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Sober Life
by Sinclair Newton



Sober Life

I’ve been in some pretty horrible situations in my time, but lying on that operating table last week ranks right down there with the lowest of them.

To say it was unspeakable is a funny way of putting it, because I couldn’t even speak for an hour after they wheeled me out and I can assure you they were nowhere near my tonsils.

I’ve never meant Sober Life to be a diatribe against drinking and smoking and other excesses, but I think I can now say that you don’t half pay for it one day.

My day had come and I’ve almost forgotten half of it. I got in a warm bath as soon as I got home and it was only then I saw what the nurse had been doing with a razor down there.

At least there’s no chance of finding a paper clip in my pubic hair for the next month or two, whether I get to sleep with a secretary or not.

Come to think of it, it reminds me of when I used to drink inappropriately, because that’s when you only remember the bad bits and then only about half of them.

A kind nurse asked me if there was any particular music I would like playing as I lay, as T.S. Eliot said, like a patient anaesthetised upon a table.

(I love that muse of his called the Waste Land and I used to read it aloud each time I attempted to stop drinking and I really like that line about growing old and wearing the bottoms of your trousers rolled. My pyjamas came from a charity shop for three quid (or should I say two Euros?) and I know just how he felt. I don’t think he was only referring to the parts of your garments that merely cover your nether regions, but it’s a strange sensation, losing track of them (the regions) even for what turns out to be a forgettable time).

For one of the awful moments, it seemed as though the nurse, who was of an uncertain age, was asking me to choose my requiem and that’s supposed to be music for the dead. She didn’t understand when I told her this. So I opted for Van Morrison’s Beautiful Vision and then closed my eyes dead tight shut.

Something went on for the next ten minutes and I haven’t a clue what it was, except it was what I imagine it feels like to have a six-inch nail hammered into your groin, accompanied by blinding flashes of light and a distinct sensation as though you’ve wet yourself, or worse, and even worse than that was that it felt molten. I don’t remember whether Van Morrison or I moaned and groaned the most.

But I do remember being slithered off the operating table leaving what looked like a pint of Red Bull and vodka in a broad streak as they poured me onto a trolley.

The nurse with the mind of a disc jockey murmured in my ear that I had done very well, but I don’t think I did anything and later I was relieved to see I hadn’t.

That, by the way, is what I call nursing. In its purest sense it should be about comforting, because they can’t take the pain away but they can sure as Hell make you feel it’s not your fault.

At the risk of outraging at least one of my best friends, I have to say that a lot of the nurses seemed more concerned about skiving, about doing just as much as they had to be seen to be doing.

But once, just that once, the opaquely-false praise whispered when I was at my Nadir, restored to me something of the majesty of the profession and a belief that I was alright really.

I now understand why a friend of mine has refused to have something surgical done involving a camera and an orifice. His refusal could actually be life threatening, but he is steadfast in his certainty that he is just not prepared to go through the degradation again.

I’m going to carry on and I will go back for the follow-up treatment, not very different from what I’ve just endured.

You see, unlike my friend, I at least know of a nurse who will play Van Morrison to me and tell me I’ve done well.

p.s. Sydney the cat appears to be alive and well. He always ignores me for a day or two when I’ve been away, like a cuckolded wife. In view of the fact that you’ve had to read all this awful stuff about my bodily parts and have got this far, I might as well also tell you that he’s been sick on my desk.

Sinclair Newton