23 March 2009

Raining blood

I went to give blood today, and to get a free slice of cake. It's not that good a trade: giving blood is not entirely painless, and the food on offer (along with the cup of tea afterwards that is almost a statutory requirement) wasn't very exciting.

I took Anna Karenina, in case I had a long wait, but after going through the preliminaries I was hooked up so quickly I hadn't even time to put my reading glasses on. "You're bleeding well", the nurse told me: "thanks for the compliment", I said. (Mental note: next time, the line should be "you say the nicest things", perhaps depending on how young and attractive she is. And that she is a she.) I read a bit of a chapter, then the nurse came back and said "you're done": I couldn't believe it, but evidently the flow had been really good. Out came the needle and another nurse pressed a pad of absorbent material against the site. After a while she invited me to press on it and sit up, then replaced it with a plaster. I stood up and made my way to the table where the free food and cups of tea were on offer.

No sooner had another nurse asked me what I'd like to drink than I felt a warm sensation on my arm, and looking down was horrified to see blood pouring from under the plaster. Having given nearly an armful, the rest of the armful was going on the floor. A new absorbent pad was quickly pressed on my arm, and the nurse in charge of the refreshments found herself instead having to wipe the floor (and the right knee of my trousers) clean. We joked about the mess I had made, whether they would invite me back, and how clean that part of the floor would be. "We had a forensic scientist came to give blood once," the nurse said. "I told her that if she had to go to a scene of crime in a village hall and it was spattered with blood, it would probably be because we'd been there."

It's so good to have a random encounter with someone whom I will probably never meet again, and immediately to be able to exchange banter with them. When I finally got my tea, a young man was tucking into the spread with great relish. He had missed lunch, and was impressed by the free food. "You've got to earn it", I told him - it's not entirely free. "I came to keep my friend company," he explained, "but I thought, well, I've got blood ..."

My cup of tea lasted me long enough to finish the chapter, one of the longer ones, describing a wedding: and in case you haven't read it but will in the future (as I strongly recommend), I won't let on whose wedding it was.



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