Everything’s Electric

There used to be a time when I’d book things to look forwards to, places to go and events to see with family and friends. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen live music in an arena, music Hall or outdoor concert. If it wasn’t for tribute bands and variety acts around Dongguan, I’d have heard nil by ears.

Going home brings new opportunities. Many challenges and worries. But, as I dodge COVID-19 with the substandard Sinovac vaccination, I’ll grab some other up-to-date and tried and tested formula within a week of the ferry berthing in Kingston-upon-Hull.

Dock in Hull. First steps on English soil in a fraction beneath three years away from the U.K. Get to Manchester. Take Mum to Arcade Fire. Wander off to Gulliver’s a few days later to hear the sounds of Lael Neale (5/9). Get down to Cardiff, home of F.I.F.A. 2022 World Cup Qatar-bound Wales. Give our Liam Gallagher and The Charlatans a listen (15/9). Wait until November for Idlewild (20/11) followed by Florence and The Machine (22/11). Slot in the football at the Etihad, home of Manchester City, and seek out some comedy. And, ideally some track cycling.

“I think he’s coming home again.” – C’mon You Know lyrics, Liam Gallagher

A little further ahead it seem possible to witness the comedy talent of Henning Wehn in Stockport Plaza (18/2/23) and
Stewart Lee at the Lowry, Salford (31/2/23) with Mum and Paul.

Independence and life will hit like a brick in the face. The next steps will be clearer. I still don’t actually know where I’ll be sleeping for the foreseeable future in Blighty. My fear of becoming homeless is closer than ever. That green and pleasant land of Brexit and Conservative destruction is crumbling like the White Cliffs of Dover. It’s going to be hard to get by, but a positive mental attitude is on its way. With Panda. At least I’ll be a little entertained. Providing I can get by with extortionate gas, electric, water and council taxes feeding the fat cats.

Of course, after two weeks on crutches (with two to four more expected, provided I heal), looking forward is more important than ever. This loose cast and elevated legs daily are trying and testing my patience. I’m teaching myself resilience. Still, it could be worse. Much worse. I’ve known two friends to lose their mother in the last two years and that’s a horrible experience to witness others suffer.

A slippery apartment, wet floor tiles outdoors, puddles, whizzing electric bikes, phone zombies who don’t look up whilst walking, dog owners who can’t shuffle their poodle left a little and vomit puddles in the elevator make going to work difficult. That and showering on one leg. One leg outside as I dance, shuffle and avoid slips, trips and falls. Things broken don’t just include my right foot. 120kg of mass moving at gravity – assisted speed onto chairs, bed frames and stools generates a fair crack of sound. The crutches don’t grip moisture. Dongguan is all about the humidity these days. And heavy rain.

My second visit to the Songshan Lake Tungwah Hospital (东华松山湖医院) radiology department via the emergency department and with the help of Dr Li (李医生, orthopedic department) went okay. No huge progression after a week. Carry on with this, that and the other. Time is a healer. Thanks to Maria and her boyfriend, and Peter for accompanying me the initial time and at the sequel. The very professional hospital have been most helpful this academic year at T.W.I.S.

C’mon You Know is Liam Gallagher’s umpteenth foray into music. The former Oasis member and brother of Noel has mixed some soulful pop with bite and some catchy lyrics. It’s decent enough if you’re into indie and rock, with the usual shade of 90s and The Beatles thrown in for good taste. It definitely sounds like it should be at home on festival stages and in front of stadium crowds.

Still, I enjoyed chicken with the quad of Alice, Keisel and Laura yesterday. Panda has been walked by all three and 7 others this last two weeks. We’re having a few bumpy times but he’s still a happy doggy. Thanks go Benny, Jaime, Mr D, Nem and Aleks, Alice, Keisel, Charif, Daisy, and Maria for walking Panda. He really appreciates it too. Especially, the 5.30am walks… and the runs! Thank you kindly.

They’ll be better days.

All subject to change.

Best foot forward.

After a week of nightmares ruining my sleep, perhaps something was in my psyche warning me…

Last week, I started to wear grey K-Swiss trainers (or sneakers, if you’re that way inclined). These swish grey (or gray?) with white trims and soles felt a little tight. Size 13.5 UK (or 49 globally) sometimes can be that way, but, when you’re in South China’s Dongguan and limited to opportunity, something about choices being unavailable to those who beg.

Saturday and Sunday involved a walk around West Lake (惠州西湖) in Huizhou, in my new footwear. Having a few aches and pains in new shoes has always been normal to me. Size 14 UK has always been damn hard to get any comfortable footwear. Seeing as I flit between brands, owing to inconsistent sizing, sizes 50 and 49 usually fit the bill. A bit if wear and tear here and there usually molds them to my feet.

An agent of Timberland in Guangzhou helped me to get walking boots and shoes. Sadly, I’ve been wearing the latter to death. Their sheen has faded. I was just about to get them refurbished. I still will. I only need one shoe this week. That’s due to a run, with a football, without anyone challenging me, and not a soul nearby resulting in a sudden sharp pain. I jumped up and landed on the other leg, rolling sideways and yelping like a shot dog.

Sunday night, I needed to shower, and hobbled about from a car to my apartment, then ensured Panda, the dog, had a quick walk. I used a sweeping brush as crutches. I stupidly went to bed, thinking that staying still from 9.30pm would alleviate the pain. What a fool! A proper grade-A eejit! A plethora of pain and discomfort helped me to sleep at God Knows O’clock. I recall seeing the time at 4am and thinking sleep would be amazing. No. It was a terrible night’s sleep in a week of bad sleeps.

So, having awoke late on Monday, I felt ashamed to let my principal, Miss Ann, know I wouldn’t be coming in. By text. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I’d tried to get to hospital the evening before but wasn’t willing to go without crutches or a wheelchair. Neither could be sourced. After frantically making arrangements to get to hospital, I rolled over and slunk into a deep dark place. Eyes open. Mind empty.

The temporary depression lifted and in the afternoon, I was offered help by Charif and Miss Keisel to walk Panda for a few days. That was a great relief. Then I pottered around and panicked. Worried some. I needed to know why I couldn’t place my foot down. Even touching the edge of my foot to the ground caused shooting pains. Agony in less than a full footstep.

With the assistance of Charif, I was dropped at the Tungwah Hospital. I had to hop, and abandon my broken sweeping brush crutches on the way to the elevator. I went down to the humid and dark vestibule of floor -1 and awaited Charif to pull up by the glass door. The journey to hospital was less than 5 minutes, by car. I can see the hospital emergency door from my bedroom window. It seemed too far. Thankfully I arrived. Charif went because my friend Maria and her boyfriend offered to come and translate.

Prior to their arrival, a kind security man placed me in a wheelchair. A porter smacked my foot against the reception desk having not noticed my outstretched foot. Further pain. Quite unwelcome. Before my translation arrived, I was dropped at an emergency room consultation room to see a doctor. And five nurses. A good chance for them to practice their English and for myself to use my crap Chinese.

On registering, again, at the hospital, I eventually seen a doctor. I stressed the pain and shown the swelling in my foot. They kept checking my ankle. I insisted it was entirely in my foot. A CT-scan and X-ray was arranged. Off I went. Eventually. Some instructions had been lost. Maria and her boyfriend arrived with a guy called Peter. The graduate of Nottingham University works with Maria and her boyfriend occasionally. He’s a genuinely nice chap. Eventually we worked out that we hadn’t been sent to the right place to wait. So, up next the hospital wheelchair sped towards to the X-ray and CT scan, department of radiology.

Whoops.

An hour later, following my first meal that day (I’d ate nothing since lunchtime on Sunday), the wheelchair and its posse went up to floor 8, met Dr Li (李医生) who was a colossal man. His hands the size of shovels and his huge frame made him appear like a Chinese Jack Reacher. The writer Lee Child may want to open his audience with this guy. Despite his towering physique and broad shoulders, the good doctor was gentle and kind. He consulted the scans and sent me for further scans to the toes. The CT scans and X-rays had focused on my ankle. Off we trotted, and rolled.

By 10pm, we had the necessary scans and Dr Li then suggested two options of recovery. That followed a rather comedic look at how my injury had happened. The verdict translated as something like a 5th metatarsal stress fracture with a Jones/Tubes Avulsion twisting injury. The X-ray clearly showing a fractured. I guessed it to be a complete fracture. No evidence of displacement. Possible line indicates some connection remaining. Partial fracture possible. Certainly not compound or showing openness. Minor displacement but not out of line. No sign of a simple stress crack. The doctor suggested surgery or plaster and immobilisation. The latter option requires rest for 4-6 weeks. The former, depends on my body’s recovery after 3 weeks and involves bits of metal implants.

I opted for the plaster cast and Doctor Li agreed. He said that my age is just about young enough to recover that way. With lots of rest. I should use crutches and rest well for the first week. After one week I must return for a check-up. After two, three, four, five and six weeks, I must do the same. Tick tock. Time and healing.

So, why am I writing all this? To understand myself. To help my mind. This has a serious effect on my physical and mental health. My work life at TWIS (Tungwah Wenzel International School) is in its final chapter. That final chapter shall entirely be on crutches. I’m gutted, frustrated and upset at this finale. I can’t even wear trousers. They won’t go over the cast. I wanted to do my absolute best to leave doors open and gain a favourable recommendation letter. All that feels in danger. Evaporated like my hope.

There are far worse places to be in life. Even throughout this, I pass my best wishes to me Mam who is bravely going through breast cancer treatment and ensuring no recurrence from the removed tissue. I hope me Mam pulls through and retains that strength she’s always had. I barely have a patch of her self belief and courage, so she always gives me hope. And myself sister Astrid, at the Priory, hopefully recovering fast and gaining balance of mind. I miss them so much, at the best of times, but now, I wish I was embracing my whole tribe. These challenges, help us to find our feet and put our best foot forward. No matter how hard it may seem.

Happy Pokey Holes

你好~ S’mae! Hello! How Do!

Sunday, 7th November 2021

Here we go again. Another evening in a hospital bed. The sixth such sleepover. Unlike the former I’m unattached to monitoring equipment. Just a feed of oxygen. That should make sleeping easier providing the girls don’t accompany me again. Those sucking evil females visited me at night. I struggled to get to sleep. I awoke with itchy ankles, a track mark line worthy if Trainspotting and sores on my knuckles. The only plus was City beat U****d at Old Trafford in the previous evening. Watching that in a hospital bed wasn’t all bad. Bloody mosquitoes.

This evening I became a golf course. The 18th needle went in and out almost as fast as the grade 5 student making a video. Kim (Baozi) snuck in fresh from having her fractured and dislocated hand injuries operated on. At first she spoke with my nurse about this injection and then craftily video recorded the jab. She sent the video to her phone. That’ll teach me for leaving my phone unlocked. To be honest, it was funny and she’s in good spirits following her surgery, and I’m sure her mother will be pleased and proud of her resilience. The nurse performing my injection certainly enjoyed the chit chat of Kim. It’s good to see professionals beam with radiant smiles. That way I don’t have to worry about the needle.

Today has been filled with Guilt. A BBC production filmed around Edinburgh. The short four episode series whizzing by in atmospheric slowness between my 3200 steps to recovery. The short corridor walks and nattering with visitors really lifted my spirits. That and savouring City’s emphatic win at The Theatre of Dreams™ yesterday. John Stones had five times winner of the Ballon d’Or Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Avery in his back pocket.

Miss Spring delivered hearty hope – filled pumpkin soup. Mr D brought his wit with him, gifting a milk tea ice cream and some balloons. I did consider the implicit of the inflation of such things on a cardiovascular ward. Probably not a good idea. Dr Xie and Dr Like will not be happy. Nor the great nursing team. Miss Laura tried to deliver corn. That was rejected and now our friendship faces a review. Mr Jason helped me get mosquito spray. Sunday was 30°C and with the windows open the bloodsuckers found me.

Also Benny from grade 7 delivered fruit and kind support. As did Kim from grade 5, but she’s resident to the hospital whilst undergoing a hand operation. Although after the operation she was typically bubbly and positive. She certainly made Nurse Xiao Yue smile and laugh. Kim wasn’t the best visitor to have as your stomach gets jabbed. I tried to shoo her away but it wasn’t successful. I was an immobile Patch Adams providing entertainment, I guess. A bit like Man Utd’s midfield on Saturday.

Monday, 8th November 2021

What a difference a day makes. There’s a song there. Today it is just 16°C. It feels fresh and crisp. I like it. This morning my blood was removed by arterial stick from my left wrist (radial/ulnar region). It was swift and left an incredibly uncomfortable ache afterwards for ten minutes. Not the best 6am wake up call. After breakfast my pin cushion experience carried on with Nurse Xiao Yue kindly injecting anticoagulant into my tummy. I won’t complain. Kindness by cruelty. No pain, no gain. Dr Xie had visited prior and said Thursday is the target for my release. She told me to go and walk, including some stairs. My oxygen levels are fast approaching pre-condition fitness. The harder we fall, the more cliches we use, and then climb again.

After a night if unsettled dreams, anxiety and discomfort, today’s news has been most welcomed. You can’t keep a Mancunian down.

Hope Street.

再见~ Hwyl Fawr! Goodbye! Ta’ra!

Vimto Underdose.

How do! Hello! 你好~

I’m up to 4 subcutaneous injections and 6 other blood extraction or CT Scan related pricks. That’s ten holes more than my nod started with on Tuesday morning. It’s been a funny old brace of days. The red notice behind me is still red. I’m still on oxygen. I’m checking my urine and stools for blood. The fantastic attentive nursing team are keeping me on my toes whilst keeping me firmly off them. The bed complete with side bars feels like an oversized cot. I haven’t breast fed but the toilet methods are dangerously close to nappies (diapers). Something to catch the manure for salad farming is always necessary.

It seems that today’s ultrasound from feet to neck, missing nowhere, is key. It missed nowhere. Nowhere. Everywhere accountable. Shyness wasn’t an option. Anyway, this full body check aged 39 and week isn’t a bad idea. We all need a check these days. Men’s health. Women’s health. All need it. So much to watch out for. Best to catch everything sooner or we’ll be customers of the Grim Reaper.

The love and care shown by colleagues has been overwhelming. Betty in Human Resources has gone above and beyond the call of duty. Her peer Maggie has called by once too. They’re a lovely team within our TWIS (Tungwah Wenzel International School 东华文泽国际学校). When the first doctor suspected myocardial infections and heart troubles, Betty supported me and calmed me when I worried that’d be the end of my job here. It could still turn that way. Maktub (it is written).

My first day in was not only scary, it was terrifying. I’ve never really been in hospitals. I still cry every time I go to Crumpsall hospital in Manchester. I was born there. My Nana and Granddad passed away there. I hold fear for these unknown wards and uniformed peacemakers. It’s a mixture of illogical and emotional over – thought. They’re so often the keepers of our destiny.

Jamie and Jaime delivered some essentials like positivity and snacks on my first day. The comedy duo born in different lands were well welcomed by a nervous and worrisome patient in bed number 9. We nattered about owt and nowt for a wee while before they left putting wood in t’ hole.

Miss Ann, our esteemed principal and leader, swung by with Miss Nicole and Miss Junny from her office. It was like a Royal visit. I couldn’t get up and bow. A deeply touching visit. They brought a huge basket of fruits and enough water to fill a swimming pool. Very caring indeed. I’ve heard many, including Miss Ann, are covering my classes. I’m thankful. Also, Betty called by again.

Yesterday, the doctor in perfect English explained everything about pulmonary embolism. She said they’d investigate my veins. All of them. Neck to feet. There’d be particular attention given to my right calf and thigh. Today’s ultrasound definitely lived up to her words. I’ve never needed to pee so much! Ultrasounds mean nil by mouth and no toilets in the preceding four hours. Since then I’ve been told I should be out in a week’s time and under a three month medicine recovery programme. Accepted.

I miss my Dad’s salads. Dad is my no means a chef. Michelin stars were not meant for him. He’s an artist trapped in a body that was formerly a painter and decorator. And he should be a gardener. Dad does gardening well. He’s a clever man but his calling seems unanswered these days. Age is not an excuse. I love my Dad and I miss eating his salads. They’re rich in cucumber, fresh tomatoes (locally grown ones, always), seasonal greens and mushrooms. Never a bad salad at Dad’s house. Our kid, Ace, with his Mrs Stephanie do good salads but Dad’s is best. Simple and hearty. Sorry to Mum’s Paul who also makes a fantastic salad. Too much thought goes into these artisanal salads. They taste delicious. No doubt. They’re in my top five salads. Sorry, but Dad wins. I say all this because the Lauren’s Pizza salad I had for a late breakfast/lunch wasn’t bad.

My homeroom in Grade 8 have been busy planting my mint outside my classroom. They’ve also prepared a card. I do like Lisa’s little steamed bun-pooh shaped character on the bottom right. I hope this unfortunate hospitalisation gives students the motivation to create and do things because time is precious. They’re young and have the chances to do anything with a bit of hard work. They shouldn’t be anywhere near a hospital. Even though I’m here, I’m wishing their studies well. All of them. I can’t wait to hear poetry and Shakespearean arguments from the Language and Literature classes. That’ll be when I’m out. Soon.

Ta’ra! Goodbye! 再见~

COVID-21.

Good Tuesday to you.

It is a little past 2pm on Tuesday. I had an ECG some time before noon. It was a little abnormal. Oxygen levels at 95 up to 99 with a piped blast of nasal oxygen support. Blood pressure seemed a little higher than low but I couldn’t tell… (possibly over 110 but it’s all in Chinese and seems Greek to me). Questions and answers with two doctors.
Blood taken.

“Do you smoke?” Answered in the negative. “Are you an alcoholic?” I thought back to my last beer. Probably, with Stephen in Shenzhen… about a month ago. I didn’t even drink on my birthday. Too sleepy. Did nothing last Thursday. Worked hard. Slept early. Friday at the movies? Just a coke. Saturday sleepy and terrible all day. No energy. Lazed and couldn’t go party. Devoid of strength. A swollen left nostril and a throbbing headache.


Paid 1000RMB deposit. Can claim on the insurance; but that was quite an unworried and hasslefree process to understand, because Betty from Human Resources assisted me brilliantly. Then a sit down and “you can got for lunch, but first…” more monitoring and more blood. 8 vials. “This may hurt” Ouch. Actually, OUCH. Jesus wept! Vampire on the wrist. Push deeper. Can’t find your car keys in there? Shove. Wiggle. Totally normal. And out you go. An empty syringe.

Take 2. Tag team. Reinforcements. She’s brought a friend. I respect you nurse but that’s unfair. Two versus one. Clean area. Feel for pulse. Hover over wrist with a dull metal sharp needle as wide as a car tyre, give or take a yard. Hover some more. Hesitate. You’re taking a deep breath. Need a blindfold? Dig in! Do it! Do it! Take your time. Change position. Plunged. Still uncomfortable. Horrid. OUCH. Syringe empty. And then dark red oil. We’ve struck gold! Nice of you to join us. One gallon later she whips away the needle. My impact crater is duct taped to my arm with a cotton but the size of candy floss.

The beautiful and graceful vampires withdraw. I know they’re doing good. They’re sent by angels. I hate hospitals. I don’t have too many experiences with them thankfully. Off go the nurses and I remain wired on my right arm to a 13.1cm by 23.5cm bladder that from time to time inflates and feeds data to a grey box placed by my arse. My left hand meanwhile has a clip monitoring oxygen or trying to copy my fingerprints to enter my apartment door. The jury is out. Three suction cup sticky pads cling to my chest hair and upload episodes of Squid Games into my vulnerability. Something like that.

I’ve been 39 years old for less than a week and I feel crap. I’m starting to plan for the worst case scenario. “I’m sorry sure but you have a condition that doesn’t allow you to work here.” I question, “what is it?” They reply seriously, “You’re British.” Time for my own personal Chi-Xit? It’s a fear. Incalculable and illogical. I have no heart myocardial infection or disease history, but that’s what they want to check out. I hope my time to check out is long off in the future. There are still valleys and mountains to wander.

So what could my demise be? COVID-21? COVID-19 is probably due a reboot like all good, average and bad movies. Vimto underdose? Deficient of viewing Manchester City? A sadness because of the latest 007 movie No Time To Die? Excessive consumption of Coco Pops? I ate two bowls last night but that’s nothing unusual for a male about a year shy of forty.

For now, I lay and await instructions. Attached to wires and the grey arse-hugging box. Bed 9 by bed 8 in a double room far higher in cost than a five star hotel. The window view by the bathroom is the TWIS athletic field and farm. The situation is that I’m sandwiched between my apartment and school in an unfamiliar role as a patient. My goal is to know, what exactly is wrong with me? My audience are my students and colleagues. I don’t like letting them down. I’ll be assessed by standard hospital practice here: which seems profitable. Now I perform my recovery. The reason I’m here. I was terrified for a few moments. Mortified. Is this it? The final act?

Goodbye for now. Hopefully I’ll post again.