Do Not Exceed the Stated Dose

In which The Author revisits some comedy catchphrases

You know the old quote about ‘the best-laid plans of mice and men’? Welcome to my world…
A couple of weeks ago, my old friend Maria B. invited me to spend a few days at her place in Cardiff. It sounded like a fantastic idea at the time. Even though Cardiff is only twenty miles away, the wonders of public transport in Wales mean that the journey from Aberdare and back can take anything up to six hours on a good day (see entries passim.) By the time you get there, it’s almost time to come back.
On the other hand, staying with Maria meant that I’d have a fairly central base which I could use to explore without panicking about train times. I’d be able to catch up with old friends, catch the Alfred Russel Wallace exhibition at the National Museum of Wales, maybe find somewhere showing the new film about the formative years of the Beat Generation (which will come to a cinema near me when, and only when, Hell freezes over), take Maria’s dog for long walks around Cardiff Bay and across the Barrage to Penarth, and generally relax in time for the Xmas nonsense.
[A digression: My friend Richard W. was taking people to task on Facebook yesterday for using ‘Xmas’ instead of ‘C——mas’ – he reckoned that it was a sign of laziness. I have my own reasons for adopting the former convention: for the past ten years or so, Xmas has been a four-letter word for me. (I noticed in today’s Sunday Telegraph that Terry Wogan also refuses to spell the word out in full. I’m sure he has his reasons as well…)]
Needless to say, the Goddess of Chaos had her own ideas on the subject.
On Tuesday morning, I woke up and noticed that my neck and shoulders were rather stiff and uncomfortable. I thought I’d just slept awkwardly and thought no more of it. I stayed in all day, warming myself by the heater and watching a couple of DVDs. I decided to have an early night, and abandoned any idea of sleep by about midnight. By that stage, I knew the early warning signs. After all, it’s not exactly a new experience for me.
In Déjà Vu I told you about the seven-year saga of my ropey shoulder, starting at my old friend Mike H.’s funeral and ending (apparently) on the operating table at Llandough Hospital, at the hands of the estimable Mr Graham. Even after keyhole surgery, a month off work (during which Mother and I did our last Grand Tour of South Wales), an intensive physiotherapy régime, and my own self-imposed cautionary approach to life (such as never let a woman tie you up without making sure she has a pair of scissors handy – that sort of thing!), Mr Graham warned me that because of my age I was likely to have trouble in the future.
He wasn’t wrong. Here I am, a couple of months short of my 48th birthday, and my shoulder feels as though the clock’s been turned back a decade or so. I haven’t slept (at all) since Wednesday. Not even a new pair of pillows, several very hot baths, and Big Ted’s remaining Traxam pain-relief gel (liberally basted over the offending joint) have made a hap’orth of difference.
This morning I came into Aberdare early. Earlier than I’d anticipated, in fact – several weeks ago I was standing at the Park School bus stop when I noticed the Sunday timetable. I was shocked to see three services listed as running before noon. (See entries passim.) Buses before midday? On a Sunday? In South Wales? As they say in Private Eye – shurely shome mishtake?
In fact, I checked the Traveline Cymru website (see ‘What Do You Want?’ – ‘Information!’) before setting off, and I wasn’t surprised to find no buses listed between last night and this afternoon. Still, I decided that it was worth a try, and walked to the bus stop in the pissing rain just before 11.30.
My objective was the weekend rota pharmacy in the town centre, where I’d be able to pick up some painkillers to tide me over until I can see my GP. I double-checked the timetable and assured myself that I hadn’t imagined the Sunday morning bus. Sure enough, about a minute later a Globe Coaches minibus pulled into the stop and took me straight to Aberdare. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bus on a Sunday morning since the day after I was abducted by extraterrestrials (see The Truth Is Out There.) As they said during the war: don’t tell everyone – they’ll all want one!
Anyway, I got to the pharmacy with time to kill and asked for a packet of over-the-counter Co-codamol. I know from previous experience that they’ll only take the edge off the situation, and that I’ll probably need prescription strength to really get me back to my normal self, but I’ll have to wait to see my GP for those. (I’m fairly certain that I might have some kicking around in the house, but since the interior is a swirling vortex of Chaos at the moment, it could take me until New Year’s Day to unearth them. That’s what happens when you invite the Goddess of Chaos into your life, unfortunately.)
[A digression: My friend Paul has just asked me, ‘Are you all set for Xmas?’
One of the great advantages of having considerably younger mates is that you can quote lines from the classic radio comedies and they don’t spot the crib. With this in mind, I adapted one of Galton and Simpson’s greatest lines, as written for Tony Hancock:
‘I’m going to take two of my tablets on Xmas Eve and wake up on Boxing Day.’]
Anyway, armed with proper painkillers, I decided to have a walk around town. It’s Sunday. I don’t know what I was expecting. Aberdare’s not exactly Cardiff at the best of times. The Market was open, but it might as well not have been. Wilkinson would have been a pointless diversion. I called into Raj’s and bought the Sunday Telegraph, knowing that there’d be at least two crosswords to occupy my time until the normal bus timetable kicked in. I was passing Iceland when Bob T., an old friend of mine, called me over. We chatted in the shelter of a charity shop doorway until his wife joined him. Like me, it seemed as though Bob and Mrs Bob had decided to get in early and get out early.
It was a little bit early for the pub, so I called into The Works and bought an interesting book on the Celts by Peter Berresford Ellis. I hadn’t realized (even after all those years in the book trade) that he’s Peter Tremayne in another life. As I left, the bells of St Elvan’s Church were striking noon. Like one of Scrooge’s nocturnal visitors, I decided to strike before silence fell. I made a beeline for shelter, refreshments, and the coal fire of the Prince.
It was while I was in the pub that I noticed something rather odd. I’d bought a glass of Coke so that I could take two Co-codamols, and I read the outer packaging for the first time. Because of the mixture of paracetamol and codeine, the maximum dose one can take in a twenty-four period is eight tablets. I knew that from previous experience. Paracetamol on its own is dangerous enough. Chuck an opioid on top and it’s a recipe for disaster. On the box, it says: Can cause addiction; for three days [sic] use only.
The box contains thirty-two tablets. To quote yet another comedy catchphrase: ‘You do the maths!’

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