One of the benefits of being sick for a month is that you get to live in a muted hinterland. It's great you too can feel just like one of Virginia Woolf's dissenters. Just now I went to the local hospital for a blood test. The building, a gargantuan Victorian edifice designed by Edward Gorey (I swear), is handily close and is unoccupied apart from a woman inside a tiny reception hatch and the blood testing people about a quarter of a mile away down an airless corridor. Having experienced the performance art comedy of the receptionist yesterday (fork handles, parrots and so on) I glided swiftly to the blood sampling area. This place really has been like they were closing it down for the last five years and could easily provide an extremely convincing set for anyone interested in making a zombie film set in an abandoned hospital where a hypochondriac wanders in believing himself to be in a legitimate National Health institution but then finds his mind filling up with insidious doubts. Dr. Globin will see you now! Well I took my number from the dole/butcher's/euthanasia clinic style dispenser and sat and waited. There was no sign of anything that would display a number come the time that mine was up but this didn't worry me as I was hoping to simply complete the quick crossword and amble home. There was a heated exchange in the low resonant tones of an African sounding female voice speaking to someone who could not be heard. The person who could not be heard turned out to be the female blood samplest, a petite woman in the type of tight headscarf that always puts me in mind of a pretty little caterpillar in a children's book. It was impossible to work out what the heated exchange had been about or if indeed it was a heated exchange and not a common or garden conversation. The man I had mistaken for a loitering vagrant then begins asking myself and the other two samplees what our numbers were. Oh great a David Icke styled nutter who is about to numerologise us all. But no he is the system and an admirably idiosyncratic one at that. A bit like the old man manned railway-crossing gates. Ah you're first except that she can't see you because she can't touch men in the afternoon. Oh. It's a religious thing. The man will be ready and he's good once he gets on a roll. Gulp. Insidious doubts seeps under the door in my head marked do not disturb. The male blood sampler has a radio blaring. A rich full-throated voice with distant musical backing issues forth. I see a bedside radio alarm clock on the windowsill, the flimsy wire aerial tucked into one of the holes of the window latch. I begin to wonder why I am so boxed in that I find using a bedside alarm clock outside the bedroom vaguely, nay flatly wrong. But the voice sounds pained yet optimistic and I wish I could feel some of that instead of thinking I've walked into a low budget zombie film. The synthetic disposable looking blue stiff curtain wafts in the airless breeze. Yes I know a breeze can't be airless but this one was. I swear. I keep my Keith from Nuts in May style fleece firmly on. My sample test sheet is perplexing my samplist. He asks me what some of the letters on it mean. Erm I've no idea. Sorry. Is it my doctor’s signature - I think that's probably it? Yes we decide. I whip my fleece off and he ties the blue nylon tourniquet around my bicep and I try not to give the impression that I am used to tying things around my arm in order to make a vein more prominent. No need to pump your fist any more. In the end his technique is seamless and he tells me frankly that it's going to be all right. It is and I feel we have both performed very efficiently - he for noticing my slight apprehension and me for not making a flap. I exit the booth relaxed and relieved. The non-vagrant system man greets me. Earlier we had compared notes on our hearing aids but he hadn't really listened despite hearing me perfectly well. Well done he says now do you want the bad news. Insidious seeping. It’s still raining. Oh ha ha. You’re going to need to turn your collar up I think he says. I smile and force out a chuckle. You're a bit of a yob intya he laughs. Strangely I feel mildly exhilarated to be labeled a bit of a yob. Yeah I don't care me let the rain go on my neck. Unless of course there was another reason for his observation. My new facial fluff?
I stroll off, my gait taking on a decidedly yobish saunter. The rooms here appear not to have seen life since the virus swept through the suburbs. I glimpse into one room through a half open door and my eye is caught by a poster. It has an Apple style pair of three-dimensional violet quavers and some lyrics that run “you put your left hand in your left hand put you touch the patient and spread the germs about”. I can faintly hear the voices from the blood sampling area but I’ve lost my bearings. My foot steps echo and a sense of panic rises in my chest taking me back the countless times I have gone to the toilet in some kind of institution and forgotten the way I came in. The last time being one minute before I was due on air singing “Bringing Rocks Back from the Moon”. Back then the cleaner had also handily swabbed the floor making my sudden about turn close to life threatening which had the effect of making the prerequisite lump in the throat delivery uncannily effortless. Should I go on I think? I mean no one here seems to mind if I do. A woman approaches making a last minute attempt to stifle a chasm of a yawn when she notices me. Sorry long day she sheepishly informs me. You’re a bit of a yob intya? Did she really just say that? Was she in the waiting room? I look around hoping to jog my memory but the corridors mundane emptiness stares vacuously back. I retrace my steps and find the corridor I cam in by. Back on the street I am ecstatic as the rain spatters my neck.