Des Manton is not just a Best in Show Judge and the husband of our beloved editor Joyce (grovel grovel); nor is he simply the possessor of the most impressive eyebrows on this island (described by the Dragon Lady as like two hairy black caterpillars on E). Manton is the man who hijacked the IKC World Congress Dinner by the simple stratagem of bleeding massively from the rectum and collapsing at it. If you know of a more effective way of getting attention I should like to hear it.
I wasn't at the function as it happens, having a prior commitment to watch television that night, but I am reliably informed that this event provided the highlight of the evening for many, stimulating interesting debates about the best places to buy a dark suit, while he disappeared in an ambulance.
St James' Hospital is a newly refurbished establishment and they love to see a case like this coming in. In moments Des Manton was fully rigged with tubes, needles, bleepers, lights and ominous dripping things, while his tearful wife, comforted in her own peculiar way by the Dragon Lady, watched tensely for signs of life or otherwise. A small blonde nurse took his pulse. The needles on the gauges leapt joyously.
"There", said the DL "he's still noticing things.
Another nurse with an uncanny resemblance to Michelle Pfeiffer mopped his brow. Again the needles bounced. Then Julia Roberts in a white uniform pulled back the bedclothes and checked his nether regions for further haemorrhaging. With an audible clang the needles hit the stops and began to bend. Tremulous with relief, Joyce rushed to his side and held his hand. All the needles immediately fell to normal.
They would discuss this later.
Joyce returned to our house to await developments and support the tobacco industry, thankfully this time not accompanied by her OES (which is, according to her, a lamb. It isn't It's huge, it's hairy, at least one of its ends is perpetually wet, and it wants to sit on my lap. Go away.)
And the phone started ringing.
If there is a dog-freak, either in the Republic or in what its residents refer to as Norn Island who didn't phone my house expressing concern and sympathy I would be most surprised. The phone rang so constantly we thought we had tinnitus. Eventually life as we know it disappeared, replaced by an endless succession of phone calls and speculation as to the meaning of the various signals emanating from St. James.
Of course, the one word everybody thought and nobody spoke was cancer. I did mention it in discussion with my son's girlfriend Finn when Joyce was away at the hospital.
"But it mightn't be that", said Finn helpfully, "other things can cause rectal bleeding."
"Like what?" I challenged.
Meanwhile, back at St James', investigations continued whenever medical staff could fight their way through the throngs of well wishers. A favourite procedure in such cases is the sigmoidoscopy (I think I've spelled it right), a memorable experience with which I happen to be familiar. For some reason they gave Des an anaesthetic. Back when I had mine (it's like Stories from the Labour Ward, isn't it?) we were made of sterner stuff. What happens is you are taken to a room with a table and a doctor and all these nurses, and the nurses get you to take your trousers off (not normally a problem) and kneel on the table. Then they get you to put your elbows on the table and bring your knees up against your elbows.
Then from behind his back the doctor produces this flashlight/TV combination gadget on a long sinister tube.
"Relax now, Mr Ahern" they say and WAAAAAARGH!!!
After a week of this carry-on, Des, dried up and his pipes well and truly reamed, thought it appropriate to mention the tablets.
Well, apparently he had a sore knee, and his mother-in-law kindly gave him some tablets she had acquired in Spain. She said they might help. Now, whether these are knee-fixing tablets or tablets used in Spain to descale the insides of industrial boilers is unknown at this time, but the mention of their name caused communal eye-rolling in St. James', and Des was immediately dismantled and released into the wild.
He is now alive and well and living in Newtownards.
His mother-in-law is in hiding.