A little bit more about the stroke…

It’s coming up to six months since I had a strange argument with my right side that turned out to be a stroke – a haemorrhagic stroke, not ischaemic.

Things I really like about the stroke: I have got my weight and waist measurement down to what they have always wanted to be. This has been effortless because I no longer feel hunger the way I used to – as a constantly nagging child tweaking my skirts and wanting me to eat more. In fact, thanks to the weird thing that happened to my tastebuds (see below), I find it very difficult to decide what to eat. So I am now a normal size for my height and I love the fact that I can see my collarbones and cross my legs comfortably. Today I ran (very slowly) for 15 minutes and feel fine, no pains in my knees either.
This is such a big thing that I actually think having a stroke was worth it for the result of being a normal size. I’m a little paranoid about getting fat again but I don’t think I will because I normally feel full before I finish more than half of a portion.
I’m sorry if this sounds smug – but I AM smug.
Things I don’t like very much: my right arm and leg feel peculiar most of the time, both burning hot and freezing cold. Sometimes my right hand goes funny and shakes or clenches itself into a strange shape and I have to shake it out. My right leg drags a little if I don’t pay attention when I walk – but not when I run.
My tastebuds seem to have gone bonkers. Everything tastes too salty and anything sweet tastes ok for thirty seconds and then goes horribly bitter. I ate some chocolate raisins earlier – I still have a bitter taste in my mouth from three hours ago. I don’t like this at all and can’t taste if the food I cook is good. I can smell it though!
I still seem to need ridiculous amounts of sleep – though not the 12-14 hours a day I needed immediately afterwards. Nine hours is now about what I need – but I resent the waste of time.
I realise I’ve been very lucky and I hope the things I don’t like will go away eventually. Just so long as I stay the size and shape I’ve always, since I was 13, felt myself to be – despite being actually many pounds heavier. I even like the shape of my face now. I used to think it was round, now I realise it’s actually quite square, which is fine.
It’s both odd and lovely to look in the mirror and see there the body I always felt I really was, under the fat.

Youngest son on the way!

He’s coming to Budapest for a while on his year off, while he thinks what to do next. When I had my first child and people came and congratulated me, I told them to congratulate me if the baby made it to the age of 18. This is the third baby and he’s 18 – whew! I can stop being grown-up now and revert to 13 myself.
Or as I like to put it, 26. Yes, I’m 26 again. I like being 26 though the first time round I was quite unhappy because I was secketerying in the City of London, a job for which I had zero interest and less than zero talent. This time round it’s great! I think I’ll stay 26 permanently, at least until my youngest gets older than me. If you follow.

Being jolly daring.

There are those who, presented with a large red button labelled DO NOT TOUCH!, instantly touch it. People like my jolly daring daughter for instance.

I am not one of those people. So the fact that I’ve changed the background on my website shows INCREDIBLE courage on my part. Maybe the West will not fall as a result. (Maybe it will.)

We shall see.

At least I’ve temporarily fixed the problem with black on black print that was bugging me. Yeah! Hoorah!

Dancing in Hungary

We met while struggling to get a bus back from a big night sports event in Heroes’ Square. They’d stopped the buses but they hadn’t thought it necessary to tell anyone and a lot of people were standing about wondering where the buses were. Eventually a chap arrived and said something about no buses which I didn’t understand. I was starting to panic about sleeping on a park bench.

It’s all right, said the lady standing next to me, in Hungarian. We can get a tram to Keleti railway station from over there. So we trotted over there and got a tram to Keleti from which I got the last metro train and then the last bus home. On the way we discovered that she wanted to learn English and was willing to talk to me in very simplified Hungarian. Her not speaking English was important – a lot of Hungarians do speak it, very well, and then I get lazy.

She also told me she loved to dance and would I like to come dancing that Friday.

I would, I decided. So on Friday I turned up in one of only two dresses I own, to go dancing.

It was at Szechenyi garden in Varosliget, which is in a part of Budapest that is an enormous park and was also an amusement grounds until they closed it recently because everything was a bit old. There’s still a traditional circus there. It was like a cross between Regent’s Park and Alton Towers. Now it’s just a park with a massive hot spa and a zoo.

They had a band, playing hot old favourites from the 50s and 60s along with a lot of Hungarian boogie woogie which is so close to the originals you can almost sing along to Hungarian Elvis. And the dancefloor was crowded with people dancing – mostly jiving sedately. All of them were couples. Nobody was dancing by herself or round a handbag. It was really peculiar. The men were up there with the women, boogying away, most of them much more expert than me.

Well, I made a bit of a stand for women dancing by themselves which drew a few glares and I danced with some of my friend’s male friends which was kind of them. I don’t have more than the vaguest notion of how to boogie woogie, or jive.

On the Sunday we went out again, miles into the north of the city, by the Danube where there was another really excellent band and couples dancing away who were even less tolerant of a mad Englishwomen boogying by herself. Some of the stares I got from the ladies as I twisted to Johnny Be Good and Wild Thing were truly vicious.

I worked it out eventually. Once men realise that women can dance by themselves, they’ll stand by the bar and criticise instead, just as they do in England. You can’t let them know. It has to be a secret.

Pity about the couples thing but there you go

Not a stroke – thank God Hungarian trains have loos!

I knew I was in trouble as I walked up the path to Torokbalint station. I needed to go to the loo. I had been perfectly all right when I left the house and walked the twenty minutes to the station, the warning signals only started with the path.

Now Torokbalint station consists of this: two platforms, two sets of rails. On the Budapest side, the frame of a shelter with three metal seats. No. Loo.

And this wasn’t anything so simple as a pee. Oh no. This was a poo. In fact you could call it faeces. It was a major poo. I could tell that it had been waiting quietly for the perfect moment to emerge and now, NOW was that moment.

Go away, I said to it mentally. Go back. Wait. We can do this at the language school, we can go there where they have a nice loo. Not here. There is No Loo.

Hur, hur, said the poo, no, I’m coming out now. HERE!

You can’t, I thought, as I went and sat on the metal seat.

Go on, squat down and do it, do it, said the poo.

F**k off, I mentally commanded, you’re not a baby. Anyway, that’s disgusting. Wait!

Go on, I’m coming out now! chortled the poo.

I clenched my buttocks and tried to avoid the gaze of the Hungarian lady who had just arrived. I gave her a little smile to reassure her. She moved away from me.

Now! the poo was shouting, Now! Now!

No, I said, standing up and pacing in a circle. I didn’t care about the Hungarian lady, I was desperately trying not to foul myself. Oh god, stop! I thought.

Come on, now! Now! laughed the poo.

That’s when I started feeling funny. Not just the indescribable bear-down feeling that you get at times like this, but hot and cold. I realised sweat was dripping down and I was shaking.

“Come on, train!” I groaned and another two Hungarians moved away from me.

Now! Now! Now! chanted the poo.

I was feeling sick. My eyesight went funny and I couldn’t quite focus. Oh shit, I thought, is this another stroke?

NOW! NOW! NOW! shrieked the poo.

The train was arriving. I could hardly stand and had a strange bottom-sticking out posture and my legs were a long way away. I got to the door, managed to press the button. Oh thank Christ, there was a loo, next to some young men with bicycles. A lovely clean roomy Hungarian train loo.

I went in and at last I could let fly. I’d describe the sensation but that would be rude. It was… great. And the poo was surprisingly small, not the gigantic evil bottom-monster I expected.

Then I sat and juddered until the next station, washed my hands and face – the sweat was still dripping and went and sat down, feeling exhausted.

I was better by the time I got to Deli palyaudvar though I took the metro to the language school where I’m teaching instead of walking as I normally would. I still felt a bit shaky.

What was that? I wondered and texted my doctor friend Christine in a panic. She reassured me. Just my vagus nerve playing up, she explained. Quite all right, almost certainly not a stroke or anything sinister.

A spot of internet surfing later and all was clear: I’d had a spot of defecation syncope, was all. Anti-hypertensive drugs may worsen it – I’m taking them for high blood pressure of course, since my stroke. Sometimes people faint and foul themselves. It’s just the vagus nerve getting a bit overexcited, as Christine said. 10th cranial nerve, controls parasympathetic nervous system, brakes to the accelerator of adrenaline and cortisol, according to Wikipedia “controls the involuntary muscles in the digestive system, stimulating peristalsis and gastrointestinal secretions.” Possible origin of the idea of chakras. Long slow breathing with long exhales will stimulate it and get it to put the brakes on. Allegedly.


Bloody foreigner – Bureaucracy Games #3


I sat down on a very hard chair and took another look. Yes, no mistake, they had got through a whole two people in the time I’d been gone. So I did some meditation. Once you’re in the Official Standard Bureaucracy Game Waiting Room, you’re in an endurance contest and it’s essential to be calm or you’ll blow a gasket. If you turn into Basil Fawlty and rave about the British consul, you’ve lost humiliatingly.

Returning from the land of Om, I finally noticed a tatty notice in English on a pillar which alleged that if we wanted to get our documents back, we should photocopy them. Ah shit – the oldest trick in the book, the Duplicate Documents They Don’t Tell You About. Amazingly there was a photocopier and it worked. I quickly photocopied everything before it broke.

Back to sitting. Two nice girls asked me if I could change some money so they could work the passport photo machine. I did it and then thought… “Oh no! What about photos? Yikes!” The Passport Photo That Has To Be Precisely Correct That They Don’t Tell You About is a much loved late move in the Bureaucracy Game, I’m looking at you, USA. I was sure I’d had some passport photos taken a couple of weeks ago for something else, surely… I shuffled through my enormous rucksack with which I accidentally knock over at least one Magyar on every bus, and found… Three passport photos. Yess!

Back to waiting. 608. Lots of numbers beginning with 3. 610. More numbers beginning with 3. I looked around and realised that there were in fact two kinds of people in the Official Standard Bureacracy Game Waiting Room. Most were harassed non-Magyars, dressed either sexy-cute or smart-casual, recently shaved, haircut, staring at the digital scoreboard.

Some were Magyars, striding through importantly, wearing suits. One particularly fine gentleman was in a shiny grey silk suit, pink shirt, white contrast collar, cream-and-gold striped tie, with the jacket slung round his shoulders. Shit! I thought, realising what I should have worked out a couple of hours before.


The implications were devastating. That means they haven’t separated out the Appeals from the easy-peasy-I’m-an-EU-citizen and there are LOTS of Magyars in England, so deal with me and get rid of me first. The mysterious numbers in the 3 series on the board are the ones who brought their lawyers. Hence the taxis skulking outside to take the important lawyers home. Shit! Shit!

Looking around with new eyes, there were lots of lawyers. One gent from the Gambia sat down and started barking fluent Hungarian into his mobile after gently explaining to his client in English what was going on. Then he started explaining to a fellow lawyer about how he was going to Vienna for a one day conference which was all paid for by some agency or other. Then he started a fascinating story about how a dentist in the north of somewhere had a big herd of cows and was actually paid in cows but before he clarified whether this was in Hungary, the Gambia or somewhere else, his client’s number came up and off he went. Both he and his client had come in some hours after me, I noted. They left before me too.

I sat. I wandered about. I asked whether I actually needed a passport photo. No, said the girl. Five fifteen, said the nearly stationary clock. OK. Now I was worried. There’s a particularly nasty late-game stand-by in which, if they haven’t got to your number before closing time, you have to come back another day and start again. I anxiously checked my diary: yes, I could ruin two more mornings this week if necessary.

Paranoia got too strong. I lost some Patient Waiting points by asking the information desk girl if they played the Closing Time move, but they didn’t. They just don’t let anybody else in after 6.00 pm. Slowly the OSBGWR emptied as the digital board rattled up through the 300s and in the 400s. A 627 flashed by and was gone. The 400s continued their slow parade.

Right, I thought, I know what’s going on. You’re playing the two queues system and you’re doing it badly. You’re putting the Appeals + Lawyers through before the boringly ordinary and easy EU citizens and that, as you should know, expert players as you are, is a Foul. You should at least have a quota for how many Appeals go through before waiting EU citizens and you know it.

It was late for calling a Queuing Foul but on the other hand, I knew I’d been accumulating Patient Waiting points and I should be able to do something with them. I went up to one of the girls who had been processing a different lot of people who was clicking through the digital numbers. Yes, she spoke English. “I wonder,” I asked with elaborate timidity, “if I’ve missed my number? I came in at 14.31.” She asked to see my ticket which meant she knew I had her: I showed it to her, 628, stamped 14.31.  “627 was quite a while ago,” I amplified. “You’re next,” she said and trotted backstage.

And I was. Ten minutes later I was into the Inner Sanctum with the booths and the bulletproof glass, in front of a very pretty girl with pink trousers and a cute layered hairdo with black underneath and bottle-blonde on top. In the time she could spare from flirting with the tanned lawyer at the next door booth who was sorting a footballer’s application, she input all the stuff, collected the photocopies, had me sign six or seven documents. Where’s the stamp, she demanded, perhaps hoping for a late turn of play. Nah. Very slowly I got it out of my purse and handed it over. Stamp stamp, sign sign, stamp. I read the card to check it had the correct details. Despite the tanned lawyer tilting back on his chair beside me, it did.

Hot plastic lamination – yess! A beautiful smell! I got the card (the other one comes later in the post.) Hah! I may have lost Rounds #1 and #2, but I narrowly won Round #3 and Round #4 is a knockout to me!

I won. Again. Hot damn, I’m good.

Bloody Foreigner – Bureaucracy Games #2

The following Tuesday I still had three weeks to complete the Bureaucracy Game and get the special card/document/stamp you have to have to avoid deportation or something. I’ve learned the hard way against the expert players in the UK, that when you have to play the Bureaucracy Game, it’s no good putting it off until the last minute. You need plenty of time so that you can play at your best with the champion players inhabiting whichever branch of the state you’re dealing with. Once you’re up against a deadline and they  know it, you’re doomed.

I only waited two months in the hope I’d be able to understand a bit more Magyarul. Ha! “Magyarúl nagyon nehéz” say the Magyars sympathetically when you tell them about your crazy plan to learn it, which means literally “Hungarian is very heavy”, but actually means it’s difficult. It’s complicated, is what it is, and they’re very proud of it and of it being non-Indo-European (Finno-Ugric, if you’re interested). So not even the numbers sound familiar.

Anyway, I followed my usual Bureaucracy Game strategy and gathered every document I could think of, got confirmation of where I’m living, teaching contract, passport etc etc yadda yadda. This is so worthwhile. I still remember the joy of watching the sad deflation of the little man with the dodgy toothbrush mustache and starched shirt in the Spanish equivalent of the Bevándorlási és Állampolgarsági Hivatal. Among the many documents I had brought him were two that were not mentioned on any list anywhere but were still completely essential. Hai! Yeah! I win, Mr Toothbrush Mustache, and you LOSE. He knew it too and my prize was the relevant card in record time so he could get rid of me and Forget.

With the light of battle in my eyes and a rucksack full of paper ammo, I headed for the correct bus. Bus #1, check, bus #2, check, Ujbuda Tesco’s, check, hello Bevándorlási és Állampolgarsági Hivatal – and yes, hooray, there were plenty of pissed-off foreigners hanging around, some black, some brown and quite a lot of them Chinese. Plus two taxis waiting by the side of the road which I should have recognised as a sign of trouble.

In I trotted to the first office, ignoring a sign telling me that holders of Type D passports should go somewhere else, on the grounds that if I was a Type D passport holder, I’d know I was, on account of having a funny Cornish-pasty-forehead and being a Klingon. Luck was with me – there was no queue for the information desk, although I was in the Official Standard Bureaucracy Game Waiting Room – about 50 bored people distributed around 70 very hard chairs in a striplit stuffy hot room, all gazing in despair at a digital noticeboard with numbers on it. Uh oh, I thought.

The nice girl at the information desk spoke embarassingly good English, as so many Magyars can, and told me that I needed a special payment stamp which I could only get from the Post Office across the road and asked if I had my Ehic card (European Health Insurance Card, if you’re wondering). By sheer good paranoia I did have it, as I carry it with my passport in case I’m in an accident. Or, as it turned out a few days later, have a stroke.

She gave me the essential Magic Ticket for the queue lottery (628) and when I looked, there was only 601 showing alongside several other sequences of numbers starting with 2s and 3s. OK, I’ve got an hour or two, I though in my innocence.

Across the road I twice completely circumambulated the large shopping centre, looking for the Posta. Various helpful Hungarians tried to explain where it was and I still couldn’t find it, until a girl at the Tesco’s information desk led me to it personally and I found it in a separate section only signposted with a toyshop. So well done, Tesco’s customer survice, you gained me some good points so I could win Round #3 of the Bureaucracy Game. Finding the Posta was their second try at their favourite Invisible Office gambit and might even have worked. Heh!

The nice girl at the information desk had written down the name of the special official stamp I had to get, so I got it, easy as pie. The whole thing had only taken an hour.

Back I trotted to the Bevándorlási és Állampolgarsági Hivatal, feeling optimistic. Back to the Official Standard Bureaucracy Game Waiting Room with the digital board and the numbers.

They had got to 603.

Bloody foreigner – Bureaucracy Games #1

This story comes before the Stroke Tales, but I didn’t have time to post it before I actually had my stroke.

I like being a Bloody Foreigner. I enjoyed being a guiri (means “stupid northerner”) in the south of Spain, though the Spanish are mostly courteous and hospitable and don’t let you know about that. They watch the antics of drunken expat Brits with astonishment and the lobster-red tourists likewise and occasionally take the piss in Spanish with elaborate subtlety. My Spanish was occasionally good enough to spot this and take the piss back, which was very entertaining. In Hungary now, my Magyarul (Hungarian for Hungarian, actually) is definitely not good enough to spot anything at all.

However what I really wanted to talk about with reference to my Bloody Foreignerness was my Bureaucracy Game with the Bevándorlási és Állampolgarsági Hivatal.

Which, as I’m sure you realise, is the Hungarian Office of Immigration and Nationalisation, address: Budafoki ut 60. I had to conduct some essential bureaucracy there, involving forms, probably a passport photo and a lot of documents so I could have the important registration card I need to do other stuff in Hungary such as get a tax number.

Yes, I looked on their website which seemed to be in Hungarian only, blocked by a very polite letter in English asking me to tell them how to improve their website which took me the devil of a time to get rid of so I could see the website itself. I tried Google Translate on some bits of it which produced the usual hilariously useless and wrong results. You can’t expect a computer algorithm to cope with an inflected language, particularly one with at least fifteen case-endings, including some called the Inessive, Delative and Superessive (me neither).

So I got the Addressive (sorry) and decided I’d do what I call a Reconnaissance in Force. This means I use a free afternoon to turn up in person with everything I can think of that I might need or that they list (that bit of the website made some sense and there were other websites that were helpful).

Obviously I don’t actually expect to get anything done: it’s just a scouting operation, the opening moves of the Bureaucracy Game.

So I got on a bus, got off it where I could see number 59 Budafoki Ut and found out from some very helpful Hungarians using my haphazard Magyar and their school English that in fact number 60 Budafoki Ut was three bus stops away on a different bus entirely.

Ho ho! Well done, Bevándorlási és Állampolgarsági Hivatal! Round #1 to you. Brilliant move with a witty touch. Bloody Foreigners have to prove their stamina by actually finding the place, in the Invisible Office gambit.

Another bus ride later I got off, ironically opposite the Ujbuda Tesco’s, crossed the road and found a sign saying “Bevándorlási és Állampolgarsági Hivatal” which was what I had in my notebook. Optimistically ignoring the lack of annoyed foreign people around, I wandered into what looked like an entrance with an enquiries window. A grizzled old veteran, clearly still in mourning for the Soviet era, scowled at me when I apologised for only speaking a little bit of Hungarian. He shouted “Zarva! Zarva!” at me which even I knew meant it was closed.

Of course it was! Grizzled Old Soviet bloke was right to be highly annoyed by my ignorance.Everybody (except Bloody Foreigners) knows that the Bevándorlási és Állampolgarsági Hivatal is only open in the mornings on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays, only in the afternoon on Tuesdays and not open at all (except to students) on Wednesday. It was a Friday afternoon – what kind of madness made me think I could come in and Do Bureaucracy?

And Round #2 to the Bevándorlási és Állampolgarsági Hivatal. Another stunning use of the Random Opening Hours gambit!

My feeble riposte was to let my fragmentary Magyarul get more British by the second and take my time noting down the opening times which interfered with his enjoyment of his book. I annoyed him even more when I asked brightly (in Magyarul) if there would be anyone there on Monday who could speak English? There would be, apparently, if I understood Grizzled Old Soviet bloke correctly as he waved his arms and told me that they speak any language at all. Probably not Qechua or Glaswegian, I thought.

I have to admit that I didn’t do too well in my Reccy in Force. Never mind, I thought, there’s Round #3 next week when I have a free afternoon which remarkably coincides with the Bevándorlási és Állampolgarsági Hivatal’s opening time: Tuesday (Kedd) one pm to six pm. We’ll see, I thought.

Stroke tales – food, glorious food!

I was getting better in Kutvolgy hospital. The craziness of the first day was over and I was sleeping and waking, getting up, moving around very carefully because my right side still felt a bit not there and was numb, particularly to heat. I seemed to be doing an awful lot more of the sleeping thing – being anally retentive I started to time myself and discovered I was doing up to about 18 hours asleep in the first few days.

That’s about the amount a cat can sleep, by the way, if nothing more interesting is going on, which just shows you.

It took me a while  to notice the first major change. In fact it sort of crept up one me because the hospital food at Kutvolgy is… Well, it’s terrible. In a heartbreaking way.

I’ll give you the outlines. At 8 o’clock a nice nurse comes round with a big bag of rolls and some little packs of food. Healthfood like three slices of turkey ham, or three slices of completely flavourless cheese and some cucumber. Each patient got two rolls and a little pack. At 5 o’clock in the evening she does exactly the same. If you make the mistake of asking for a gluten-free diet (guess who?) you get two slices of “bread” that makes styrofoam look appetising.

The nurses and the doctors all wear bright white, by the way. It’s a caste thing and I didn’t have time to work out the rules, but essentially the whiter your clothes, the more important you are, and if you also wear a white coat, you’re a doctor.

The main meal of the day is lunch. Someone comes in with a big tray with two covered dishes on it. The smaller one contains some kind of soup – thin soup with veggies in it, usually, a non-negotiable start to most Hungarian lunches. This is dull but drinkable, especially if you got the floating carrots down quickly.

And then there was the main course. There was usually a lot of it, which was a mixed blessing, because it tasted awful. It was always overcooked. Occasionally it was completely unidentifiable, like the sort of bready loaf with some meat in it. Sometimes it was readily identifiable, as with the meat and two veg which I kept getting, although that doesn’t mean you could identify the meat. The veg was always mushy. Sometimes it got quite exciting: there was one occasional when my roomies got meat with sour cherry sauce, thick with cornflour. Awful. There was even tarhonya which is usually a nice kind of pasta with meat. Awful. How do they make everything taste like last weeks’ leftovers?

And yet, someone down in the kitchens was clearly trying. There were lots of different ways of serving it, though it all tasted pretty much the same. You never knew what you were going to get, in a boring way.

I didn’t really care, because a weird thing happened when I had my stroke: I completely lost my appetite and my consuming (in all senses) interest in food. It’s still just not there though I’m trying to remember to eat at regular intervals. Food also has a thoroughly nasty taste after a few minutes. Apparently this is a common side effect of stroke, which means it’s only a matter of time before some supermodel or starlet tries to induce a stroke to get the cool no-appetite effect.

But it wasn’t just me: my roomies and I bonded over the question of what would arrive for lunch and how awful it would be.

I puzzled over this and I came to a conclusion, prompted by some of the doomed television attempts to improve the food in our own lovely NHS. The ingredients were usually fine and the people cooking them not bad or evil people at all. They just couldn’t tell the difference between good food and bad food. They would make something revolting and think it was delicious. As they went about making their appalling lasagne they probably felt all warm and cuddly as they imagined the poor sick people eating it. Everybody laughs at hospital food, they’re thinking now as they stir, but mine is delicious and wonderful.

It’s an unsettling thought. At the moment, I’m one of them.






Stroke tales – ghost arms and nappies

It was probably the same day I arrived in Honved hospital, though whether it was before or after my amazing friend Dora arrived, I’m not sure. It’s all a bit mixed up for me. What I’m sure of is that at some point on that exciting Thursday 20th March, I became aware of myself again, a person wearing quite a lot of medical clobber including electric stickies, wires, a line going into my arm, another line doing something else, possibly blood pressure measurement. And a nappy.

Oh, I thought, I’m wearing a nappy. How sensible.

The invisible cat had… er disappeared by then, but I was still in the middle of a fight between the two halves of my body. The left hand side was exasperated. The right hand side was in a dreamy thrill, exploring how much my ghost arm could do. Which, thanks to my stroke, was quite a lot.

Although it still seemed attached at the shoulder, it could whizz around and stretch out. I knew there was another arm in there somewhere, a physical arm, but it wasn’t doing much, just lying there inertly like my right leg.

The ghost arm was much more fun. And yet for some reason, the spoilsport left side of my body insisted I had to find the physical arm and make it move.

Where was it? I looked down and felt a kind of shock, because it was lying there instead of waving around in space as I felt it was. I tried to move it. Nothing happened which was a pity, because my ghost arm was  moving just fine.

Not good enough, growled the left side of my body.

OK, I thought, feel for a difference. There was one. My ghost arm felt lighter and larkier. Underneath it was something heavy and difficult.

Quickly, I tried the underneath arm. My hand moved, the physical one. Oh good, I thought, now can I go back to the fun one?

No, said the left side of my body. Try again.

I couldn’t move the physical arm, but I was now getting interested in the feeling of having two arms one of side of my body – the left side had the normal boring number of one, so could be ignored. I tried the lighter one. Wild gyrations happened above the bed. I tried the darker one, consciously fitting my thoughts into the limb as if into a glove.

Ahah! It moved again.

For a bit I swapped between them and then somehow lost interest in the ghost arm as my physical arm came back to life. It didn’t move much but it moved and so did the almost forgotten leg.

I lay back exausted and contemplated the nappy. Was I ready to let go? Maybe. I certainly needed to go and I was far too tired from all the arm complications to ask for anything, even if there had been anyone to ask. Just to show off I moved my right arm and leg together a tiny bit; it was satisfying because after all that ghost arm hadn’t actually achieved a lot. I concentrated just as I had with my arm and felt a warmth in the nappy that was not followed by sogginess as I expected.

Great, an immense improvement on towelling nappies, I thought, as I dozed off