The Peaks and Troughs of a Funny Old World

Posted on October 11, 2011

I received a phone call last night from an old friend who I haven’t spoken to for some time. The last time I chatted to him life was not so great, a combination of family bereavements and squabbles had been spiced up by a heady cocktail of job dissatisfaction and general stress in his life. To hear that changes in employment had coincided with an upturn in finances and personal affairs was a heart warming conversation and living proof that if you stick with it, troughs can return to peaks and make you stronger and more philosophical about the next inevitable setback. What was more heart warming than anything was that he had rang to say that he was happy to do some work with me for a day during his own time, proving the adage that new friends are a bonus, but old ones are permanent.

This prepared me well for this week, as I am going through a bit of a trough of my own at the moment, carrying a business suffering from the ravages of recession, cash flow problems aplenty and a seriously ill father stuck in Southampton Hospital for I don’t know how long. A positive attitude is required to avoid a trip to the local hardware shop for a length of hosepipe, but a long afternoon at the hospital with my eldest brother gave us plenty of moments of black humour to get us through the ordeal of trying to be chirpy to our Dad in the face of adversity. My brother and I both carry varying genes for unusual reasons, but one that is undoubtedly carried by both of us is the inability to be emotionally equipped to deal with hospital visits. We are both well trained experts at specialising in the art of long silences whilst spluttering out advice on how our father might consider cutting back on Port and Stilton for a while in an attempt to stave off something more serious…..death for example.

Our Dad comes from a generation that probably goes right back to his rugby playing days, where it is acceptable to have six pints of bitter plus a bottle of red to wash down half a pound of Stilton and call it a “steady” evening. He also deems it acceptable to make a long division calculation of the amount of alcohol consumed when quizzed by a doctor, who is always viewed with some suspicion. He was deeply offended by the consultant’s assessment that he was, at 79 years of age, drinking way in excess of what he should be and his view was that the consultant was perhaps “a bit of a silly bugger who was over reacting.” The problem is that he is now dealing with a pancreas that is getting a bit old and fed up with it all and something needs to change, but it is difficult to argue the point with someone who has somehow got as far as he has and remains compos mentis whilst continuing to defy medical logic. Both attempts by Bruce and I to get tough with him were at best fragile, and at worst, downright pathetic. The aftermath of these quite frankly futile efforts, culminated in us looking vacantly at each other across the bed looking for inspiration. We decided to retire to Costa Coffee to discuss the criticality of the situation in more detail …………….and to read Viz magazine in between gawping at student nurses.

When we got back upstairs Dad was asleep. He awoke briefly but then drifted back off, probably catching up on lost hours from night before as the old chap opposite had spent the evening bellowing out instructions to people who didn’t exist. The poor old bastard was completely delirious and as near to dead as anyone I have seen who is still breathing. Thankfully the ambulance people arrived and proceeded to move him back to his care home to see out his remaining seconds on the planet, so at least there was an air of peace about the place so Dad could rest. We used this as our ideal exit strategy, we had done our bit by buying him books and newspapers and got a few laughs out of him and do you know what, as with all hospital patients, he was just glad to have a bit of company for a few hours. Anyone who has a relative in a hospital should remember that, no matter how much they hate the bloody places. It might be horrible going in and visiting, but not half as horrible as being stuck there wondering when you will get out.

I felt pleased with myself when we left, firstly because I had spent a good deal of time doing something I am not naturally good at, and secondly because I spent some time with my brother. When we were younger and single living in Baughurst, we were pretty much best mates, always out and about getting in to little scrapes and mischief, but when marriage and kids came along we drifted apart and moved in different circles. We were both members at a golf club for many years and that kept us in touch, but when I broke myself through the cost of divorce, the annual membership disappeared along with my dignity and we barely saw each other at all after that. Driving down to Southampton we had immediately drifted back to type, embarking on an afternoon of black humour, vicious sarcasm and an innate lack of ability to deal with the emotional merry go round that is a trip to a hospital. However, as a bumbling and useless partnership, we got through it in our own way despite our all too obvious inadequacies, and somehow had a few good laughs along the way.

We have promised to get together more often from now on, not just in a crisis, that’s how the peaks and troughs work on our small time on the planet, something good comes from a crisis. There are two choices in this world, you can either get on with it and have a laugh, or you can spend your time reading the Daily Mail whilst you worry about immigration, pensions, or the value of your house.

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