Monday, February 27, 2006

The long trip to teatime


There I was, dotted lines drawn all over me for Professor Nyfenfork's ease of scalpelling, when word came down from the top floor that my operation was postponed for (at least) twenty-four hours. I wasn't on the dinner list as the kitchen had expected me to be still unconscious this evening, but egg on toast was materialised on my behalf and duly munched-upon with great satisfaction. Tea, of course, followed, served from a mighty two-handler of a Brown Betty not much smaller than myself. No end of refills, too. Ah, tea.

The evenings are getting quite a stretch, I noticed, as I slid feet into slippers and arms into dressing-gown sleeves, intent on stretching my legs with a turn or two up and down the corridors.

Saint Feasance's is a vast old pile, though not, apart from the wing which contains my bed, in the best of order. The tiles are cracked in very many places, and many's the window is broken. Birds that I could not see but heard plainly, appear to live in the ceilings of many of the empty wards. And there are what I can only describe as termite mounds in what I took to be some sort of laundry room.

The quiet slap-slap of my slippers accompanied me as I followed my curiosity up yet another flight of stairs; this by way of beginning to explain how I- somehow- lost my bearings.

I know! Old Caroon who mapped a good eighth of the sky with nothing but a bit of butcher's paper and the stub of a pencil as the only-partly-under-control BERG 1 bounced along the atmosphere like a skimming stone...and here he is now: lost!

I smiled to myself as, from somewhere not too far away, the sound of a choir wafted sweetly oward my appreciative ears. William Byrd: O quam gloriosum et regnum. Quite a treat.

I listened awhile with mounting pleasure. And somewhere amidst that pleasure, the sun went down.

Silly me, expecting the light switches to work in this run-down part of Saint Feasance's. The music ended and the silence impinged upon me like a real thing. Do I sound like I was nervous? Perhaps I was. But steady the Buffs! and let's make a start on unravelling this maze of identical corridors.

Sure enough, I made it back to my ward, where certain members of the staff looked curiously upon my entrance. They seemed quite put out when I shed my slippers and dressing gown and clambered into bed. Indeed, they challenged me to explain myself.

Explain myself? Indeed. They wanted to know what I was doing in Wing Commander Caroon's bed. I took this to be a rather clumsy put-on, and pretended to go along with the joke. But joking they were not. Wing Commander Caroon, they revealed, had had his operation reinstated on the schedule and was in theatre right now, having been brought down in the service lift not half an hour ago.

So. If Victor Caroon was currently below being opened by Professor Nyfenfork, who was I? They spoke some more on this theme but I confess I barely heard them, my poor old brain having room at that moment for only one thought:

Not again.

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