This time 45 years ago, I was in the middle of my A-level exams. I took Pure Maths, Physics and Chemistry. In the middle of one of the papers, I had to be accompanied to the toilets as I felt sick. I was sick. I couldn’t continue and went home in agony. I’d been to the GP a couple of times already and he’d diagnosed my abdomenal pains as ‘exam nerves’.
Later on this Wednesday afternoon, I returned to the GP, saw a different one who, after a more thorough, intimate examination, diagnosed appendicitis and told me I had to get into hospital straightaway.
This was my first ride in an ambulance but I was in too much pain to really appreciate it. Mum was with me but I have no idea who was looking after my sister Pauline. Dad was at the Epsom Derby and didn’t get back until much later.
In hospital, I don’t remember the anaesthetic but I do remember the dreams of a golden staircase that went on and on. I woke up without an appendix, which someone described as a blackened gherkin, and I’m sure they asked if I wanted to keep it. Nope.
While in hospital, I missed one paper but took a Chemistry exam in the presence of one of my teachers, Jenny Nelson.
That was the end of school for me, and I missed out on all the end-of-term activities.
Even while I was at school and at university, I never had anxiety dreams about exams. So imagine my surprise when I woke up this morning from an exam-related dream. Weird.
I was due to take a Chemistry exam but I couldn’t be bothered. I’d had enough. So I went to a coffee bar instead and ordered my default, latte and carrot cake. After a few minutes, I had a pang of guilt. Mum and Dad and teachers and everyone had such high expectations of me. I knew that if I ran fast, I would make it in time to take the exam: I knew they let people in up to half an hour late and I also knew that until now, I’d finished all my exams well before time was up. This also wasn’t an anxiety dream, just an alternative train of events that never really happened. In 1973, I’d never even heard of latte or carrot cake.
Appendicitis was my medical complaint from a long time ago. Liesel is currently suffering from a painful piriformis muscle which is literally a pain in the arse that sometimes radiates down her leg. Yesterday, in the torrential rain, we visited a physiotherapist in Earlsfield who examined Liesel, poked and prodded a bit and suggested some exercises that will hopefully alleviate the problem.
Did I say it was torrential? We’ve had thunderstorms on and off for a few days now, and thank goodness, we’ve mostly been able to sleep through them. There have been some pretty spectacular photos of the storms on Twitter.