Fear not, there is no imminent prospect of running out of numbers. To the best of my knowledge, there are no immediate plans to cut eight from the available digits as a cost-saving measure nor to sell nine to a shady Russian billionaire to keep the economy afloat for a few more milliseconds. Then again, looking at the current government and the roster of pantomime villains vying to become its titular head, you may have heard it here first: the future is bright, the future is octal!
J Alfred Prufrock, or at least his chronicler (on his behalf), counted out his life in coffee spoons. I don’t drink coffee and so have little use for such single purpose cutlery. Worse, due to what I am forced to assume is an administrative error, I have been forced to chronicle my own life. So, I use a range of alternative metrics to count out my life (briefly ignoring the possibility that it is a continuous process and so intrinsically uncountable) but this post will focus on just one of these.
Since the second half of the 1980s, I have been giving blood on a somewhat regular basis. If I’m honest, it is the only one of the fluids produced by my body for which I have found a ready market: others are available and are priced (I like to think) competitively. There have been gaps in my donations caused by my own organisational failures, a few caused by illness and, in more recent years, those caused by the slower pace at which my body seems able (or at least willing – I fear my laziness is very deep-rooted) to replenish its stocks of haemoglobin. I’m not sure if this last is down to age, lifestyle or the greater frequency with which I am now permitted to donate: and I do like a lie-down and free bikkies (especially if I can convince myself that these activities are somehow selfless).
Last week, a year’s worth of low-haemoglobin-related time on the bench came to an end and I made my triumphant return to the first XI: my blood falling confidently through the copper sulphate (aq) to ensure my recall. As a result, I was able to take my place on the reclining blue throne and a proportion of my blood was able to escape – via a needle – in the hope of a better life in a new host. As I lay back ex-sanguinating, I had a few scant minutes of recumbency to consider the changes I’ve seen over the past 30+ years to the system that are set up around the giving of blood. Much has changed over the years: I can remember the days of loose biscuits, being allowed a full lie down and (maybe) my arm being given nothing more than a quick wipe with an oily rag before the needle was inserted. These days there are much stronger systems in place, with even the wiping of the arm timed electronically to ensure it is properly clean (or at least is two minutes worth of clean).
When, after five minutes or so, the needle is removed, the donor is expected to press down a small cotton pad on his fresh perforation as he waits for fibrin, platelets and their fellow surfers of the crimson canal to do their work and coagulate to seal the breach. I’m sure in the early days, this involved one finger and am confident that this became two fingers and then three fingers. Last week, I was required to use three fingers and my thumb to apply suitable pressure. At the current rate of escalation, all my available fingers will be fully committed to preventing me from bleeding-out by 2026. By the early 2030s, I will need a friend, small Dutch boy or suitable robot companion, to lend their phalanges to guarantee sanguinary containment.
Despite the risky practices of the early years, I have survived – and last week marked my 98th time in the chair. In the absence of any stronger drivers, I found myself with a strong incentive to remain among the quick for the next eight months (or thereabouts) to enable me to hit my century and bask in the polite applause of the audience and from my team-mates back in the pavilion (and a telegram from Nimue?).
While one is lying back and thinking of a geopolitical entity of one’s choice, my thoughts turned to the short-lived Septinsular Republic, screens relay the horrors of daytime television to the captive audience. As I bled into a bag last week, it was one of these shows where a wealthy couple are shown round very expensive houses in a rural setting in a form of filmed estate agency which I will freely admit I would not have predicted. This appeared to follow all the usual tropes of such a programme – so far as I could tell via five minutes of inattention – but was rather local, the search being conducted near Lymington. I was struck that I had never visited Lymington, nor its environs, and probably ought to do something about this at some stage: as they are (by timetable at least) less than 30 minutes away by train.
Normally, we could now all go off and live our lives for a couple of decades before I brought this tiny blastocyst of a plan to term and was in a position to report back. However, in an unexpected development – which perhaps gives a modicum of hope to procrastinators everywhere (though I lost interest in crastination once it lost its amateur status and big money started pouring into the game from questionable sources) – I actually went to Lymington on Saturday. The town itself is nice enough and certainly boasts houses only available to the very rich. Interestingly, it also exists in a super-position of being both over- and under-provisioned with car parking. However, it is as one strolls away from the town and along the sea defences towards Keyhaven that the true beauty of it as a destination are revealed. Glorious views across the Solent to the Isle of Wight are granted to the idle saunterer, while the adjacent marshes played host to a greater variety of birds than I have had the joy of seeing and hearing for many years. They also played host to my first, definite sighting of an avocet (and my second).
So, an unexpected bonus to counting out my life in major ex-sanguination events: activity ideas! Even better, given my desire to find thematic unity, n experience with a needle led to me enjoying a view of the Needles! Now, I just need to get a version of (N)YTMG screened to those needle-tethered to their chairs and maybe we can get some people to donate their whole bodies to the city’s cultural riches…