Back to the bridge table. Plenty more black comedy in this little anecdote on a very serious subject:
The last rites
Lest anyone think I might be wanting to tell these stories for the sympathy vote, this time you are right But please banish all thoughts that the sympathy vote I am seeking is for me. It is certainly not. And never will be. It is instead to help, amongst others, the terminally ill. Let me relate an uplifting story about my ten day stay in the biggest chest hospital in the north west of England.
Even though I was in and out of intensive care twice at Wythenshawe hospital, I was generally the fittest person in the ward. All the others seemed to be suffering from lung cancer.
By the time I was able to walk, I went for a little stroll with one of the nurses who came to take the chap in the next bed for a ride in a wheelchair. I wanted to check out whether the tale he had told me about where they went was true.
Although breathlessness meant it took him a long time to get the words out, he was invariably chatty and witty. Even though he knew he only had a couple of weeks to live. Witty to the extent that, when I asked him why he always sat bare chested in bed, he said he liked to show off his muscles to the nurses. In reality, he weighed only six and a half stone and readily confessed to having no muscle to show off
Yet this man was as happy as one could be at that stage in his life. Because the nurses at Wythenshawe did not deny this patient his one remaining pleasure in life. Three times a day they helped him go to a special room for smokers.
He was rarely the only lung cancer patient in there either. There were sometimes enough to make up a four at the card table. That thought was on my mind because I had been playing in the Home Office annual bridge tournament shortly before I was rushed to hospital. For the record, it was a combination of a virus and the effects of tobacco smoke that I inhaled at the tournament that caused me to be taken by ambulance from the passport control at Manchester airport within 48 hours of playing the last hand..
Chatting to the nurse as she waited outside for her patient, she confirmed there were enough packs of cards and chess boards in the room for all patients to play both games. "Brilliant", I said.
As it happened, this particular nurse was pretty witty. Witty and pretty might be a better description. Which is why I wanted to keep the conversation going as long as possible.
When I asked if there just might be a slight conflict of interest in encouraging lung cancer patients to smoke, her reply was. "Not at all. It is the highlight of our day seeing these people happy. I usually go in with them. Working in a hospital which is falling down, I need to have a fag.myself "
My response was the inevitable one from a young man to a very pretty and witty nurse, viz:
"Looking around at the rusty windows, I have to agree with you. So what I might do is go in the smokers room just long enough for me to get back into intensive care. Then (using Home Office immigration jargon) I can get an extension of my stay to allow me to teach you a few games".
"Don`t bother" she quipped. "I know all the card games and I can play chess as well. Probably better than you"
"In that case I have another idea. You can give me the lessons"
Thankfully, for her sake, Wythenshawe hospital was demolished and rebuilt a few years after I was discharged.
The moral of this story:
Unless you believe in immortality, most mortals would have to agree that we are all given a death sentence the moment we are born. We all know we are going to die and should make the most of every day.
Can I therefore suggest to all bridge players with a tendency to argue with their partner at the bridge table, that they ask themselves this.
“Why am I not enjoying my games in the bridge club 100% when those playing in hospices obviously are”
If you will excuse the pun, my logical bridge brain surely means that I am dead right to pose this rhetorical question.