As folk who regularly bemoan the loss of Saturday-afternoon, 3 o’clock kick-off football, it was especially pleasing for me and P to be able to spend last Saturday enjoying the pre-match analysis, sitting down in front of the telly for kick-off and distracting ourselves from Sky Sports News’s nerve-inducing dying-minutes coverage with tea and biscuits.
This, for me, is what a normal Saturday is all about. Football, home, tea, biscuits. And, if you’re lucky – as we were this weekend – there’ll also be smug drives through shopping streets and drive-thru coffee, rain tapping the window as you curl up indoors, a cuddly cat rolling on her back in comfort, and Return of the Jedi on the telly. And, if you’re luckier, you’ll even find the time to squeeze in an operation to hone your new nork.
It seems pretty absurd that, while achieving (or, more to the point, blissfully non-achieving) all that P and I did on Saturday, we also managed to turn up at the hospital for surgery, get said surgery done, share ham and cheese sarnies after the op, watch the pre-match build-up, have all the necessary pills and drips and tests, get home in time for the final whistle, and – most importantly – still feel like we’d had the most normal Saturday in years.
Even the surgery itself had a real Saturday-ish air about it; everything felt incredibly relaxed and hassle-free. Well, for the most part, anyway. There’s no point in pretending that I wasn’t crapping my paper pants prior to the operation. Having assumed that it would be done under heavy sedation rather than general anaesthetic, I was blissfully picturing the kind of mid-surgery scenes I might encounter while my not-quite-right implant was being replaced… the surgical team setting up an Oscars sweepstake, Smiley Surgeon tapping his foot to Radio 2, someone popping their head round the door to ask who wants a brew… And so, when it was revealed half an hour before my op that I would, in fact, be put to sleep, I was as miffed as I was anxious.
It wasn’t my favourite anaesthetic experience. Usually it’s pretty lovely; feeling like I’ve been given a Bombay Sapphire infusion, then drifting off to sleep like a happy drunk. This time was more on the painful side; feeling like my hand was on the receiving end of a cruciatus curse before ensuring I was stupefied into unconsciousness. But the recovery nurse (given the Hogwarts references, let’s call her Madame Pomfrey) saw to it that all was well when my eyes opened, grinning that wonderful it’s-all-over smile that I’ve come to love.
‘I know your face,’ I said.
‘Oh?’ she said.
‘You’ve looked after me every time I've been in here,’ I continued. (This is typical of me – the moment I’ve come round from an anaesthetic, you cannot shut me up. Last time it was about my holiday tan. The time before it was about the mid-surgery shopping errands on which I’d sent my brother and sister-in-law. And the time before that it was about P, and how long we’d been married, and how I wished the woman in the next bed would stop whingeing. No wonder they always wheel me out of recovery so quickly.)
‘Of course!’ Madame Pomfrey said, glancing down at my notes. ‘And this is your last?’
‘I hope so,’ I said tentatively, looking down and answering my question immediately upon sight of my perfect – yes, perfect – new boob.
She winked upon seeing my chest-contentment and caringly pulled another blanket over me.
‘Seriously though,’ I said. ‘Thank you for always being so kind.’ (With things feeling as final as they did, I figured this was as good a time as any to make my acceptance speech.)
‘You’re welcome,’ she smiled as a porter began to wheel me out of the recovery room. ‘Take care of yourself, Lisa. And I hope I never see you again!’
‘What a lovely sentiment,’ I thought.
Down the corridor, Saturday was happening. The porter was whistling as we went, peering down to wink at me occasionally once he’d checked that I was okay, and further down the hall, pub-style politics-chat was in full force. ‘Ah, but you see,’ a familiar voice was saying. ‘That guy in Libya; he’s… oh, hi Lisa!’
I’d never seen Smiley Surgeon looking so calm. Leaning with one arm against the wall, his blue-scrubbed legs crossed, and his surgical mask pushed up onto his head (much like my sleep-mask is currently resting on mine), he was the picture of ease; just a normal bloke hanging out with his colleagues at work on a Saturday. A normal bloke who’d finished a normal procedure for a normal(ish) patient on a normal day at the office before heading home in time for tea and the pub quiz. (Not that SS strikes me as a pub-quiz kinda guy, mind you, but sod it. Here, at least, he’s my character, and my version of Smiley Surgeon does the pub quiz after work. And wins.) ‘Now there’s a man who’s happy with himself,’ I thought. He looked relaxed; jovial, even. He looked like I do after I’ve pressed ‘publish’ on a new post.
‘Everything went really well,’ he said.
‘I knew it would,’ said the fangirl in me.
‘So rest up and I’ll see you next week.’
‘Thanks so much for this,’ I said, half-attempting another acceptance speech before deciding to give myself a few days to come up with a more rehearsed show of appreciation.
‘You know you’re going to have to do some major ass-kissing on Thursday,’ said P, back on the ward.
‘I know,’ I said, thinking back to the last appointment in which I’d narrowly avoided offending my whiz of a Wiz. ‘But he deserves it. In fact, I reckon I’m going to lay it on really thick this time.’
‘Prepare yourself for a seriously inflated ego,’ advised P.
‘Bring it on,’ I said. ‘This’ll be the last time I’ll see him in a long while anyway.’
‘I can’t believe this is the last op,’ said P, shaking his head. ‘Do you really think it is? I mean, really?’
‘I hope so, love. I’m bored of it all now.’
‘Me too. I just can’t wait for us to start getting back to normal,’ he said with a cheekily raised eyebrow. ‘I’m sick of you being faffed with. I want people to stop tinkering with you now.’
‘Amen,’ I concurred.
‘I want your body to get back to normal,’ he added. (A sentence I translated as ‘I want your body to get back to being mine.’) ‘At this rate they’ll be calling you Claudio Ranieri soon.’
‘He was the Tinkerman, see, cos he never put out the same team.’
‘So you're like the Tinkerwoman.’
‘Ah, I getcha.’
It was a perspective I'd never seen before. All I’ve thought about are my responses to the ‘tinkering’, never acknowledging that P has actually had to loan my body, whoring me out to the NHS for the best part of three years – and now he wants me back. He wants me back, and he wants his normality back. And I reckon he’s well on the way to getting it.
‘So that's that now,’ I overheard P saying to his dad on the phone when we got home later that day. ‘Everything's fine.’
I couldn’t make out the muffled scouse tones on the other end, but when P excitedly replied with ‘They did! It’s fitting!’ I knew instinctively that his old man’s response had been to enthuse about the wins that both Everton and Derby had miraculously chalked up that afternoon.
As I sat up in bed – cat on lap, surrounded by Saturday papers, still wearing my hospital wristbands (as though they were from a festival whose memories I didn’t want to dilute), and feeling better than I’d ever imagined I would while staring at the pink sky through the gap in my bedroom blind – I responded to the excited texts from my Derby-supporting family as P continued to talk to his dad from the next room.
‘I know, it’s amazing,’ he was saying. ‘Lisa’s fine. Everton won. Derby won. And I’m home on a Saturday night. You know what, Dad? All’s well with the world.’