It’s barely 6 am and I’m wide awake. It feels like Christmas. I am jittery. I can’t sleep properly because today is the day I am to be vaccinated. Well the first jab at least. I’m that excited. My appointment is at 9:05 and I am sufficiently fearful of oversleeping that I have set no fewer than three alarm clocks to ring at staggered intervals and at different distances from the bed to ensure that I am not only awake but out of bed. This cunning plan works well. Too well perhaps as one of the alarms is still ringing intermittently four hours later when I return to the house. In my haste I have pressed ‘snooze’ rather than ‘cancel’. Still it has served its purpose. I am out of bed albeit without the slightest idea of where I am. Or who I am for that matter. But the clocks have fulfilled their part of the bargain. I am up at 5:58, standing bewildered on the landing and wondering where the the last alarm clock although it’s surely loud enough to wake the neighbours. They don’t call them thunder clocks for nothing. I briefly entertain the notion of going back to bed for an extra few winks but fortunately am sufficiently compos mentis to acknowledge the folly of such action.
For a minute or two I stare blankly into my wardrobe in search of inspiration. What is the etiquette for a mass vaccination? It’s not exactly black tie. A bit like going to work then – commuter train chic? Perhaps more casual? Or should one try to scale sartorial pinnacles? I plump for a pair of forest green cords, my t-shirt with the joke about the 2010 Icelandic volcano and a Fair Isle jumper. A quick glance outside and the sight of my crisply frosted car adds my father’s Crombie and a dark blue trilby/fedora to complete the ensemble. Throw in my brown suede Chelsea boots and I am good to go. I blow my reflection a kiss, instantly embarrassing myself.
Out of the front door and into the car. Then out of the car and back into the house when I realise it is still only 6:30 and my appointment, only some 5 miles away, is not until 9:05. Even allowing for the most event-ridden journey – avalanche in Sevenoaks, escaped panther at Capel, plague of frogs in Southborough – this is still not going to take me over 2 ½ hours.
Cornflakes and coffee I decide.
It’s still only 7 am even after a couple of weapons-grade espressos.
I turn on the wireless to catch the news and just as quickly switch it off – more Royal family shenanigans. I have a limited interest in such nonsense at the best of times. Royal intrigues simply do not hold my attention. More than I can handle at this hour. Whatever happened to the shipping forecast?
I find myself pacing the living room. Until I remember that these are the boots I was wearing the previous week when I trod in some undisclosed cat poo in the garden. Probably not my best thinking to pace the living room. I hastily check the living room carpet. Fortunately all is well with the rug and the shoes pass a brief olfactory inspection.
7:30 a.m. It suddenly dawns on me that the schools are back today and therefore the roads will potentially be choc-a-bloc with school buses, cyclists who haven’t cycled in months and schoolchildren with the road sense of hedgehogs. Plus the usual monday morning mayhem. Better get on the road I decide.
Ten minutes later I am in Tonbridge, parked at the vaccination centre and wondering how I’m going to kill 90 minutes or so in the Sports Centre car park. The cafe is closed – obviously – and it has never dawned on me to take a thermos or a book. Not that it would have done anyway. My bladder is on a hair trigger these days. Challenging it with a flask of coffee would be supremely ill judged.
The only reading matter to hand is the car handbook. It turns out to be one of the least compelling reads ever. Not exactly a page turner. On the other hand it fills the time until the vaccination centre opens. And I now know how to do a full annual service, refill the aircon and change all the bulb units. Still a little bit shaky on the electrics.
Still half an hour before my my allotted time slot. I overhear one elderly gentleman saying that there is no strict regulation of appointment times. Sheepishly, I join the queue hoping nobody will notice my early arrival. It turns out they notice but evidently do not care. As long as the system has you detected, directed, consented and punctured, all is well.
Ralph and his iPad identifies me, logs me into the system and then passes me over to Celine whose role is to point left or right depending on which is the shorter of the two queues. I turn out to be a Lefty and am greeted by Jean whose job it is to consent me and satisfy herself that I really want the vaccine. She starts by asking me if I know why I’m here. “Is this not beginners yoga?” I ask. Eventually she is satisfied that am a safe bet on anaphylaxis and passes me on to another pointing person. “Cubicle number 8” she announces in a tone that fleetingly reminds me of Argos. I’m greeted by Janine, the nurse, in a manner that is disproportionately enthusiastic for such an early hour of the day. “Which arm?” she asks “We need to leave you with one good arm”. I quickly check that we are talking about vaccination and not amputation. My meds have not really kicked in this morning and I am slow in baring my arm. Janine wrestles me out of my coat with the kind of fevered urgency of newlyweds. I toy with the idea of mentioning this to her but fortunately think better of it. She is after all holding a syringe. “A little scratch” she says and it’s all done. Nurses no longer say “a little prick”. Apparently some patients take it personally.
Janine’s assistant passes me a card with my next appointment and a sticker saying “I’ve been brave”. OK I made the last bit up. A quick thankyou and I am I shown out via the tradesman’s entrance so to speak, past huge skips of rodent-riddled rubbish with the instruction not to drive for 15 minutes ringing in my ears. Fair enough – I can brush up on the car’s electrics.
Home 10 am. Job done.