You might wonder why my next journey is taking you to Stepney. Yes, you heard correctly! Not Nicaragua, Mexico or even Cádiz but Stepney! Where the hell is Stepney? I hear you say.
Stepney is by far the oldest part of East London situated in Tower Hamlets. Over the centuries it has been grand, not so grand, slummy, destroyed, rebuilt, destroyed again and rebuilt.
Here’s a bit of compelling local history: In 1927 The North side of Mile End Road was bought up with a view to building Wickham’s Department Store which would be the Selfridges of the East End. There was just one fly in the ointment – a certain clock maker, Mr Spiegelhalter, refused to sell his property. Here is a picture of the completed building.
May 21st 2019 at 6 a.m. My Uber shoots past St Dunstan and All Saints Church (10th Century) and we glimpse the much-maligned Corbusier Housing Estates built by the London County Council in the ‘50s. I am deposited outside the London Independent Hospital (top pic.) – a building noteworthy for its un-noteworthy-ness. This is where I’m going to have knee replacement surgery!
Health insurance is a controversial topic in our family. Tom, my son, lives in America and pays thousands of dollars a year for his family’s health. Correction, his company pays the thousands of dollars. They never need to wait to see the right person. One daughter has it and doesn’t use it and the other daughter doesn’t have it and wishes she did. I have it.
The “procedure” is paid for by Aviva, except for any medication I take away with me and the crutches. Bizarre! It is a queue-jumping operation as I would have had to wait several more months to get the same operation on the NHS. The compelling and slightly scary argument from my anti-private-insurance friends is that I will get less good pre-and post op treatment and the same surgeon so what’s the point? There is always the private room issue. At this stage I had never been in an NHS ward so I didn’t have a view. Little did I know that all too soon the situation would change!
21st May is an auspicious date. I am one of 4 girls and the next sister up, Alix, died aged 21 in horrible circumstances and this is her birthday. She would be 75 today. Both my remaining sisters, Sarah and Vicky believe firmly in the after-life and here is the card that Vicky sent me.
My youngest daughter Gina has opted to spend day 1 with me. She is the owner of a three-legged rescue Labrador and a golden retriever. She is a dog-walker, does doggie day care, over-night stays, holidays and about 22 miles of dog walking a day. If you go to her tiny two up two down house in Hackney there are dogs sprawled all over the house but mostly on her bed. Her clients absolutely adore her and she is probably the best dog carer in East London. Today, all that is put aside to become a Mum-carer. She says she is very tired and the moment I go in to theatre she will get into my bed and have a much longed for snooze. Greatly to her disappointment they took me off IN the bed and she was left with nothing but a hostile chair and a slightly dusty floor.
A woman with a rasping Scandinavian voice and unpronounceable name turned out to be my anaesthetist. Somehow, she coerced me into having a spinal (I wanted a full anaesthetic followed by an epidural when I was asleep to feed in copious amounts of pain killers.) I had made a plan with Gina’s friend who is a NICE, non-raspy voiced anaesthetist. So much for Patient’s Choice. I was terrified of a needle being plunged into my back. I have to admit that after kicking up a considerable fuss about the insertion of the cannula (thing they put in your hand) I can’t even remember the spinal. Day 1 I was euphoric. Lots of lovely numbing stuff coursing through my body.