Some of my nearest and dearest ca’ me Phobia Phoebe. Too cruel, but probably accurate.
Show me something even vaguely scary and of it I will develop an irrational fear. Blood, dogs, low-flying birdies, little rooms, rats, mucket lavvies and hospitals – the latter probably related to the first.
I’ve still dark but crystal-clear memories of my tonsils and adenoids being whisked ootski at the old Sick Kids aged aboot five. Huge, gloomy wards of sobbing, screaming bairns, missing my mummy, not knowing what was happening. The stuff of nightmares – and ongoing phobias. A couple of years later, back there having a huge stye on my eyelid scooped oot. I’m shakkin’ again at the thought.
For someone who’s terrified of hospitals, 1977 wasn’t exactly a year par excellence, when I’d to lie in state at the Matty for six weeks’ bed rest before my twins were born. Then another week getting over the shock of the op, the babes and a scar which is not your usual neat little horizontal caesarean, but a whopper from my belly button doon. Gads. (Back home, it got infected and reopened, horrendously, when I was kneeling doon changing a nappy. I exected a’thing inside to tummle oot, like that bloody scene at the end of Catch 22. Spik aboot panic.)
Mind you, during my imprisonment, I’d a big single ward in Research right at the top of the Matty, with views across Aberdeen. Sheer luxury, apart from the food. Some cove in the kitchens decided grated turnip and cabbage was a delightful accompaniment to most meals. You could smell it comin’ afore it actually reached the top floor in the lift. By the time I was up and aboot again, the muscles in my legs were so wasted, I looked like Popeye’s Olive Oyl.
The hunt for the Yellow Zone
Unfortunately for my phobia, I’ve had to steel masellie to go ARI two or three times this month for various appointments. The first thing that struck me was how huge it is. You get a map showing different coloured zones, but when you get there, it’s still only slightly less mystifying than Hazlehead maze.
Mind you, the sense of humour of some of the folk we met fair helped me conquer my fears. As my quine pulled up to the gadgie in the wee box at the gate asking for The Rotunda, he confided: “That’s just a posh name for the revolving door, quine.” Luuv it.
Once inside, I discovered the Yellow Zone I was hunting was ginormous. This confused wifie hobblin’ on her stick, peerin’ at the explosion of signs obviously caught the eye of a knight in shining armour. Well, actually, shining chrome vats of (I presume) food, on the mechanised trolley he was driving.
“Ye look lost, dearie,” sez he. “Baffled,” sez me. Told him where I was bound, and here’s the cheery chappie: “I’m going that way. Just follow me.” And off he rattled. So, there was me, cantering through the bowels of ARI trying to keep up with my Likely Lad and his cargo.
Up ahead, he pointed to the left, where I needed to go. I gave him the thumbs-up and off he sped. And no, not the slightest whiff of grated turnip and cabbage. But next time, loon, gee’s a lift on yer trainie!
Moreen Simpson is a former assistant editor of the Evening Express and The Press and Journal, and started her journalism career in 1970