Jeremy Clarke Jeremy Clarke

The joy of French hospital food

The dessert satsuma was the fizziest I’ve ever eaten

Credit: Alphotographic

I woke up in the wake-up room (salle de réveil). The clock on the wall said half past ten. I’d been out for a couple of hours. What lifted me to the surface was the sound of the wake-up team persuading someone to wake up who was absolutely refusing to do so. The entreaties increased in volume and urgency. Then I heard a male voice say, in English: ‘Wake up please, Mr Clarke.’ I nodded my sleepy head to show him that I was already there. The voice then asked me in French whether I was in pain and I answered in French that I was not. After that I listened with interest to the tug of war between the wake-up team advocating wakefulness and the patient refusing it.

The anaesthetist, I noticed, had added a delightful sedative to her narcotic mix, perhaps as a friendly treat. I once had radioactive needles inserted into my prostate gland while I was awake, but sedated by, among other things, I think, the date-rape drug Rohypnol. That particular day there were two of us in for the same treatment. The other patient was an elderly south Devon farmer. Asked afterwards by the oncologist how it had gone, the farmer had replied: ‘My dear, it was the most wonderful experience of my life.’ I felt something like that now. For the first time since the last time I had a general anaesthetic – six months ago – I felt entirely at peace with myself and with the world. All was well and all would be well. Aren’t drugs wonderful?  

I hoped that the same highly sexed hospital porter as took me down to the surgical unit would be called to push me back up to my comfortable room on the sixth floor. But he was probably copulating in a cupboard somewhere and couldn’t be raised on his radio phone, and another, much older man came, whose libido was a typhoon that had largely blown itself out.

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