Friday, 29 January 2021

The Vaccination

Due to my recent medical history I have been classified as clinically vulnerable and put on the shielding list. I was thus due to get the covid-19 vaccine early, along with the over 75’s. All of this month, I’ve been waiting for a call from my GP to come in and get the jab. But I heard nothing. On the practice website it says don’t ask when the vaccination is going to happen because they won’t tell you. On Wednesday evening, T spotted that the regional vaccination centres had just opened for online bookings from the over 65’s. I jumped at the chance.

The online booking process was a bit tortuous. You had to fill out a series of webforms, get an activation code sent to you by email and answer odd questions about a picture that was displayed for you. I had to go through the loop twice before I succeeded at getting in to the appointments diary. The process took about half an hour and could well have caused problems for someone less technically adept. But the good news was that they had appointments the next afternoon at my nearest vaccination centre. At the same time, I was automatically given an appointment for the second dose.

I drove to Craigavon in the pouring rain and found the South Lake Leisure Centre. The vaccinations were taking place in the main hall. I checked in at the desk with my photo ID. They asked me a series of questions, one of which was about allergies. I admitted that I was mildly allergic to the contrast solution that is injected before CT scans. This meant I was taken to one side by Sister and questioned further. Happily, I was allowed to proceed to a waiting area with twenty plastic chairs set out in rows, two metres apart. To my left was a basketball court. To my right was a line of dividers, screening off the rest of the hall.

After about five minutes, I was told to wipe down my chair with an antiseptic cloth and I was beckoned to come through a break in the dividers into the next area. Taped crosses were set out two metres apart on the floor and I stood in a queue in front of another set of room dividers. After a short while, a man in a mask and plastic apron beckoned me forward. I followed him through a gap in the dividers. He told me his name was Andrew and motioned me to a sit beside a desk.

Andrew was a retired nurse who had come in to help out with the vaccinations. He was from Glasgow and we chatted about the city as he got the paperwork out. He asked me a series of medical questions and marked my answers on a two page form. At the end he gave it to me to sign. It was the consent form for the vaccination. Then he jabbed me. After that I had to sit in another socially distanced waiting area for 15 minutes to see if there was any reaction. And then I could go home.

I thanked Andrew and the Sister before leaving. It had all been so well organised. I was delighted to have been given the Pfizer vaccine, instead of the Oxford one (with the questions about its efficacy for the over 65’s). The only concern I had was that the appointment for my second dose was ten weeks ahead and no-one knew if the immunity from the first dose would last beyond a month. I felt no ill effects that evening and slept soundly. This morning I woke to a sore left arm where the jab had been. No matter, that was just the vaccine beginning to work.

At this time last year we were about to go on holiday to Lanzarote. We returned to the beginnings of the coronavirus crisis. Over six million people in the UK have now received a first dose of vaccine. I’m very glad to be one of them. Fingers crossed that this will prove to be the light at the end of a long and dark tunnel.

Sunday, 17 January 2021


My first wife, Gill, died thirty four years ago today. She was 27 years old. Gill died in an accident. It was just two weeks after we moved in to our new house. Although it was a long time ago, the shock of what happened then has never left me.  I was catapulted into a very dark place, which I was lucky to survive.  I recall standing at the parapet of a bridge above a river estuary. The voice inside my head was telling me that I could end the unbearable pain so very easily. I stared into the swirling water far below. Then I stepped back and walked away.

I chose life. But it was a very hard road. My boss, rather than being understanding, heaped extra duties upon me.  I ended up losing my job and the house too. My new job was 500 miles north, in Scotland. I moved and started afresh, where I knew no-one. Soon I met another woman. She was completely unlike Gill. That seemed a good thing, at the time. Myfanwy urged me to move in to her flat. Despite misgivings, I did. We settled down together. The relationship was competitive rather than supportive. I put a lot of energy into my work and got promoted.

With her encouragement, I began to apply for better jobs elsewhere. One of these was in Belfast. I came for the interview and was offered the job. We found an expensive flat on the Malone Road to rent. I moved in first. She was to join me several months later. Then, one Friday evening, I got a phone call. Myfanwy told me that she wasn’t coming to Belfast. She had found another man and was leaving me.

I crumpled. Great racking sobs convulsed me. I was howling. I ached all over. I rang a friend in England to tell him. I could hardly speak. Phil was so worried about me, he got on a plane and came over straight away. I spent the weekend keening. I hadn’t felt that sort of pain since Gill’s death. Some time later, I realised that I wasn’t crying for the loss of Myfanwy, but for Gill. The intervening eleven years had put a sticking plaster over the wound, and that had been torn away.

The catharsis was a turning point. In the time that followed, I made some important decisions about my life. I also began to write poetry again. I took a writing class at the Crescent Arts Centre and joined a writers’ group. I left the flat, bought a wee house in the country and settled down. After plenty of twists and turns, many of which have been discussed in this blog, I met my dearest T. And for me, it has truly been third time lucky.