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A funny thing happened on the way to.............. watch

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    Have you ever had an experience that now brings a smile to your face, or even reduces you to a helpless floor-rolling mass, but at the time, the experience was deadly serious? Here's one of mine - completely factual - as it unfolded.
    The time:- Last year. The place:- MS Normandie (a Brittany Ferries vessel).

    "It began on Sunday 28th March at around 10 a.m. with a discreet knock on my cabin door. " 'Allo " says the Purser in an outrageous French accent, quite understandable really considering she's French, "I 'ave ze telex for you."
    Ok, basically what the telex said was that all the lighting programs I'd installed on this new ships system had "mysteriously disappeared" from the computer. Yeah, right, we all know what that means don't we?!! Somebody doesn't know the meaning of the word "delete".
    So Monday 29th sees me wending my way from Portsmouth to Plymouth to pick up this new ferry, and, oh joy, she's heading out into the Atlantic on full power trials. Now, the Atlantic on a cruise ship I can hack, but a ferry..........??????

    So I'm booked into this rather "homely" guest house, half a ton of computer equipment and my room's on the top floor. Good start. Good planning. Good God!!!
    Anyrate, the next morning, breakfast was plentiful and surprisingly good, after all, I need all the sustenance I can get in order to lug all the gear down from the top of K-2, don't I?
    On trip number three, or was it four?, my mind gets a little hazy at this point, my right foot decided that contact with the stair carpet was no longer an absolute necessity - you guessed it, I do a perfect swan - dive down a flight of stairs. As I was lying there, contemplating my predicament, the Landlady comes tearing up the stairs calling out "are you alright?" and receiving the response "Nooooooooo!".

    The pain seemed to abate after a few hours, and so, putting it to the back of my mind, I embark this new ship, find my passenger hutch - sorry - I mean cabin - and gleefully prepare to spend the rest of the day doing sweet FA, as those lighting programmers amongst you will be aware, specialised lighting and ambient daylight (i.e. the kind you can't shut out 'cos it's coming through the magnificent magrodome roof) don't mix.

    The next morning......................... ..............****! My foots turned a lovely shade of reddy-mauve type of colour - all over. I decide that a visit to the ship's doctor may be prudent. "Merde" (I think that's French for "****") she said, and bundled me onto the examination table............now, if she had been twenty years younger and had shaved that morning.................! I digress. As we were coming into the Spanish port of Santander, after numerous ship to shore telephone calls, I was hastened along to the hospital - actually it said "University Hospital of Santander" (in Spanish, of course), so I was reckoning on slightly better treatment than I would have received at the local Vets clinic.
    So I'm thinking, "Spanish doctors, educated men and women, University Hospital, of course they'll speak English......................... ..................wrong!!!!
    Now, my Spanish is limited to those important phrases such as "where's the toilet/bar/bedroom", "how much", and "are you clean?". I soon learned the Spanish for "that hurts, you stupid B*****d", or at least, the staff got my meaning. So, I'm placed into this wheelchair, and it was made perfectly clear to me via a dialogue of mime and a few well - chosen threats that I was under no circumstances to attempt to leave it. That, plus the fact that the nurse they'd assigned to me resembled Lurch out of the Addams family, bless her, gave me the added inducement to comply with their wishes. Now I'm given a guided tour of the hospital via the X-Ray department and then the trauma rooms, - well - I'm being pushed down this corridor by Lurch, wondering what the Spanish for "pain medication" and "please give me lots of it" are, when we come to a T-junction where you can only turn left or right. The sign to the right says "trauma", the one to the left says "depósito de cadáveres" - you've got it - morgue - and Lurch has chosen this moment to stop and ponder the creation of life or whatever.................lemmeou ttahere!!!!!!

    After half a dozen x-rays, I finally get to see whom I assumed was a senior medico, who peruses my x-rays, tut-tuts quite a bit, and proceeds to tell me what's wrong with my foot for ten minutes or so, I'm trying to tell him 1) I don't speak Spanish and 2) could I please have something for the pain - believe me I'm talking serious pain here now - bless him, he finally got the message and shot a syringe full of what turned out to be morphine into my arm - I'll tell you, a few minutes later he could've taken my foot off with a blunt hacksaw and I couldn't have cared less. He then proceeds to plaster my leg up to the kneecap. "Bit more than just a sprain then," I'm thinking.

    I'm now being returned to the ship, with an armful of x-ray films, doctors notes and what have you, but still none the wiser as to what the problem really is, but by this time I don't give a damn 'cos the morphine has really kicked in by now - Lurch is starting to look quite attractive.

    Now the ships doctor is looking at the notes, and is quite perplexed as she doesn't speak Spanish either, however, salvation is at hand in the shape of one of the front desk girls who is fluent in everything - and I mean everything. It turns out I'd dislocated my fibula (don't ask!) and totalled some ligaments which caused a shed load of internal bleeding. However, in the French doctors opinion, the cast was slight overkill, as in her opinion, it would be better not to immobilise the joint, but merely to support it with a support bandage.
    Therefore, we now have two schools of thought. Spanish and French. Contradictory. Sound familiar?? The thing that swayed the decision was that 1) the cast was actually cutting into the back of my leg and was making it bleed, and 2) I always thought that casts, although built up under the foot, were flat, this one had a lump the size and shape of a tennis ball on it, if I'd tried to stand up, even with crutches, I'd've gone arse over tip - not good!! So Marie (we're on first name terms now, 'cos I'm the most exciting thing that's happened to her in years - I mean - it beats giving out seasick pills doesn't it) the ships doctor decides that it will have to come off. Now for those of you that aren't familiar with shipboard hierarchy, the Captain is God, but in matters medical, the doctor is "she who must be obeyed regardless of the Captain or anyone else". She says it comes off - off it comes.
    Problem. No cast scissors. Thinks for few minutes. Telephone. Very fast French conversation, although I do speak a little French, you'll forgive me for saying that I was still in morphine heaven, with no wish to leave right now thank you very much.
    Enter ships engineer with the biggest pair of whatever-they-were I'd ever seen, gazed blearily at the cast (they were still celebrating their win over us, I think, got my own back though, as the day they won the rugby, I played Abba's "Waterloo", just to remind them they didn't win everything) and with a couple of snips, said cast was on the floor, I was killing myself laughing, and the doc and engineer were shaking hands.
    From here on, things get a little anti climactic, I'm off the ship, still on morphine, albeit reducing doses to wean me off it, a shed load of other pills and a months paid vacation.
    Although I've presented this story in a humorous light, as, in retrospect it is a true "comedy of errors", I have to say that, language barriers notwithstanding, the Spanish hospital staff were totally professional and extremely kind, I cannot praise them highly enough. The same applies to the ships staff, medical and otherwise, although I now believe the ships engineer is considering applying for medical school.......................... ..........."
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