Just A Stones Throw
I had already been feeling cruddy for the past few days, but I struck it up to a raging cold. It was important for me to get to Moldova, particularly now as I had just been told that my dearest friend there had received an upsetting diagnosis and was due to enter hospital on Tuesday.
‘V1, Rotate;’ as the aircraft lifted from the ground I could already feel the cabin pressurisation pushing on my kidneys. But in addition to this I couldn’t get my ears to equalise. The lines from some old Bette Davis movie came to mind ‘Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.’
I tried to focus on other things. I had a beautiful new industrial knitting machine sitting in the hold, which was destined for the village of Budesti, and a lovely family had sent me a blanket that had been hand knitted over generations by their family.
Mrs Noel Preston had sent it to me, asking if I could offer it to a family who might need it. It was magnificent and the more I looked at it the more I felt that it would be more valuable displayed in the village community centre as an inspiration for others to make their own. (I’ll write more about this at a later time.)
The cabin crew on Malev are always lovely to me. They brought me cups of ice to chew on. I have no idea why I was craving it, but for some reason it made me feel better. I wasn’t panicking or anything. It was just that gnawing realisation that I might be getting ready to give birth to a happy little kidney stone.
I’m absolutely astounded by the number of people who read this boring little blog. And from every account there’s an amazing diversity reflected in its readership. And in that spirit I would like to share with you what it’s like for a man to pass a stone.
Now, for women, all I have to say is ‘childbirth.’ Enough said. You ladies know the drill. There are some who say God’s female and kidney stones are Her way of evening things out for the male species.
But for you guys out there, especially the ones who are either too insensitive or too thick to understand (or care) what women go through during childbirth, I’m going to try to give you my best possible portrayal of what passing a stone, or giving birth, is like. (Please ladies, I’m offering the concept of giving birth from my perspective. Please, please don’t be too judgemental if I fail to accurately capture some of the low points of this experience).
All right gentlemen, now, brace yourselves. I want you to open your mouth as wide as possible. Come on now, you can do better than that. Stretch it wider. Let me see your tonsils. Wider! Wider! Can’t you open your mouth any wider than that? ‘No,’ you shake your head? Ok, fine, now, SHOVE A PIANO THROUGH IT!
I really don’t remember most of the flight. But as the plane descended into Budapest the pressure on my kidney began to subside a bit. But the pressure in my ears remained. I couldn’t hear a thing. I thought it would pass and my ears would clear during my 4-hour wait between flights. I also found that my breathing was a bit shallow.
I found a corner in Malev’s Duna Lounge and curled up on the sofa. Rummaging through my rucksack I found a couple of lint-encrusted tablets that were supposed to help the pain. They may as well have been Tic Tacs.
Moldavian Airlines is consistently wonderful! In fact, they could send a powerful message to other airlines that you can actually operate an airline with reasonable prices, and good services, including treating staff and passengers with respect and still turn a profit.
The little Saab 2000 airliner is indeed small. But it’s constantly full. On board, passengers are provided a range of amenities from towelettes and mints before take off, a fully cooked meal, and a choice of wines and champagnes. Champagne from Moldova’s Cricova vineyards can easily compete, and surpass in many instances, the finest French champagnes. (désolé France!)
But this time I just don’t remember any of it. I vaguely recall the water cascading down the windows as we took off. It actually turned out to be water dripping off my own face. It was clear outside. And as the cabin pressurised my body was debating over which was in more misery – my kidney or my ears.
‘Do you have someone to come for you? A wife? A girlfriend to meet you? If it is no, then you can come to stay at my home till you feel better.’ I don’t think I realised that I looked as bad as I felt. And through my wet eyes I saw it was Valika, the same flight attendant that I’ve innocently flirted with so many times on flights from Budapest. There was nothing forward in her question – just sweet, kind, genuine concern; so typical of all Moldovans. But it did cross my mind….oh to have only been ten years younger. Ok, ok, twenty.
I was last off the plane. This time it wasn’t cunning on my part. I just had trouble getting up. But it was better for me because it meant I was last on the bus that took us to customs arrivals, which meant I was first through.
All that was in my mind at the moment was to see my dear friend. We needed to speak and I needed to listen to him – to what he would and would not say. I’ve grown to know him well and I can read his face. He wanted me to stay at his home, with his family. But as I told him, it was an important time for them to be together and for him to rest before he entered hospital. I would stay with my friend Marina tonight. He looked hurt, but I knew it was for the best.
It was the Orthodox Easter weekend and we would celebrate together. For now, I needed to put my head down in bed. But over and over, those first words I muttered to myself at Heathrow kept coming back to me, ‘You’re in big trouble Buster!’