The basic problem with visiting hospitals is that everybody there (including some of the staff) always look so ill, displaced and worried and down in the mouth. In a way it’s like going to court and thinking that everyone there looks guilty of something (again possibly true depending upon your theological notions) or a bank where everybody’s plotting fraud. Hospitals are of course necessary and useful places but they have a funny and unique smell and the entrance halls are filled with people who seem to act like human flotsam and jetsam, confused and faltering, not sure where to go and peering at the many signs and arrows with saucer like and sunken eyes. I don’t want to ever end up in hospital - although I am confident I would make a good compliant patient, most of the time anyway. I’ve decided that my next twenty-five years or so will be spent energetically dodging hospitals and the like. I can just about manage the odd visit to the doctor’s surgery for advice and quick fix of antibiotics but the big bed and the thumb curling and acronym whispering of the young doctors is something I must avoid.
Standing in a hospital foyer observing the smoker traffic is like watching wounded salmon leaping up a waterfall. Twisted and crippled individuals helped by sticks and contraptions try to get across the wide space from the wards, past the shop and the desk and the cash line, to the open water of the front door where they can puff for five chilly minutes upon a cigarette. Some make the journey in wheel chairs, they have one leg or no legs, are wearing bits of pyjamas and remnants of clothing in no obvious style, there only goal is a quick smoke. You feel that these folks have been reduced to some awful, pitiful level of desperation and need where this long trip to daylight from the canteen like wards forms the highlight of their every waking hour.
In hospital old people give themselves a tough time, everything is strange, with the toileting, tea and the food coming in for unjustified and unfair criticism. It is as if they had enjoyed only the best when in their concrete homes and now that they are here in a sanitary prison nothing is to their taste. Brews of tea are too weak, milky or strong. Food is tasteless, cold and never what they fancy (but they don’t know what they fancy). That they are ill and their taste buds may be a little askew and bitter seems not to dawn on them. Showers are ever so hot or very cold, never quite right and toilet routines are far from satisfactory. The staff however rise above these petty complaints and get on with looking after patients who act as if they should be in the Ritz Carlton when they are safely billeted in the long suffering and withering NHS, (which is an OAP itself now – sixty glorious years on).