30 Jan 23
Dear Readers, my dispatches will always be free and open to everyone. I am unable to use my hands and I’m writing, via dictation, with the help of my family. If you could become a paid subscriber and support me, it’d mean so much.
Being a tetraplegic isn’t all bad. As I write this, I am having a pedicure while eating caviar with a plastic spoon. My girlfriend is tickling me under the chin. I have just proposed to her. ‘Barkis is willin’’.
While she pretends to contemplate the question - to my surprise, and that of most of my friends, who consider me to be less than a good catch, in fact a bad catch, and had advised me against proposing while I am in this condition – she eventually says yes, of course, and laughs.
As a kind of celebration, as I said, I’m having my first ever pedicure. The man doing the pedicure wears a sort of miner’s harness on his forehead with a bright little torch attached.
From where I am lying, with his whirring machine and his glasses covered in foot-dust, he resembles someone cleaning the inside of a nuclear dump.
In the gym today a man tried to sell me a horse. He showed me a picture of the horse. I can confirm the horse is very pretty. I had to explain to him my garden in London is not big enough for a horse.
Like you, I was wondering whether the patient became paralyzed after being kicked in the back by said horse. But there is an etiquette when it comes to other patient’s injuries. You have to know them reasonably well before asking them about their accidents.
My physiotherapist tells me that most of the younger patients here have had motorcycle accidents. The public transport system in Rome is not efficient and the best way for young people to get about is to use motorcycles, which are very dangerous since the roads are in bad condition. But more about everyday life in Rome later.
I feel as if I am living in some sort of authoritarian regime in the hospital. Of course the people who work here are not tyrannical in any form. What I mean is that my body is constantly being invaded: someone comes in and shoves a tube into my ass; another nurse sticks a needle in my stomach; someone else inserts a needle in my arm.
Then I am dragged in my bed to a room at the far side of the hospital, where a complete stranger hits me over the head twenty times with a large magnetic ping-pong bat, for my own good. I feel like Jack Nicholson at the end of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, writhing in despair and helplessness.
I am feeling highly sartorial today. I am wearing my new white Snoopy socks, my black Uniqlo sports pants; on top, I have a long sleeve Picasso T-shirt, and over that, an off-white Gap hoodie.
On my head, I have an ochre woollen cap, of which I am proud. When I catch a glimpse of myself in any mirror, I am as enthusiastic and disappointed as any teenager.
I have been thinking a lot about my look, which is strange, since from the shoulders up, I resemble a man who has just run out of a burning building – his own house. I am not crazy about the Uniqlo trousers, which are made of a strange, somewhat sticky, synthetic material.
The sensation is a bit like wrapping bin liners around your legs and securing them at your stomach with a bit of old fraying rope. So this morning, as I lay on my back in the gym, and the physio was stretching me here and there, I was planning my next look, which Isabella can acquire for me on the streets of Rome.
During the physio, as I prepare for life as a married man, I am wondering what colour to paint my nails. The colours that I have suggested – which include the colours of my team Manchester United – have been considered by Isabella with some restrained hilarity.
Here in the hospital, I have seen a lot of Italian women - nurses, doctors, patients and visitors. Every day I see many nurses, but because they are wearing masks, I can only study their eyes, hair and eyebrows. I have to confess, I have acquired a knowledge of the Italian eyebrow which is extensive and detailed. Each eyebrow, is, of course, a story and an artwork in itself. One of the nurses here, Roberta, who used to work in movies, in hair and make-up, told me that the eyebrow is the most important feature of the face.
She added; the public might not notice it, but the eyebrow of the villain in any movie has to have special attention, as it must emphasise a ‘wrong’un’.
I should stress here that the Italian male also attends to his eyebrows with calculated care. This is not something I have noticed in the British male. We are more primitive, except in British soap operas, where the male eyebrow seems to be given particular attention.
Italian women take good care of themselves. Everything about them is neat and planned, and the women who are not in work uniform - the visitors - dress brilliantly and vividly, both to express themselves, and to show others who they think they are. They wear a lot of clashing colours, which is very stylish, and confident.
When it comes to myself, who I am, and who I might become, I want to return to the late Sixties and early Seventies, when I was growing up. I guess most people of whatever age, wear the clothes of their youth. I will be doing this, with the volume turned up, and with super-painted toenails. Pictures to follow.
In this shitty world,