When I finally looked at the clock this morning I saw the time was just after 9 and immediately thought about it being a good time to take the dog for a walk and to meet our friends; if I just got up and dressed in yesterday’s clothes (i.e. no decisions required) we could be up at the park around the right time to meet everybody. I knew I was hungry but equally recognised that if I stopped for breakfast then it might take a while due to the sore throat and I suspected that the dog walk wouldn’t happen.

I do not have one of those dogs that responds to the suggestion of walking, in some ways it would be easy if he pestered me until we went out, but no, he is quite content to be with me all day doing nothing. He does get excited by food but only in that he gives me even more attention than normal and looks even more bright eyed and bushy tailed whenever I move. Even when I get the lead down or sort out a poo bag he barely looks interested and more often than not I have to go to him and knee down to attach the lead as he lies flat on the floor. The lead connecting seems to reset his desire and once I give him a gentle tug, he is up and straining to go, a happy and dancing poodle once more. Looking at this now I have written it down, it would seem that he doesn’t associate the act of lead attachment with a positive result but one that is necessary rather than feared because he doesn’t run away or cringe, it’s more like “go on then, I know you have to”.

We make slow progress up the road. It would seem my youngest child didn’t walk him last night given the amount being produced from the dog’s rear end (how does he gain so much control?). At the roundabout we see our neighbours across the road and I walk Bobby across to say “hi” to Toffee and Holly. Toffee behaves like the two month old puppy he is, jumping up and on Bobby trying to get him to play. Bobby isn’t sure what to do, but seems to tolerate the attention; I stroke Toffee then Holly who wags her tail appreciatively. The owners with the dogs are quite elderly and walk slowly, we walk with them for a few minutes before saying our goodbyes and I cross the main road to continue the way to the park.

There is a woman in sun glasses out walking a black Labrador in a harness and I assume they are out guide dog training but from her chatting constantly to the dog I know I’ve met her before. She is someone who will talk constantly at me but not listen to a word I am saying, I think that a patient dog is a good companion for her but I would rather not have her company at the moment preferring the quiet of my own thoughts, so I encourage Bobby to walk a bit quicker. It seems an unkind thing to do, and I feel a touch guilty ignoring her, but I really don’t want the noise at the moment.

We reach the park and see that none of the usual crowd is there. I am surprised and perhaps a bit relieved because I wont find myself chatting to avoid going back home, but I do feel sorry for Bobby. I let Bobby of the lead, and walk into the park. Over the brow I see two figures I recognise, Roy and Buddy with their owners. Once Bobby sees them, he sprints up to the owners expecting to be given a treat and after an accidental treading on, he does something to eat. I chat with the owners, who are lovely interesting people, but they keep to their routine and since I am going in the other direction we part company after a joke from Roy’s owner (there is always a joke from the retired railway man and ex-soldier).

We continue on our walk, it is a beautiful stunning day with lovely views to the mountains but I realise that I actually feel depressed. “Why now?” I ask myself, it doesn’t make sense and then I recall all the comments my close friends were making about my hospital stay. My wife and I thought they were being completely over the top with their support, interest and apologies (for not visiting) but perhaps what I’ve been through is a big deal after all; perhaps I am the one discounting the issue.  Did I shut down my emotions in order to cope with the situation and am I only now recognising the trauma on me? I know I am fed up with not being able to eat what is in front of me, monitoring every bite of food to sense if it is getting stuck, avoiding anything that is too lumpy or dry – just in case. It is strange, having an excuse to eat cake and ice cream (which I did) but not wanting my diet to be restricted; it all seems rather unreasonable of me but perhaps I am looking for an excuse to feel sorry for myself. I can hear other friends saying don’t be so hard on yourself, but it is a hard concept to keep hold of.

I realise that I am having trouble keeping track of future things at the moment, and I know that is a bad sign. Perhaps the latest gastroscopy experience is more about reminding me of my fragility and lack of control in life. Reliving past traumas of these procedures is not something I choose to do, but I was forced to on Monday, and now I have some new trauma to add to the collection too. Does this make me a better person? I am not even sure why I am asking that. Being given a second chance at life is a wonderful thing, but the experience isn’t all positive, there is a price to pay which I guess I will be reminded of every so often. I wouldn’t choose to live my life differently, but there are definitely some aspects of hospitals I could definitely do without (until I definitely need them of course).

Such a beautiful day.

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