Thursday, 2 April 2009

The Blue Badge And A Grape

Yesterday I had an appointment with speech and physical therapists at King's Hospital. The appointment was at midday and we set out in good time and arrived within 100 metres with several minutes to spare. Then we tried to park. We circled the area several times. All the disabled parking bays were taken, of course. Predatory parking wardens lurked on every corner. Eventually we pulled into a permit holders only parking bay and hailed the parking warden who had materialised within seconds brandishing his electronic ticket issuing gadget. He asked us if we had a valid blue badge and we pointed at our fully legal, non-counterfeit, in date and valid badge which he inspected through the windscreen with the kind of intensity usually only seen from antiquarian book dealers validating a Shakespearean first folio, before nodding and saying we could park in that space. Relieved, and five minutes late, we rushed into the hospital and found where our clinic was within the maze of corridors.

It is many years since I've seen a speech therapist and spent time reciting carefully annunciated 'Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled pepper' and 'She sells seashells on the seashore' type rhymes so I wasn't sure what to expect. As it turned out she wasn't interested in my 'Round the rugged rock the ragged rascal ran' but with how I was managing with eating and drinking. She timed me drinking a glass of water and studied me intently as I ate a biscuit and a grape, holding my throat as I swallowed. I've never been so self-conscious eating in my life. The reason for this attention was to check that I wasn't choking or, as my granny used to say, make sure the food wasn't going down the wrong way. I was all set for a fight if she recommended that I only eat mashed up or liquidised food but instead she only suggested keeping my head tilted forward when I swallow to keep my trachea closed off. It should help stop me getting so bubbly in the chest of an evening.

The physiotherapist was full of helpful ideas about who to talk to about various issues. A raft of letters are being written on my behalf. I might even get some new shoes. I'm told they will be comfortable but God knows what they'll look like. I'll only wear them if they are made in a Chinese sweatshop like everybody else's.

After the session Polly and I grabbed a sandwich and a coffee because the grape and biscuit combo wasn't quite sufficient for lunch, and besides, no one had offered Polly anything. Afterwards we made our way back to the car, on the windscreen of which was a bright yellow bag containing a £60 parking ticket. In the distance, a parking warden was vanishing around a corner. The smell of brimstone lingered in the air.