Jeremy Clarke Jeremy Clarke

The atmosphere of the surgical unit was that of a cocktail party half an hour in

Late in life it has been the compensation for the India lost as a youth

[Photo: PeopleImages]

Standing at the door was a hospital porter. He was resting an elbow on the back of a heavily padded wheelchair. A strapping lad, wholly masculine, a credit to us all. He regarded me levelly with a sort of Byronic boredom. I was fetching in a paper shower cap, paper gown, knee-length stockingettes and paper socks inside claret slippers decorated with the West Ham football club logo of crossed riveting hammers. The slippers – a Christmas present – arrested his survey.

‘West Ham,’ he said. ‘We sold you Payet.’ ‘You did,’ I said. ‘Fat and moody, but what a player.’ At La Timone hospital in Marseille everybody supports Olympique de Marseille or OM. You sometimes see hospital administrators in the replica shirts. ‘Marcelo Bielsa made him the player he is,’ said the porter. ‘Before Bielsa he was a crazy man.’ ‘I didn’t know that,’ I said. He looked pensively at me for a while, then motioned me into his bathchair, as if such ignorance should be passed over.

Her dark eyes communicated an intimacy and perhaps even a sauciness which took me by surprise

I lowered myself in and he deftly span me around. Now facing the window, I noticed the first glimmering of daylight edging the mountains to the north. Although it happens once every six months, I look forward to the kidney stent replacement less and less. It’s a day procedure, all done through the end of my willy. Theatre, recovery room, scanner, three hours’ repose on the day ward micturating blood and razor blades, a spot of lunch, then home in a taxi.

The porter propelled me down the corridors of the vast hospital at a purposeful lick. In the lifts he lounged, a pasha, a voluptuary, and winked pacifically at the nurses coming and going. Soon we arrived at the key-coded electronic gate of ‘le bloc’ or surgical unit.

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