There Is No Spoon (Or Sausages, or Custard, Or Ramekins)

In which The Author’s friends come to the rescue

Yesterday, as you might recall, I was wondering whether I’d make it through the night. I’m pleased to say that thanks to my wonderful GP practice in Aberdare, as well as my many friends who got in touch to offer their support, I’m still here to tell the tale.
I opened my heart to Dr Wardrop in the afternoon. Once again I apologised for not booking a double appointment, as we were talking for ages. He examined my stomach and suggested some tests if it continued to play me up. Then he suggested that I contacted the Crisis Team at Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr Tydfil. I showed him the little contact card they’d given me after my last episode of severe depression, and smiled.
‘I’m one step ahead of you.’
Rhian came with me to the hospital (it’s a mini adventure via two convoluted bus routes) and waited while I spoke to one of the psychiatrists and one of the nursing staff. I told them everything, while they referred back to the notes from my previous visit.
They were satisfied that I didn’t need to be admitted, but they insisted that I didn’t spend the night alone. It was probably wise. That little box of several dozen powerful painkillers might have proved too tempting in the circumstances. Rhian and Steff (her partner) offered me a spare bed for the night, which I accepted after some persuasion. Looking back on it, they did the right thing. I probably wasn’t in a fit state to be left on my own.
I need to put some wheels in motion today and tomorrow, but I’m now under the community mental health team. One of their nurses will be calling to see me tomorrow morning to see how I am, and where we can go from here.
When we got back to Aberdare, we decided that a pint and something to eat was called for. You’re not exactly spoiled for choice in Aberdare on a week night, so we headed for Wetherspoon. Or, as I usually call it in this blog, Thereisnospoon. (It’s another nod to one of my favourite films, The Matrix, in case you’re wondering.) Steff joined us a bit later, as she’d been working in the afternoon. By then, Rhian and I had ordered some food and were embarking on our second pint.
That was where the chaos set in. It wasn’t even the traditional Aberdare Thursday Night Chaos, but a whole different Wednesday Night variety. I’d gone to the Gents’, and when I came back to our table, the girls told me that my order was unavailable. They’d apparently run out of vegetarian sausages. That put the kibosh on my vegetarian all-day brunch. (At least I wasn’t too late to order it, like Michael Douglas’ character in Joel Schumacher’s film Falling Down. That might have tipped me over the edge into mindless violence, too!) Undeterred, I went back to the bar, paid the extra, and upgraded to fish and chips.
Time went by, and one of the waitresses emerged from the kitchen, holding a plate of fish and chips. I thought it might have been mine, as she drifted from table to table trying to find a home for it. Eventually someone owned up to having ordered it, and my excitement subsided.
A few minutes later, the same waitress came to our table with Rhian’s order, and my fish and chips. The only trouble was that Rhian had ordered an extra portion of sweetcorn with butter. That was missing, as was the piri-piri sauce which (to my mind) should be an essential component of piri-piri chicken breast. The coleslaw, meanwhile, didn’t come in the usual ramekin. Instead, bizarrely, it was served in one of those pleated paper cases that people bake cupcakes in.
(A digression: I’d had a strange dream the night before. I was at a party with some people who had a large record collection and loads of rock memorabilia. While I was browsing through their stuff, I found a record by an unknown and forgotten Folk/Prog Rock combo of the mid-to-late 1970s. The pen-and-ink drawing of the band on the LP sleeve included someone who was unmistakably Rowland D., back in the days when his hair was still dark and he sported a bushy moustache.
I didn’t see the name of the band, because I was lucidly dreaming as usual, and words shift around when you’re in that state of mind. However, I’m willing to bet that it might have been Coleslaw Cupcake. If there isn’t already a band with that name, I’m laying claim to it here and now!)
While Rhian was pointing out the shortages, I went in search of the condiments. There was only one salt cellar, and it was completely empty. The girls spotted one on an adjacent table, so I grabbed it and finally settled down to eat.
The portion of butter must have come straight from the fridge – or, quite possibly, the freezer. If you have a barbecue, the butter usually oozes over the cooked sweetcorn like sunkissed golden rivulets trickling over mountain pebbles on a midsummer’s evening. This butter, on the other hand, just sat there like a great yellow iceberg and stubbornly refused to melt. I don’t know whether the sweetcorn was undercooked, or whether it had just got cold while the waitress wandered around looking for table 95.
The fish was okay, but nothing special, and Thereisnospoon were operating their normal ‘thirteen chips and no more’ policy. Meanwhile, Steff caused more chaos by ordering just a portion of chocolate fudge cake. (She was able to add this on – after some debate – to Rhian’s original order, at a slightly smaller cost than usual.)
The unfortunate waitress returned to our table with the news that they didn’t have any custard. Nor, as it turned out, did they have any pouring cream. In the event Steff had to settle for squirty cream from a can (the sort that the staff use when making their top-secret hot chocolate recipe, as I exclusively revealed a few months ago).
All in all, it was a bit of a disastrous night out. I shudder to think what anyone new to Aberdare would have made of the kitchen shambles. Can you imagine entertaining a business client, or (worse still) taking someone out on a first date, and being caught up in the middle of the whirlwind of insanity that we witnessed last night?
That wasn’t the worst story we heard, though. We were chatting to one of our friends, and she told us the highlight (or lowlight) of her Wetherspoon experience. Apparently, a couple of years ago, between Xmas and New Year, they somehow contrived to run out of vodka. Entirely. You couldn’t make it up.
After that we adjourned to The Lighthouse, where a group of young-ish girls (and some older lads) were well and truly in the party spirit. We left when they started doing gymnastics on the dance floor. It was an accident waiting to happen.
Now I come to reflect on the evening, I wonder whether I’d have been better off if the doctors had kept me in overnight. At least the patients in a psychiatric ward have a legitimate excuse for their bizarre behaviour and skewed view of the world.
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