They make ‘em tough in Hull!
In 1974 I was living in a tiny London flat with my wife Liz and baby son. When Liz’s grandmother died we were offered her house in Hull, and so we set about moving up north. Before we could get here Hull City Council placed a demolition order on our prospective house and offered a massive £25 compensation.
Undeterred, now that I had secured a place at Hull University to do a teaching course, we travelled up to Hull for a weekend, and in one afternoon, bought the cheapest house we could find for £800. Job done.
The weeks passed. My wife moved up to our new home in Fleet Street, off Stepney Lane, behind Beverley Road baths, with our toddler Dylan. I just had to finish my work and research before joining them.
I had one week to complete and then I would start a new life in Hull – except I wasn’t well. I was peeing dark brown liquid and felt terrible. It was worse than flu – worse than man-flu. I went to the doctor. After a brief wait I was called in. The doctor looked up.
‘Stop there!’ he ordered brusquely.
He never took his eyes off me and yet somehow managed to write a note. He placed it on the very edge of his desk and retreated to the corner of the room.
I watched with some trepidation. It was beginning to look serious.
‘Take this note and go straight to hospital,’ he ordered. ‘You have hepatitis. Do not go near anyone. You are highly contagious.’
Feeling a wave of anxiety, I edged forward as instructed, while the doctor cringed in the corner of the surgery, took the note from his desk and slowly backed away.
I made my way straight to the nearby Royal Free Hospital. I was feeling so ill I could hardly think. At the hospital I handed the note straight to the receptionist and began to tell her the story of my highly infectious disease.
She wasn’t interested. ‘Go and sit over there,’ she informed me, pointing to the full waiting room.
Once again I tried to tell her about my life threatening condition.
‘If you do not sit over there you will not be seen,’ she informed me sternly.
I was too ill to object so did as instructed.
Eventually the doctor saw me. ‘What on earth were you doing sitting in the waiting room?’ He asked aghast. ‘You could have infected half of London!’
I mumbled about the receptionist.
‘We will have to get you into solitary confinement straight away,’ the doctor informed me. ‘You are extremely ill.’
I mumbled something about my wife and child being in Hull and wouldn’t it be possible to be admitted up there.
‘If you discharge yourself you will have to fill in this disclaimer,’ he informed me sniffily. ‘I cannot take responsibility for what happens to you or your family.’
I filled in the form.
We did not have a phone in Hull and this was before the days of mobiles. I had no means of letting Liz know what was going on.
I somehow negotiated trains and buses, attempting to keep myself away from people and stepped off the final bus on Beverley Road.
That’s where my plan fell apart. In my dazed state I could not remember where to go. I was bewildered. I found myself standing outside the Bull, not knowing where I lived.
I spied a young boy and asked him directions to Fleet Street. He looked at me with suspicion as if I was an idiot. ‘See that lad having a lot off to the bairn over there,’ he said with a rich Hull twang. ‘Yer go down tenny t’end ‘n turn right.’ I stood and stared, completely uncomprehending. I might as well have been on Mars. He was talking a different language. What was all this about lads, bairns and tennys? I nodded my thanks and headed off in the general direction indicated.
Liz was amazed to find me at the door a week early, especially when I told her not to come within fifteen feet of me as I was dying of a highly infectious and lethal disease.
I went in to the front room and she brought me a cup of tea. Then we set off to Hull General Hospital complete with baby in pram and me walking five paces behind.
I was unceremoniously turned away.
They did not have a casualty department and no matter how ill I was, nobody would see me. I was directed to Hull Royal Infirmary.
That sounded right – I was completely infirm. Besides, if it was good enough for royalty…….
I don’t remember how I got there but once there, and after a considerable wait, they explained I had to go back home. They would not see me because I did not have a GP. It didn’t matter if I was dying. I had to register with a local GP first. Somehow I got ‘home’ and the next morning, after a night in the spare room, Liz registered me at the local surgery.
A locum came out to see me. He examined me with stethoscope, thermometer and gave my belly a good prod with his hand, on the floor of the spare bedroom, and pronounced that I did indeed have hepatitis. My liver was very swollen.
I was expecting an ambulance and hospital.
He gave me a prescription for paracetamol and told me to go to bed, take two pills every eight hours and drink lots of fluids.
‘What about my wife and child?’ I mumbled. ‘I’m highly infectious.’
‘Use separate towels,’ he casually instructed as he packed up to leave without washing his hands, taking my deadly virus with him to the next patient.
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