I had a couple of errands to run before my appointment at the Blood Donor Centre yesterday morning, which is how I managed to realise ahead of time that my car, Heathcote, is kaput. So that was good. It meant I could still get to the blood bank on time using public transport. But it was also bad, as it meant I’d have to pay someone to fix Heathcote, which these days is tantamount to carrying a sign into a garage which reads ‘Bend me over and give me a good swindling’. I hate not knowing how to fix my own car. Bloody experts. They’re all such crooks. So with rage in my belly – as well as a good breakfast of eggs and bananas; it’s important to eat a good breakfast before donating – I boarded the number 3 bus to Oxford Circus just before 9am.
Now, it’s been a long time since I took a bus anywhere, as I’ve been driving for quite a few years now, and it really took me by surprise. What really amazed me was how intimate it all is. The intimacy of the whole experience, the proximity of the other human beings, many of whom – and I feel like a colossal pervert even mentioning this, but if you catch the bus yourself you’ll know it to be true – many of whom are women.
Good God in heaven. All I wanted to do was give an armful of blood, maybe save the lives of a few desperate children. But things are never that simple. Instead I was forced to bear witness to a cavalcade of young ladies, getting on the bus, getting off the bus, brushing past me with their clothes and their flesh and their smells. Obviously it wasn’t love that I felt coursing through me as we pottered through Kennington. But it felt like adoration. Or, I suppose, just lust. But just lust seems so demeaning.
No, like Charlie Kaufman in Adaptation, one of my all-time favourite movies indidentally, I was sick with adoration. I was reminded of that scene at the Orchid Show, when Charlie is trying and failing to concentrate on the orchids he must write about…
‘One looks like a school teacher. One looks like a gymnast. One looks like that girl in high school with creamy skin. One looks like a New York intellectual with whom you'd do the Sunday Times crossword puzzle in bed. One looks like a Midwestern beauty queen, One looks like Amelia. One has eyes that dance. One has eyes that contain the sadness of the world….’
That’s exactly how I felt. Exactly. One looked like a Polish waitress. One looked like a human rights lawyer. One looked like that girl on Grange Hill who had a brief career in pop. One looked like a New Cross intellectual with whom you could go to the Tate Modern and kiss passionately in the Turbine. One had eyes like a cavern under the sea in the deepest darkest dead of night. One has large hoop earrings and a saggy-faced dog in a bag.
Seriously. I snook a picture. See for yourself…
The one with the black eyes sat opposite me at one stage. She looked like Natalie Wood. Aaaaaaaaaah, Natalie Wood. Never did a human being have such an appropriate surname. God in heaven, help me…
All in all the whole trip reminded me what it was like catching the bus or train as a teenage boy, and the scourge of the PTE. The Public Transport Erection.
It also made me think about the Japanese. People point to the Japanese, with their weird cartoon erotica, their soiled knicker vending machines, their obsession with schoolgirls and their pixellated private porn parts, and they think, ‘My oh my, what an inscrutable race of smiling, damned perverts they are’, and yet, and yet…. Any race cunning enough to have commuter train simulation rooms in brothels, you have to admit, are way ahead of their time. You might find it offensive, but it taps right into a lot of men’s fantasies. And hopefully not just men’s.
Anyhow, I must confess that my journey was filled with thoughts of this nature, and by the time I arrived to give blood, most of it was lodged in my nether regions.
So it amused me greatly when I noticed that the donation centre was right next door to The Cock pub.
How I chuckled.
Inside, everyone was exceedingly lovely. (And I’ve moved on from prurient mode here. Although the lovely Gloria could pump my blood any day of the week.) (Sorry.)
First thing they have you do is fill in a form, just to make sure your blood isn’t likely dodgy. Do I have HIV? No. Do you have hepatitis B? No. C? No. Have you ever received payment for sex with money or drugs? I wish. Have you had sex in the last 12 months with any of the following: needle-wielders, chocolate startroopers or African travellers? Sigh. No, no, no.
Then they take a drop of blood from your finger to make sure you’ve got a bit of iron in your blood, then, minutes later, you’re lying on your back opening and closing your fist. Then, with a negligible amount of pain and next to no discomfort, the needle’s in your arm and the blood’s out. The whole thing took 45 minutes maximum. And it’ll be even quicker next time. Piece of cake.
Blood Fact #1: apparently, at the West End Donor Centre they have a hundred people a day opening their veins and it’s simply not enough.
Blood Fact #2: apparently only 6% of those that can give blood do.
Can you give blood? Do you?
Blood Fact #3: apparently most people don’t even consider giving blood until it directly affects their lives. So you probably won’t think about it seriously until your boyfriend or girlfriend or mother or father or one of your kids or your nephews or nieces or cousins has some horrible catastrophe befall them and survives thanks to someone else’s blood. Or maybe it’ll happen to you.
Why not pre-empt the catastrophe?
Wow. Look at how self-righteous I’ve become. This is great!
Go on, don’t be put off by Gordon Ramsay telling you that a blood transfusion saved his life. Do it.
Outside, on the way back to Oxford Circus, I was approached by a pretty young chugger. ‘How would you like to help a deaf child?’ she asked.
‘Pardon?’ I said.
I chuckled. She must get that all day.
Sweet though she was, and sympathetic though I am to deaf children, and indeed deaf people of all sizes, on this occasion I had to decline. I think one good deed is enough for one day, don’t you? Besides, I have a car to fix.
Oooh, I feel good.