Wednesday, 3 November 2010

This England

27th October 2010

Visit Garry Weston for the results of the scan – all clear.

Don’t feel any elation or even much simple joy at having come through so well and got the whole thing over, because everything is overshadowed by the doctor’s grim prognostications. I was obviously an idiot to once think that it was a simple matter of getting the treatment and being cured.

I have heard that this is the way of modern medicine; kindly patrician doctors once kept information back, but now they give you the full works. It’s one of the many aspects of modern culture that puzzles and disturbs me.

Leaving Garry I discovered I’d lost my Oyster travel card. I was directed to Security. To my surprise, I can still be surprised by these things, the man in charge of security could hardly speak a word of English and had no idea what an Oyster card was. He asked a young man behind him who was sweeping the floor in the dark, closet like office. This man seems to have no English at all. I am sorry to say it but he looked just like a Coolie, a Chinese indentured labourer from an old Hollywood film. By a lot of shaking of heads they indicated that they hadn’t got whatever it was I was looking for – no point in asking them to have a really good look, as we would have needed a phrase book if not an interpreter.

Perhaps calling these people “security,” was just one of those modern euphemisms. They might have been what used to be called, “lost property.” There may be other forms of “security” in the hospital, but this encounter didn’t suggest anything very secure to me. The Imperial College hospitals are currently investing heavily in vivisection and a new block is going up at Hammersmith specialising in testing animals, this includes working on the best treatment for wounds sustained in military combat – any animal rights activists out there should take note – security very leaky under Imperial College umbrella.

On Sunday I had another surprise. Got to St. Michael’s early intending to sit outside on the war memorial to read for awhile before the kick off. Along with the smokers, I like to sit surrounded by the elegantly named Chiswick dead; Lyonel FC Wall, Derek Lutyens, C. Cecil Brooks Ward, C. Edgar Allinson, C. Ernest Brooks, Cyril Faustin, etc. It started raining so the smokers departed and I went into the vestry.

The jolly, friendly woman who works for a fair trade charity was setting things out for the small Sunday School, or "children's church" as it's now called, which goes on during the service. Her assistant hadn’t turned up so she asked me to help put out some crayons. I was quickly stopped by another woman who said I couldn’t do anything more unless I’d got a Criminal Records Bureau certificate to say I was safe to work with children.

I did have one, two years ago, when I was doing some tutoring, but that was not enough – to put out more crayons I needed to have another certificate authorised by the church. “But my assistant hasn’t shown up,” the fair trade lady explained. It was decided that I could stay when the children arrived, but only if the official teacher stood beside me at all times, making sure I wasn’t doing some compulsive kiddy-fiddling. I explained that I don’t even like children much, but that doesn’t wash these days.

The service included the baptism of a beautiful baby girl. As we left our pews and crowded towards the font the vicar beckoned us further forwards so that I was right up close when he poured what looked like a pint of water over her head. She looked surprised but didn’t cry, and when he up-righted her she looked quite content. He is terribly good with babies they hardly ever cry in his arms. Surprisingly no special CRB certificates were issued for the congregation but I expect he has to have one.

The baby had beautiful relatives, including a grandmother dressed in a velvet suit the colour of damask roses. In true Chiswick tradition the service was followed by champagne in the vestry. It amuses me that among those we are praying for is someone recovering from a skiing accident. We haven’t yet prayed for hedge-fund managers down on their luck but I might have missed that one.

Along with the champagne we had some shortbread and jam biscuits made by young Father Stephen on his day off. They looked like Jammy Dodgers.

A neatly dressed little boy came up to me. He was so small that I had to crouch down to talk to him. He told me very seriously that Doctor Who was a great fan of Jammy Dodgers. He described a conversation between the Doctor and a Dalek who’d never heard of Jammy Dodgers. Damn foreigners! I asked if he would like to have one. He said, “No, thank you, not at the moment,” and beetled off. I could see him as a Radio 3 presenter of the future. He was adorable and fascinating but happily I did not feel like molesting him.

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