Rebecca Tyrrel: Days Like Those

'I was dubious about taking the drugs, Matthew is a talented hypochondriac, but he's not actually a doctor'
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The Independent Online

Matthew's favourite retailer is the chemist, John Bell & Croyden in Wigmore Street, and he often presents me with gifts from this high-class purveyor of surgical supplies. For our wedding anniversary this year he bought me a lumbar support belt, which I am using in conjunction with some Diclofenac Sodium anti-inflammatory pills that he has also given me. He happened to have them in his medicine cupboard (a piece of furniture slightly better stocked than the John Bell & Croyden warehouse) and together these thoughtful presents are helping me remain mobile despite a very bad back.

I was dubious about accepting the anti-inflammatories at first, Matthew may be a remarkably talented hypochondriac but he is not technically a medical practitioner. However, I am proud and pleased to say that they are doing the trick and I am capable of movement, albeit restricted.

Indeed the pill and belt combo have worked so well that I entirely forgot I had a bad back this morning and moved a bag of Matthew's logs (we are heading into the fraught log-burning season, but that is another column). The result is that no amount of pills and surgical support will allow me to remain in the sitting position. I can lie and I can stand, or rather stoop, but what I cannot do is sit in the car. I am therefore not able to collect Louis from school.

And so I visit Matthew in his office/shed at the bottom of the garden (not a journey I ever undertake lightly) to ask him to collect his son in half an hour.

Matthew seems startled that I think for a minute he will be free to leave his game of internet poker. What he in fact says is: "In the name of all the saints, I'm in the middle of a four-way heads-up tournament. I can't possibly leave now." I reiterate that he doesn't have to leave for half-an-hour, and he says that he thinks he might just be able to finish the game by then; but that if he can't, isn't it possible to ring the school and tell them to keep Louis until a more convenient moment? "What is the absolute latest this game could end?" I ask, white-faced and wincing from the back pain. "That is not a question I can accurately answer," says Matthew, "It could end in 20 minutes, it could, on the other hand, go on until midnight."

And so I stood there, or to be more precise, I stooped there, clutching my back, waiting to see what would happen and wondering if an ambulance could be called to take me to collect Louis. At least I could lie down in an ambulance, or a Popemobile could perhaps be found - I could stand up in a Popemobile.

Ten minutes later Matthew is still playing. He believes that his opponent, Dweeb13, from Atlanta, is deliberately slowing the game because he has somehow discovered that I have a bad back and Louis needs collecting.

"How could he conceivably know that? He's in Georgia," I said.

"They're very devious, these Americans," said Matthew, "They've clearly developed spy software that allows them to listen in to other players who are being harangued by their malingering wives."

In four minutes' time, Matthew will have to leave. We are still in the office/shed and while Dweeb13 from Atlanta has finally been seen off, a final match with SaddoKing17, of Tilehurst, is under way.

When I ask if there is anyway that Matthew can communicate with Saddo to ask if the match could perhaps be postponed, I receive a look that pleads: "Why are you are not in a sheltered home being looked after by professionals?". "You might as well ask if he can go and collect Louis himself," he says, "Is that what you really want? A man who, for all we know, could be the self-appointed overlord of paederasty driving from Tilehurst to collect our nine-year old boy?"

Of course what I really want is for Matthew to go and collect Louis himself and, of course, when it comes to it, he will. But not without making it very clear to me that in doing so he is relinquishing a possible $400. It is then that I offer to take over the game. Matthew, impressed with my gameness, issues some instructions that are quite beyond me and heads off down the garden path.

An hour later, I am in hiding at the top of the house. Matthew got back a while ago and went straight to his office/shed. He will by now have seen the message from Saddo in the chatbox. It reads: "Fuck you, retard." I have no idea what I did to enrage him so but it was during the third hand that the game closed down and then, seconds later, Saddo sent his meaningful message.

I am lying there, in the spare room, waiting, when Matthew bursts through the door. He is holding a tray and on it are two Diclofenac Sodiums, a hot water bottle, a bar of Cadbury's Whole Nut and a rose from the garden.

"You are a genius!" he cries. "I'm not sure I'd have re-raised all in with the five and six of spades, but suited connectors isn't a bad starting hand heads up, and you made your flush on the river." He is, I am afraid, worryingly over-excited.

So, just one decision remains: do I use my winnings to open an internet poker account of my own, do I go to John Bell & Croyden and buy Matthew the latest in state-of-the-art blood pressure kits, or do we employ a chauffeur for Louis?

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