In one of my previous memoirs (2:22 (1976) Nuffield Pool and Europa Point) I wrote a little bit about the day I realised I had developed a stomach ulcer (during a Navy swimming gala). The ulcer was as a result of binge drinking in the Far East which had left me alcohol dependent although since having my own family it was an issue I’d managed to keep control of. What I had no control over, however, was the abdominal pains and in due course I ended up in RNH for some pretty invasive and unpleasant tests which I don’t really think readers want to know too much about.What was interesting though was my baby Samantha also ended up in RNH at exactly the same time although not for anything serious, just to have a small cyst that she had been born with removed from her nose.
Naturally Sam was in the children’s ward and my ward was on the floor below but that didn’t stop me sneaking out of bed when I could and nipping up to see her; the only time I wasn’t able to do that was when I was ‘spaghetti man’ with tubes coming out of everywhere. Carol, bless her, had two of us to visit twice a day which was no easy task considering RNH was quite a distance from Edinburgh House and she also had Tracey to consider.
Not long before I went into hospital Carol and I had been to see an Irish trio (popular at the time) called the Bachelors perform at Inces Hall; as a child I learned most of their songs (Marta, I believe, My Diane) because my foster parents had lots of their records (that I eventually inherited) which they played religiously every Sunday. During their time in Gibraltar the Bachelors called in at RNH children’s ward and met my daughter Sam who they ‘kissed on the cheek’. When Sam was older and we told her about this ‘claim to fame’ – her unimpressed response was ‘Who are the Bachelors?’.
It wasn’t just the Bachelors that Sam rubbed shoulders with, celebrities seemed to often cross her path. One day while I was at work Carol had taken the children for a walk up Main Street and bought them an ice cream. Just as Sam was about to lick her ice cream a very tall man accidentally knocked it out of her hand onto the floor; the man turned out to be the magician Tommy Cooper. As Sam screamed Tommy tried to console her but was castigated by his wife who ushered him off before he had chance to make amends. It wasn’t something Carol ever forgot or forgave and when she told me about it I was horrified. Manners maketh the man.
After Sam had her cyst removed she made a full recovery and we were thrilled that the surgery left no scar whatsoever. As for me I ended up on medication to manage pain and acid production although twenty years later would need surgery for a perforated ulcer. All of my recollections of RNH are really positive; the staff were a fantastically dedicated team who (during 1977) would also care for Carol during a six weeks stay in the hospital which I will write about in due course. (Thank you RNH).