Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

Wednesday morning started normally enough.  I contracted a weird stomach bug over the Christmas limbo period between Christmas and New Year.  My body was sending signals that I was going to be sick.  Once I got to the bathroom, these symptoms would subside into either a hot flush or a cold shiver.  All very odd.  The bug now progressed so now at five am on Wednesday morning, I was awoken by a horrendous spat of heart burn.  Awake and not feeling too great, I pressed in my headphones and switched on my portable digital radio.

It was tuned to Five Live.  I quite like Five Live.  I find that its shouty tone keeps me at the right level of consciousness in the morning while other radio stations tend to send me to sleep.  As the financial programme gave way to the breakfast show, the main story of the day got me interested.  Please get in contact if you have had any experience of your hospital outpatient appointment being cancelled.  Well that was me alright.  I was due to see Mr Q on 12th December.  A few days before I got a letter cancelling it and asking me to come on 19th December.  Then the Friday before the 19th, another letter came cancelling that and asking me to come on 9th January.  This had been a nightmare to coordinate work wise.

However, these were only appointments, not actual operations.  Before this appeal I had heard a terrible story of a guy having his hip operation cancelled twice.  He was obviously in a lot of pain.  Yet it was the nurse afterwards who said that it was the cancellation of out patients’ appointments that would create even more problems for the NHS over the winter period.

Partly inspired by her, I texted in briefly saying my story.  About a minute later I got a call from a harassed researcher asking if I could speak, live on the radio, in five minutes.  OK I guess.  Before me spoke a very eloquent junior doctor.  He summed up perfectly in far better language than I ever could, the problems with the NHS this winter.  I was being lined up as a disgruntled patient to counter his agreement.  I took a deep breathe, highlighted my story and agreed with the junior doctor.  At the end I had changed from being disgruntled to being reasonable.  You can’t say better than that!  So off I went to walk the dog.

When I returned, I was treated to an unusual sight.  My husband was being nice to someone on the phone.  My husband is usually nice to people on the phone who he knows.  However, if you are a stranger, be afraid.  Be very afraid.  The person he was being nice to was someone called Fiona from BBC News at One.  He passed me over. She was calling to see if I wouldn’t mind doing a piece to camera about my situation.  I looked around.  My husband was still in his dressing gown and about to start a fry up.  The night before, he had decided to complete dismantle his wardrobe and reorganise his clothing.  The house was covered in his clothes and soon would be smelling of fried food.  I said to Fiona it would be better if we could do the story in Nottingham rather than at my house.  She said that could work as she could use a crew from BBC Nottingham.  We chatted a bit more and she said she would call back to confirm a location.

True to her word, about half an hour later, she called back and told me to go to BBC Nottingham and ask for Miles at reception.  BBC Nottingham is near a huge traffic island in Nottingham.  When I arrived, the receptionist was expecting me and buzzed Miles.  Miles was a cheery chap and said that he had spoken to the Premier Inn over the road.  The plan was that I could have a coffee there and we would have a chat.  So off we set with Boris the cameraman in tow to the Premier Inn.

The Premier Inn had a good outlook.  It’s located next to the canal in Nottingham.  The only problem Boris had was trying to position the camera so you couldn’t see any graffiti.  The actual interview lasted about twenty minutes.  They quickly scootered off telling that it would be on the regional news programme, East Midlands Today, and could be picked up nationally, but there was no guarantee.

I got home, had some lunch and tuned in.  The headline story was about the winter pressures on the NHS. The first item and there was me, supping my coffee at the Premier Inn, talking about my story. Un-bel-iev-able!  The reason I think they chose it was visually, you can tell I need an operation.  Also, I’m young.  It’s a sad fact that I think if I was an old lady awaiting a hip op, I don’t think they would have picked it up.  There was a longer piece on East Midlands Today about it and that was that.

Then the phone rang.  It was BBC Nottingham.  Could I come in and be interviewed for Drive Time?  I made my way in and said my piece.  On the drive back, I nearly crashed my car when I heard myself again talking on Radio 4 about my situation.  This was getting ridiculous.

When I got home, my husband was catching up on Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.  For the uninitiated, Dirk Gently is the creation of writing genius Douglas Adams.  To explain what happens is near impossible.  You just have to watch it, end of.  I love Douglas Adams.  The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a work of genius.  Its authoritative tone makes the implausible, plausible.  Of course, Volgon poetry is the worst in the galaxy and Slartibartfast designed the Norwegian coastline.  How could you not know that?

Dirk Gently goes way further.  My mum bought me the book when I was about twelve and it defeated me.  The Beeb made a TV series of it.  It worked quite well.  Dirk was an annoying tramp like character who lived in his car always with some Brie in his pocket for emergencies.  In the American version on Netflix, he’s a lot cleaner cut, thankfully still British and strangely asexual unlike the British Dirk who is a right sleaze.

The plot is complicated to put it mildly.  It involves time travel, characters changing to animals and vice versa.  Keep you eye on that kitten is all I’m saying.  It seemed a completely appropriate programme to get lost in after the bonkers day I had had.  It had felt like I had stepped through a wormhole into another universe of deadlines, the search of a human angle and I’m not sure it was a world I liked.

By Friday the eye of the news had moved.  The NHS didn’t get a look in.  An awful rapist had been released on parole, Donald Trump was battling away with Steve Bannon and even worse, the government was threatening to put 25p on take away coffee cups.  The winter crisis was now on the back burner.  For now, anyway….


Bonkers Part 1

It started with a rude awakening.  I forgot my husband had booked the day off so I dutifully set the alarm.  The alarm buzzed.  My husband swore. I reached for the headphones of my portable digital radio.  I turned to Five Live.  I like Five Live.  It keeps me awake that sadly The Today programme on Radio Four often fails to do.  In my semi-conscious state, I heard something being mentioned about the Cancer Drugs Fund.  A report had been written saying it was a waste of money.  The presenter said that if you had had experience of using the fund to text in.  After about fifteen minutes, I slumbered out of bed and sent a text saying that I wouldn’t be alive if it wasn’t for the Cancer Drug Fund.  I knew my parents, who listen to Five Live, would be travelling up in stage one of their trip to North Wales for my aunt’s 80th on that Saturday.  I thought that if they read my text out, it might make the journey a bit more interesting.

I went downstairs and made my porridge.  Then a phone call. Private number. Interesting.  A harassed sounding researcher asked if I wouldn’t mind speaking on the radio about my experience.  Crikey.  I had to take the car for its annual service for nine.  If I did the radio, it would be cutting it fine to get there on time.  Sod the car.  I agreed.  I managed to contact my parents who were about to start on their odyssey to Wales and left a voicemail for my sis who had the audacity to be working.  My husband carried on sleeping.  The allotted moment came.  I blundered my way through.  After five minutes, it was all over and off to the garage I went.

At the garage, I was waiting for my husband to pick me up.  I had invented an elaborate story as to why I was late, but the mechanic didn’t seem bothered.  My husband has just arrived when my phone went.  Another private number.

“Hello Anna.  This is Tim from the Jeremy Vine Show on Radio 2.  I heard you on Five Live and I was wondering if you would like to appear on the show to talk about the Cancer Drugs Fund…”

Crikey.  We had a bit of a chat with my husband looking bewildered on what the hell was going on.   Arrangements were made.  He would phone on my landline at twelve and then I would address the nation.  I relayed all this to a mildly bemused husband and awaited the phone call.

When we got home, I tried to keep myself busy by pottering around.  But it was no good.  I was a ball of nervous energy.  Chill woman. Watch some naff telly.  I switched on and tried to settle down in front of GP’s: Behind Closed Doors.  It didn’t help.

11:57am.  Landline rings.  Deep breathe.  It’s my father in law.

“We’ve been trawling through Jeremy Kyle and you don’t seem to be on…”

Good grief.  Jeremy Vine on the radio NOT Jeremy Kyle on the telly.  At least not for now anyway.  Father in law apologies profusely and we hang up.

12:00pm. No phone call.  12:04pm.  Still no phone call.  12:07pm. This is getting ridiculous.  12:09pm. Phone finally rings.  It’s another Tim not the same one I spoke to earlier.  I’m told to listen to the programme and speak when prompted.  What follows next is a report that completely trashes the Cancer Drugs Fund.  It outlines how many nurses could have been employed with the money wasted on it and other such stats.  Blimey.  This may be tougher that I thought.  The Prof who helped to compile the report is interviewed.  He weights his answers carefully and is not too judgemental.  Then my moment comes.  I relay my story and I’m struck how quiet it is.  It feels like I’m talking to a void.  I want to pause and say hello just to make sure someone if there.  Jeremy asks a few annoying questions and states my age live to the nation.  He then lines up the Prof to respond to my story.  The Prof is a true gentleman and agrees with a lot of what I said.  I agree with the Prof too because he knows far more about this kind of stuff than me.  Also, when you are in my position, the more Profs on your side the better.  Jeremy sounds a bit disappointed that we are not tearing into each other.  But that’s the thing about cancer and illnesses in general.  There is nothing like the prospect of your untimely death that somehow forces you to find a compromise with any medical professional that happen to stumble across.

It’s a relationship that works two ways.  Medical bods also love meeting weird and complex patients.  My neighbour gave me some good advice regarding doctors.  She has lived with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma for over twenty years.  She told me the key thing about doctors is that they are practising doctors.  This means that they are constantly learning as they go along. The medical profession is under a lot of pressure to keep up with the ever-changing face of medicine.  All the while the list of patients grows ever longer.  The doctor – patient relationship is a balancing act.  Communication and listening is key for the relationship to be positive.  Without it, we all end up as a set of statistics.