Melissa Kite

Real life | 21 July 2012

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Luckily, I got The Ridiculous over and done with when I discharged myself from my local hospital in south London. 

Now it was time for The Sublime.

‘Good evening, madam, and welcome to the Princess Grace. If you would please take a seat for a few moments, someone will show you to your room.’

It really was a few moments, too.

A cheerful porter grabbed hold of my bags and swept me into a lift taking us two floors up to a pristine room overlooking St Marylebone church. When I say pristine, I mean pristine. Never mind eating your dinner off the floor. You could have eaten your dinner out of the loo if a white satin-effect ribbon had not been tied across the bowl. I made a mental note not to disturb it if at all possible because it just looked so nice.

They had done Michelin-inspired towel origami too. The complimentary miniatures of Molton Brown were tucked inside one of the fluffy Egyptian cotton hand towels which had been made into a little boat.

I don’t want to make a cheap, pointless comparison between this bathroom and the bathroom I was forced to use in the south London hospital. 

I wouldn’t want to highlight the contrast between the pin-clean, five-star hospital bathroom and the fact that the NHS one looked like it had seen active service during a salmonella outbreak at Glastonbury.

It wouldn’t be fair. After all, the Princess Grace is a private institution funded by millions of pounds of private money. Whereas my local hospital in south London is a public institution funded by, er, millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money. So obviously it cannot be expected to keep up.

It cannot be expected to provide free movie channels, or electrically operated beds, or waffle bathrobes, or disposable slippers in cellophane bags, although, in truth, these can’t cost that much and yet they make all the difference when you feel ill.

Nor can it be expected to provide a menu with restaurant-quality food. Again, I can’t quite think why not, but I’m sure someone left-wing will explain it to me. Presumably it is for the same reason that it can’t clean bathrooms or treat patients until they have lain on a trolley for 12 hours.

Anyway, the menu was jolly nice and so I kept my pre-op nerves at bay by filling in my order form for dinner, hoping that when I came round from the surgery I might be able to squeeze in a light meal. I hadn’t eaten since that morning and the tagliatelle sure looked tempting. The waiter collected the order with a flourish, asking if I would like to see the wine list as well. 

But when the consultant came round to see me he informed me that I would not be having dinner. I might manage a sandwich after the op but even that was unlikely. 

I suppose it was just as well he reminded me that I was, in fact, about to undergo surgery, not a mani-pedicure. I tried to forget about the tagliatelle and the Molton Brown minis and refocus my mind on the ordeal ahead.

But after the surgeon shook my hand gallantly and left, the waiter appeared with a four-course meal on a tray. ‘I can’t eat dinner,’ I reminded him.

‘It’s for your guest, madam,’ he said, nodding to the boyfriend, who was sitting by the bed. It was mushroom soup, tagliatelle with cream and courgette sauce, salad, and a strawberry and kiwi tartlet.

‘I can’t believe you’re going to eat that tagliatelle while I’m starving.’

The boyfriend pulled up a chair and tucked in. ‘Be a shame to waste it.’

‘Fine. I’m filling in the form for the late supper. Now, let’s or smoked salmon sandwich...smoked salmon I think ...and fries...’

‘If you want,’ said the boyfriend, slurping soup and stuffing bits of bread roll into his mouth, ‘I’ll wait while you’re having the surgery.’

‘Oh no, you don’t. You’re not getting my sandwich.’

When I came round from the anaesthetic, the waiter was most apologetic. 

It turned out I had been gone for longer than expected. The wobbly bits on the scan that the south London hospital told me should be left well alone were in fact not the sort of thing you leave well alone at all.

Perhaps the NHS doctors had decided that two organs being stuck together made for some sort of future efficiency saving. In any case, the private specialist spent two hours untangling everything and when I came round the waiter was beside himself.

He had brought me the smoked salmon sandwich but as it was late and the kitchen had closed he couldn’t serve me the fries. ‘I’m so sorry, madam,’ he said, mortified by this terrible oversight.