The morning after we were wedded, I went to hospital in Marseille. The oncologist wanted to assess the pain level and find the right daily morphine dose. I went down in the back of a taxi and from the taxi to the cancer ward in a wheelchair. A nurse with a form checked me into the single-occupancy room, asking me my name, address, date of birth, occupation, etc. Then: ‘Are you married?’ ‘Yes. We married only yesterday as a matter of fact.’ The dear soul could not have been happier for us, though she was probably mystified as to who on earth would want to marry a mummy with the bandages off.
While in hospital I had to relinquish control of my daily morphine dose to the nurses. I take two sorts of morphine capsules, long-acting and short-. At home I was taking 80mg of the long-acting morphine twice a day. On top of that I was allowed up to six bright red short-acting 10mg capsules per day as and when I felt like one. I applaud these red ones for their bright, cheerful colour and because they afford me some control over my life. Reluctant to give them up entirely, I hoarded one in case of an emergency, concealing it on my bed table, under a paperback copy of For Whom the Bell Tolls.
One of the nurses – she had a neck tattoo possibly depicting a piece of ectoplasm – immediately smelled a rat. ‘You took the last capsule? Are you sure? From one to ten what is your pain level now? Four? But this morning you said it was only three, Mr Clarke.’
Then she grilled me with questions printed on a form.