An unusual start to my day this morning. Lying in bed idly thinking about getting up, noticing that the cats' trampolining routine was rather energetic today, and that it probably meant I'd overslept, I heard the doorbell ring. Up and out of bed in a flash - could be a parcel! Years of boarding school have left me with an over-excited response to parcels, even if I know that they are just the things I'd ordered from Amazon for someone else's birthday.
But no, it wasn't the grumpy postman, arch-enemy of the dog, irritated because he had a parcel too large to shred by forcing through the letterbox with all his might. It was Professor Tim (good Samaritan neighbour from the alarm incident), looking grey and strained, clutching a large wad of bloody and dripping tissues that were barely coping with his deeply-cut finger.
I brought him in and sat him down in the kitchen, ordering him not to bleed all over the Christmas presents on the table waiting to be wrapped. Obediently, he sat and bled onto the floor instead. The story of the injury emerged in episodes, mingling with how he would miss his 9.30 train to Leeds, the lunch appointment, the conference, all because of his habit of washing up the breakfast dishes and last night's wine glasses before leaving the house. He had broken a glass in the sink and almost sliced off the tip of his finger. I could have told him that household tidiness doesn't pay.
I had a look - not squeamish, me, so long as it doesn't involve toenails - and saw that some of of his finger tip was a nasty shade of white, and that the bleeding showed little sign of easing off. My well-honed mother-of-a-boy skills at making butterfly stitches and applying a tubigauze finger bandage wouldn't do for this, I thought. We would have to go to the nearest walk-in centre where stitches might be administered. I was ready in moments - Nursie to the rescue! Hair half-brushed, teeth ditto, but properly dressed and in matching shoes.
The dog, unable to hold on any longer waiting for me to remember that she hadn't had her first-thing visit outside, made a puddle on the floor, and hid in shame. The cats agitated for their breakfast; no shame there. I forgot to lock the back door. Tim went home to collect his coat, I passed the dog and breakfast duties on to Sandra, best neighbour in the world, and off we went, bloody but unbowed, drip-drip-dripping into the car.
To cheer Tim up en route, I told him gruesome stories of other hand injuries, of Sir Ranulph Fiennes cutting off his own frostbitten fingers in the garden shed (on purpose!) - well, you do, don't you; they just fall out of your mouth, these awful tales, and you can't seem to stop yourself - and Tim actually joined in, telling me blood-soaked childhood tales of garden forks through feet, and dramatic scalpings, and then suddenly we were in the walk-in centre.
How full it was! How sick everybody looked! All except the young boys, who all seemed fit and well, alternately bored and excited. There were terrifying leaflets and posters everywhere. Posters about flu, about chlamydia, about measles, about washing your hands. I could feel myself beginning to sink under the weight of all those well-publicised microbes, viruses and hidden dirt. The need for a cup of tea became intense.
Tim was called after 15 minutes, during which time we chatted, he apologetically, me thinking it was a pleasant opportunity to catch up with him and hear scandalous stories of university politics, vile betrayals and back-stabbings. Just like Westminster, then. The fit young boys were called, and invariably emerged with one arm in a sling, and a triumphant expression of "No games for a week!" on their faces.
Tim emerged within a few minutes with a proper dressing, but sadly, no sling. He wasn't done, but had to wait till the doctor arrived. We waited for a long time, his finger gently seeping into his new dressing. He was called again, then - somewhat to my surprise - so was I. Did they think I was his mum? His hair is greyer than mine! Was I going to be told to take him home and make sure he didn't play with glass any more? I could do that; we mothers are always pleased to be backed up by medics in telling foolhardy children or mild-mannered professors to stop doing something dangerous.
No; he had to go to 'Plastics' who were waiting for him at the hospital in town; nobody liked the look of that cut. I began to regret talking about Sir Ranulph and the electric saw. Tim was given a tetanus shot, and sent off to hospital in a taxi: it's just quicker that way, in the land of no-car lanes, than with me driving in the anti-motorist hell that is the city centre. I went home promising to email the man he wouldn't be meeting for lunch, and to collect Tim on discharge.
I got in my car, sneezing violently several times, and knowing for certain that I had contracted some dreadful airborne disease from all those whey-faced people in the clinic. Tim finally came home in the early afternoon, his fingertip held on with 12 stitches, his reputation for bravery in the face of extremely youthful doctors made.
And later on, he and Roger called round and presented me with this quite-unnecessary but appreciated thank you gift:
That should fettle those germs very nicely.