Once we got home again after the festivities, I needed to ring the surgery to order my repeat prescription.
Instead of it being the usual receptionist answering the telephone, it was Violet the practise nurse.
“Hello Constantine dear,” she greeted me, “what can I do for you?”
“I’d like to order my repeat prescription please?”
“And what would you like dear?”
I could hear her taping away on the computer.
“The water tablets please Violet.”
“And what about the beta blockers?”
“No, I don’t need them thank you, they didn’t agree with me so I’ve stopped taking them.”
“You’ve done what?” She all but bellowed down the telephone.
“Oh it’s okay,” I reassured her, “I weaned myself off them slowly.”
“You can’t do that you silly, silly girl,” she chastised, “I want you to come and see McGivitup now!”
I heard her taping away on the computer.
“There’s an appointment free in an hour… be here!” She snapped.
And there I was again, sat in the dismal bloody surgery! God knew how I was beginning to hate, loath and despise that place. I was waiting in agitated anticipation of the bollocking I expected to get off McGivitup when the call came and off I went.
“Yes Constantine,” he was sat with arms folded, “what can I do for you?”
He didn’t know…Violet hadn’t told him!
“Well,” I started tentatively, “Violet has metaphorically frog marched me here!”
“Why?” He appeared puzzled.
“While you were away, I noticed I was having an adverse reaction to the beta blockers. As in my hair coming out in clumps and my finger ends going numb. So, instead of bothering doctor Ravon, I weaned myself off them.” The doc raised his eyebrows. “Then, when I rang for my repeat water tablets, not an hour ago, Violet answered the telephone instead of the usual receptionist…she hit the roof when she found out I’d stopped taking the beta blockers, she went mental on me! Hence my presence here now.”
McGivitup let out a rip roaring laugh…then a naughty little twinkle crept into his eyes.
“Right, let’s have a look,” he said as he indicated I should roll my sleeve up. As the pressure band swelled, the doc was busy scanning his computer, rolling through a seemingly endless list of drugs. The monitor hissed its release and the doc surveyed the result.
“It’s up a little bit,” he announced, looking me in the eye, “a result of yesterdays indulgencies no doubt!”
I just knew he’d have to get that in!
“By the way, how was the boy when he woke up?”
“He threw up a few times…he was a bit of a mess, but his brothers took him off home…no doubt to clean him off before their parents saw the state of him!”
“I was impressed by the way the children leapt in to ‘decorate him’ shall we say,” the doc laughed, “I bet those boys won’t be in a hurry to overindulge in alcho pops again.”
“Well that is the general idea, if they learn their limitations when they are young, and understand that losing control leaves them open to allsorts of possible nasty situations, then they are less likely to end up collapsed in some hedgerow or street when they are older.
“So haven’t you ever gone over the top?” He asked, as he sat back in his chair with arms folded, playing the devils advocate.
“Yeah,” I grinned, “my sixteenth birthday. I’d been staying at my bosses house for the week, to baby-sit. I was due home on the evening of my sixteenth…the boss went ape shit when I was practically carried back to his house by the rest of his working lodgers completely falling over drunk. He had to deliver me to my parents! I must have had a gallon of coffee poured down my neck before he dared even consider taking me home. And when he did, the coward sat me on the doorstep, knocked, and then legged it! As soon as my mother opened the door I fell into the house!”
McGivitup laughed. “I bet you had a thick head the next day?”
“Only off my mother!. I’ve always been pretty much immune to hangovers. One of the few times I’ve drunk myself insensible as an adult, was after my mother died…I fell apart big time for a while, I drowned myself in liquor to numb the pain. But, I’ve never been in such a state where I’ve collapsed and not been able to find my own way home. ”
“Yes,” The doc cut in, “your mother died young didn’t she?” I nodded. “I understand she suffered from a very rare condition, less than a handful of cases in the entire country?”
I ignored his medical interest.
“I experienced her death.” I stated, matter of factly. “We developed some sort of psychic link whereby I felt any crisis she suffered.”
McGivitup gazed at me levelly, I could see that he was doubtful of my claim and was searching his mind for a rational explanation to my experience “Grief can do odd things to people.” He finally said.
“Right,” I shot back, “explain this then…the first time she was taken ill and rushed into hospital, I had absolutely no idea anything was wrong. I was at home, with music blaring, singing along as I did the housework. I was feeling happy as I went about my chores. Then suddenly it was as if the tide came in rapidly and I was washed over with a deep depression. The swift descent into abject melancholy shocked me, I couldn’t understand what had happened or where it had come from. Then, not long afterwards, the gloomy downheartedness still upon me, the telephone rang and I was informed my mother was seriously ill in hospital.”
McGivitup was looking thoughtful but made no comment.
“Then,” I continued, “later, she’d been readmitted to hospital a short while after her first descent into illness, but her condition appeared to be improving with each passing day. Again I was at home in a happy frame of mind, when I went to do the washing up, as I put my hands in the water an electric shock travelled up one arm and into my head. I pulled my hands out of the sink in a flash, my first thought being that somehow an electric current had found its way into the water…but then, the depressive gloom washed over me again and I just knew it was my mother. And it was, she had suffered a stroke and was paralysed down one side of her body, the opposite side to which I’d felt the shock wave. I later discovered that when a stroke is suffered, it is the other side of the body that becomes paralysed.”
“It must have been dreadful for you.” Was all the doc could muster as he clearly searched his mind for a logical explanation to my revelations.
“Oh it was…to witness someone who you love with all your heart and all your soul, slowly dying is one of the hardest, most painfully gut wrenching things a person can possibly live through…she couldn’t move, she’d lost the power of speech but she was absolutely still there, trapped inside a useless body, doing her best to communicate. I recall thinking, if we kept an animal alive in that state, the authorities would be frog marching us to the nearest court house. We’d be expected to have them humanly put to sleep. Yet to humanly put someone you love out of their misery is out of the question! I would happily have been the one to offer my mother that release had I been allowed. ” I felt a tear pricking my eye. “I desperately wanted to change places with her…but that was impossible…instead I did the next best thing. I began praying in earnest that God should take her to His side, end her suffering and encompass her in His love.”
Compassion filled McGivitup’s eyes.
“And although it felt like an eternity at the time of living it, my mothers suffering was over fairly quickly.”
With all the memories flooding me, I’d forgotten where the conversation had started from. McGivitup hadn’t.
“If this hurts too much, say so…but you said you experienced your mothers death?” I’d hit his curious button.
“Yeah I did, sorry,” I snapped myself back to the present. “And no, it all happened almost twenty years ago, I’d just forgotten all the emotional turmoil we passed through, remembering it is a bit poignant.” I suddenly grinned, lifting the mood. “But now I have the benefit of hindsight, so I know why it all happened and for what purpose, and I can only love the soul that was my mother even more for being brave enough to pass through that suffering for me.” He appeared baffled, I’d lost him and I knew it…but I didn’t care, the awesome magic of the whole picture was shinning through in my minds eye again, I was keen to relate it. “Okay, what you need to understand here is the fact that long before my mother became ill, we made a pact. We promised that which ever one of us died first, that person would find a way to come back from beyond the grave and get in contact with the other. We were both fascinated with what was beyond death. Me because I instinctively felt that life was a circle, going round and around, the good being able to chose their own destinies, the not so good finding themselves in positions whereby they are given lives that are aimed at teaching lessons and making amends for past wrongful deeds…sorry, I’m going off on a tangent, but that has been a part of my make up for as long as I’ve had thought and why I was so angry and confused when I had to pass through all the shit with Gilbert. But anyway, my curiosity had also been stirred with the death of my granddad when I was thirteen. I often felt his presence close to me after his death, I took it for granted as a teenager, I felt it was normal. It was only with age that I began to wonder about these things. As for my mother, she never gave a reason for her fascination with the subject. It was only with reflection that I understood that even then she knew she was dying.” I looked the doc in the eye with astonishment, “can you believe that? Both my parents knew from us being little kids that my mother had this disease that would very likely kill her eventually and yet me and Lil Sis hadn‘t the first idea. God did they protect us well! They could teach some of today’s parents a thing or two about selfless child rearing!” McGivitup nodded in agreement. “But yeah, the night she died, credit where it’s due, Gilbert and Maggie came round to offer to keep the kids at their place for a while, so I’d be free to up and go at a moments notice if necessary. After they left, I fell into bed exhausted and in emotional turmoil. I once again prayed ardently, beseeching God to free her from her suffering before falling into a fitful sleep. The next thing I knew, I woke up with a start, completely wide awake. I noted the time just before I experienced what felt like a thunderbolt travelling from the bottom of my spine up, ultimately exploding out of my head. It scared the shit out of me. I dived under the covers and shut my eyes. Simultaneously I felt my mothers presence so strongly in that room that I felt I would see her if I opened my eyes. That is my biggest regret, I was so freaked out by this venture into the unknown that I was too scared to open my eyes…and it was only my mother for Gods sake, what harm would she have done me? None!” I answered my own question.
McGivitup was looking studiously thoughtful throughout all this. “So that is the experience that has you convinced of life beyond death, you qualify that as proof?” He finally asked.
“Oh no…that was only the start of it, she most definitely fulfilled our pact,” my eyes shone into his with the exciting wonder of it all, “but only after we’d buried her up-side-down!” I laughed.
“You did what?” The doc smiled, catching onto my lightness of mood.
“Somehow she went into her grave with her feet at the headstone! We didn’t like to say anything at the time, being the solemn occasion that these funeral directors like to turn our last goodbyes into…but once it was all over we laughed, believing it was only her who could get herself buried up-side-down!” I was smiling and shaking my head, remembering how that fact had triggered us into a fest of recalling all the daft wind ups she’d fallen straight into, when I noticed the clock. “Bloody hell doc…I’ve been in here for ages…your running late!”
“I must admit, you’ve aroused my curiosity…and you seem to be making a habit of leaving me in limbo with your revelations. But, you need to contemplate what your mother went through when your tempted to smoke or drink.” He addressed me sagely.
He returned to his computer screen and studied it intently. Suddenly a beam of a rascally smile spread across his face. He tapped away, sending his drug of choice through to the dispensary where I would pick it up on my way out.
“Right, that should do the trick,” he said returning to me. “The drug I’ve prescribed will be a suitable replacement for the beta blockers. And as I know you will scan the information leaflet as soon as you get home, I won’t waste time going through any possible side effects.”
He had a definite mischievous twinkle in his eyes.
“All I will say,” he continued, “is make sure you are in bed and laying down before you take the first dose because they act quickly and could possibly cause you to pass out.”
As I was leaving I was sure I heard him mutter, “your mother will be smiling down now.”
I opened them up as soon as I got outside the building. Unfortunately, the writing on these things is always so small that I couldn’t read it without the aid of glasses. I raced home.
Glasses in place I read.
Indoramin. General information. Indoramin is a selective alpha blocker drug that is used to treat hypertension. It works by relaxing the muscles in the blood vessel walls, dilating them, thereby easing the flow of blood…And so it went on.
Information for users. Your drug prescription is tailored for you. Do not alter dosage without checking with your doctor…yeah, yeah, yeah!
Possible adverse effects. Now we were getting to the important stuff. Drowsiness and dizziness are the most common adverse effects of treatment with indoramin…Delightful. A dry mouth, nasal congestion, fatigue, and headache may also occur. How nice! These effects are often worse at the start of the treatment or following an increase in dosage. Absolutely bloody marvellous! If you experience depression or develop a tremor or abnormal movements, consult your doctor…Too damn right I will!
Interactions blah de blah… Yeah, got that.
Ah, here we go…special precautions. Be sure to tell your doctor if: You have liver or kidney problems. You have Parkinson’s disease. You have epilepsy. You have heart failure. You have a history of depression. You are taking MAOI drug. You are taking other medications. Pregnancy. Safety not established. Breast feeding. Safety not established. Infants and children. Not recommended. Over sixty. Reduced dose may be necessary. Driving and hazardous work. Avoid such activities until you have learned how indoramin affects you because the drug can cause drowsiness and dizziness. Alcohol. Avoid!
“What! Avoid alcohol! Avoid fucking alcohol! You bastard! You sly toss potting arse hole of a dodgy doctor!” I raged into thin air but directed my spleen towards the general direction of McGivitup. I could just imagine the smug git sat in his consulting room having a good old giggle at my expense. “Yes, how very drool,” I said more quietly into thin air, hoping my words would wing their way to McGivitup’s ears, “you smart arsed prankster!”
It was the wedding the following day. You can’t avoid alcohol at a wedding! I’d been looking forward to this for weeks and there was no way McGivitup was going to spoil the day. I decided his rotten avoid alcohol pills could wait until after the event.
It was one of the village girls who was tying the knot. Her entire family were a riotous clan. We‘d shared a few memorable nights out with her over the years, as part of a gang, before which her dad never failed to issue her with orders to, ‘pull an electrician tonight love the wiring needs doing!’ Or a plumber for the plumbing…a plasterer for the plastering! We knew it was going to be one hell of a good do. The only cloud on the horizon was the fact that the reception was to be held at the docs local! In theory, it was a private party, to be held in rooms away from the public bar…but even so, there was still a risk I might bump into the one and only Shamus McGivitup! And God forbid, he might even have been invited…which would definitely have ruined my day!
At the village church, where the happy couple exchanged their vows, I scanned the packed congregation for any sign of him, there was none. Things were beginning to look fairly hopeful for a good old, guilt free, piss up.
A thirst began to build as we stood outside the church, for what seemed like forever, while the photographs were taken. The brides nephew was becoming particularly bored. He was a mischievous five year old, dressed in a tailored three piece suit with a dicky bow and top hat, so tree climbing wasn’t exactly the thing to be getting into while thus attired. His dad yelled at him, ’oi, young un, get away from that tree, you’ll get that green stuff all over your nice new cloths.’ The child’s mother blushed bright red as his uncle, quick as a flash said, ’and then your mother won’t be able to send it back to the catalogue tomorrow!’ We howled.
We eventually got to the boozer, after the bride and groom lead the procession, closing the road to traffic, from the church to the pub, heralded by an ex cavalry man and his mount in full regalia. It was beautiful, just like a wedding should be.
Once at the reception, we feasted like kings on the excellent cuisine. The family who surrounded the bride were forever taking the piss out of the daddy of the clan for supposedly being tight fisted. They said he was a Scottish descendant, whose grandfather had moved the family to Yorkshire. And what is a Yorkshire man? A Scot with the generosity squeezed out! But he did his daughter proud, the champagne flowed freely as the speeches got under way.
And not only was the daddy host exceptionally generous and hospitable towards the guests, he was also a hilarious speech maker, all completely off the cuff, not a note in sight.
‘When the beautiful bride was born,’ he began, ‘I said to her mother, we’ve got two lovely boys and now we’ve got a lovely daughter, so I think its about time I put a stop to brawling in the chip shop queue and peeing in the neighbours gardens…and to her credit, she did calm down a bit after that!’ The place erupted with laughter as he continued. ‘Until recently that is…our cricket team was losing drastically, we needed a miracle to win. And a miracle we got. My good wife, the mother of the beautiful bride, whipped off her top, forgetting that she didn’t have a bra on, and streaked across the field. Unfortunately, despite her best efforts, we still lost the game!’
The whole place was engulfed in laughter, as the bride nodded her head, confirming the story to be true.
Clan daddy carried on, ‘the grooms dad, like all good parents, offered his son advice on life. On the subject of finding a life partner, he told him to look at the mother to see where the girl would end up. And he must be a bloody brave lad because he’s seen the mother in all her glory and he still married the daughter!’
His wife pelted him with peanuts.
‘On the subject of old boyfriends,’ he continued, as the bride buried her head in her hands, ‘we went to Tenerife once. One of the local lads took a fancy to our blushing bride. He was so besotted he offered us fifty camels for her hand in marriage, her mother said chuck in five hundred fags and you’ve got a deal! Unfortunately they wouldn’t let us on the plane with fifty camels so we had to bring her home again!’
There were howls of laughter all round.
Then it was time for the best mans speech. The poor lad did his best, but the clan daddy was a hard act to follow.
Once the toasts were out of the way, it all dissolved into eating, drinking some more and socialising.
We were joined by ‘her next doors’ lad. He worked in the kitchen at the pub with The Top Dog when he wasn’t at university, he’d been nick named chip boy. We were naturally curious as to why he was battered, bruised and badly limping? He’d been okay the day before. Apparently, the night before, the bride had left several bottles of spirits behind the bar, a wedding present from her, for the staff to enjoy. Several of the younger workers had stayed back after their shifts ended and got well wobbly. They had been wending their weavey way home, when ‘her next doors’ lad tripped over a cobble stone. He’d lurched to steady himself on a wall, only he completely misjudged and toppled over the other side, falling a good fifteen feet and bouncing off the odd tree, into a beck! He’d moaned and groaned like only a man can do, and didn’t respond to the girls cries of, are you alright? Have you broken anything? Can you get up? So one of the girls, being sensible, despite having had one too many, phoned her dad for advice. Her dad was a volunteer fire fighter. So the next thing they knew, the fire engine turned up, followed closely behind by an ambulance. Chip boy was carted off to hospital, after they had extracted him from the beck. But the laugh of the matter was, my best friend, her next door, was training to be a nurse. It was her very first night on casualty duty, so who was the drunken chip boy met by when he arrived? His mother. So if he wasn’t beaten, battered and bruised when he got there…he most certainly would have been when he left!
We all had a good laugh about that and then the dancing started. The drink was flowing, a good time was being had by all and any thoughts of the doc had vanished.
Day melted into night as the celebrations continued. And although I had been very good where the alcohol was concerned…I’d passed on the champers and stuck rigidly with the red wine, I was never the less a bit tiddly when supper was announced. And what a supper…it was a gourmets feast. We ate our fill, the food soaking up the previous wine intake, it was time to imbibe a little bit more.
Half a glass of wine later my gob was well lubricated, when a young man dressed in Buddhist monk garb appeared in front of me. He was a handsome lad, he wouldn’t have been short of attention from the fairer sex…but well, Buddhist monks abstain don’t they? I pounced on him.
“Please don’t tell me a good looking lad like yourself denies some special lady carnal pleasure?”
He surveyed me calmly. “I’m a monk, what do you think?”
“What on earth possessed an Adonis,” I was going over the top a tad, “like yourself to become a monk?”
“I want to attain enlightenment.”
“Well I can give you enlightenment…” I announced confidently, “and I can assure you, God does not require a gorgeous young stud like yourself to give up on the natural…get that? The natural instinct to settle down with a mate to achieve it! It’s a load of old cobblers! God gives life to rejoice in, to relish, to live to the full…and that includes sexual satisfaction! The only thing He asks is that you take care of his creation and live in peace with your neighbours. You should reconsider… your denying yourself a whole heap of fun!” My arms were swinging about and I did a bit of hip moving to emphasise my point…in fact, I very nearly knocked The Top Dogs pint out of his hand as he chatted to someone next to the monk.
“Are you trying to proposition me?” The celibate one asked.
“Nah,” I replied, “I’m spoken for,” I pointed at The Top Dog, “but I have a daughter whose free!” Sparah would have gone mental if she’d heard me!
Just then a mobile phone rang. The monk began rummaging about in his robes. He held a hand up to excuse himself for a moment while he answered. As he was talking he reached for a pint on the table and took a hefty draught. I took all this in with bemusement. As soon as he’d finished I leapt into the attack.
“I get the picture…Nirvana can wait! Drinking beer and mobile phones, worldly things I thought it was required of a monk to abstain from are okay…its just women that are taboo…are you gay and hiding behind a monks habit?”
“I’m not gay!” I was beginning to rattle his calm exterior.
“There’s nothing to be ashamed of if you are you know, you don’t have to hide behind a monks robes.”
“I’m not gay.” He said through gritted teeth.
Just then a hand squeezed my shoulder from behind as The Top Dog said, “stop tormenting the poor lad.”
“I’m only trying to do him a favour!” I looked the monk in the eye, “we don’t want you to reach a wrinkled, arthritic old age to suddenly wake up and realise you’d got it all wrong and you’d wasted all your youth and vitality on celibacy, now do we? Regret is a terrible thing. You just listen to mother Constantine and get yourself a life, find yourself a good woman, engage in what comes naturally and go out there and spread some light, love and unity, it‘ll do a lot more good for the world than denying yourself a sex life!”
The hand squeezed my shoulder again. I turned around and came face to face with McGivitup! How long had he been there? Long enough I guessed, he had his wife on one side giggling into her hand and Dave Rolence on the other struggling to keep a straight face. McGivitup however was seriously scowling at me.
“Constantine…did you read the leaflet that came with your new prescription?” He asked, half worried, half annoyed.
“Yes I bloody did read it you sly rotten dog of a heartless, sadistic, mercilessly cruel doctor,” I ranted. “Not to be taken with alcohol…not to be taken with bloody alcohol indeed! I‘m seriously considering telling you to shove your alcohol inhibiting pills up your jacksie!”
With that his wife burst into laughter, while Dave hung his head, his hand covering his mouth, attempting to suppress the same. The doc remained serious.
“You haven’t taken any yet have you?”
“What do you think I am, stupid? On second thoughts don’t answer that! Of course I haven’t taken any.”
The doc visibly relaxed.
“Anyway,” I challenged him, “what are you doing here? I was rather hoping it would be a doctor free zone.”
“We were invited,” he said, casting me a withering look as I took a defiant slurp of wine, “only we were too busy to make the actual ceremony, so I said we would look in for an hour at supper and by the look of things, it‘s a good job we did…isn‘t it time you began drinking water?”
“And you can bugger off!”
“Constantine,” he said wearily, “you’ve really got to think about what your mother went through and how you felt…you don’t want to put your family through that do you? And besides,” He sighed, “I’m off duty…I really don’t want to have to give you cardiopulmonary resuscitation when your heart gives out!”
“My heart isn’t going to give out.” I snapped, getting annoyed with his laying on the guilt tactics.
“How do you know?” He glared at me levelly.
“Because I’m fitter than you are!” I answered him in defiance. And just to prove my point I grabbed Dave’s arm and dragged him off to the dance floor. The music was fast and furious and we did it justice with every inch of our bodies joining in the rhythmical movements. Half an hour later we were in need of a drink, we returned to retrieve our drinks from the table we’d left them on. Mine had been replaced by a glass of water! McGivitup winked at me from across the room, a gesture that was picked up on by one of the village gossips who was present. I immediately made for the docs wife.
“How on earth do you live with that man?” I asked her.
“Well there are those who think he’ll be living with you soon.” She replied, nodding over to the gossip, who was busy filling in some unsuspecting soul with her assumptions, while surreptitiously sneaking glances at us from over her shoulder.
I laughed out loud, which caused the gossip to turn and face us full on, “if only she knew!” I blurted rather loudly, as both the docs wife and I stared at the woman staring back at us. We turned to look at each other before dissolving into giggles. I stole a glance back at the woman and her expression was a picture to behold, I just couldn’t help nudging the docs wife and pointing directly at the gossip before she hung her head and scurried away.
“Oh God!” The docs wife spluttered, “she’s never going to speak to me again!”
“Is that any real loss?” I asked.
“No I suppose not…in fact I might even manage to make it to the shop without being accosted with a blow by blow account of her every ailment.”
“There you go…that would be a plus then?”
“Yes, I think it rather is.” She giggled. “That particular woman has played on my nerves for years!”
“You watch,” I teased, “it’ll be all round the village tomorrow that we’re into wife swapping!”
She howled with laughter, “I don’t know why I’m laughing, because your quite probably right.”
“If you weren’t the docs wife,” I chuckled, “I’d plant a kiss on you…that really would give them something to talk about!”
After the initial shock of my statement, her face creased as she gave way to a rip roaring belly laugh.
“You know Shamus said you were entertaining company…I’m only just beginning to realise how entertaining! I‘m grateful to you.”
“The past few years have been tough for him. He lost both his parents in quick succession, then his brother almost died.”
“Yes, he mentioned his brothers experience, that’s why he took up cycling isn’t it?” I cut in.
“He lost a young patient to hereditary heart disease at the same time as he discovered the same thing ran in his family. Not only was he still grieving for his parents and devastated at losing his patient so young but he also had to come to terms with the fact that he was also at risk. He’s always worked long hard hours and continues to do so, but at that time, something changed dramatically with him, he pushed himself harder than ever, yet he was sinking deeper and deeper into depression. He began actively avoiding the children and me. It was as if he wanted us to get used to not having him around. But by the same token, he did begin to fight back. He changed his diet dramatically, then used every spare moment cycling. We as a family rarely saw him, I was desperately worried about him…then you came along.”
Her eyes were brimming with unshed tears, I gave her a big hug.
“I didn’t realise he was in such a bad way,” I whispered as I held her close, “I knew he was seriously stressed but I had no idea he was so down in the dumps.”
She pulled away and smilingly looked me in the eye, “well he’s not anymore…since you became his cycling partner it’s as if he’s found a new zest for life. He can’t get enough of the children, he spends more time with them now than he’s ever done…and it’s not all lectures about doing homework, we actually sit down as a family and play games. We go for walks together. We eat as a family whenever possible, instead of Shamus taking himself off to his study as had become his habit…simple pleasures but ones that make a big difference. He’s like the Shamus he always planned to be before life and duty got in the way.”
I was beginning to feel quite choked myself. “Maybe he’s realised that life isn’t all about putting duty first, it’s about making happy memories for those who are close to you and especially those who shall follow in your wake?”
“All I know is, we are happier now than we have been in a long time.” She suddenly grinned, “he kept me up half the night telling me about your grandfather and the tricks he played on you, we laughed until we cried…he was quite a character your grandfather.”
“He still is by all accounts…it seems the old bugger is sending healing on his wings from beyond the grave!”
“I wouldn’t argue with that.” She stated, as she grabbed a couple of glasses of red wine off a passing waiters tray. Handing one to me she held hers up for a toast.
“And cheers to you too.” I replied.
“Make sure Shamus doesn’t see the drink.” She whispered conspiratorially.
Shamus was otherwise occupied. Him, Dave and The Top Dog appeared to be bonding!
“I could do with a night out with you,” she sighed, “I could do with cheering up at the moment.”
“Why’s that?” I asked.
“We’re going to Africa the week after next, for a sort of working holiday. It’ll be our first time. We’ve spent the year gathering basic medical equipment and drugs, while fund raising to buy a major item to transport. It’s something the staff of the central practise do every year.”
“Wow…cool!” I butted in, “I’m well impressed.”
“Ah but, this year we’d set our sights on a crash trolley…they really need one, only we’re still a few hundred pounds short of the target…we’ve needed more batches of inoculations for the children than we first anticipated.”
“I’m stunned.” I admitted, “I had no idea you guys were involved in such a worthy cause.”
“We don’t widely broadcast it,” she said, “believe it or not, there are those who think the money would be better spent in our own hospitals…but we raise it among ourselves, so it’s ours to spend as we see fit.”
“Well I’m blown away, you’ve just restored my faith in human nature.” I enthused. “The Top Dog is a musician you know…”
“Yes I know, Shamus was full of praise for his musicianship.” She cut in.
“Well how about we hire the village hall and organise a dance? We’ve got all the equipment, speakers, lights, even smoke and bubble machines! If we put on food, run a raffle and such, it would only take a hundred people to raise five hundred quid if we charge them a fiver each!” I got carried away.
“It’s a bit short notice.” She faltered. “There would be no time for advertising an event like that.”
“Have faith,” I was off on a mission, “if we run up some fliers, I could get the village kids to deliver door to door.”
She was getting caught up in my enthusiasm, when the lady who was in charge of taking bookings for the village hall passed by. I hailed her. A quick conversation later and the village hall was ours for the following Saturday night…and for free!
It was time to tell The Top Dog that he had a buffet to prepare for an anticipated hundred or two people! Not only that, but he and his musical friends had been volunteered to entertain the masses!
While we were breaking the news to him, the lady in charge of the village hall momentarily halted the festivities to announce to the congregation that there was going to be an excellent party at the village hall, in aid of a very worthy cause, The Top Dog would be catering the event…cheers went up…so please go along with a bottle and five pounds and enjoy a wonderful evening…oh and spread the word.
The fund raising evening turned out to be a roaring success, The Top Dog did them proud in both catering and musicianship. The doc and his wife were able to take another case full of badly needed medical equipment as well as a crash trolley.
Meanwhile, back at the wedding party, McGivitup had steered me into the garden where the music wasn’t so loud.
“Okay, so you’ve managed to intrigue a sceptic,” he grinned, “but I can’t wait to discover what happened that makes you so convinced your mother contacted you from the other side.” He made an inane attempt to articulate ‘spooky’ with his hands and face. It was good to tell he’d had a few whiskies. I intended to make him beg for it.
“You know,” I eyed him, my brows furrowed, squaring up to give him a hard time, “I just don’t get people like you. You will quite happily sit and watch that box in the corner of the living room, the one that is capable of projecting images and sound from every far flung corner of the globe. You don’t even question the fact that you can pick up a telephone and speak to someone on the other side of the world. And you totally accept that you can sit alone in the middle of nowhere and tune in your radio to receive news of what is going on in the outside world from out of thin air! Computers, e-mail, the internet, all taken for granted. All carried through the ether, unseen, unheard, until they come to life with the flick of a switch. And yet you scoff at the idea that we possess an invisible umbilical cord that reels us in when the earthly vessel that is our body expires!”
“Yes,” the doc butted in, “but I see the results of telephones, televisions and computers working every day, even if I don’t understand how they work.”
“You oversee the delivery of babies don’t you?” I challenged.
“Yes.” He answered carefully, sensing that he was being set up.
“So you see the results of rebirth as well, even if you don‘t understand that! Why believe one and not the other?”
“Oh come on Constantine…all the electronic devices have been scientifically proven, it is understood how they work.”
“Okay,” I sighed in exasperation, “child prodigies…how would you explain that?”
“Some people are just born naturally gifted.”
“Or maybe they carried their hard work and knowledge over from a previous incarnation.” I offered.
“Maybe,” he conceded, “but there is no proof.”
“So what about the children who have been documented as telling their bewildered parents that they don’t belong in the home of their birth, they have memories of being part of a different family, then proceed to lead them to the families they claim to belong to, giving details of names etcetera…all of which prove to be correct, the former family having lost the child to the grave?”
“I’ve not heard of that before.” He admitted.
“I think there is an awful lot you’ve not heard of before doc. I mean, you’ve even experienced the circle of life yourself if only you’d acknowledge it.”
“How do you mean?” He looked baffled.
“You said it yourself, when you met Dave at med school, you felt an instant affinity, as if you had always known each other…don’t you consider the bond may have been forged in a past life or lives?”
“I can’t say I’ve ever given it much thought…all I know is that we’ve been like brothers from the moment we met.”
Dave had sidled over from another group of people close by just in time to hear the back end of our conversation.
“I’ve given it a lot of thought,” he put in, “and I don’t believe a connection like ours comes from nowhere, it’s simply too deep.” He looked McGivitup in the eye. “Do you recall years ago, after qualifying, we both went our separate ways, only keeping in touch sporadically as we forged our individual careers.” The doc nodded. “We hadn’t spoken for at least a couple of years when you felt a strong urge to get in touch with me?” McGivitup was clearly remembering something he’d long forgotten. “When you did,” Dave continued. “you found me on the verge of giving up my career.”
“Good God,” the doc gasped as he sifted back through his memories, “I’d forgotten all about that.” He looked thoughtful for a moment. “You’d developed a relationship with a little boy who was your patient…” he addressed Dave. Dave nodded. “He had a malignant brain tumour…he was the first patient you lost, you were devastated.” Again Dave nodded. “When I rang, you were ready to throw the towel in?”
“If you hadn’t have had that urge to call me,” Dave stated, “I would have…it was you who talked me through the whole ghastly episode. I’d grown extremely fond of that little boy and his family, it tore me apart when I was unable to save him. I couldn‘t bear the thought of having to relive the agony of that pain again if ever I failed to save a future patient.”
I addressed both Dave and the doc, “but look at the sheer volume of lives that have been saved through Dave’s skills, thanks to one strong urge for one friend to call the other.” I focused on the doc, “can you honestly claim that that need to make contact wasn’t divine intervention?”
The doc was clearly travelling back in time as his thoughts examined what had gone before. “You know I did feel an urge to ring you,” he addressed Dave, “it wasn’t just a whim, I felt an urgency to speak to you. I was stretched to the limit with work at the time, I could easily have postponed making that call, I hardly had time to sleep let alone catch up with a friend…but yes, it did play on my mind…it was something I had to do.” He took a big slug of whiskey before racing off to refill his glass and no doubt come to terms with his newly discovered brush with the unknown.
“So,” I asked Dave, “do you believe in the continuity of the soul after death?”
“I am actually doing research into that very phenomenon. I have colleges posted far and wide who are encouraging patients who have had near death experiences to record their observations. Some of them make fascinating reading. One, much to the embarrassment of the nurse on duty, gave an accurate account of every word that had been uttered, every movement that had been made and every thought that those involved had had, while he was clinically dead, before resuscitation. The blushing nurse had been indulging in erotic fantasies about another member of staff while she was watching him battle to save the patients life!” He grinned.
“Whoops!” I laughed. “I always have said, be careful what you think because one day your thoughts will be laid open for all to witness.”
“Yes I know.”
I shot him a look that said, how do you know that?
“I read your ’war on water’ diary last night.” He informed me.
“Welcome to the cosmic world of Constantine.” I beamed at him, taking a bow.
“No seriously,” he said in earnest, “I knew we were on the same wavelength as regards seeing the signs of the end of the age…nation shall rise against nation…men shall become lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, haughty, unthankful, unholy, ungodly…and so on and so forth. But now I realise you are way ahead of me.” He stated emphatically. “Not only does your diary adequately address a serious issue, but those pure genius paragraphs that Shamus refers to as your flights of fantasy, make perfect sense to me…it’s as if you’ve answered the questions I’ve been asking the whole of my life. It feels right and it sits comfortably. And yes, I do believe that the soul survives death.”
“Pleased to hear it.” I said as he looked me earnestly in the eye.
“I’ve got to ask, where did this stuff come from?”
I raised my eyes heavenwards, pointing up with my right index finger, “the omnipresent prankster in the sky,” I replied, half expecting him to laugh his socks off in derision as others before him had.
He appeared taken aback but not disbelieving.
“Riiight…” He exclaimed slowly, as if gathering his thoughts before asking, “and what makes you so sure God imparted this knowledge?”
“Well, too be honest, the things I express about the workings of the spirit, I was born with. Those beliefs have always been a part of me. I’ve kind of lived my life watching, checking them out and the natural order does work and is yet to work for some. It was only when the mystery in my own life began to unravel that I became aware my instincts had been right all along. As you’ll soon discover from my therapy sessions with your pal, the invisible, immortal, omnipresent, all invasive Gawd Awe flaming mighty joker has been stamping His clod hopping Great foot of fate ALL over my mere mortal existence since the day I landed on earth!”
“Shamus said you thoroughly believed God had shaped you life.”
“Shaped! Shaped?” I was getting into my stride with this rant and began gesticulating my words with flaying arms. “He,” I pointed heavenwards, “has taken great delight in screwing both me and my life up…I’ve been a mere puppet on His invisible string! And now He’s leaning on me to ‘fess up’ as it were, to your mate McGivitup! He might find it all very amusing, He crucifies me!”
“Do you mean you find it painful talking to Shamus?” Dave asked, concern in his voice.
I grinned at him, “no…I’m kidding, to be honest it’s a bloody relief someone is listening to me at long last. I’ve spent endless years attempting to express the sheer brilliance, the absolute awesomeness, the pure divine magic that has been my experience of life on earth…and all with the love of mankind at the heart of it.” I was becoming animated with my topic, I could feel myself glowing as I basked in my knowledge. “A life surrounded by the most outrageous, God designed, pure unadulterated magic the world has yet to see.”
Dave was looking at me curiously, “but it won’t come about,” he finally said, “until after the earth quake, the earth quake that shall rock the earth to its very foundations.” I could see him searching his mind. He found what he was looking for. “Therefore I will make the heavens to tremble, and the earth shall be shaken out of her place.”
“Wow,” I laughed as I took a draught of wine, followed by nibbles, from the table I‘discretely left them on while I‘d been in the presence of McGivitup, “you do know your stuff…I’m impressed…Isaiah yeah?”
“Yes, chapter thirteen verse thirteen.”
“But maybe that is a warning,” said I, “perhaps we need to take action before those things occure?”
Dave nodded as he observed me with a thoughtful curiosity. Suddenly his face lit up as he quoted, “behold, a gluttonous man and a wine bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. And wisdom is justified by her works.” He beamed at me and his eyes shone with wide eyed wonder. Before he had chance to utter another word McGivitup reappeared.
“So how did your mother prove there is life beyond the grave?” I swear he was slurring.
“After we buried her, I stayed with Father Augustus for a few days. Obviously, that first night was very emotional, your mind races with memories, her house felt so strange without her in it and you have to begin coming to terms with the finality of it all. I eventually fell into a fitful sleep. The next morning I awoke with a start after dreaming a really vivid dream…my mother had come to me, she was there, she was real, but my mind rejected her saying, ‘it can’t be you, your dead!’ She mocked me as if annoyed that I of all people questioned her presence. She was getting quite agitated as she stressed, ‘it’s me, I’m here, I’m not dead, I’m alive.’ That was when I woke up. I felt quite shaken for a while. It was so real. It was like no other dream I’d ever experienced before. My mother had visited me…she had made contact…I simply couldn’t deny it.”
“The mind playing tricks while in the throes of grief.” McGivitup stated flatly. “You can’t qualify that as proof of the afterlife.”
“I aren’t about to,” I said eyeing him with a glint of mischief, “that was only the first of her visitations.”
Dave was looking me in the eye, urging me to carry on.
“It was after her funeral that Isaac began coming round to mine more than ever. His latest girlfriend had ditched him, due to him being your typical drunken sailor, never out of the pub when on shore leave. I was extremely vulnerable at the time, prone to drinking myself stupid because I couldn’t get to grips with the massive void my mothers death had left in my life. Isaac was an absolute and complete God send…he’d just be there with his mischievous shenanigans lightening the atmosphere. That was when we began to periodically use each other sexually. And after which my mother came to me again. Once again it was in dream form. And once again it was so vivid it felt real. She appeared with an image of Isaac and there was a deep feeling of love…but she said, ‘he never did buy me that pen.’ I’d completely forgotten about it, but in life, she had forever been badgering him to bring her a ‘lucky’ pen from his travels, for her bingo playing. He always said he would but never did…” I paused.
“Presumably that held meaning for you?” Dave asked.
“Oh yeah…she was telling me that although Isaac and I cared about each other, it would come to nothing…but I half knew that anyway…it was only later when things became a tad intense and confusion set in that her message kept coming back to me…” we hadn’t reached that part in my revelations yet, so they didn’t understand what I was talking about and consequently appeared bewildered, “her contact kept me on the right path when I might otherwise have strayed…but you‘ll comprehend that soon enough.” At least I had managed to get that one out of the way and buried in their minds, so that when the rest of the information went in, the light would switch on. “But,” I continued, “the really big contact came later. One morning I woke up with a start, with the sweat dripping off me, I’d had another extremely vivid dream in which my mother was steaming angry…she was furious, incandescent with rage. She was pushing a pram round and around, frenziedly repeating, ‘after all I’ve done for you …you little bugger!’ The sweat was a result of my anxiety, I couldn’t understand what I’d done to make her so angry, it distressed me deeply. I went to work but couldn’t concentrate for agonizing over what I might have done to send her into such a frenzy of indignant rage. All day I wracked my brain searching for a reason for the latest visitation, I found none. It was after tea that the phone rang with the news that Father Augustus had had his home burgled while he had been doing an overnighter at work. I knew instantly who was responsible.” I had both the doc and Dave gripped. “During her life my mother had befriended a youth who had a reputation for being a bit of a bad lad. Petty Theft…motoring offences, that sort of thing. My mother was determined to ‘sort him out.’ He became the son she never had. For his part, he loved her. He often ferried her about on the back of his motor bike and many a time I called round and he would be cleaning the kitchen cupboards out for her, or performing some task or other. Then he got into trouble with the police again. He was charged with assaulting a police officer. His story was that the policeman had been picking on him because of his previous, he claimed that the copper had been poking him in the chest with a finger making him stumble backwards, when he fell over a low wall that was behind him, which caused his leg to come up, kicking the copper in the bollocks! My mother was up to that cop shop like a demented bullet…she was like a ballistic missile accusing them of picking on him just because he had previous…he was a good lad now…how did they expect him to stay on the straight and narrow if they kept dragging his past up and bullying him? The only reason the bobby had copped for a foot in the gomads was because he pushed him over a bloody wall for Gods sake…if anyone should be bringing assault charges it should be her lad! They dropped the charges.” The doc and Dave were both grinning. “It was years after the event that he admitted to me that he had indeed deliberately kicked that policeman. Anyway, as soon as I got that call, I knew it was him. Even without my mothers visitation I would have suspected as much. He had been to visit Father Augustus just prior to the event, I was there, Father Augustus had let slip when he would be going on an overnighter, so his movements were known. And when his home was broken into, unlike the other houses in the street that had televisions and videos and such like stolen, all that was missing from Father Augustus’s house were a few personal trinkets that had belonged to my mother…he’d wanted a keepsake…and for a fleeting moment I felt bad that we’d been so wrapped up in our own grief that we’d failed to take his feelings into consideration. I soon got over that one, he could have asked and he knew it would have been given. There was never a conviction, we didn’t expect there would be, the police don’t seem to have the resources to chase these things up anymore. But it left my dad devastated. We went round one day and he’d hammered a metal plate over the entire back door, covering the glass panel, he was seriously considering wiring it up to the mains to give any other thieving little bastard the shock of their lives. It was extremely worrying because after initially being philosophical about the whole thing, looking on it as pay back for the petty pilfering he’d done with the bits and pieces that fell off the back of lorries, he suddenly became out and out paranoid, he even took to carrying a knife about his person in case he was attacked on the street. It took him a long time to get over it.”
“That is quite some story Constantine.” The doc said. “Has this person ever owned up to the crime?”
“No…but he knows I know, I made sure I spoke to people who would speak to him…and let’s just say he’ll own up one day, because if he does not, well…he‘ll have a fairly good picture of what will befall him when he pops his earthly clogs!”
“I think you need a drink,” the doc announced shocking my socks off, but as he went to get me one, “but this will be the last yeah?”
And before the wedding celebrations were over, the doc made a date for a bike ride, the day after the fund raiser!
“No chance of skipping the pills for another piss up then?” I ventured as I savoured my last drink.
“Not a hope in hell.” Came the curt reply.