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« Radio ga-ga | Main | My weekend »

That was the weekend that was

Where to start? Well, Friday night was spent with family and friends in Watford. Early on Saturday morning Gary (who I have known since university) took me to The Grove, a "luxury country estate hotel" featuring all the usual facilities - golf course, health spa, fitness club.

Needless to say we made straight for the fitness club and by eight o'clock I was sitting in a foaming hot jacuzzi, massaged by bubbling jets of water. The steam room merited only a cursory inspection (I could hardly breathe in there) and then it was time for a "healthy" breakfast of fruit and, er, toasted teacakes. Thereafter, events went much like this:

10.00 Train from Watford to Kensington Olympia. Walk half mile to Kensington High Street where I spend an hour in Cafe Nero reading about obesity and the "politics of food".

12.30 Walk (in the rain) to the Royal College of Art, which faces the Royal Albert Hall. The RCA is home to the Battle of Ideas, where I am taking part in a discussion entitled "Are we what we eat?". Guided to the Senior Common Room where I am introduced to Justine Brian, who organised and is presenting the session, and my fellow panellists - the very charming Amanda Ursell (a qualified nutritionist and award-winning journalist) and jovial Jeremy Shepherd (former operations manager, the BBC Club). We are joined later by Guo Yue, a specialist in authentic Chinese cooking. (Guo is also a musician whose work appears on the soundtracks of The Killing Fields and The Last Emperor.)

13.30 Lecture Theatre 2 is quite, er, intimate and it's packed - standing room only. Food is not my specialist subject. I am delighted therefore that we spend more time talking about politics than food and the good-humoured audience has to be the most liberal, sympathetic group of people I have addressed in years. How liberating - and encouraging - and what a contrast to the recent party conferences (including our own Freedom Zone event).

16.00 Taxi to Marble Arch. It's raining harder than ever so I kill time in an Italian cafe off Oxford Street while waiting to meet family and friends at the local Odeon where we have booked tickets for the new Bond film.

17.45 Twenty minutes into A Quantum of Solace I experience a severe pain in my side. It gets worse. I leave the film to see if I can walk it off in the foyer. No chance. The pain is excrutiating. I sit down, sweating profusely. A minute later I'm throwing up into a rubbish bin. Another five minutes and I'm urinating blood. A member of staff calls an ambulance. (Seriously!)

19.00 Four calls and 45 minutes later the ambulance arrives. It's a like a scene from Casualty. My wife and I sit in the back and are driven (at a very leisurely pace) to A&E at St Mary's Hospital, Paddington. The pain has largely subsided and I am beginning to feel a bit of a fraud as I catch up with the football results on my mobile phone.

20.00 Fucking hell! Without warning the pain returns, and this time I am completely incapacitated. I can't even walk. No time for morphine - just an effing suppository up my know-you-where. It works, but the relief is far from instantaneous. After 30 minutes the pain eventually subsides for a second time.

21.00 Let the tests begin. First, an x-ray. Then an ECG (electrocardiogram). And finally a CT scan (above).

Midnight The staff are very nice but I am getting a little impatient. We're waiting for the results of the tests but we need to get back to Watford to pick up the kids. My son has a football match in the morning (kick-off 10.30) and I've got the Battle of Ideas 'Free Society' party to organise and attend!

00.30 Still no news. I ask to be discharged. The doctor wants to keep me in overnight, or at least until the CT report comes back. I can't wait any longer. I sign the relevant form (absolving them of all responsibility) and leave with enough painkillers to subdue a horse.

01.00 Taxi to Euston where we wait an hour for a train to Watford.

02.45 Arrive back at our friends' house. Not wanting to wake anyone, we sneak quietly into the guest room.

07.30 Woken up by the alarm on my mobile. If we leave promptly I can get my son to his match in Cambridge.

09.45 Made it. In fact, we're the first people to arrive. (The match ends in a 4-4 draw.)

13.00 Home for lunch.

15.00 Drive back to London.

17.00 Arrive at the Polish Club, venue for tonight's party. Staff are ready and waiting. There's not a lot to do. Erect a couple of pop-up banners. CDs and business cards on the tables. Copies of Orwell's 1984 are put on display. There's complimentary wine - and SAB Miller has kindly donated 800 bottles of beer. The band appears shortly before seven.

19.00 Guests start to arrive. Within 30 minutes the queue stretches down the road. Within an hour 200 or so people are either inside or spilling out onto the covered patio (aka the smoking area) at the back of the building. Everyone seems to be enjoying themselves.

23.00 Most guests have left, a hard core remain. I make my excuses and leave. I was going to stay overnight in London but given yesterday's events I decide to head home.

Note: the hospital diagnosed a kidney stone, allied to a kidney infection. Unless the CT scan reveals a blockage it will just have to make its own way out. Apparently, this can be a little uncomfortable, to put it mildly.

Some things, however, are best kept private. So for once, I urge you NOT to watch this space.

Reader Comments (5)

Poor you Simon, what a weekend. I do hope you are feeling better now. It might be best to see your GP as I am not sure, but I believe,if the stone is not too big, there is something you can take that will dissolve it. As I say, can't swear that I am right on that, but your GP should be able to advise.

Take care.


November 3, 2008 at 15:33 | Unregistered CommenterLyn

My ex was admitted with the dreaded kidney stones; treatment: painkillers and gallons (and I mean gallons) of water to er, ease its passage. I'm sure, however, Simon, that you're relieved that, although very, very painful it's nothing more serious.

November 3, 2008 at 16:26 | Unregistered CommenterJoyce

I bumped into Simon on Sunday night and had no idea. So well done for a stiff upper lip and being the life and soul of the party at a difficult time. Simon is normallly running around like a headless chicken and was kind enough to spare me 15 minutes.

It was a very good turnout as usual and bumped into some old friends and made some new ones. Got home about 12.30 am worse for wear and went to work on a Monday morning hangover.

It is nights like this that all the time I put into the cause seems rewarded.

November 3, 2008 at 20:28 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

Dear Simon, as soon as I started to read your description I knew it was a kidney stone! I've been getting them since I was 18. The pain really is like nothing on earth. I don't believe you can take anything to dissolve stones but sometimes they do remove them or zap them with a laser if they're too big to pass. Usually though it's just drinking and waiting. Make sure they've given you plenty of pethidine ........... Best regards, Rose

November 5, 2008 at 11:58 | Unregistered CommenterRose Whiteley

Fine fellows of the stone, you have my empathetic ear as I too am a former-sufferer.

In my case, over-dependence on Evil Big Coffee's products had most likely caused the calcifications. Pity my feeble addiction! And there was I expecting the NHS to pick up the tab for it as well.

Kidney/bladder-stones are hideously painful. One of the most severe forms of pain it is possible to experience, according to one doctor I saw.

But ahh... the satisfaction as they are finally pissed out! Ting ting tinging against the porcelain like little grey hailstones.

I also remember observing how slow the ambulance went as I was transported the 15 miles to hospital and how disappointed I was at the lack of blues n' twos action on the way. Mind you, the siren could've been overkill, as I was screaming quite loud.

Hope you like cranberry juice...

November 5, 2008 at 20:48 | Unregistered CommenterBasil Brown

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