3rd April 2007 - The Travelling Tao Part 5 - Sydney II
Westmead hospital is almost a home away from home for the Hayes and now the Dean's. Tash had her initial Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy there in 2000 and it seems to have also accomodated several members for the wider Hayes clan over the years.
When we eventually found him, big Ken looked even bigger than normal dwarfing the 'standard' sized single bed that for all purposes looked like it had been constructed around him. We were regaled with the story of how he got there; straight through one door into A&E and out the other to ICU, that the consultant, Doctor Ticker (not his real name), was due to appear later on in the day to make a formal examination and then maybe he might be allowed to leave. All the way through this conversation I was fixated by the decidedly unrhythmic dual lines appearing on the large heart monitor above the bed, these, just incase you could pull your eyes away from such a graphic representation of your loved ones life hanging by a electronic thread, were accompanied by a loud alternating beep and alarm. About five minutes into the visit I deduced that if these heart lines were to be believed, then Ken was in decidedly good spirits for a dead man, he noticed my quizzical look and pointed out that the monitor system worked on a closed loop and that "this one" he ventured pulling off the wired sticky pad on his shoulder triggering an even louder cacophony of alarms "really needed some Cellotape to hold it down properly", the out of breath nurse that quickly joined us agreed.
Whilst Ken was being taped up like a mummy by the nurse I averted my eyes from the monitor and started regarding the large strangely shaped plastic carafe of what looked initially to be lemonade on the side table next to where Tash was sitting. Of course it wasn't, being in the heart ward is about lying still and not getting up walking around all time, so why would they hand out such big bottle of drink, surely you would then have to keep getting up to going to the.... oh! Suddenly the erratic baseline beeps and bleeps of the big mans heart seemed a much better thing to focus my attention on.
Ken returned home later on that day relatively unscathed, but with a clutch of future appointments, this little interlude took out two days of our visit, if you were expecting a visit from us and there were one or two of you, then we are both sorry.
When I sort Ken's permission to include this story, he commented;
As a girl at work said to me, "Can't you bloody Hayes' ever have a holiday without some medical disaster happening?".
I smiled but thought to myself "seems not".
The rest of the week was taken up with shopping, bulk buying of items that cannot be bought in the UK, CloseUp toothpaste and Eucalyptus oil being the two most obvious and general other "things" that we need, I particularly needed casual shirts, I am now at that difficult age where dressing as a skate punk gets howls of laughter from the 12 year old Yoof's in the park and the last time I went out in my corduroy trousers and zip up cardigan I got abuse from a dude with a zimmer frame, though to be frank, he may have been mad and was simply shouting at himself.
Unlike England and in keeping with the Italian idea that with age comes experience, the shops in Australia are staffed with the long forgotten bread of professional sales staff. At best these older bastions of the sales counter are knowledgeable beyond the wildest dreams of the yoofs that we see omnipresent in all English shops, but at worst...
I was asked twice in 3 minutes if I was ok in Sportscraft, Tash confirmed that she too had received the same double barrelled greeting, my thoughts are that two of these civilised vultures had been circling at the entrance of this shop and had caught us both one after each other, Tash down the left side, girls department and me as I SAS'd myself deep down into the Men's on the right.
"is there anything that you are looking for today" I was then asked, I was tempted to reply with "to be left alone to look perhaps?" but in remembering that I am on holiday and as much as some of the local populace would like to believe this is LA or London, they probably don't really need such rudeness I chose to mumble something unintelligible in my best English mumble. "a shirt" she replied "bugger" I thought. She understood me, so this was going to be a fight to the death "Yes" I retorted, deliberately facing away from her in the most disinterested manner I could manufacture in flip-flops and shorts (too casual an outfit for real rudness) "I'd just like to look". Ignoring me, she took off down the shop telling me about this great graphite shirt they had, blissfully disregarding the fact that I must have already walked past all the displays to get to our meeting point. "that's great" I irately replied "but I am fine" I suspect that this last comment carried the biggest salvo of "please fuck off" as she left me alone after that. I made my way up the store and met in with my shopping cohort Tash who confirmed that she too was getting a bit distressed at the level of personal attention we were getting.
The shirts I eventually tried on were no good, whereas my large arse is an advantage when starring in those gay internet "bubble butt" video's I have been making of late, it makes a nightmare out of finding an appropriate cut of shirt to wear untucked (it makes everything in front roush in a most unflattering manner).
Unfortunately my problems didn't end there, I was accosted again as soon as I left the changing room by a new serving assistant (presumably their superior who was coming in for the kill) who, rather unnervingly, knew far too much about what I had been doing recently "your wife was telling me that you bought one of these shirts last week", ah I quickly realised that Tash had once again showed her understanding of our wedding vows and had sacrificed me to get herself out of trouble "are you enjoying your trip in Australia?" I sped towards the door, not an easy thing to do with only 2 hours experience in flip-flops, she kept up her futile attempt to engage me in conversation, I gave up answering her and then quickly gave up even smiling at her focusing on my exit point and the end of this disturbing turn of events.
"I'll see you outside" I barked to Tash as I passed her at a near flip-flop light speed, through the security gate, out the door. My relief was very short lived as immediately I had to contend with my first emergency stop procedure in these infernal feet products otherwise I was in danger of a collision and possible topple over with the atrium banister (why do all shopping centres have open atriums? One hand suggests it gives a light airy shopping environment but I suspect that it also offers a quick and easy path to a 5th floor swan dive suicide, "he jumped from the haberdashery department, such a loss, the ground floor flower arrangement will never be the same again")
Sunday morning, our final day in Australia was an awful stress of packing and repacking the expedition bags. Our excesses in the shopping mail had pushed both bags way over any acceptable weight limit, again confirmed by a practical exercise in self weighing. We had also gained an additional large bag (45cmx45cmx25cm, I know as I had to measure it to find out if we could get it on as hand luggage) containing a wool bed underlay. I can confirm that as silly as this sounds to European ears, this thing is very comfortable, but not the sort of thing that you would want to have to add to an already overpacked suitcase.
Rhonda, Tash's stepmother and the supplier of this large sheepskin bed cover commented that a friend of hers when faced with a similar problem had taken to packing it into those "shrinky dinky" plastic storage bags, you know the ones, mostly from bad television adverts I imagine, pack your clothes in this airtight bag, stick the hoover into it and hey presto it's as flat as a pancake. We gave it a go the previous evening and turned this large fluffy seat cover into a snug suitcase fitting crunchy bar, Tash unfortunately mid way through a bottle of wine during that evening's "last chance to see Mark and Tash" house party, choose to show Rhonda our good work and tugged the 3 inch deep crunchy bar out of the case with such Hulk like keenness, that it ripped and expanded like a wooly car air bag, they both quickly returned to the party sheepishly (excuse my pun).
Now being fully aware of both the awesome space saving potential of the "shrinky dinky" bags (obviously I am aware that "shrinky dinkies" are crisp packets after they have been in the oven) and the darker less publicised potential for disaster "when shrinky dinky bags go wrong" would be an apt title for a documentary on the subject, we packed accordingly, not wishing to have to repack one bag as we had to at Bangkok airport and have to face that mess, Tash was given back the underlay, we would have to try and sneak it on...
Was this the time for the luggage Axis of evil to strike back?
Would the cumbersome "sheep sack" just be too obvious to get past check-in?
Would I break down and cry trying to convinve them that the bags really aren't that heavy?
Who is this dude in the funky swimming pants?
Need to know these answers?
You'll have to wait until next week.