Do not ask if I had a good holiday

Why? Because I didn’t.

As some of you already know, the holiday got off to a bad start the night before leaving. Having become mildly inebriated and in what was perhaps an excessively good mood, I and others decide to strip naked and run around around our old school naked at midnight. All was going jolly well and everyone was having fun, until a loud, annoyed, and anonymous voice shouts out in the darkness. We scatter and sprint, me trying simultaneously to put my trousers back on. Sprinting diagonally across the grass that Roger Beatty spent years shouting at us not to touch, Ed and I trip up, one after the other, over a massive invisible tree root (Beatty’s presence remains, perhaps). In fact, it wasn’t so much tripping as it was kicking a solid brick wall with my naked foot with all the force I could muster. The pain partially numbed by alcohol, I limp away, the index and middle toes of my left foot leaking substantial amounts of blood. Pausing for a little more frivolity (Ed thrusting at CCTV), I get home and tend my bloody wounds.

The next morning (the day I am meant to fly to Turkey), I can’t walk. I bum my way down the stairs. Ed’s foot is fine by this point (though I am told that he later got ill with self-diagnosed septicaemia). After deliberation and grumbling, I go to to A+E with Kate’s assistance to get X-rays of my assumed broken toe. A couple of hours of statutory NHS delays and some unsatisfying packaged sandwiches later, and I get my results.

My toes are not broken, and I am just pathetic. The thought doesn’t help me walk, and I have to (with Kate’s help) struggle back home, not as a victim but as a cripple. I start Solpadeine Plus and Ibuprofen, which I carry on taking for the next four days (codeine gets quite addictive). The trek to Stansted, to and from buses, to and from transfer trains, to and from checks and measures and gates, was not pleasant. The muscles in my bruised, inflamed, turning-black-and-blue toes cramping every ten seconds, walking as slowly as an elderly cripple deprived of his zimmerframe (which is essentially what I was), I eventually make it, stinking and exhausted, to my flight seat.

In Turkey, I took to the beach once and what was to be only once. Resentful of not being able to move, exhausted from the effort of walking there, and pacified by my painkillers, I lie in the direct forty-degrees-centigrade-plus sun for multiple hours. Sweating like a bitch, I only get up once the codeine high is replaced by the scalding delirium of day, and stumble back with presumed heatstroke.

Naturally, water is my first priority. I habitually swig from the cold water tap and sate my hours of water loss. When I subsequently glance down at the sink, I am revulsed to see it a saturated yellow-orange colour, with a silt deposit gradually collecting on the porcelain. Don’t drink the tap water, mother had said.

Whether it was the heatstroke or the tap water, or septicaemia from my toes, by the end of the day, I was feeling distinctly sick. This was around midnight in the local clubbing “hotspot” (full of “club”/bars with the thinnest niggardly smattering of stereotypical Turkishness (e.g., “The Fez Bar”) playing 70s and 80s western classics). I demand to be taken home.

In between them running off on trivial beachy activities, I spend the next two days lying in bed enduring the taunts and pseudo-professional opinions of my father and sister. A stubbed toe and this is how he reacts, he says. He’s done it deliberately to get out of the boat ride, she says. It’s those painkillers, he says. He’s probably done his liver in. He’s probably got jaundice! Check his eyes!, quick, check his eyes!

Two days into this, my ears hurt; all my lymph nodes are swollen; my temperature pushes forty degrees, and has to be tempered with my constant wiping of a wet towel all over my body; my throat is blistered up with white pustules, making it painful even to swallow my painkillers. My request to the hotel for a bucket to keep my towel cool with is met with flat refusal and a statement that “no buckets exist here”. Being resentful and mildly delirious turns me mildly racist as I reject Turkish health care. The bucket is less primitive only than sticks and stones! This is the cradle of civilisation! What have they been doing the last six thousand years? Any country without buckets and clean — or even clear — water doesn’t have any concept of health. They’ll just give me more Turkish tea and tell me to turn my prayer mat to Mecca, &c., &c.

Regardless of my ramblings, eventually a doctor was called. Within one minute, he had arrived, and with another, had diagnosed a Streptococcal infection. We were advised to use the hospital, which he called, and an ambulance arrived within three minutes. Amongst the dedicated ambulance, the wheelchairs, my own immediate private room with en suite, gaggles of doctors swarming around me, and translators relaying everything back and forth, I started to realise: the NHS sucks. I was put on drips and tablets with unknown names, taken off drips and tablets with unknown names to be put on different drips and tablets with unknown names after the first were not good enough. I was pampered every thirty minutes all through the night by a delightful but unfortunately completely non-English-speaking nurse to whom I had to mime all of my afflictions. My pains were distracted by a digital satellite TV and an electric adjustable bed.

I was out the next day heavily drugged up. The remaining days of the holiday oscillated between pain and nausea, and the pacification given by unknown Turkish painkillers. I don’t remember a great deal of these three days.

In conclusion, I did not have a good holiday. This is the end of the matter and the end of all discussion. Have a nice weekend and enjoy the (ahem) sunshine.

This article was previously published here.

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