My thanks to Jen, of Driftwood Gardens for thinking me into a T: Telegrams – the oldest form of text message, sent only in case of importance (for they were costly per word, and needed paring back to their most succinct), and often received under tragic circumstances, particularly in wartime.
I looked at the date of birth of one of my patients today, and I sighed inwardly, knowing that it would probably be a little bit arduous. To be honest I like it when my patients have a 40 or a 50 in the date, because they’re probably a) not slow and dothery and b) compos mentis enough to make the appointment go well.
When the birthdate says 30’s, I roll my eyes. When it says 20’s, I groan.
Not because I don’t like the sweet old people, but because they are SO slow and dothery a lot of the time, and not really with it, and mainly just SLOW. And because it’s the Modern World and we all have to be Terribly Efficient All Of The Time, this means I’m required to be polite-but-pushy and then work like stink to clear a backlog of people who are then left waiting as the sweet old person takes their own sweet time to do anything.
I resent tardiness – it eats into my lunchtime nap.
So I went, grimacing on the inside, to fetch the old man, and found him sat in the waiting room, skinny, with huge hands and long legs, silver hair barely scraping across the expanse of his liver-spotted scalp, and the brightest blue, twinkly eyes you ever did see.
He walked slowly. With a stick, but upright and proudly, in spite of the veryveryslow.
Part one of retinal screening – check details – sight test – whap some drops into his eyes – try to get him shuffled through to the back of the mobile unit ready to fetch the next patient into the front.
And then stopped, in my tracks, as this old man began recounting part of his story…ignoring the time and the backlog because he had such important things to say.
It’s the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings this year, and he was in them. He wants to go back and visit the beach where it all happened. He told me there were “only four” of them left now (I took this to mean men he’d fought with).
He was in the boats, trying to land on those Normandy shores, beaten back by the waves and so unable to make it Quick And Efficient. He was part of a company of 600+ men, all desperate to defend their country against War by leaping from their boats into the waves and swarming the beach.
The beach where the Germans were waiting, hidden by the sea walls, with machine guns which zipped round mowing them down – wave after wave after wave of men. Dead. Dying. Wasted. Half his company gone in one fell swoop.
He was nineteen.
So I left him there and continued with my schedule, cursing the demands of the working day, that I wasn’t able to sit and just listen to him talk – to hear more about it. Because history’s not really my thing. Ever. But this was important, and it happened in the back of a retinal screening van, in England, to me, and it matters.
The telegrams bearing the weight of fresh loss, or the relief of safety – they mattered.
This old, old, slow but still proud and RIGHTFULLY SO, soldier-gentleman – he mattered.
My attempt at a telegram – doesn’t.
But it’s a writing style, so I’ll write…
ATTENTION STOP CONSIDERER SOON PARTICIPATING IN HASHTAG ASK ME ANYTHING VLOG STOP ENSURE QUESTIONS SUBMITTED IN TIME FOR INCLUSION STOP DO NOT MISS OUT STOP
On a side note, because I can, and because T is also for TANGENT, this happened:
I pose to you, does it matter
If you sweat and strain
Write, pause, delete and start again
When you know full well
You can make magic?
I ask you, does it make a difference
To the value of your words
(Or self) if they take time
To produce something special
(Which, without reservation I can say
I KNOW you do)
You fell into the trap of comparison
The very one you told me to avoid
The very one you told me was a lie
The very one you told me was all in my mind
The very one you got caught in –
My sweet, I fear you’re just as trapped as me
Just as stuck inside a spiral thought: “I suck”
And every bit as seduced by illusions of inadequacy
My glib mind and sleight of word
Make me no more worthy to be heard
Just quicker seen
Meanwhile I know that you, behind the screen
Can do such things I couldn’t even dream:
You dance, you play, you’re beautiful
All I can do is make you laugh
With language swift turned tool…
Might it be that we
Sit here with specks of sawdust clouding our vision
Beating ourselves up
Imagining them to be planks?