Jeremy Clarke Jeremy Clarke

My neighbour’s dinner party was a near-death experience

By the end, I felt as though I’d been bayoneted in the guts by a Prussian guardsman

Michael uncorked a couple of bottles of red and offered razor-thin slices of biltong as an appetiser. Credit: Xsandra

At dawn, starving, I drove to a commercial laboratory in the town centre where five phials of blood were taken from my arm. I was then handed a plastic jar and a refreshing wipe and directed to the nearest unisex lavatory to give a urine sample (mid-stream). Then a nurse stuck a long cotton bud up my nose as far as it would go and twiddled it this way and that. Blood, urine and Covid tests were preparatory to a hospital admission for a procedure involving a general anaesthetic. Then I drove home and ate a kipper for breakfast. While I was eating, Catriona stuck a hypodermic needle in my upper arm and injected me with a flu jab she’d bought at the village pharmacy — the last one in the shop.

In the afternoon I felt a little queer in an undefinable way and went upstairs to lie down. Then a sharp pain, situated I think in my colon, intermittent at first, then continuous, drove me to cry out for painkillers. I lay on the bed like a dying duck for the rest of the afternoon until five thirty, when it was time to get ready to go out.

I washed down the codeine-based pills with a goodly tot of gin, lied on my Covid attestation form and set off

We were slated for dinner at Michael’s house, door to door a distance of about 100 yards. I can’t stand dinner parties at the best of times. But knowing Michael, he had put a lot of time and effort into the meal preparation, so I washed down more codeine-based painkillers with a goodly tot of gin, lied on my Covid ‘attestation’ form that I was leaving the house for the purpose of exercising the dog, and tottered down the path to Michael’s house.

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