Easter brought to mind the Harrowing of Hell, when Christ descended into Limbo. A modern-day Mantegna, who wanted to paint the subject, could take inspiration from an NHS hospital. The letter detailing my appointment arrived at 1.45pm last Tuesday, precisely 20 minutes before the appointment itself, due at 2.05.
I hurled myself into a taxi, panting through the swing doors of the waiting room in my effort to get there on time. But the room was already full of long-faced patients who had resigned themselves to a Soviet-style wait. ‘Allow two hours,’ advised the sepulchral receptionist, as I hurriedly rearranged my day.
With one of the fluorescent lights blinking, I was driven to read my book at the further end of the room, by seats that were soon occupied by two elderly regulars, hard of hearing, who shouted descriptions of their symptoms to each other. ‘High blood pressure,’ barked one. ‘But me nose ain’t red.’ Other details are too intimate to report.
The staff were charming, the doctor highly competent, but what a pity the NHS can’t run to a tin of paint. Waiting is an anxious activity; the decoration for it needs to be breezy-colour, movement, vegetation, tropical fish. It wouldn’t cost much in the scale of things. Well, one can dream.
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