See you on the other side

If I die on the operating table next week it will be a real nuisance, because I have so many exciting things planned for this year. For example, fresh on the back of terrific sales figures for The Red Light Zone over Christmas (thankyou), I was hoping to announce details of my next book. As yet, it doesn’t have a title but I’ve been describing it as a collection of humorous “memories and make-believe”.  It will include true tales about my childhood in Scotland, about learning the facts of life from a toy frog, about encounters with comedy Nazis and how I faced down Easterhouse gangs with a simple hula hoop.  In the fiction section there’s the tale of militant zoo animals resisting a downsizing project and one about the man who has a glitch in his subconscious which allows him to confront the lack-lustre repertory company responsible for his dull and repetitive dreams.  Alongside the book there’s going to be a kind of stage show and the possibility of a radio programme too.

All I need to complete the project is a bit more time and, well, not dying would help.

Not that I’m planning to. Die, I mean. But the doctors have warned me that this surgery on my tongue is a serious business and, when you are under general anaesthetic for nine hours, there’s always a chance that something will go wonky. Then there was the nurse who took a blood sample from me, dabbed my puncture mark with a cotton ball and waved me off with the words “See you on the other side.”

I mean, really!

“Don’t’ go towards the light,” my friend Richard warned me a few days ago when I brought up the subject of my operation, “Because in your case it will probably be a fridge with the door open and you really need to cut out all the snacking.”

As much as I’m grateful for the many comforting words that have come from friends and former colleagues, I find I react much better to this kind of dark humour.  I do appreciate people’s attempts at reassurance, but that does tend to make me feel more nervous…like there’s really something to worry about. That in turn prompted me to do some grown-up things like updating my will and booking my car in for a service.  I’ve also granted my close family Power of Attorney over my affairs so that they can withdraw my Premium Bonds and cash in that half-complete book of Tesco savings stamps. They also have the authority to switch off my life support machine should I slip into a coma, but I’ve insisted they check I’m actually in a coma and not enjoying my usual afternoon nap.

Yet I remain optimistic and am trying to ignore some ominous signs. Last week, for example, my watch stopped but the bloke at Timpson’s fitted a new battery with a two year guarantee. Do I read that incident as a warning about the finite nature of life or as the prospect of renewal?  More to the point, ten quid for a sodding battery? I almost died of shock.

As I say, I have no intention of popping my clogs, but that thought in the back of my mind has given life a bit more intensity in the past month.  I’ve loved every moment with my family and every phone call from my amazing children. I’ve savoured tasty meals and enjoyed every sip of a good Malbec.  And I’ve been listening to music and appreciating the skill of every musician involved. Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, for example, is well worth seventeen minutes of your full attention. Here’s a link to a performance of it on YouTube.

Meanwhile, I hope to be back in action in a few weeks and getting on with all those plans. So, ahem, I’ll see you on the other side.

One way or another.

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