I’m stuck in a Hammer horror film

Continuing our series of articles by the much-loved TCW writer Nick Booth, who died in September. It was first published on November 3, 2020. You can read Kathy’s introduction here.

THE man from Parcelforce is a cheeky monkey. He rings everyone’s bell, but when we open the door there’s nobody there. Then I spot him watching me from a distance, cackling.

I call him Lockdown Ginger.

To be fair, he’s not playing a prank – orders have come from above.

Talking of over-reaction, I took the dog for a walk to the park. At a pelican crossing I encountered Milly and her owner.

Haven’t seen you for a long time, says Milly’s owner.

I explain that I’ve spent a lot of time in hospital.

She reacts like I’m Donald Sutherland at the closing scene of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

‘It’s all right, I haven’t got Covid,’ I say to quell her rising panic. ‘I’ve got cancer.’

Her body language says ‘Oh, thank goodness for that!’

Yep, thank goodness I’ve only got cancer. It could have been ‘Pan Flu’ (like man flu but Pandemic Flu is way more melodramatic).

Though we are Park Friends, if I did have Pan Flu, she would have a tough choice. Her only options would be to drive a stake through my heart or chant some incantations about the NHS while waving a mask.

Even the hospital where I’m getting chemotherapy seems to think cancer is nowhere near as serious as Pan Flu. Proof? When my records didn’t turn up at the new hospital, the admin staff were amazingly unfussed about it. ‘Sometimes they send your records to Fulham Road,’ said one, with all the urgency of a laundromat attendant having a lost-sock conversation with a student. She said she’d ‘send an email’ to see where they were. A week later, when the records still didn’t turn up, she said she’d send another email. It made me feel awful to have to keep badgering them to do their job.

The anxiety kills you too. This is the third outbreak of cancer in my liver. It came to light in a scan at the beginning of August and was confirmed by another in September. The thing is, they didn’t ring me to tell me, presumably as this is news that needs to be broken in person. But they also forgot to summon me for my face-to-face appointment.

So after a while I phoned them. That’s when they told me I’d missed my appointment (even though they hadn’t actually told me about it).

No news is usually good news. But in my case, it was just that they’d forgotten to contact me. When I eventually got to meet them, they told me my cancer was back.

I don’t know whose fault it was. But I do know for certain that from August 2 until October 21 (when chemicals finally entered my bloodstream) the cancer cells were free to multiply.

And that makes me anxious. Much more anxious than bloody Covid, which I’m pretty sure my immune system could easily have in a fight, even with one hand tied behind its back!

I’m desperate to have the advance of cancer arrested. But the admin staff, on whom I rely to get my treatment processed, don’t seem that bothered.

Oh, but if you tried to wander into the hospital without wearing a mask, that would be another matter. In one hospital they’ve got my friend from Outpatients, who has many years of experience and knowledge, acting as a Door Nurse: sorry, you can’t come into Club Covid – your mask looks too casual.

What sort of priority is that?

I shouldn’t but sod it, I popped into a pub while walking my dog on Friday. Even that was a painful affair. If you haven’t made a booking, we can’t fit you in, said the woman at the door.

The pub was empty! They did find a space for me in the garden. On a bench. For a limited time only.

The Bio Domes were already booked.

What a world. This is the sort of world we used to laugh at in the seventies horror stories we’d watch on Saturday night as kids – right after we’d been playing Knockdown Ginger.

We’re living out a Hammer horror film. This really is a tale of the unexpected.

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