorama show, mr inmate, in the early hours, about the menace of socialism, when Mr McCluskey appeared at some Northern Gala which was hosting JC but not the Austerity Triplets. This is our national health service, he thundered at NewLabour, these are our schools, so keep your hands-off them, YOU THIEVING TORY BASTARDS! I lolled out loud, just at hearing a bit of passion, instead of the usual business speak, in which even the dogs in the street now consider themselves fluent.

The thing which most annoys me is that MediaMinster applauds the idea of poorly trained nurses and doctors and social care workers fetching-up here. That frail old people, much less seriously ill hospital patients, should, in their time of dying, be surrounded by Poles and Pakistanis and now Syrians, who not only do not speck English but whose whole enculturation is alien to the vulnerable in their charge. It is absolutely monstrous. The need for such workers, may and should be lessened by smarter accommodation, monitoring and medication solutions but we will need tens of thousands of well-trained, English-speaking, well-paid and well respected workers; Ludmilla, on the cheap, cursing the old folks in Latvian, is taking the piss.

call me ishmael said...

A tenet of stanislavism, that, best keep out from hand of doctorbastard, fucking kill a bloke with filthy fucking hands, clothes all cover up with germ, and fucking idle greedybastard fucking arsehole excuse for physician give stanislav drug not fit to unblock fucking drain but PharmaRep says, eeyare, doctor, give this fucking rubbish to patient and have free holiday in Rio de fucking Janeiro; oh, fuck me, nearly forgot, have gold Rolex, too. Tested? Work on fucking guinea pig, is good enough, job done.

call me ishmael said...

Thanks, mrs woar, I will read that when I get home. I hope it gets as much coverage as the dead kid, and as much response.

I an afraid I simply don't know what you and mr verge are talking about, is this a fish museum?

Anonymous said...

Visited the mechanical swan but missed the 2pm performance, Mr Verge. They have beautifully presented videos on spooky floating screens for those unable to be there. I'm afraid we came over irreverant at the wee jewelled mouse, imagining it running round and being stamped on by a short-sighted guest, then Mr Bowes yelling "That cost me £22 I'll have thee know. Extorrrtionate".

The place is a mad treasure house where taste swings widely from the sublime to the ridiculous. The bad stuff is almost more informative than the good. To be fair, their far-sighted decision to collect sample textiles probably looked silly at the time. Now it is a treasure trove of techiques and materials, much of it with original documentation. The YSL foundation chose a sympathetic museum to work with. People were dressing up for the visit. Mr Raft had the pleasure of driving his old convertible with the top down and parking it outside the chateau, then crunching over the gravel whilst wearing his best flat hat and leather jacket. Yves would have approved. In the glorious warmth of late summer, a pair of aging hippies finally achieve the cool of 1966, stepping in to the magazine picutures. We had dinner out and drove home with the lid still down, a warm wind blowing the stars around. Glamour does not last but by golly it is a powerful drug while it runs.
Mrs Raft (on tour).

Here is the swan.

Many of the items in the museum make more sense when they are understood as technical masterpieces which show off the ability to take materials to their limits. The spiral glass rods, for example, are fascinating even when still.

Anonymous said...

Here is an hour long documentary which only requires you to sit back and let the presenter hit his fruity stride. It explains about the swan and how it came in to being, and what that meant socially, politically, technologically, and philosophically.

Mechanical Marvels, Clockwork Dreams.

Mrs Raft on tour.

Mike said...

Spotted elsewhere:

Sums it up, succinctly.

tdg said...

One could profitably spend a week teaching the literary skilled how and why each word in this piece could not have been another.

Dick the Prick said...

Geez dude, all sounds a bit rum - all the very best and I hope the itching isn't driving you demented. I guess, on some tiny tangent - the quality of M&S ready meals are pretty dam good these days, vast improvement in the last few years. Seriously tho, good luck.

call me ishmael said...

THank you, mr dick but there is no great import to this treatment, no alaruinms and excursions and there are other options if it fails, this is just the least invasive.

call me ishmael said...

I meant, mr tdg, to say Valley of the shadow of Death - the Almighty's valley, rather than the Lord Tennyson's; the 23rd Psalm, rather than the Charge of the Light Brigade. There is always something wrong.