Earlier this evening, I had a long phone call from an old friend of mine, someone I’ve had the pleasure of knowing since the early 1980s. We’d not been in touch since before I was hospitalised in early March of this year, so when I was asked how I was, I had to describe the events of more than five months in five minutes, but I’ve had a fair bit of practise at this and in any case, old friends don’t need to go through every last detail when they catch up after an unexpectedly long break.
Among other things, however, I told my friend that after one cancellation, my heart operation had eventually gone ahead on March 31st and I expressed some regrets that the surgery couldn’t have taken place twenty-four hours later, on April Fool’s Day, because I know I could have made a great deal of extra mileage out of this. I told my friend that I could possibly have gone on to equal or even surpass the events of April 1st 2002, but he consoled me with a very brief tale that instantly banished my admittedly mild regrets about the date of my operation.
It turns out that while I was floating on a cloud of morphine in the Intensive Care Unit of the Royal Brompton Hospital on April 1st this year, after having undergone heart surgery, a mutual friend of ours was living in the house he shared with his mother and it’s perhaps relevant to mention that this man was an alcoholic. Be that as it may, he collapsed and died on the morning of April 1st in his mother’s kitchen, where he remained for most of the rest of the day, because he’d rightly acquired a reputation as a practical joker and his aged mother was convinced he was merely playing an April Fool’s prank on her. As I understand it, she spent a good part of the day stepping over and around him before it dawned on her that her son’s uncanny ability to remain immobile for prolonged periods wasn’t thanks to his iron discipline and sense of humour, but because he had actually died many hours before.
I am of course sorry to hear of his departure, but as this comes to us all, I can only hope that my own demise will prove to be as memorable. This in turn reminds me of another grim practical joke I saw enacted in North London in the early 1980s, which involved lots of tomato ketchup and bits of bone from a chicken takeaway meal being smeared on the pavement beneath a high bridge, within the confines of the outline of a human body drawn in chalk, but I suppose if I’m to do this and others justice, I’d better get on with writing the second volume of my autobiography.