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Tues 30th Dec 2014: Hip Op Day Minus 10 (and counting):

What a start. I get half way to Lincoln before realizing that I have forgotten my sample. It is next to the fruit bowl and still warm when I finally retrieve it. (Worryingly, it is the colour of rainwater that you find in cast iron guttering).

Consequently, I am late for my pre-operation appointment. The hospital is a private one which is used by the NHS as a hip and knee replacement factory. It is like a medical hotel where the corridor traffic is serene and smiles are obligatory. I have been here once before, to see the consultant. It was on my wife’s birthday in October. After the meeting, I had X-rays taken of my hip and knee and a nurse tried, unsuccessfully, to extract some of my blood. She made three attempts. Eventually, I ended up in a chair with my head between my knees.

It is another nurse who collects me from Reception today. As we climb the stairs to her office, I feel inside my coat pocket and discover that my sample has leaked. I try to dry it off on my scarf before I hand it over.

First up is blood-letting. I lie down this time. Although I suffer dizziness, I do manage two test tubes’ worth. As I recover in the chair, I feel very proud of myself. I also think that it must have something to do with all of the water Jane made me drink during the morning (and accounts for the number of trips to the loo in the meantime).

Next up is swabbing. I swab my own groin in the toilet down the corridor while the nurse swabs my nose in her office. It is ticklish and I sneeze. I think this procedure is something to do with hospital viruses.

This is followed by height and weight measurement: 5 feet 10 inches (I have lost 2 inches in the last fifteen years), 14 stone 4 pounds (I have gained half a stone over Christmas). She looks at me over her glasses as she records these results.

When it comes to my answers to her questionnaire, she hesitates over my alcohol consumption (Does she think I’m lying? Do I look guilty?) before writing a note in the margin. Then I tell her about the antibiotics I am on for the abscess beneath a root canal filling. Again, she looks over her glasses before quickly recording this information in her notes.

I feel exhausted at the end of our appointment. As I leave Reception I am filled with a sense of foreboding. The next time I enter the hospital will be in ten-days’ time when I will part with one of my major joints and welcome a sophisticated bit of metal and ceramic pot into my body as a replacement.

Wed 31st Dec 2014: Hip Op Day Minus 9:

New Year’s Eve. A dreadful night’s sleep again. I am so fed up with the pain that I get up early. After hobbling downstairs, I attempt to cut my toe-nails before taking a shower. My left foot is a doddle but the arthritis in my right hip makes it almost impossible to get anywhere near my right foot. I imagine sellotaping a couple of sticks to each scissor arm so that I can tackle my toe-nails like a gardener trimming a hedge. After an eternity of groans, creaks and curses I finally manage to achieve a satisfactory reduction in length.

When I have had my shower, I similarly suffer with the pulling on of the right sock and the tying up of the right shoe-lace.

As it is very frosty outside, I get the engines running in both cars and de-ice the windscreens. Jane needs to leave at 7.45 for her Slimming World group in Louth.

When she has left, I decide to go for a walk, the last of this year, around Old Bolingbroke which is forty minutes away.

You can almost hear the hoar frost crackling on the drive up Bully Hill. On Caistor High Road, the sun makes the landscape gleam. Each tree and bush is set stiff and starkly white. Once I descend into Horncastle, however, the fog is thick and the blue sky disappears. By Hagworthingham I wonder whether this has been a wise choice. The road to the ford is thick with ice ruts and snow is banked up on the verges. It is the same on the way into Lusby and down the hill into Old Bolingbroke. Even though I am only travelling at 10 mph I still skid which is scary. Thankfully, I arrive at the lay-by next to the church in one piece. (My auntie and uncle used to live here fifty years ago. The petrol pump which used to service the bus company he worked for is still standing).

It takes me some time to change into my walking boots, strap on my gaiters and pull on my jacket, prayer shawl, woollen hat etc. Then it’s time to lock my Leki carbon walking pole and set it at 125 cm. (It is the reason that I can still attempt these walks. It might be expensive but you never see a bent or broken Leki on a Lakeland fell).

It is foggy all the way to East Keal but the sun finally breaks through when I am walking through the alder trees in Keal Carr Nature Reserve. Just beyond, the hedgerow is full of fieldfares and bullfinches. I enjoy cracking the ice on the puddles with my pole as I walk along the bridle way. The view above Old Bolingbroke is as beautiful as ever. I sit on a bench and leave a message on Jane’s voicemail.

Unfortunately, the Massingberd Arms in South Ormsby is shut for lunch so I have to return home for my beer and fry-up.

The evening is spent reading Perfect, Rachel Joyce’s novel about a time glitch, before watching Mapp and Lucia starring Miranda Richardson and Anna Chancellor. It is Steve Pemberton’s excellent adaptation of E.F. Benson’s novels of small town snobbery.

We are not going out tonight even though we have been invited to celebrate the New Year with friends in Lincoln. We have had to decline because Jane is working early tomorrow.


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