“Never for me the lowered banner – never the last endeavour” – Sir Ernest Shackleton
Despite my near sixty-five years on Mother Earth, I have in recent times, strived to side-step all issues pertaining to one’s encroaching antiquity, largely through maintaining an active lifestyle via the golf course and local gymnasium – and then combining this indefatigable drive for individual fulfillment with a continued presence in the mainstream employment arena – professionally and successfully keeping pace with those much younger than myself – where timeless wisdom and experience, comfortably relegates the small matter of one’s otherwise antiquated attendance to the bin-of-no-importance.
In many respects, I have indeed been very lucky, thanks primarily to a long and highly fulfilling career within the Armed Forces, an institution that engendered in me, Herculean swathes of self-motivation and ambition, thus, inertia, boredom and elongated spells of staring into space were seldom, if ever endured, I strictly rationed any flirtation with lethargy or torpor through an unswerving subservience to an agenda of self discipline and sense of responsibility, both to myself and those who depended on me.
However, just recently, I came face-to-face with the appalling realization that my reservoir of luck had run dry, no matter how I had manipulated my own good fortune up to this particular juncture – and making it a pretty good job of it too, one failed to comprehend that even the fittest body and/or the busiest and brightest mind, can be soon demolished by the onset of ill-health, or, more specifically, the development of a genetic tendency that prompted the unwelcome presence of human malfunction.
In truth, my ubiquitous ‘feelgood’ frame of mind had been in jeopardy for some weeks in the run-up to one’s ultimate physical and mental submission; one felt unusually fatigued, and then all too soon, utterly exhausted, with one’s personal diet ultimately taking a ‘hit’ too – the net result? Disaster! The tank had not become merely empty, it was positively arid.
I have no recollection of the morning when my frayed psyche and shattered corporeal components ultimately opted to part company, in addition, I have no memory of rising from my bed, taking a shower or consuming a lukewarm cup of Kenco coffee, to say precious little of making the 13-mile drive my place of work – yet, I have been reliably informed that each of the aforementioned tasks were carried out solely by me, one’s mind defiantly stuttering-on with the last vestiges of fuel available to it – hitherto, pushing my unwilling flesh to embark on a relentless, if not foolhardy mission to reach the office for another 12-14 hour day of demanding travail.
I subsequently collapsed on arrival at the workplace, a mere ten feet from my desk, the day ended at 0750hrs on a chilly, early February morning, it would be the 6th of April before I would rise unaided from the effect of the viral demons that had now conquered my physical and physiological framework.
I eventually awoke from my stupor some 11 hours later – and I could smell hospital before I fully accepted that I was actually in one – and as a patient, for the first time ever – this inaugural incarceration at the local infirmary, both scared and confused me greatly, not helped by the clear, sterile tubes that were protruding into both my left and right arms, pumping-in at pace, a veritable cocktail of pharmaceutical fluids to rehydrate my desiccated, drained carcass.
The assiduous Brazilian doctor who attended to me from the moment I was admitted, the same I assume that had requested immediate confirmation of one’s departure from a deep, soporose snooze, mournfully relayed when I eventually stirred, that I had succumbed to a trinity of ailments, ergo; Glandular Fever, Gastroenteritis and Acute Bronchitis – and that I could expect to remain in the company of both he and his well-practiced staff for a considerable period of time – adding further that I was not suffering from a common cold nor a bout of flu – but a series of severe complaints that had been encouraged to develop within the body through inexplicable, personal neglect – possibly cultivated by a subconscious, if not wholly inane belief that I could still keep up with the best of them – and thus, totally disregarding the critical messages that were being transmitted from brain to buttocks – that all was not good.
I foolishly failed to stop when the red light was positioned clearly in front of me – the metaphorical car crash was essentially an accident just waiting to happen – my once reassuring feelgood factor had vanished – now replaced with the most repugnant symptoms I have ever had the misfortune to endure.
My confinement in hospital proved to be a dreadful phase at first – as sleep did not come too easily, despite the fact that I was exhausted with the constant coughing and throwing-up. The poor chap who lay next to me in our rather sparse, two-person chamber, had a penchant for talking in his sleep – the very moment he dozed off each night, he immediately embarked on elongated spell of nocturnal chit-chat with himself – one’s final evening in this particular ward was sheer hell, Lord alone knows what he experienced during a previous lifetime, he kept yelling; “The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming!”
During the day he listened to a lot of classical music – to the works of Wagner mainly, given the Nazi love-affair with this anti-Semitic composer, I would suggest that my ward-mate’s sleep despair was linked to the strains of; ‘Tannhauser’and/or, Der Ring des Nibelungen’
Some forty-eight hours before this God-awful episode, he unconsciously invited me to revisit 1939 – and then unwittingly provided yours truly with a commentary on the German invasion of Poland, that was a very long narration indeed, suffice to say, I was none too disappointed when I was eventually wheeled out to another ward, well-distant from his conflict-ridden bed-space – if I had been strong enough, I may have instructed the nursing staff to hang-up the celebratory bunting in my new location – and even make a party of the fact that I had been happily transported to another, all-together better place, so to speak, such was my relief at that moment in time.