Search for:
How I learnt braille as a child

A friend recently asked me to write about how I learnt to read braille as child, so here goes!

I started to lose my sight when I was six and by the time I turned seven I couldn’t read print. I had to leave mainstream education and in the summer term of 1968 I started at an institution for the blind in Wimbledon called Linden Lodge School.

I came into a class of boys and girls of approximately my own age, some younger, some a little older, of mixed ability and with varying amounts of sight loss.

The boy who sat next to me in class was a very fluent braille reader. Sometimes, when we couldn’t go out to play due to rain, or when our teacher was in a staff meeting, he would read to us. He set an early benchmark for me, so I knew what reading speeds could be achieved.

I was desperate to read again, having only just discovered the joy of reading print before I lost my eyesight, so I was very motivated to learn braille. Our teacher at Linden Lodge, Miss Garling, was great. She stimulated our imaginations and was always encouraging us in our studies. Initially, I had some one-to-one tuition with her and then she gave me some simple braille to practise reading on my own.

My first book had just a few letters on each page. Braille uses a group of six dots to represent each letter of the alphabet, but it can also use one of these six-dot groupings to represent certain groups of letters or commonly occurring short words. These short-cuts are known as “contractions” and work a bit like shorthand or “text speak”. Once you’re used to them, they greatly speed up the process of reading and writing braille. Being young and enthusiastic, I soon got the hang of it and once I started to read words with contractions in them I was given a little book with a few words on each line.

I lapped it up! I believe it took me around half a term to get to the point where I could read simple stories on my own.

Linden Lodge was a boarding school but, back at home, my parents were encouraged to learn braille too so that they would be able to write letters to me. They were issued with a device called a Perkins Brailler, which is a sort of braille typewrite that embosses dots onto thin card, and a braille primer to read. My dad in particular threw himself into the project and did his best to learn simple braille. He did very well and continued to be able to identify numbers and some words for the rest of his life.

The first weekend I came home after they had begun this process, they showed me the Perkins and I started to pound away on it. I gather that they were mortified. They had bene so proud of their progress and were taken aback by how fast I could read and write!

I still remember the day when I graduated from a book with rows of words to a proper storybook. We used a series called “Gay Way,” which, if it still existed, would be renamed now. The first book was called Little Red Hen and the second, Joe the Cat. I think it was the Red Hen book which contained the word “scissors.” I don’t know why I remember this and I can no longer recall what the hen was doing with the scissors – possibly cutting the cat’s hair – but that first encounter with the braille representation of the word has stuck in my memory. I know that the next two books were about pigs and rabbits. The latter obligingly did a lot of hiding in hedges in order that we could learn the sign for “ed”.

There was a bigger book once you had read all the little ones and this had a story involving swans and jelly. I’ve no idea where they came up with these storylines. I don’t think the swans were made into jelly. That would have been cruel. (And illegal!)

After this, I moved on to the Beacon Books. These had more complex stories and a few still linger in my memory. My favourite was about a monkey who escaped from a fair and caused havoc in a little girl’s bedroom.

After that, I was a proper braille reader, and the world was my oyster.

The Gay Way books were what was known as “half-size,” so they were manageable for children to hold, but once you got on to the Beacon series you were dealing with the big chunky volumes that most braille books are made up of. These were very hefty for children to carry around. In fact, I still find braille books a bit heavy and unwieldy. My brother helped me to reorganise my books this weekend and it made so much difference to have someone there who could pick up piles of books and move them around easily.

I don’t recall whether I was specifically taught how to follow along a braille line although I understand that, these days, children are taught this skill before they start learning letters. I was taught to read braille with both hands, which is the “correct” way to read. As well as enabling you to cover more ground, it means you can be finding the next line with one hand while still reading with the other. It is the fastest way to read but most of us develop bad habits early on and tend to read with only one hand. Most of us have a dominant hand and mine is my left. I read with two hands or my left only and can’t read very well at all with just my right hand.

I have heard of people trying to learn braille in later life and finding it difficult to detect the dots with their fingers. I suppose at the age of seven my fingers were quite sensitive. I certainly don’t remember being able to feel the dots ever being an issue.

There is an ongoing discussion among those with visual impairment as to whether braille is simply a representation of print or a language in its own right, like sign language. I think it is, in a way, both. I suspect that reading braille is a different cognitive process to reading print and uses different parts of the brain. When I am reading poetry, for example, which includes a strongly emotional component, I sometimes try to imagine myself reading it in print and I have a strange feeling that the print letters would get in the way. Somehow, reading braille allows my imagination to run free. This probably sounds a bit odd, and I can’t demonstrate whether it is true or not, but it is an interesting question to ponder.

So, all these years later, I use braille every day. Respect to its inventor, Louis Braille!

The Recycling Maze

So you think that sorting all your household waste into different containers for recycling is complicated? You should try doing it when you can’t see the objects you’re sorting… Or the containers you’re supposed to put them in!

Perhaps you are one of the lucky ones who can chuck all your recycling into one bin. That must be lovely. Meanwhile, the rest of us obediently separate our glass, metal, plastic and paper recycling and put each type into a different container as stipulated by our local authority. And it’s a two-stage process, which for me means endless bags in the kitchen and plastic boxes in the front garden.

I sometimes feel as though the only thing that grows in my front garden is recycling boxes!

I fill a carrier bag with glass and tin and, when it is full, carry it out the front of the house to empty into the orange box the council provided for the purpose. I also have a clear plastic bag hanging on my back door into which I put plastic recycling. The bag has to be transparent because the refuse collectors won’t take it if they can’t see what is in it. This I have to place on the street outside my front garden wall on the night before the collection.

Because all this is not enough, in addition I have a box in my office into which I put used paper and cardboard. When it gets so full that paper is spilling out all over the floor, I empty the contents into two boxes in my front garden. I have two boxes because I generate so much paper recycling, and this is partly because braille magazines are so big and bulky. They account for at least half my paper recycling output each fortnight.

Oh yes, and there is a wheely bin for everything else, plus a green plastic bin for garden waste.

Some years ago, I brailled a leaflet for Oxford City Council. This document gave information about what to put into which recycling bin and which days to put said bins out for emptying. I wasn’t asked to braille sticky labels to go on the bins and I wondered at the time how the visually-impaired recipient was going to distinguish the blue bin from the green and orange ones.

You might think, “Well, that’s easy, you just have to make sure you know which bin is which and keep them in the same position each week.”

Sadly, it isn’t that straightforward.

I have “assisted collections”. This means I don’t have to drag all my bins and boxes onto the pavement. The refuse people come into my garden and collect them. They are supposed to put them back where they found them.

You can guess what’s coming next, can’t you?

Do they put them back where they found them? Is the Pope a Baptist?

On a good week, the recycling crew put my recycling boxes neatly one inside the other and prop the lids upright inside the top box. This is when I’m profoundly grateful that colour coding plays no part in the process in Swindon. I only have to worry about separating the boxes, marrying them up to their lids and placing them in a row in front of my house.

Sometimes, though, the recyclers don’t bother to put the boxes together in this handy configuration. Instead, they sling the lids anywhere they take a fancy to and I have to walk gingerly round the garden, trying to locate them. Then I play “hunt the boxes” and, only then, can I put everything back in place ready for the next time.

I have to trust that the wheely bin and garden waste bin have been put back in their allotted spots as I have no way of knowing which is which.

Another slightly irritating issue is that, because my general rubbish bin is placed quite near the low wall between my front garden and the street, people passing by have a habit of throwing their pizza cartons and other rubbish into my bin. Now, this is better than them throwing their litter on the pavement, but the waste disposal crew won’t take anything that’s not wrapped up in a bag and I can’t tell what is lurking at the bottom of my bin. I can’t see it, and I have such short arms that I couldn’t reach in to find it in a month of Sundays. Fortunately, I have friends and family who can see and who reach in and remove the rubbish for me. They bag it up as required, though why rubbish has to be contained in this way when all the collectors have to do is tip the bin up remains a mystery to me.

I wouldn’t want you to think that I agonise over these matters day and night. I certainly want to protect the planet and so will continue to diligently separate the recycling into its constituent parts. Worrying about the boxes and bins is just another little niggle that stops my life from becoming too predictable and boring!

Hunt the milk bottle

Doorstep milk delivery is an old and honourable British tradition, and one that, as a person with visual impairment, I particularly value. So why has it proved so difficult of late to get the dairy to leave the milk in a place where I can actually find it?

I have had milk delivered to my front door for many years. It is convenient. I can’t easily get to the shops so it suits me to have the dairy bring milk, fruit juice and yoghurts to my house.

When I first moved to my current home in Swindon, the milk was generally left on top of the gas meter by the front door. This turned out to be an invitation to passing milk thieves, however, especially when I was late rising on Saturday mornings, so I purchased a lidded box for the milk to go in. I put it by my front door with a label on it clearly stating that it was for milk and postal deliveries. This worked well. The person delivering the milk knew where to leave it and I knew where to find it.

Last week, though, my milk delivery person started to do his or her own thing. One day, they left the milk by the gate, where I couldn’t find it. Fortunately, on this occasion, a friend saw it and brought it in for me. On another day, the milk was left behind the box, where I could find it but, thanks to the restrictions placed on me following my hip and leg bone replacement, I couldn’t bend down to pick it up. In the end I had to call my neighbour for help.

Frustrated by all this, I emailed the dairy and complained. I explained yet again that I am blind and have limited mobility. I cannot go crawling round my garden hunting for the milk, especially as I can’t pick it up even if I find it. (I should mention that my box stands on another box, so I don’t have to bend down to get the milk out of it.)

The next time, they left the milk on top of the gas meter. I hadn’t expected it to be there and so didn’t find it. Later in the day, my kind postlady rang the bell. She didn’t have to. The letter would have gone through the mail flap but she was worried about me as the milk hadn’t been taken in. I thanked her profusely.

By this point, though, I had already emailed the dairy again. “I imagine my milk is somewhere in my garden,” I wrote. “I haven’t found it yet.” I stated that I expected an apology for the inconvenience.

Instead, they phoned me back.

The gentleman from the dairy said, “Have you found your milk?”

“The postlady found it, thank you,” I replied.

He then asked, “Do you leave your empty bottles in the box?”

“Yes,” I replied, “and there are about a dozen in there now because no one has been taking them away.”

“Ah, but the milkman can’t put his hand in the box in the dark in case there is broken glass in there,” he said. “It’s a health and safety issue”.

Now, what chump has been putting broken glass in their milk container? When did this rule come in? And why didn’t someone tell me the first time I emailed?

Unfortunately, all these questions only came to me after I had put the phone down.

I did say I would stop putting empty bottles in the box.

On Saturday, all went well. I put the empty bottles on top of the gas meter and the milkperson left my milk in the box.

On Tuesday, I stepped outside to take in the milk and promptly kicked one of the bottles over. It was on the ground right outside my front door. I was incandescent with rage. Fortunately, it didn’t break. I had to break my surgeon’s rules and bend down to pick the milk bottles up. I didn’t want to bother my neighbour again.

I did email the dairy, though, for all the good it did.

Today, the milk was on the gas meter. I only found it because I put my hand there to check that they had taken the empty bottles.

This is getting ridiculous.

What is particularly irritating is that there is a space on the account to put delivery instructions. I have, of course, entered instructions, but what is the point if they don’t read them? I am following their instructions. Why can’t they follow mine?

I wait to see what reply I get to my latest terse communication, but I’m not a happy bunny.

Good news: I do have something to be cheerful about. I have had my second post-op X-ray and I am finally allowed to bend my legs now! I am writing this today wearing shoes which I have done up myself. I can’t tell you how exciting that is!

Progress report

I thought this week I would bring you up to speed as to how I am now.

I’m pleased to say that I’m doing quite well. I am walking with just one stick now, though when I try and walk without it I perform a horribly jerky motion that resembles a robot with dodgy joints! Still, at least I feel stable on my feet, which is a great improvement on my previous post-operative experience.

When my personal assistant Mary was living here to look after me while I convalesced, she was able to pick things up for me from the floor or other locations. I am still not allowed to bend at all so, before Mary left in May, we re-arranged items in the kitchen, office and bedroom so that I could find and reach them comfortably.

It is frustrating that I can’t do my shoes up, but I am learning to use my ingenuity to overcome some obstacles.

One day recently, for example, I knocked the TV remote onto the floor. Whilst I am quite nifty at picking things up with my feet, the TV remote poses problems. For one thing, it is almost impossible to pick it up without pressing buttons with your toes and thus messing up whatever you are watching or recording. I wasn’t going to wait twenty-four hours for someone to come in and get it for me so I had to find a way round the situation. I soon formulated a cunning plan. I got one of the waste paper bins from the office, dropped it on its side, kicked the remote into it, picked up the bin, and got the remote out. Voila! The bin is very tall so I don’t have to lean too far to grab it.

When I drop my walking stick, which I do from time to time, I get it between my feet and flick it up to a position where I can reach it.

Other people are being wonderfully helpful.

My cheery regular postman, who has always looked out for me, is careful not to push mail right through my letterbox so that it doesn’t fall on the floor.

My kind neighbour is watering my garden for me. I miss doing this, as I love to walk round the garden in the evening, inhaling all the scents that rise up from the flowerbeds when you pour water on them. However, I don’t see me trundling round with a walking stick in one hand and a hose in the other. I am not very co-ordinated and the potential for tripping over one or the other would just be too great!

Another issue which I will have to address as lockdown ends is that I can’t use a walking stick and a long cane at the same time. This makes travelling on my own potentially difficult. It’s not just that I can’t use a long cane in the approved manner right now, it’s also the fact that a long white cane acts as an important signal to other people, including taxi drivers, that I can’t see and may need help. My experience is that, most of the time, taxi drivers are very helpful, but it may be a challenge to explain to them my double disability of visual impairment as well as poor mobility, especially as English is often not their first language.

I will have to work on another cunning plan…

Anyway, I had my original fall on 19 June 2020, so it is already well over a year since my accident and, at last, I do feel as though I’m finally making progress.

Surgery 2021 – #6 of 6: Life at home

Over the past few weeks, I have been describing my recent hospital stay in Oxford and the care I received after I was discharged. I must backtrack now to my actual coming home.

On the day of my discharge from hospital, my personal assistant and good friend Mary came over to Oxford with a friend from church to pick me up. General confusion and a lack of communication meant they had to wait patiently for an hour in reception before I finally showed up, but I did eventually get home.

I couldn’t climb up and down stairs to and from my bedroom so, prior to my coming home, my bed had been moved down to the ground-floor lounge and the furniture re-arranged accordingly.

Mary had moved in to look after me before I had surgery as I was already struggling and she stayed to care for me after my return from hospital.

After my operation last summer, for many weeks I was not allowed to put any weight at all on the leg which had undergone surgery. This time I was allowed to put some weight on the operated leg but I wasn’t allowed to bend and, at first, some actions, such as getting in and out of bed, were painful and difficult. Having my bed in the sitting room meant that at least I could get to the downstairs cloakroom under my own steam and without having to worry about negotiating any steps. After a while, movement gradually became easier and less painful.

Mary is still looking after me now like the absolute star she is. At first, she even had to help me get dressed. I can manage that by myself again now, but she is still doing most of the cooking, washing and much more.

So, where am I now?

The X-ray I had a few weeks ago shows that all is progressing as it should. The surgeon I saw in out-patients at Oxford told me that my leg was now so strong, I could run a marathon. I had to point out that I couldn’t do that even before the operation, so I’m very unlikely to be able to do it now!

I am not allowed to bend for six months, so many items in my kitchen, office and bedroom will need to be re-arranged. I won’t be able to put shoes on without help, either.

I have, however, now cooked two meals and been none the worse for it.

I am also sleeping upstairs once again. Mary dismantled the bed and carried it upstairs and then put the furniture back in place. You see what I mean? What a star! I can only walk up the stairs toddler-fashion, but it is wonderful to be back in my own room.

I still walk best using my trusty Zimmer frame, but I can manage with one or, sometimes, two crutches. Walking without any aids still leaves a lot to be desired but I am working on it!

So, this time round, I am making real progress. Mary and I are working towards me “taking back control” of my life.

I look forward to it. Oh happy day!

Surgery 2021 – # 5 of 6: Follow-Ups & Mix-Ups

In the course of recent blogs, I have been recounting my adventures in the Manor Hospital in Oxford, where I had surgery to replace my replacement hip and remove a shattered femur which had failed to heal after an earlier operation.

When I was discharged from the Manor, I was told that I would be given an appointment two weeks after the operation to come back to have my dressings checked.

A couple of days before this appointment was due, I received a voicemail telling me that this would be a telephone consultation and not to come in to the hospital. This seemed a bit odd to me, so I rang them. I was once again told not to come in and that a doctor would call me.

On the appointed day I waited and I waited. No one rang.

The next day, I rang the Manor Hospital to find out what was going on. The person answering my call could find no note on their system to indicate what should have happened with my case the previous day. For that matter, there was no note on the system to indicate that the surgeon had seen my previous message enquiring what was going on.

At around 5 pm, one of the surgeons called. He didn’t know how the mix-up had happened but he assured me that they had definitely been expecting me to come in for a face-to-face consultation the day before.

What’s more, I would have seen a physio.

The surgeon ended our conversation by asking me to contact my GP and get a district nurse to check the dressing. So that’s what I did.

My GP was less than impressed. The hospital hadn’t given them any information about the surgery.

I pointed out that I had got a friend to deliver a letter to my GP that I was given on discharge from hospital. The GP told me, however, that this had turned out simply to be a list of medications.

I then tried to explain as best I could what the operation was that I had had. My GP listened in growing dismay.

I have to say that at this point the Community Health Team suddenly whirred into action. A district nurse came and removed the dressing on my leg which, by that time, had been in place for some time. The nurse assured me the wound was looking good.

Then another positive thing happened. An occupational therapist from the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre phoned to ask if there was anything I needed. I asked if they could refer me to a physio at my local hospital, the Great Western in Swindon. Such a reference would not only involve crossing the boundary between one Area Health Authority and another, but also between the private health sector and the NHS. I wasn’t at all sure that anything would actually happen!

Despite my misgivings, though, lo and behold, a physio from the Community Health Team duly contacted me.

Wonderful!

At the time of writing, they have already been to visit me twice. This is so much better than after my operation last summer, when I was left to rehabilitate myself. The physio has given me exercises to do and organised for me to receive a perching stool to go in the kitchen, and for my sofa to be raised to a better level. It is so much easier to get in and out of the sofa now that I think I will keep it at this level.

The physio is due to come back next week and I hope he will be able to help me with other practical living and mobility issues.

Surgery 2021 – #4 of 6: Relief Supplies

I have been recounting my experiences in the Manor Hospital in Oxford whilst I waited for and then recovered from surgery. I suppose at this point I should explain what the new surgical procedure involved.

Well, they took out my existing hip replacement and the broken bit of my femur. They then gave me a new hip and put metal in right down to the end of my femur. I am metal now from hip to knee and have a very impressive scar to prove it.

One of the benefits of this approach was that, as they had taken away the broken femur, there was no longer any fracture to heal. One of the surgeons opined that, if they’d left the femur in place, it never would have healed. This was at least in part because my rheumatoid arthritis interferes with the healing process. Medical opinion was that this operation would give me more stability, which it has. I can stand on my two feet without holding onto anything and feel pretty secure, which I didn’t after the first operation. Even better, now, some ten or more weeks or so on from the operation, my leg is nothing like as painful as it was after the first procedure. The pain never did go away after that one.

Mind you, my leg was pretty painful in the weeks following this operation and, while I was in hospital, there were the usual issues over pain control. All was well at first. In the days immediately following surgery, the doctors ensured that I had sufficient pain relief for me to cope. After a few days, though, the nurses started commenting that I had very few of my morphine sulphate tablets lefts. These are the ones I use to control acute “breakthrough” pain. I asked what would happen if I ran out. I was told, “Well, our pharmacy may have them.”

This was vague and not very encouraging.

I discovered when they gave me my medication to bring home that they had simply been relying on the supply that I had brought in when I was first admitted. So much for private healthcare. In the NHS Great Western Hospital in Swindon, when they saw any of my medicines running low, they always made sure that they ordered more from the pharmacy. Fortunately, I was discharged from the Manor Hospital before my supply of medication ran out and I was able to get more from my GP.

It was unnerving, though, and raises questions for me about the contract the NHS has with the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre.

Surgery 2021 – #3 of 6: Private versus NHS

As related in my previous posts, following an unsuccessful operation last year, I was referred to the private Manor Hospital in Oxford for an NHS operation to replace my hip and repair my broken leg.

I have to say that the nurses and health care assistants at the Manor Hospital were very kind. One took a long time helping me connect to the hospital Wi-Fi. When I discovered I had accidentally only brought the charging cable and not the plug for my phone, one of the night staff kindly lent me a charger for the night.

The only real difference I noticed at first between NHS and private care was that I had a room of my own and everyone knocked and waited for me to say “Come in!” before entering. I also think the curtains might have been made of slightly nicer material.

Then again, I didn’t find the food particularly special. At the Great Western Hospital (GWH) in Swindon, they have a different menu for each day of the week. It’s true that if you are in for more than seven days, the same choices come round again but, in the meantime, each day is different. In contrast, the menu at the Manor Hospital was exactly the same every day except for Sunday, when there were fewer options but one of them was a roast.

Oh yes, I almost forgot: the tea at the Manor Hospital came in a pot, and the milk arrived in a proper jug. All very civilised.

At GWH, I was cared for by nursing staff and they were always very good about anticipating my needs. As I can’t see, they would explain what was on my plate and where the different items (meat, potato, veg etc) were located. They would also offer to cut up my food for me, which was very helpful. The food at the Manor was served by catering staff and, until some of them eventually got to know me, I had to explain to them each time what I needed.

When I first arrived at the Manor, I was told that I would be going down to theatre early the next day, but a problem soon arose. Due to having had a large blood transfusion some years ago, I had antibodies in my blood and, before they could operate, they had to be sure to match the blood I might need very carefully. This meant sending test results to the John Radcliffe, a nearby teaching hospital, and waiting for them to send over the right blood products.

Whilst I waited to go down to theatre, I started to explore my table. I found a remote control. It felt very similar to the remote I have for my Digibox TV receiver at home. I tried pressing buttons. Lo and behold, a TV came on! Even better, it was Freeview, like I’m used to, so the channels were where I expected them to be. Even more wonderful, the audio-description was switched on!

This TV became my lifeline. After surgery I was in a lot of pain and discomfort. I had no visitors so there were an awful lot of hours to while away. I put the TV on a station which ran back-to-back detective shows and watched it from mid-afternoon till 2 o’clock in the morning.

I wouldn’t have been able to do this if I’d been on an NHS ward. Another benefit of being in a room of my own!

Surgery 2021 – #2 of 6: Sent to Oxford

As I explained in my previous blog, I was told in January that the operation to repair my broken leg last summer had failed and I needed urgent surgery.

I was informed that two consultants at the Great Western Hospital (GWH) in Swindon had had to clear their diaries for what could be an all-day operation. They would remove my original hip replacement, install a new one and put a piece of metal down past the fracture in my femur (upper leg bone).

Three days later, one of the consultants phoned me. There was a problem. Because I had arthritis as a child, I have narrow bones, and they didn’t have a prosthesis small enough to fit me. They had decided that better results would be achieved by a different operation and were referring me to the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre in Oxford.

This is a centre of excellence but I viewed the change in plans with some trepidation. I would have preferred to be in my local hospital, not one an hour’s drive away. However, if it was for the best, then so be it.

I asked about transport but none was available. So, it was going to have to be a DIY job.

It turned out I was actually being sent to the Manor Hospital, a private concern run by Nuffield Health which, nevertheless, does take on some NHS work. While they were happy to accept the ECG and other test results provided by the Great Western Hospital, they insisted on doing their own Covid test before they would admit me. This meant that I had to pay a driver to take my assistant Mary and me to Oxford the week before the proposed admission for a test that had already been carried out by GWH.

Oh well, who am I to question the strange ways of hospital bureaucracy?

Thankfully, the Covid showed that I was free of infection so my niece kindly drove Mary and me to Oxford the day I was admitted. Once again, because of Covid regulations, Mary couldn’t stay with me and, of course, I couldn’t have visitors so, once she had handed me over at reception, I was all on my own.

Surgery 2021 – #1 of 6: Breaking Bad

Hello, I’m back!

When I last saw you, I was limping around in great discomfort and with a growing sense of frustration. I had had an operation to repair my broken leg but, after months of what was supposed to be recuperation, I had started to feel that not only was I not making progress but I was actually going backwards!

I thought this was due to a lack of correct exercise and went to my appointment at the Trauma and Fracture Clinic in January all set to request some physiotherapy.

Accompanied by Mary, my friend and PA, I arrived at the Great Western Hospital in Swindon at 11 am and had an X-ray to see how well the bone in my leg was healing. When I got to see the doctor afterwards, though, there was a nasty surprise. Not only had the fracture in my femur still not healed, it had become displaced. In layman’s terms, it had got worse. The doctor told me that I urgently needed surgery.

From this point, my planned ten minute appointment turned into an all-day affair whilst they did pre-surgery checks for an operation the following week.

Because of Covid regulations, Mary was not allowed to stay with me. I couldn’t get a mobile signal so I had no way of keeping her informed of my progress nor of finding out how she was faring. I waited around on a ward and was given various tests, with long gaps in between. I wasn’t allowed to eat although at some point I was given a glass of water. Eventually, at around 5.30 pm, I saw a doctor, who said that I needed a chest X-ray.

I was reunited with Mary at this point and we made our way down to Radiography for the second time that day. Once there, we waited and waited.

After some time, we were told that the doctor hadn’t made the X-ray request in the correct manner. They would have to find another doctor to complete the paperwork properly.

Once again, we waited and we waited.

Eventually we were told that the doctor had decided that no X-ray was required and we could go home. By this time it was 7 pm. We were tired and hungry, although when I thought about the operation in prospect, I quickly began to lose my appetite.