Most visitors to the ward observed a murmuring quietness but the exception was Old Steptoe’s in front to my left. They came in numbers and resembled a returning coach party making their third pub stop. It was about last night’s telly and recent supermarket shopping.
I had a brief chat with an oncology nurse: ‘I became a veggie and stopped smoking more than thirty years ago, I gave up alcohol five years ago, I’m into nutrition and keep fit: where did I go wrong’? ‘Just bad luck’, she replied.
By now Toff John to my left (‘We’re from the Cotswolds’) was managing to talk to the staff almost as if they were members of the human race.
I came to value my pool of light. On my first night on the first ward I deliberately stayed awake all night finding out where I was. I enjoyed the subdued light and the murmuring voices of the staff. I enjoyed the different atmospheres as the night wore on. On my next, longer-term ward – 6 nights – I had my own light … an anglepoise that I turned so it faced my wall. Lights out was 10.00 and we had curtains that were drawn at the sides only. I checked with a nurse that my nightlight wouldn’t disturb the others: ‘Close the curtain if you like’ – meaning the front one. But it was OK. Soon my companions were breathing in deep sleep.
In my pool of light with headphones I would watch TV, listen to the radio, read, or write. I felt that my pool of light into the long watches of the night asserted my independence and my utter lack of fear in the presence of hospital time and what to do. I was busily self-sufficient. I’d be awake into the small hours … relishing it.