It’s Your Funeral (2)

Even though Hubcap and I are only in our fifties, in recent years we’ve lost so many friends and family members of around our age – or considerably younger – that we’re starting to hear the Grim Reaper scratching very gently at our own door with his scythe.

So, since publishing my original ‘Its Your Funeral’ blog back on 30th December 2015, we decided to go for it and acquired a SafeHands ‘Pearl’ pre-paid funeral plan. Now, when one of us pops off, all the other will have to do is ring a 24/7 helpline number to set the plan in motion – there’ll be no scrabbling about looking for funeral directors, no trying to second-guess what the late mate would have wanted for a service – and above all, no worries about what it’s going to cost.

Altogether, I was so impressed by the company, its ethos and products that I went on and trained as a funeral planning consultant/SafeHands plan agent – so if you’d like a plan for yourself do get in touch, and I’ll gladly sell you one! In fact do get in touch even if you’re not in the market to buy, because thanks to their recent initiative to ensure every adult has one, I can give you something useful: the Free Funeral Plan. This is a handy four-page A4 form on which you fill in all the details your next-of-kin/executors will need when they have to arrange your funeral – essential stuff such as whether you want to be buried or cremated, whether you’re willing to be viewed in the funeral home, the kind of music and readings you’d like at your service, (if you want a service at all), and so on.

It might sound a bit morbid or frighteningly like tempting Fate, but it’s not – we did our plan 18 months ago, and we’re still here! Oddly enough, we both found it quite an enjoyable and comforting exercise, and it was certainly instructive; despite having known one another for nigh on 14 years/being married for nearly a decade, Hubcap hadn’t a clue I wanted my coffin to enter the chapel to Bach’s ‘Toccata and Fugue’- and it would never have occurred to me in a million years that my little ex-Goth would choose a Frank Sinatra song, (‘It Was A Very Good Year’ – I can’t hear it now without getting a lump in my throat).

So why not drop an email to helencox-celebrant@outlook.com to request your Free Funeral Plan? There’s no catch, no charge and no obligation to go on and buy anything – so you’ve got nothing to lose (but plenty to gain in terms of peace of mind for yourself and your nearest and dearest). And if you’re now thinking, ‘Wow! That sounds so great I’d like to become a SafeHands agent myself’, then contact my account manager Alan Holmes on alan.holmes@safehandsplans.co.uk and he’ll gladly talk you through it!

2016: My Best and Worst of Years

I suspect many people will, like me, be glad to see the back of 2016; it’s certainly been one of the most extreme years I’ve ever lived through – in fact the sort of year I never expected or wanted to live through.

On a personal front it was great, largely thanks to my titanium hip. I passed the 12-month post-op ‘full recovery’ milestone in August, and will hit my impending birthday feeling ten years younger instead of one year older. I have my strength, energy and fitness back, and (hurrah!) a proper marriage again. Hubcap no longer has to nurse me along like some fragile semi-invalid; we can enjoy ourselves like the couple we used to be, going places, doing stuff, able to hike all day with no fear that an arthritic femur will shift in its socket and leave me stuck in crippled agony (as once memorably happened half-way up the keep stairs at Conisbrough Castle).

I could work physically hard too, making 2016 my best business year for- well, years. I’ve been a real Assistant Gardener at Hubcap’s busiest times, relishing our teamwork and the sweaty satisfaction of a solid day’s graft planting trees, mowing grass or painting fences – not to mention numerous sessions of Himalayan Balsam-busting, bindweed clearance and haymaking on our nascent smallholding. And I developed my new funeral services venture by foot-slogging round Wakefield’s streets delivering 5000 promotional leaflets (a strangely enjoyable task which would’ve been utterly beyond me prior to the op).

Said venture turns out to be one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever done, although what’s good for a funeral celebrant is perforce bad for my bereaved clients – especially because only one of the services I conducted this year was for someone very elderly; the rest were for folk in their fifties and sixties, who might reasonably have been expected to live a lot longer. It made for a poignant time in my working world, reflected in a wider sense by the staggering number of celebrities to die in 2016. Some, like the great Leonard Cohen, went in the ripe fullness of old age, but more, like Alan Rickman, Victoria Wood and Caroline Aherne, were relatively, cruelly young. The only such death to touch me directly was that of journalist and critic AA Gill, with whom I was very slightly acquainted and liked a lot. Others were cultural icons, their familiar faces and voices woven into the very fabric of my earlier life, including Ronnie Corbett, who made my whole family laugh; Ed ‘Stewpot’ Stewart, to whom I listened throughout my spotty adolescence; my late mother’s beloved Terry Wogan; Greg Lake, one of the first ‘progressive’ musicians I ever got into, and writer of my favourite-ever Christmas song; Prince, whose music charted my work-trips to the States in the Eighties; and David Bowie, for God’s sake, one of the most towering musical figures of the late 20th century… I adored him. Losing so many in a matter of months made me reel; they took a whole era with them and a huge swathe of my personal past, severing a host of connections with long-dead family and friends – which has all added up to a long, sad year of mourning.

However, those griefs pale by comparison to my feelings about the year in politics and the sheer terrifying awfulness of events at home and abroad. ‘The ‘experts’ have made a complete hash of things,’ concluded the electorates here and across the Atlantic; and while that’s true enough, it prompted some catastrophic reactions: ‘So let’s give the ignorant, inexperienced, self-aggrandising morons a chance – that’ll show ‘em!’ Yes, after two of the most despicable, divisive campaigns of misinformation and putrid propaganda I’ve ever had the misfortune to witness, all gleefully fuelled by the bile-spewing media, Britain will leave the European Union and America will be governed by a politically naïve, sexist, shouty orange racist, a porn-star First lady, their equally unqualified family and frightening fundamentalist cronies.

So far, the consequences have been pretty grim. Britain’s Leave vote, won by outright lies and broken promises, has condemned us to years of bitter argument, massive expense, market instability and an uncertain future, and shown up politicians of every party as irresponsible, incompetent, completely wrong-footed by the result and clueless about what to do next. America’s Republican victory has already caused social unrest and protests on a mammoth scale, together with accusations of corruption and criminality against a candidate many refuse to accept as president. And both here and Stateside we’ve seen a huge, horrible upsurge in scapegoating, racial and religious abuse and hate-crimes – enough to scare the bejesus out of any moderate liberal with any awareness of 20th century political and military history. To me, it has a dreadful, apocalyptic feel, as if we’ve just pressed the self-destruct button and things are about to take a turn for the unimaginably worse. I’ve never before felt so disgusted, appalled, depressed and outright bloody frightened by Britain’s political environment; and I want out but there’s nowhere to go because this seems to be the world now, a world increasingly dominated by braying right-wing bigots and unhinged religious extremists.

So it’s goodbye and good riddance to you, 2016. I can only hope and pray for 2017 and beyond that my fears will be misplaced; that everything will pan out for the best, and I’ll be forced to eat all these critical words. And by God, I want to eat them. I want to be as wrong as wrong can be. I want people who voted to leave the EU, or elected the president whose name I can’t bear to write, to be fully justified in saying, ‘See? Told you so – our problems are under control, the economy’s booming and we’re all doing just fine.’

In the meantime, I’ll close my final blog of this benighted year by wishing you and yours the merriest possible Christmas, and a happy and healthy New Year.

Marvels of Middle Age

Recently I found myself walking through town on my way back from a gardening job, just marching along swinging my arms and enjoying the fine autumn weather. This may sound like no big deal and certainly nothing worth blogging about – but on a personal level it’s miraculous, because this simple pleasure was often beyond me.

In recent years it was physically impossible: I’d become so crippled by osteoarthritis that eighteen months ago I’d have been crawling along with my stick, being overtaken by spry seventy-somethings; whereas now, thanks to my marvellous new titanium hip, I’m back to my habitual route-march pace and relish every single pain-free step.

But that wasn’t what made me grin wryly as I strode along; no, I’d just remembered that as a painfully self-conscious older child, teenager and young adult, marching so freely was equally out of the question. It was mainly a matter of hands – what to do with them, I mean. I was fine if I had a dog to walk, or something to carry, or the strap of a satchel or bag over my shoulder to hang onto. Failing that, stuffing them in my pockets usually sufficed – unless I was wearing my motorcycle jacket, that is. Its pockets were so high that my elbows would stick out as if I were playing, ‘I’m a Little Teapot,’ and so tight that I could only get my fingers inside them anyway – it looked too ludicrous. So it was sheer torture to walk round to my biker boyfriend’s house in it… I had to at least carry my crash helmet or find something else to tote with me, because without some manual purpose I felt like a shambling leather-clad ape. And even when I’d achieved my walking ideal, (one hand stuck deep in a pocket and the other occupied with carrying), I loathed entering glass-fronted buildings – being hyper-conscious of my gait, I found the sight of my approaching reflection quite excruciating.

So I felt rather sorry for my younger self as I savoured one of the great compensations of middle age: no longer giving a stuff about lots of stuff, like trying to look ‘cool,’ or what I think other people might be thinking of me. Yes, there I was striding through town, not only careless of my mud-spattered work-trousers and shabby old trainers, but blatantly sporting a fluorescent yellow high-vis coat AND gaily swinging my empty hands – I might as well have been waving a placard and shouting, ‘Look at me!’ Oh, what a delicious little triumph – that ghastly self-consciousness of youth has disappeared, and it’s bloody marvellous.

Brexit Blues #1: Referendum Depression

Dear readers: you may have been surprised by my lack of rants about Britain’s recent referendum and decision to quit the EU – because God knows, the whole sorry farce gave plenty to rant about, as it will for years to come.

The reason for this dearth, thanks to the double-whammy of the result and a nasty virus doing the rounds, was that I temporarily lost the will to live, let alone blog. Seriously – the farrago of Farage, the lies piled on lies, the jingoistic ravings of the far-right, the self-seeking hypocrisy and gross political ineptitude on all sides, plunged me deep into the sort of depression I thought I’d long recovered from. I don’t mean a bummed-out mood that can be jollied away by a glass of wine and a funny film. I mean a leaden lethargy that turns getting up and dressed to face another day into an effort akin to climbing Everest; a hopeless negativity that makes it impossible to see beyond the world’s cruelty and horror to the love and beauty that exist alongside; a lasting despair that makes the idea of escaping through death seem appealing.

Anyone who’s experienced full-blown clinical depression will be nodding sagely at this point, while anyone who hasn’t may be thinking, ‘Suicidal over politics? How very self-indulgent/melodramatic/stupid,’ or something along those lines. So before I finally vent my thoughts on the fiasco of ‘Brexit,’ (the very word, that obnoxious little contraction, makes me want to run amok with an axe), I’d like to say a few words about the black dog that’s pursued me since childhood and still, on occasion, drags me down.

Endogenous depression, the type that comes from within, isn’t pretty. It isn’t languishing on a couch while silent tears roll with fetching pathos down one’s pallid cheek – it’s more like open-mouthed bawling, uncontrollable and inconsolable, with red eyes, red face and copious snot. It’s deeply complex; symptoms vary greatly between individuals, but may include a sense of being overwhelmed; a nerve-peeled hyper-sensitivity, a tendency to over-personalise, over-analyse and brood on the motivations of others, make negative assumptions about them – often wildly inaccurate – and act accordingly; bouts of hysterical frenzy alternating with long, silent withdrawals; and contempt for folk who can’t grasp just how bloody awful everything is, mingled with jealousy and resentment of their bovine, contented oblivion. The damaged self can be horribly selfish, narcissistic, paranoid, self-obsessed, unreasonable and blind to the feelings of others; the memory of some of my behaviour while ‘acting out’ my internal miseries and dramas still makes me cringe decades later. (Any non-depressives who want to get a handle on how this mind-set feels, try reading Sylvia Plath’s poems and journals; or the memoirs by Dido Merwin and Lucas Myers in Anne Stevenson’s Plath biography, Bitter Fame, to see how its manifestations impact on helpless bystanders). Depression is- well, depressingly common, affecting an estimated 350 million people worldwide, and I lose count of the number of past or present sufferers I’ve personally known. It goes hand-in-hand with low self-esteem and guilt for being so pathetically unable to cope with everyday stuff that everyone else apparently takes in their stride; it is at the very least life-blighting, and at the very worst, life-ending – I’ve lost one dear friend and several acquaintances to suicide when they couldn’t take the pain any longer, and on occasion come perilously close to checking out myself.

So depression isn’t being feeble, something a person can simply ‘snap out of’ at will; it’s a serious, potentially fatal illness often (as in my case) resulting from unbalanced brain chemistry combined with unresolved early trauma. Luckily, an effective course of treatment in the 1990’s saved my life; and apart from episodes brought on by external circumstances or the hormonal mood-swings of advancing middle-age, since then I’ve been a pretty happy bunny – that is, until the referendum catapulted me back onto familiar dark mental pathways and made me want to opt out, not out of Europe but out of existence itself.

How am I coping? Avoiding the news, for a start – current affairs are too threatening to my mental health and the precarious equilibrium I’ve begun to claw back. Practising mindfulness, staying in the here and now, trying not to mourn over what’s passed or panic about what’s to come, concentrating on our unchanged immediate surroundings and shutting my eyes to the wider world until I’m strong enough to look at it again. Trying not to get too angry, hungry or tired, because then I’m more vulnerable to falling into the abyss. Hanging onto life primarily for the sake of the two beings who want and need me most, my husband and cat; hoping and trusting that I’ll regain the desire to live for myself and everyone else who cares about me; resolving that if it doesn’t happen soon, if a stable, usually happy state doesn’t return, I’ll seek medical treatment. And now publishing this to say to any fellow sufferers from ‘Brexit Blues’ or other forms of depression: you’re not alone. You’re not weak or pathetic. You do deserve help; I hope that you’ll seek and find it, and from my heart, I wish you every sort of well.

The Traumatiser: Julie Bindel and Sanctimonious Students

Feminist writer Juile Bindel recently released a short, punchy video for The Guardian – ‘Sorry, We can’t ban Everything That Offends You – and I’m deeply offended by some of the content. Not by Bindel’s defence of free speech, (essentially, that it’s better to hear repugnant opinions and refute them with rational argument than to prevent them from being voiced). No, I’m offended by the self-righteous brigade in the National Union of Students: the ones who deny Bindel a speaking platform because they can’t be bothered to read or understand what she really means; the ones who think cross-dressing fancy dress should be banned in case it offends transgender people; and most of all by the ones who claim that they would be ‘traumatised’ if they had to repeat her ‘horrifically transphobic’ views.

Traumatised? Traumatised? Feh! Anyone capable of such pathetic self-dramatizing wouldn’t recognise real trauma if it walked up and slapped them in the face. How dare a minority of a minority lucky enough to have the brains and resources to enter tertiary education misappropriate the word for so trivial a purpose when millions all over the world are genuinely, horribly traumatised on a daily basis? It’s a symptom of our smug, self-regarding society where too many people are babied into adulthood with a grossly over-inflated sense of their own importance, and I’ve got news for you, children: you’ll find the adult world a whole lot rougher and ruder than Academia, full of unsympathetic grown-ups who won’t give a flying fig if you’re ‘traumatised’ by the idea of repeating words you don’t like. Try telling the drought-stricken, starving Ethiopians or the war-torn Syrians and Ukrainians how upset you are by Julie Bindel exercising her right to free speech. Go on, I double-dare you – I’d just love to hear what they reply.

And as for the woolly-minded naïvety of last year’s NUS Women’s Conference ‘ban fancy-cross-dressing’ debate, with its political hyper-correctness and control-freak mentality masquerading as concern for transgender feelings, well… the ‘pro-banners’ remind me of the joyless architects of Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia. Imagine a world where they got their way: our legal system, already overstretched with serious crime, crushed by the weight of invented offences; informants gate-crashing ‘Tarts & Vicars’ and stag-parties, ever on the look-out for miscreants dressing up in forbidden clothes; police stations full to bursting with tipsy blokes in fishnet tights, mini-skirts and the wife’s purloined lippy. Taken to its logical conclusion, we’d have no more principal boys or pantomime dames; mass burnings of Little Britain, Mrs Brown’s Boys and League of Gentlemen DVDs (to name but a few shows in which cross-dressing is used, gasp shock horror, for comic effect); no more re-runs of Monty Python, Blackadder, or Morecambe and Wise; and a whole list of movies, (Stardust, Tootsie, Mrs Doubtfire and The Birdcage immediately spring to mind), the showing or watching of which would result in immediate incarceration for crimes against trans-emotions.

Well, stuff that. All I can say is thank God we can’t ban everything that offends some people – and I’m not the least bit sorry about it.

It’s Your Funeral

In the heady aperitif years of my youth, I paid no attention to the adverts. But now, chomping steadily through the coffee-and-mints stage of what Hubcap calls, ‘the lunchtime of life,’ I notice them everywhere. I must admit, (alas), that I need one of those. It’s responsible and prudent; it’d take a load off my mind and spare my family a world of hassle. And one thing’s for sure: someday, (long in the future, I hope), it will come in useful – yes, (gulp), I’m talking about funeral plans. If you’re my age, the adverts may grab you too: those budget funeral insurance policies plugged by silver-haired celebs (who could probably afford a horse-drawn hearse followed by a fleet of limos if they so desired). A free gift just for registering interest! No medical required! Mere pence a day guarantees a cash lump sum if you die after two years – and you get another free gift when you sign up!

For the over-fifty-fives they sound great – on the face of it. What’s not so great is being hooked into paying instalments on a non-transferable policy for the rest of your life – and if for any reason you stop, all benefits are forfeited and you lose every penny you put in. If you die within two years, all your family gets is what you’ve paid in – which may only amount to a few hundred pounds, nowhere near the price of even the simplest cremation. If you’re blessed with long life, at some point the balance of advantage will tip and you’ll be paying in more than the policy’s worth – but if you stop, you lose everything. And even if you die at an ‘optimal’ time so that your family receives more back than you shelled out, the sum still might not cover the full cost of your funeral.

It all sounds too risky to me, especially now I’ve found something different and better: the SafeHands funeral plans endorsed by the National Federation of Funeral Directors. Unlike the above, which seem designed primarily to make money for insurance companies, these offer decent, affordable, and above all reliable services to meet customers’ needs. Essentially, they’re about buying tomorrow’s funeral at today’s prices, either by one-off payment, up to two years of interest-free instalments, or instalments with interest for up to ten years. For folk who’d rather spend money on living than dying, a straightforward Direct Cremation without funeral service comes in at a modest £1695; alternatively, you can pick from four packages of increasing sophistication and cost, (although even the most expensive, at £3595, falls far short of the £6000 – £7000 which some funeral directors charge).

The main advantages of SafeHands plans are that you can choose your own funeral in advance, thus sparing your nearest and dearest; you can change/add to them if you wish, and even leave them un-named so that they can apply to any member of the family; you’re not bound to endless instalments; and they guarantee that when the time comes you’ll get exactly what you paid for, with no nasty surprises or shortfalls. (If you die before you finish paying, your family or estate has six months to come up with the outstanding balance). It seems like such a good deal that Hubcap’s currently considering a ‘Pearl’ for £2945, while I’m still undecided – I may yet leave my body to science, assuming science would want me – although I’m sufficiently impressed to have trained as a Federation funeral celebrant and agent to sell SafeHands plans. Check out my new website if you’d like to know more!

Hip Replacement Amazement

Sixteen days ago, I had my wobbly arthritic left hip replaced with a shiny new synthetic joint. I’m still reeling with shock (albeit very carefully, so as not to dislocate it); and while I recuperate, I thought I’d share some surprising discoveries I’ve made for the benefit of anyone about to undergo the same thing.

  1. Look after your legs. If you have the least little break in the skin, like a scratch or infected midge bite, to avoid infection risks your operation may be cancelled. (If that had been made clearer to me, I wouldn’t have shaved my legs in the shower before my last pre-op check-up!).
  2. You can stay awake. Apparently most people choose epidural anaesthetics, (with the small associated risk of leaked spinal fluid and paralysis), and remain conscious throughout. Not me. I find the idea of having a needle stuck in my back completely horrifying, and had not the slightest desire to be mentally present while the top of my leg was sawn off and my pelvis re-bored – so I went for a full general, (with the small associated risk of brain damage and death). Admittedly, it’s disappointing to know that had I died under the knife, my last word would’ve been, ‘Ow,’ (as the anaesthetic flowed, painfully cold, into the back of my hand); and that my first utterance on flicking back to consciousness, (‘Oh – is it done?’) was equally banal. But a half-hour later I was happily phoning family, drinking tea and tucking into cheese butties while my two ward-mates were still zonked out after their epidurals and sedation; plus I escaped the unpleasant indignity of being catheterised (short-term bladder paralysis is a common side-effect of epidurals) – so give me the knock-out every time.
  3. It isn’t too horribly painful. The drugs – initially oxycodin, then codeine – help on that score, of course, and my body responded enthusiastically to both, (although they make some people chuck up). But considering that the op involves an incision some 8 inches long, the after-effects didn’t hurt as much as I expected. The wound itself I’d rate as no worse than ‘sore’. My thigh muscles were painful for the first week, (albeit less so than after my first-ever session of Tae Kwon-do, when I couldn’t lower myself onto a loo-seat for 3 days), but that’s hardly surprising; it’s a pretty forceful procedure, and I had fingertip bruises where the surgeon had grasped my flesh to pull it apart. In the early stages, I found the main pain was a deep ache, bad enough to be extremely uncomfortable until the drugs kicked in, but not enough to make me moan and writhe in agony…
  4. …unlike the constipation. We eat a wholefood diet rich in fruit and veg, so we’re    not usually at home to Mr. Bung-up. However, opiate painkillers make the gut sluggish (especially when combined with the sphincter-clamping effect of a strange toilet, which is one of my personal foibles); so despite choosing vegetarian food, snacking on extra fruit and high-fibre cereal bars, and taking the prescribed laxatives, I couldn’t ‘go’ – and no-one could be discharged until we’d delivered the goods. Consequently our bowel activity – or lack thereof – became a major topic of conversation on the ward; even my fellow inmates’ visitors started enquiring after my bottom, leading to some rather more personal conversations with strangers than I’m wont to have. By Day 3 my appetite had disappeared (no room left inside) and I looked 6 months pregnant; this was probably the worst part of the whole hospital experience, and it took 2 glycerine suppositories to shift things enough for me to be allowed home (where, naturally, my innards greeted the familiar porcelain with a rip-snorting hurrah and promptly began making up for lost time).
  5. You’re back on your feet very soon. It’s essential to bed the new joint in, strengthen the muscles, guard against deep-vein thrombosis and prevent death by boredom. The moment I stood up after my op, I could feel I had a functioning hip joint again; it bore my weight easily, and the horrible limp I’d had for years was miraculously gone. By the end of Post-Op Day 1, I was roaming round the Orthopaedic Suite on elbow crutches; on Day 2 I could go up and downstairs; and by Day 3, I’d blagged my way off the ward twice and gone outdoors for a breath of fresh air. Back home, the crutches rapidly became an annoyance and I only carried one if I was venturing farther afield than the garden gate; and on Day 8, I came back from physiotherapy with just a walking stick. Meanwhile right from the start, I was less disabled than I expected. OK, I can’t yet drive, take my support stockings on and off, wash my feet, or kneel down to fuss the cat/deal with yakked-up hairballs/scrub his victims’ blood off the kitchen floor; but I’m perfectly capable of light housework, shopping, gardening, and a little computer work. It certainly helps that I’m relatively strong, fit and young for this procedure, and had no other medical complications – not everyone is so lucky – but I’ve been able to resume a surprising degree of normality surprisingly quickly, can already walk better/further than I have done for years, and have the comforting knowledge that things can only go on improving.
  6. Post-op swelling is quite normal. I was relieved to hear this as my left hip-to-knee ballooned to such monstrous proportions – almost twice the size of my un-operated leg – that it stuck out at 45 degrees, and I feared it had become possessed by the ghost of, say, Henry VIII. Ice-packs, massage, elevating the limb and drinking plenty of water to flush toxins out helped a little; then, mercifully, ‘Big Leggy’ maxed-out after a week and began to subside, going down a lot faster than it had swollen, and is now almost restored to its customary shape and size.
  7. Nights are hard. Even in hospital, day-time activities, distractions and analgesia keep discomfort to bearable levels – and sometimes, when sitting or walking, the wound hurts very little, if at all. Night-time is a different matter; having to sleep on one’s back for 6 weeks (to prevent the joint popping out) is extremely irksome, and the longer periods of immobility make it stiff and painful. So I husband my codeine for bed-time, (whereas during the day I can get by on the odd paracetamol), wash it down with a little drowsiness-inducing alcohol, (not medically recommended!), and supplement my poor nights with an afternoon nap. Yup, it’s a bit of a drag – albeit a small price to pay for being able to walk properly again.
  8. The NHS can be brilliant. Only five weeks between my initial consultation and having the op; every conceivable precaution taken to make sure I was fit enough and free from MRSA; a pristine incision with soluble internal sutures which will leave a barely-perceptible scar; good-humoured staff who did their best to make my hospital stay as pleasant as possible (to the point of going down to the shop to fetch me a soft drink I was craving); provision of all necessary aids like medication, crutches and raised loo seats to help out at home; and comprehensive after-care including free transport to physio sessions. Sure, sometimes I had to ask more than once for things I wanted when staff were hard-pressed, and found some confusing contradictions between the generic pre-admission information and practical realities; but considering how overstretched our health service is, I’m extremely impressed by my hospital and out-patient care – not to mention extremely grateful for it.

So all in all, if hip arthroplasty looks like featuring in your immediate future, try not to worry. It may not be exactly fun, but it’s not nearly as bad as some surgical procedures – and if my experience is anything to go by, your life will be transformed in no time!