In my dream the beautiful girl leant down over me and gathered up her long blonde hair away from her face before kissing me passionately.
The next thing I knew I felt a huge thump in my chest, followed by lots more hard regular, agonising pressings.
“Bloody hell, he’s alive!” I heard someone say as I opened my eyes, feeling the onset of a sharp pain in my chest.
“We saw you stretched out here on the grass, and someone said you’d stopped breathing,” explained the girl, who was now sitting back on her heels.
“So Fiona did mouth-to-mouth and I tried chest compressions while we were waiting for the ambulance,” offered a man, who came into view as I sat up. “I confess I’ve never done it before, just had a go, because we thought you were dying.”
“You looked so thin and weak and terrible I thought you were actually dead,” someone added.
“Sorry if we jumped the gun.”
I heard the sound of the ambulance in the distance, as saw my tart of a dog, Rupert, fussing up to everyone else and ignoring me. I was told when I got him that husky dogs are notoriously fickle with their affections, and I reflected on the fact that Rupert hadn’t even bothered to run over to see if I was all right.
“It’s very good of you all, but there’s nothing wrong with me,” I told my kindly gang of first-aiders. “You see, I’ve been on a long run on my own, and I just lay down on the grass to rest,” I told them. “I must have fallen asleep.”
“None of us are trained in first aid, it’s just that you looked so weak and tired and ghastly that we all assumed the worst,” the man went on, not exactly cheering me up.
“Well, it’s very kind of you to take the trouble,” I thanked him. “And, now you mention it, I do suddenly have quite a pain in my chest, so maybe I actually am ill, and hadn’t realised it.”
By the time the ambulance arrived the pain in my chest had got much worse.
“Best to get you checked out, mate,” the cheery medic told me as we moved off. One of my ever-thoughtful first-aiders had volunteered to drive back to my house with Rupert, who was at that moment licking his hands enthusiastically, and had completely forgotten about me.
At the hospital I was fast-tracked straight into a side ward, and they did all kinds of tests. After a while, a smiling doctor came up to me. “Nothing serious wrong with you at all, your heart is perfectly all right. But the X-ray shows you have a couple of broken ribs. My guess is that it’s the work of that over-enthusiastic first aider. I blame that advert where Vinnie Jones tells people to have a go at resuscitation, ever if you’re not trained. Mind you, he’s quite right, it is much better to have a go than stand watching someone dying, and any number of bust ribs is better than suffering an untreated cardiac arrest, so your saviour meant well. You’re in for a for weeks of agony, but apart from that you’re tickety boo!”
I reflected that my ‘health conscious life’ had started about six months ago, when a work colleague of my own age suddenly had some serious health issues. So I took it as a wake-up call and decided to completely change my lifestyle.
I joined the gym and got a personal trainer. The trainer, a very thin lady who never smiled, advised me to do all the routines at the gym, and to run every day, for as long as I could. Of course, she was an expert, so I took her advice. I had gone out and bought Rupert, my husky hound, who required a five-mile run every day, so I had no excuses.
I saw my doctor too, and he advised me to give up smoking and drinking, as both of these could be potentially harmful to my health. He, too, was an expert, so I knew he was right and I had to do it.
I also decided to consult a nutritionist. This man, thin as a rake and all frowns and earnest expressions, stipulated a ghastly diet that I stuck to religiously, which consisted of revolting tasteless foods, drinking pints and pints of water, and guzzling lots of raw garlic. He had prohibited all the eatables, such as red meat, chips and crisps, that I had previously adored. I had to do as he told me, because, of course, he too was the expert and he really knew his stuff.
So I had got into the habit of eating horrible tasteless food that was good for me, training regularly at the gym, avoiding all alcohol, glugging gallons of water, and running with Rupert for hours a day.
My wife was fed up with my new regime. “For goodness sake, Michael, don’t be such an idiot,” she told me. “Why do you have to go to such extremes? Face it: You’re a fat, greedy, idle, barrel of lard! You’ll never keep up with all this nonsense! You just soak up all this cobblers told to you by all these self-styled experts. There are no experts! You just have to use your common sense!”
Sheila could hardly talk. The only thing she was an expert on was spending money on our credit cards.
And as I got slimmer, and more obsessed with my new healthier lifestyle, she got more and more bored with my constant preoccupation with my body, and she left me, telling me I could stuff my new healthy lifestyle where the sun didn’t shine, and that I had become a miserable, self-obsessed prick.
So I was alone with Rupert and life was pretty bleak. Breaks at work could no longer be spent with the smoker friends whose company I had enjoyed outside in the yard most days, because even breathing other people’s cigarette smoke was apparently harmful. Besides, eating three cloves of raw garlic every morning had the effect of making most people back away from me, avoiding my rank breath like the plague. Even my weekly meetings in the pub with my pals weren’t much fun anymore, now that I had to watch them quaff pints of lovely beer while I nursed a glass of tap water. The doctor and the nutritionist had both told me to give up alcohol, and I had to do what they advised because they were the ones in the know.
My thoughts came back to the present, as I left the hospital’s main entrance and made my way out of the grounds. I was feeling pretty sorry for myself, hobbling along, almost bent double with the pain of broken ribs. They had assured me that there was no treatment, just painkillers.
I paused as an attractive lady in nurse’s uniform smiled at me, touching my arm gently. “You look as if you’re in pain,” she said sympathetically.
“Broken ribs,” I told her. “There’s no treatment, apparently.”
She took a drag of her cigarette and blew out the smoke, which I inhaled with a secret shiver of pleasure. “You could do with a spot of brandy, or maybe a large tot of whisky,” she advised. “There’s nothing like it for pain.”
“Is that so?”
“Oh yes, doctor’s order,” she assured me, and I decided that her smile was absolutely beguiling. “Alcohol has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. They all tell you that alcohol is bad, but you find me a doctor who doesn’t drink and I’ll find ten of the buggers who are practically alcoholics.”
“So alcohol isn’t bad for you?”
“A little of what you fancy does you good. A drag of a cigarette is good for pain too. Would you like one?”
“Well I had given up, but now you mention it, a fag for old times’ sake can’t do any harm, can it?”
“’Course not. I don’t smoke just for enjoyment you know. Oh dear me no! Nicotine has a lot of beneficial qualities. It helps you to concentrate, it’s good for the digestion and it stops you getting Alzheimer’s. They never tell you the benefits, only the bad side of things.”
“I never knew that.”
“Medical people are a funny lot. You don’t want to believe everything you’re told.”
We began to chat and I felt myself more and more drawn to her. On her top pocket was the name-tag ‘Sister Mary O’Shae’. I knew that a sister was a sort of ‘super nurse’ who was in a position of authority. So in addition to having a medical degree, she must also have years of experience and knowledge. So of course, I reflected with a sudden arresting realisation, she most definitely knew what she was talking about.
“It’s very nice of you to take an interest in me,” I told her, liking the way the uniform stretched across her ample bosom and large bottom. After lighting up the cigarette she gave me I was wallowing in delight as the fist slug of tobacco smoke hit my lungs.
“Look,” my new friend said, moving even closer. “What about coming for a drink across the road with me? And a bite to eat too, maybe—you look as if you need feeding up. I know a place near here where they do lovely steak-and-chips with sauce, lots of gravy, and all the trimmings.”
“Did you know that there are more nutrients and protein in a small piece of good red meat than in a ton of vegetables? Steak is very good for you.” She licked her lips. “There’s a special offer on today. All you can eat for £10.”
“All you can eat?” I hesitated, picturing a huge juicy steak and big fat crisp golden chips.
With a wonderful feeling of joy I realised that at long last I had finally found a real expert.
Image by Natalia Kollegova, from Pixabay