Coincidentally, Bronglais Hospital ( where I was born) became like a medical magnet when I played footie at Uni. For years of playing for school and a factory team, I'd avoided serious injuries. Then came the dreaded Aber & District League and ,less dangerously, the Digs League. I cut my head badly heading the keeper instead of the ball, my knee was damaged when I was hacked down for a blatant penalty (not given by the local ref.) and, worst of all, tore my ligaments.
I woke after a minor op. in Bronglais with a gorgeous-looking nurse standing next to my bed. I asked her if she was 'an angel' and it must have come over as a chat up line, because she instantly expressed suspicion of students who 'drank far too much, instead of studying!' Fitting that description, I dismissed my chances straight away.
The plaster from my ligament tear was almost as annoying as my first one. It didn't stop me though. I recall bopping on one leg in the Great Hall at a Man concert (I've since met Deke Leonard and the late, great Micky Jones and failed to mention it!). I attended a demo against Government cuts (sounds very familiar) and decided to take matters into my own hands (or leg, in this case) and crack the plaster open on an Aber pavement, tearing it off later. An act of stupidity!
Since then, my only visits have been regular ones to the Eye Clinic, except another of even greater idiocy. When my nephew and niece were young, we played chase around the house. At the time our front door was made of glass and I duly put my hand straight into it, smashing it, so my little finger hung off and gushed with blood like a scene from 'Casualty'. When my wife and young daughter watch this programme every Saturday I avoid looking at the screen, especially when glass is involved.
I know how lucky I am when I listen to my good frien - a fellow Bluebird - who has been in and out of hospital for cancer treatment recently.he has told me of his utter despair, but also how part of him (as a mathematician, he gave it a percentage) is able to detach itself and observe his reactions.
He's a person I greatly admire. I can't imagine having that detachment at all, only an overriding panic and depression. Yet, perhaps that very distancing process is a necessity : a psychological device to cope with such suffering. He has certainly acknowledged this possibility.
The following poem is about another friend and comrade, who died of a heart attack. He was a truly remarkable man. Disillusioned with Labour he left because of their rightward course and joined Scargill's party, standing as a councillor. He soon left that as a result of Scargill's refusal to co-operate with others on the Left. He was a man of Derby, fan of County, expert on Cloughie, lover of good ales and political activist in the most meaningful sense. His acute diabetes never stopped him from imbibing the best brews.
SILENCE THAT FOLLOWS
i.m. Jack Gilbert
Jack mun, I still expect to see you
standing there on Quaker’s Yard station,
near where the Taff Trail goes, where you ran.
I still look out for your yellow fleece,
your head as bald as mine and Mr Magoo’s
and that cartoon squint at the carriages.
So much in common: heads of ales and strikers,
the jinking politics of the left-wing;
you had little time for theories.
You had a patience for committees
and all their inordinate procedures,
while I would fidget and doodle.
To you, there was always a community centre,
collection of allotments or loans to the poor
at the end of those long, rough tracks.
Older than me and fitter, your diabetes
stayed with you everywhere, those broken biscuits
you carried like crumbly tablets.
Atheist talking to atheist now you’re dead:
‘What bullshit! ‘ I can hear you joke,
your Derby accent like Kevin Coyne’s,
that singer-songwriter who ended up on a platform
in Germany, a guitar his sole possession
(like him, you knew of pointless directions).
So let it be the silence that follows this
that becomes your memorial, as the train pulls out
and you’re not joining me for a match again.