I can’t stop the tears rolling down my cheeks,
My pain still raw as days turn to weeks.
Time will heal so I am told,
Yet grief clings to me like festering mould.
You were taken too sudden away from us all,
I wish I had the power of time to stall,
I would tell you how much you meant to me,
A dad not in name but a dad to me.
I’d thank you for loving and looking after my mum,
For all my memories in our family album.
I’d tell you I loved you every day,
The words in your life I never did say.
My heart feels now as weak as yours
And into infinity my sadness pours.
My mind beats fast when I think of you,
My heart dreams vivid colours so true.
A mix of emotions run through my veins,
A tribe of wild horses released from their reins.
Fear of unknown adventures ahead,
Wondering where fate this time has led.
Excitement coursing through me so fast,
A little bit cautious due to my past.
You’ve touched my soul in this short time already,
I feel euphoric, blessed, giddy and heady.
I’ll let you inside to the core of me,
If you’ll cherish my heart I’ll give you the key.
You’re stuck in my brain and I can’t set you free,
You’re having a strange effect on me.
I want to swim with you in lemon jelly,
Cuddle nude while watching the telly.
Write your name on my book in permanent ink,
Fly high through clouds of candyfloss pink.
Words tangle like spaghetti when I try to talk,
My mouth feeling like crumbling chalk.
Your smile thrown my way starts my tummy to spin,
Head all giddy like I’ve been on gin.
If I held your hand once I might just explode,
Leaving my bits all over the road.
You have no idea what you do to me,
If you felt the same I’d scream ‘yippee’!
I arrived bright and early at Nevil Hall Hospital. When I say bright I of course mean the day was bright not me. I was feeling hollow and fantasizing about soup – carrot and coriander. I also had the shakes. My body wasn’t enjoying the effects of no food for twenty hours and it certainly didn’t like the lava waterfall the night before courtesy of ‘klean prep’. Horrific and no more will be said of that.
I reported to the desk of the LLanwenarth day surgery suite, which makes it sound quite glamorous, and waited my turn. A lovely nurse called Judy checked me in and took all my details, my allergies: penicillin, animal saliva and fur, broad beans. I’m guessing they only needed to know about the penicillin allergy. Judy then discovered my blood pressure was a little high – no surprise as I was in the middle a panic attack. I was given wrist bands on each arm (appearing like I’d been to a really good festival) and an extra red one alerting anyone of my penicillin allergy. I was disappointed I didn’t have one alerting people to not feed me broad beans.
Judy then left the room for me to strip off and change into the fashionable hospital gown. I’m being sarcastic, it was anything but fashionable. I know these have to be low budget but surely they could find material suppliers with cheap funky designs. I’d want disco cats on mine. After a quick sit down in a side waiting room, doing some last minute Facebooking and a quick Kindle read, I was whisked into the treatment room.
My veins are cowardly and like to play hide and seek and thought it would be great fun to disappear completely. It took a full ten minutes for the surgeon to get a cannula in a vein. The nurse had looked first and decided she’d leave it to the surgeon as she couldn’t find any at all to even have a stab at. Now ten minutes may not sound long but when you are needle and hospital phobic and already struggling to hold onto happy thoughts to stay in your happy place, (a snowy winter forest with a wolf watching over me), having people tapping all over your arms and hands to find a vein seems like hours. The surgeon kept apologising for my uncooperative veins while he tapped. It reminded me of when seagulls tap the ground to get worms to rise to the surface.
I was given a drug first to make me woozy, it did and I felt nicely fuzzy headed. Then I was given anesthetic to make me sleepy and floating but not go under. I don’t know if I had a little too much but my blood pressure dropped like Mafioso in concrete boots and I went under. That was my highlight. It was heavenly. I felt myself free falling slowly down through water with friendly pink and green spotty octopi and electric blue jellyfish buffeting me like mini trampolines as I sank. I felt so relaxed. So I wasn’t best pleased with the nurse for waking me up and I asked her to leave me with the octopus. She didn’t though and I had pain inside that I can’t even describe. Every time I cried out in pain I apologised straight away for being a baby. I requested ‘give me more’ meaning give me more drugs but it felt like this had been misinterpreted as give me more tubing up my backside!
The nurse was a star though and tried to keep me calm by reminding me how to breathe, always good to be reminded, and telling me that she would like to go and work in Canada but her boyfriend doesn’t want to leave the UK. I normally wouldn’t offer advice without being asked but the power of anesthetic removes the filter of tact. ‘Leave him behind’ was my helpful drugged up advice. She had lovely eyebrows and an unpronounceable Welsh name beginning with I. ‘Ooh that’s exotic! Where are you from?’ ‘Merthyr’.
I was wheeled to the wake up room and had three more lovely nurses looking after me, well, chatting by my bedside monitoring my blood pressure readings. Its great lying back with your eyes closed listening to other peoples conversations. I learnt that a nurse in another room was a boring stickler to the rules with no sense of humour but she had a sporty car with a double exhaust. Yes, a double exhaust – this was quite out of character apparently. One of the nurses around my bed had moved to Abergavenny from Bristol to be near her husband’s family but they were all horrid to her and she wanted to move back, but he didn’t want to move. ‘Leave him behind’ I shouted in my head. That seemed to be my stock advice of the day. Do what you want with your life not what others want you to do.
After sitting in a squeaky green pleather chair with a cup of tea (which tasted like the best tea ever) for half an hour I was discharged home with a report of a normal healthy colon and wind noises in my bowels sounding like a blue whale fighting with Chewbacca. Happy days.
The Southbank at dusk was a magical sight. Twinkling lights on trees lining the Thames like stars descending from the inky night sky, the London Eye drawing the crowds with its luminous blue hue monopolising the skyline. There were so many tourists still lining up for the Eye to view the cities illuminations, taking their photos in turn, and smiling happily. Natalie took her photos, arty shots at different angles, wishing her camera took better images in low light. A new camera went on her mental Christmas list.
Having taken enough photos of the Eye and Houses of Parliament across the Thames Natalie decided to walk back to her hotel along the river instead of jumping on the tube. It was a nice night for a walk, just the right temperature, cool enough not to overheat with brisk walking, plus the thought of trying to cope with Waterloo station was too much for her. It wasn’t the enclosed space of the underground that freaked her out but the escalators as her fear of heights would send her into a jumble of nerves and sweat when using one and the drop and depth of the Waterloo escalator was the worst one.
Walking along the Southbank she carried on taking a few more photographs passing by the eateries where ‘around the world’ aromas filled the night air, the Mexican burritos smelled divine and she was very tempted to pause and eat except the customers at the outdoor tables were all in couples or cosy groups of friends and she felt slightly self-conscious on her own. She decided to stick with her plan of buying snacks from the little shop next to her hotel.
Walking away from the hustle and bustle of the nightlife Natalie strolled further along the riverbank taking more photos, she really wanted to capture St Paul’s Cathedral lit up at night and it certainly was a beautiful night sky tonight for that. The chatter of pedestrians had petered out now and there was just an occasional couple hand in hand and a few fellow photographers milling about, all trying to capture that perfect photo. Taking her last snaps of St Paul’s across the Thames she tucked her camera away in her bag, glancing around to make sure no one was watching her.
Natalie noticed that her feet were really starting to hurt now, a full day walking on them was now telling. She weighed up in her mind the prospect of the long walk further ahead to the hotel or the quick walk back to Waterloo to brave the escalator and be back at the hotel much sooner. Her feet said tube so she went with that decision, having a quick spray of rescue remedy in preparation. Rather than retrace her route back along the river and then up to Waterloo she thought she’d cut through the streets in a more diagonal line to the station to save time and some steps for her feet. Not exactly how a crow flies but more the route of a cat walk.
A few streets in and Natalie was playing back the day in her mind, thinking of all the shots she would edit when she got home. She was suddenly aware how eerily quiet the streets were and how dark it was away from the riverbank’s illuminations and how nervous her stomach had just become.
‘Get a grip’, she told herself, ‘you’re nearly there now, it must be the next left’.
She took the next left but still felt uneasy as she couldn’t see anyone else around or signs of movement at the end of the street. Her walk picked up pace and her eyes were in overdrive scanning all around her like a malfunctioning robot. She was about halfway along the street and could see a few cars travelling past the end of it so her shoulders started to relax and she felt silly for having felt a little scared, it was then that she heard footsteps behind her.
Automatically glancing around while picking up her pace she saw a man about twelve foot behind her in jeans and a lightweight jacket, average height, average build, average attacker? Natalie’s shoulders had retreated once again to a hunched tense position and she was walking so fast her lungs felt like they would burst at any minute yet the man behind her was still keeping up with her, she chided herself for not being fitter and put ‘more fitness’ on her mental to do list.
His footsteps were matching hers and he must be taking bigger strides she thought as the sound of them was getting louder, her mind had started to panic, should she pull out her phone and call the police? No, that might slow her down or even if he wasn’t going to mug her seeing her phone might tempt him to. What was in her other pocket? Rescue remedy, great, she could calm her attacker with that. She’d just keep walking with intent, she was nearly at the end of the street now and she could hear a vehicle nearby, her heart was beating faster, his footsteps were getting louder, he was getting so close behind her, she swallowed – clearing her throat ready to scream and had her hands ready to dig nails into where needed. He was next to her, she held her breath, he overtook her, and she still held her breath. They were at the end of the street, he wasn’t going to attack her. She breathed out. A screech of tyres from an oncoming van that pulled up in front of both of them made Natalie and the man stop in their tracks for a split second. A lot happened in the few seconds that followed, the side door to the van slid open and two men with balaclavas jumped out holding guns and shouting at the man to get in. He did after having one of the guns thrust in his face.
‘And your girlfriend too,’ said one of the thugs as he pointed his gun at Natalie.
‘No, I’m not his girlfriend! I’m not with him!’
‘Get in’, said the thug.
Iris tried to keep her breathing under control as she led under the bed, as flat to the floor as she could possibly be. She concentrated on trying to breathe as slowly as possible in direct opposition to the rapid runaway palpitations of her heart. Her one hand was across her mouth, in case her voice betrayed her and cried out involuntary, while her other hand gripped tightly to the handle of a sturdy hunting knife. Her father had given her the knife and she always kept it on her, usually attached to her belt, when he had to leave her in the house alone to go out food salvaging. She wished he was home with her now, but panicked at the thought of him arriving back any moment and putting himself in danger. The sound of a glass breaking downstairs caused Iris to refocus on her breathing.
Luckily she’d been upstairs when the intruders broke in. Judging from the noise and voices Iris thought there must be at least four down there. Hiding under the bed was her first instinct but now she was thinking that maybe trying to climb out the window and run away would be a better idea. Although she didn’t know where to run to. Surrounded by only fields and woodland there were no neighbours or other buildings to hideout in. The Johnson’s barn was the nearest but that had been burnt down in the cleansing. If she ran her father wouldn’t know where to find her. That thought was more terrifying than sharing her house with the intruders.
Raucous laughter echoed up the stairs and under the gap between the bedroom door and the floorboards. The laughter continued downstairs while footsteps rose up the stairs. Iris’s heart pumped faster and the urge to urinate almost took over her. The heavy footsteps slowly got louder as they approached the bedroom door. The shadow of an intruder crept under the door. Iris’s hand holding the knife was trembling. The door slowly swung open and Iris could see a pair of black leather boots, scuffed and muddy. The boots didn’t enter the bedroom but moved away down the hall. The sound of urinating in the bathroom was a slight relief to Iris. The intruder would go back downstairs and hopefully they would take what they wanted and leave before her father came home.
The heavy footsteps came back across the hallway. They didn’t go back down the stairs. They paused at her bedroom door again. And entered. The boots steadily crossed the room with Iris’s eyes following them unblinkingly. She listened to drawers opening and watched as items dropped to the floor, her notebook, her bra. A grubby hand with chewed down nails scooped down and picked up the bra. The boots were only a few feet away from her face. She realised she was holding her breath. The boots didn’t move. Time seemed stuck like a stagnant pond. Then with a sudden shifting of the boots, that caused Iris to exhale with force, the intruder was on his knees and looking directly at her with depraved grimace.
‘Hello little whore’.
Megan lay in the bed, covered with a thin off-white sheet and a blue scratchy blanket so threadbare it was almost a trade description offence to call it a blanket. It was quite cold and the flimsy hospital gown didn’t offer much warmth either. If she had a bit more meat on her bones she wouldn’t feel the cold as much but advancing years had dissolved the fat and muscle from her.
She pressed her buzzer by the side of the bed to ask a nurse for another blanket, they wouldn’t rush to her, she could hear them talking inanely at the end of the ward about a holiday last year or the year before. The pinging of the fluorescent light flickering above Megan’s bed was temporarily drowned out by the sound of the patient on her left, Mrs Brown, chewing sloppily open-mouthed on whatever inappropriate food her family had dropped off half an hour ago just as visiting time was ending. Mrs Brown was diabetic yet her family kept feeding her chocolates and sweets. Mrs Brown never talked, she just chewed loudly or expelled wind.
Megan’s right ear was not spared disturbance either as Miss Nash had been violently coughing throughout the night and had still not dislodged whatever it was that was causing aggravation, she was trying her best to though as the sound of spitting phlegm into an echoing pan had been intermingled with the hacking cough.
Megan closed her eyes, tired of staring at the nurses’ station, where they had now turned her buzzer back to ‘off’ but were still debating Ibiza or Magaluf. Over the generic hospital smell, which reminded Megan of the fluid in her departed husband’s insulin injections, there was a pungent stench of disinfectant still lingering from an incident of vomiting from a lady opposite whose name Megan didn’t know. She’d only been brought in a few hours ago, a replacement for the lady who died in the night, Megan didn’t know her name either but she’d been lying there a few hours between discovery and removal, maybe the disinfectant was masking the odour of death as well as the vomit.
Clacking footsteps increasing in volume towards Megan’s bed made her open her eyes in time to see a nurse stopping at the end of her bed.
“What is it?” said the nurse, “What did you press for?”
“I’m getting a bit chilly love” said Megan, “Could I have another blanket please?”
“Do you really need one? Everyone else will want one if I get you one.” Said the nurse.
“Oh” said Megan glancing at Mrs Brown and Miss Nash, both looking blankly at her, “I’ll be ok then.”
The nurse plodded back down the ward without saying anymore. Megan stared at the cold metal bar at the side of her bed, left permanently up as she could not get out of her bed unaided, and tried to remember how many days her son had said she would be in there for.