LIFE IN LONDON #06

I knocked on his door, an ornate blue slab of wood flaking from neglect, and heard movement from inside the residence. This was already a win — it meant my patient was home, could hear my knocking, and was capable of moving around the house. The door-knocker’s trifecta.

When the door opened, I was surprised to be met by a younger man (younger being anything under seventy) of around fifty-five who squinted at me through blurry eyes set too-close together over a vein-tattooed nose.

‘Good morning, I’m Jonathan, the community phlebotomist. You must be Gerald?’

He gave the question thought as if unsure of who he must be, before asking,

‘What’s all this then?’

I wondered if I’d gotten the wrong address.

‘You are Gerald?’

‘Yap.’

‘Gerald, I’m Jonathan, I’m here to take a blood test.’

‘I don’t know anything about all this. Come in.’

I was surprised, expecting further resistance from a man with no knowledge of a scheduled blood test and a stranger showing up at his door welding needles.

‘Okay.’

I followed him through his dimly lit hallway, further narrowed with a collection of boxes, clothes, and assorted piles of what can only rightly be called trash. He stepped into his kitchen, the food-preparation based equivalent of his hallway, and plonked down in a seat by a dining table, picking up a glass of apple juice and taking a drink.

I slung my backpack onto the table and withdrew my yellow sharps container and the pre-prepared pouch of needle, tourniquet, blood vials and cotton ball. Gerald squinted at me again and asked,

‘What’s all this then?’

I had a feeling of déjà vu.

‘Ah, the blood test, remember?’

‘I don’t know anything about all this.’

‘I’m guessing your doctor ordered some tests to be done. Have you see your doctor lately?’

‘No! I haven’t seen anyone in, oh…’ He trailed off, apparently forgetting he was talking mid-sentence and took another drink of his juice.

‘Someone should have rung you yesterday to let you know I was coming. Did you get a phone call?’

Gerald shrugged. ‘I don’t know. Maybe I did, I wouldn’t remember. I’m a drunk.’ He took another sip of what I was quickly realising wasn’t apple juice.

I stopped the preparation of my equipment, stunned slightly by his completely unabashed confession.

He didn’t say it like it was something he partook in, he said it as a title, like how I imagine a pilot would introduce themselves. “Good morning, I’m the pilot.”

Only in Gerald’s case he wasn’t in charge of piloting us south-west at 10,000 feet, he was steering me through the booze-addled maze of his poor logic and patchy memory.

I pulled on a pair of gloves and he glanced at the needle and tubes now neatly arranged on his tabletop.

‘What is all this?’

Now that I knew what I was dealing with, it was easier to handle. ‘I’m taking a blood test, remember?’

‘No. But I suppose I wouldn’t. I’m a drunk. Do you want a drink?’

I tipped my head side-to-side, giving the question serious thought. ‘That’s very generous, but I better not.’ My eyes went instinctively to my watch. It was ten o’clock in the morning.

‘Sorry I’m drunk,’ he said, unapologetically.

I shrugged and wrapped a tourniquet around his upper arm. ‘It’s your house.’

I instructed him to keep his arm still as I swabbed his skin and aligned the needle, slipping the splinter of metal into the curve of a vein. A flash of blood appeared in a tiny chamber at the base of the needle. I slotted the first vial into a canister and watched as a dark line of maroon snaked down the thin tubing, filling the glass container.

‘What’s all this, then?’

The query was calmly asked given, to Gerald, his memory had just reset and he’d blinked awake to find a young man draining his blood. I respect that in a person.

‘I’m taking some blood samples your doctor ordered.’

‘I haven’t seen my doctor in months.’

I didn’t have it in me to explain again. ‘Weird, that.’

‘Well, maybe I did. I forget things. I’m a drunk.’

He went to reach for his glass and I clamped my hand on his, stopping him from moving it, dislodging the needle and bleeding all over he table. He blinked at where I clutched him, and then stretched out with his other arm and took a swig of wine.

‘Do you think that would affect my memory?’

I pulled the needle from his arm, pushing a cotton ball to the site and taping it down, and then snapped of my gloves.

‘Alcohol abuse can affect memories, absolutely. So I’d say that has something to do with it.’

‘Yeah, I’d say,’ he said, leaning forward and chortling a laugh as if we were sharing a joke. I didn’t want to be rude: I laughed too.

‘Well, we’re all done, my friend,’ I said, packing away my things and slipping my backpack on. ‘Thank you for your time, and your blood.’

I headed for the door and reasoned he had probably donated just as much alcohol as blood. Given his state of inebriation, someone could use his blood samples as smelling salts.

I reached for the door handle and was about to make my escape but Gerald was too quick for me.

‘I still don’t know what all this is about!’

‘I took your blood, Gerald!’ I said, dropping all tact.

‘Oh. Okay. Thanks then.’

‘And thank you, Gerald. I’ll leave you to it, mate.’

‘Right,’ he said, easing the door closed. ‘It’s about time for a drink.’


When relocating to London, I moved in with my cousin, Dom. Dom is a primary school teacher, and has spent his time in England working throughout different schools. He also has a blog, and has recently written an excellent piece about an intense conversation he had with a student. It’s worth a read, and worth a click of your mouse.

Click here to read: http://29andprimed.weebly.com/blog

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JOURNAL EXTRACT #09

I am sitting in a sun-strewn park in Barcelona in the shade of the Sagrada Familia on a bench with my brother reading beside me. So much about that sentence makes me happy. That I am in Spain, that it is sunny (the four-thirty pm sunsets of London were a novelty for exactly one day before they just became depressing), that I am in the presence of an incredible man-made structure, and that I am reunited with my brother. And that he’s reading, because, you know…books are awesome.

It’s kind of mad when I think about the fact that Damo pulled on shoes in his side of the world, sat in a car, boarded a plane, then skipped his way across countries and oceans (three planes and two countries for those playing at home), while I pulled on shoes in London, train-hopped to the airport and flew out of England, and that our paths, which had diverged for the past four months, came together again. That in this ridiculously huge globe filled with an infinity of spots, Damo and I crossed an airport, hugged, shoe-tips touching, in the exact same spot in Barcelona. Life is fucking amazing.

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For the official record, four months is the longest we have spent apart. And it’s not that we’re the clichéd co-dependant twins that dress the same and finish each other’s sentences, the ones that creep you out a little and you avoid on the train. We’re normal. We hug a little too much, and laugh hysterically at each other’s jokes until you wish that you had avoided us on the train, but besides that, we’re regular guys. The reason we’ve never spent more time apart isn’t because we’re twins – it’s because we’re friends. We hang out. And the fact that we lived together for the first eighteen years of our lives, and intermittently in the intervening years since, also helped maintain our attachment.

When I decided to dig myself out of Australia and replant myself in London, we knew it’d suck not to hang out, but that we’d be okay. We’re our own people with our own lives, and our own wardrobes – we’d survive.

But I have missed the man immensely. It’s not until you’re away from someone that you realise how much of your own identity and self-assurance stems from relationships like the one I have with my brother. Every time he laughs at a joke, he validates that I’m funny. Every time I share a thought and we discuss it, he validates that the thought was worthwhile. Every time I have an interest that he shares, he validates that interest. And every time, and I mean every time, I suggest we go get a pizza, he validates that we should in fact go and get a pizza. It’s a bond we share.

Needless to say, it’s good to be enjoying his company again. To be enjoying it in the beautiful city of Barcelona is icing on the cake. Or maybe I should say chocolate on the churros.

We arrived late Saturday night and taxied it to our hotel, found our room (two single beds – I told you we were normal), then headed out for some food. Literally around the corner from out hotel is a street called Rambla del Poblenou, which is an open stretch of tree-lines road spotted with restaurants. We found a place selling €1 sandwiches and fries, and got to work. The beer was also €1. And just like that, Barcelona had seduced us.

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It’s now Tuesday and in the past two days we’ve explored parks bursting with greenery and stunning fountains, tagged along on a walking tour through the gothic quarter of Barcelona, seen ancient Roman ruins, eaten mouth-watering paella, strolled the docks, and pretty much stumbled onto every incredible landmark this piece of Spain has to offer. We’ve also swung on the truck of a Mammoth statue, because, when in Rome…

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Barcelona is an artistic city dotted with old-world tenements and modern architecture. The food is fresh and tasty, and, excluding the fact that some of them take it upon themselves to lighten your pockets, the locals have been friendly people. So far my pockets have remained unpicked, and I thank my skinny jeans for this. I have a hard enough time getting my wallet from my pocket, I figure a thief stands no chance. I bet pick-pocketers the world over gave up and got real jobs when skinny pants came into vogue.

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I’m going to sign off here because the Spanish sun has made us warm and we’re going to go get an ice cream before our tour of the interior of the Sagrada Familiar.

Hey, what do you know, that sentence made me happy too.

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PATREON

I am a writer. This is how I perceive myself because this is the thing I’m most passionate about. It’s also the thing I’ve spent the most time working towards. Ever since Year 9 English when the class was instructed to write a five-hundred word piece of creative fiction and I handed in a short story of one-thousand, two-hundred and six words to my poor over-worked teacher, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I left school knowing this and did a writing course to chase this dream down and grapple it into a reality.

But, I am also a nurse. I’m a nurse for two primary reason:

  1. I wanted a job that exposed me to the world’s realities, that showed me stories, and that let me connect with people in a deeper sense than the superficial, “How are you? I’m good,” sort of way. A job I could respect and be proud of. A job that let me help people.
  2. I also needed the money.

I don’t like the latter fact, and I don’t like that the latter fact is a motivator in my decision-making process, but that doesn’t change it from being a fact. The world is expensive and often unforgiving in this regard, and I can accept that if I want to live in the modern world, it comes at a cost.

But ideally, this fact would be addressed by my writing. To be able to make money from my writing, to fund writing with writing, is the dream fifteen-year-old me had back in high-school. It’s what I’ve been working towards for the past fourteen years.

But working full-time as a nurse leaves very little time for sitting and writing, to dedicating myself to the craft I love. After years of working as a nurse and collecting stories from the people I’ve worked with I’ve reached the point where I want to shift away from gathering stories and towards sharing them.

Because of this, I’ve joined Patreon.

Patreon is a website built around providing artists with an outlet for their work while also allowing them to obtain payment for their art. It works like this:

I upload short stories or chapters from my novels and people can subscribe to be a patron at a price of their own choosing. Patrons pay what they want for the uploaded work — a dollar, fifty dollars, or nothing at all, they can have it for free if they like. It’s a way of my work getting out their, people getting entertainment and enjoyment from it, and a way for readers to support the writers they love.

If you wish to read my stories and be a patron, and to support me along the way, please follow the link below:

https://www.patreon.com/jonathanrobb?ty=h

So far one piece of writing, a story called When You’re Older, has been uploaded, but more will follow. For those wishing to read it on a iPhone or iPad, please download the .epub version, or for those who want to read it on a kindle, please download the .mobi version.

Thank you for your support, and for reading.