Yes I know the Royal in Liverpool isn’t called that any more. But I’m calling it that because it sounds more like a song. You know, ‘St James Infirmary’ and all that classic jazz and blues and country stuff. And, Sunday though it is, I’m shortly off to walk to Liverpool’s biggest and ugliest hospital.
But I wanted to start all this with music. Because I’m delighted to report that my life is currently full of it. After several months of semi-deafness I’m suddenly hearing out of both sides of my head. And my joy is unconfined.
Last night, for example, I played my new-to-me 1950s Hank Williams LP three times on the run for the sheer joy of being able to hear it. This was made easier by Sarah being away at the moment. Obviously, with human company, playing anything three times on the run would be hard to get away with. But on your own? It’s my life, my LP and besides – in the months of hardness of hearing it’s one of a good few LPs I’ve barely heard at all. Until now.
Then this morning, that weird once a year long Sunday morning when the clocks have gone back and you feel all luxurious about time, I’m partly reading. But mostly putting the book down so it won’t interrupt the music. Because Cerys is on and, again, it feels like months since I’ve heard her properly. Cerys Matthews that is. And we’ve even had a short exchange, very, about how delighted I am to hear her and her Zouk and Turkish and Bowie and Dust Bowl Sunday Roast selection.
So what’s the word? Happiness, yes that’s it. About music and about feeling well after several months of sensory deprivation. Even as I write Cerys is playing Richard Burton reading ‘Under Milkwood’ to an instrumental ‘Under Dubwood’ reggae backing. Deep joy.
So why am I about to walk down to the Royal Infirmary for a CT scan as the newly shortened day no doubt darkens?
Well to make sure for one thing. That this is real recovery. That the five months of viral infections have really gone and not left behind any structural damage in my ears. I’m fairly sure they haven’t, but I’m no medic and I’m grateful for them to check. And also because this is the way pre-planned appointments can sometimes happen now in our beloved and besieged NHS.
When the letter came putting the scan back to a Sunday I rang up to make sure. After all it’s a long running complaint, hardly an emergency and I’ve never had an appointment on a Sunday before? I was reassured that these days it’s become normal. Fitting in ordinary appointments with fewer staff and less resources?
Anyway, as Cerys begins her tribute to Jack Bruce who died yesterday, time to get ready to go out and walk to the Royal Infirmary.
In fact the railway’s the reason this is hardly the most attractive approach to central Liverpool. But we’ll come back to that.
I doubt that they’re building a harbour though, especially as they can’t even spell it. Apartments, student apartments? Just a thought.
Explored fully elsewhere on this blog.
In fact we’ll soon be coming to a surprising place that’s survived from those Georgian days. Not just yet though.
I’m never sure what this is about, there are some along Parliament Street by the Women’s Hospital too. Is it to stop us gathering on spare flat common land? Letting our goats and cattle run free? Or is is about possible highway expansion? We are after all in the area where the M62 might have entered Liverpool.
As the cursed Housing Market Renewal Initiative of Labour’s shame has actually produced a few new houses round here.
Maybe lived in by some people who lived nearby, now paying out on new mortgages for years to replace something that they once owned?
Like just next to these?
But look, Are those Georgian houses on the far side of the land the inhabitants have been driven from?
I suddenly feel like and realise that I’m standing on a borderline.
Better known as the place where the M62 finally arrives at the city gates. Swooping down along a finally widened Edge Lane to meet a finally constructed inner ring road. Dreamed up between the 1940s and 60s. Here I am, standing on the edge of the future of Liverpool. And it’s still about cars.
I’m working my way steadily across a huge junction where I wait a long time each time to get priority. Looks like you’re not really supposed to walk around in this future. This future where we pay fees to build our universities. And fees to be treated in our hospitals.
Yes, here we finally are. At the 1970s replacement for the previous Royal Infirmary.
I’m old enough to have been treated at its predecessor and to have watched it slowly rising into the skies in the early 70’s in disbelieving horror. No one should ever have had to work in this, be treated in this, or die in this.
And there’s not one of us hasn’t walked along this corridor in fear, joy, worry, trepidation, despair, elation or grief. So it’s a sacred place.
Still and all I am here for my own appointment, so I put the camera away for a bit. And find, despite my usual rambling through 200 years of history and politics, that I’ve arrived half an hour early. Never mind, I’m just getting my book out when I’m called in.
And it looks like this,
I don’t even have to take my walking boots off.
“Unless your ears are in your feet!”
As I’m cheerfully told.
I lie down, it glides me in, an unseen hand moves me back and forth a few times as soft lights whizz around my head, my sinuses, my ears. And fifteen minutes before it’s even my appointment time, I’m done.
“Results’ll be with your doctor in the week.”
Wow. Then, though I’ve not actually been treated at all, I feel I need that post-clinic sit down and a cup of tea that must be some animal self-caring instinct we have when finished at a clinic.
Oh, really? Will Carillion and their shareholder’s make our tomorrow a better place? Better than what I’ve just experienced? Better than that cradle to grave, basic human right, done with grace and humour and efficiency, and in such scientific splendour that I’ve just experienced? Yes, we need a new building. Yes we do. But not one with tills at the end of the wards. Not one where I’d have just had to take out my debit card to pay again for something I’ve already been paying for all my life.
I need that sit down. And just down the road?
But home. And a day that began with music will end with music. Play us the song Louis, the song I sang all the way down to the Royal Infirmary this afternoon.