Sunday, 21 September 2008

19. Spirituality and technology

I’ve always been keen on new technology. I have frequently told my less advanced friends (well, just Bob D actually) that this blog is much better in broadband. It’s faster, more colourful and better written.

And a few days ago I saw QPR on High Definition TV. Rather than go to Loftus Road, I went round to Dan’s flat to watch them on his HD plasma. They won 4-1 and that never happens in real life. (Also, there was no queue for the toilet, and no idiot bellowing obscenities in my left ear).

In one of my previous jobs I played a minor role in introducing new technology to the BBC. With hindsight, both my life - and the lives of my colleagues - would have been considerably improved if my role had been even more minor. Nevertheless, I did what I did, and current occupants of the 24-hour news hamster wheel will have to get their fun where they can. I was planning to discuss this with Mark and Richard S when we had lunch on Wednesday – but we found more important things to say. Credit to both of them, they never once answered their Blackberries, despite their exalted status in the Corporation.

The slowness of technology is one of the drawbacks to life at the hospice, although (I think) I am managing to get most of my emails – which I greatly enjoy. My favourite this week was from a man called Stuart who’d come across my blog while pursuing a Google alert he’d put out on the Chelsea Building Society (mentioned briefly in chapter 5). It must be the first time the Chelsea has been useful for anything.
I have not, however, received a reply – electronic or otherwise – from Prof Cunningham (chapter 2). Well, he’s a busy bloke, but an acknowledgement from his secretary might have been nice.

I came home for the weekend carrying a Tesco’s carrier bag full of drugs. In case you’re passing – and you’re short of the odd painkiller – I’ve got a dozen different kinds, from paracetemol through to morphine, with steroids in between. Plus of course the drugs you take to counteract the side effects of the other drugs. Valda and John came to lunch on Friday – but they stuck to the lamb. Mary cooks it Nigella-style and the only side effect is a craving for more. Rosey the Cat was crazy for it. She turned into an instant cartoon character on first taste, throwing her head around and swivelling her eyes with astonishment, as in, wow, what the hell was that?

It’s back to the hospice on Monday for more drugs trials. Although it looks like a hospital, it doesn’t feel like it at all. There are none of those irritating hospital routines, where people are in and out of your room all the time, asking you questions you’ve already been asked by someone else. Instead, you get a steady supply of Complan, an occasional volunteer to get your shopping, and even – from time to time – a drinks trolley, yes a drinks trolley with real alcohol, like they used to have at the BBC. Well, if you’ve got to go, you might as well go happy.
But most of all, it has the reassurance of a nice kind Irish nurse when you spring up in the middle of the night, brain addled by pain and morphine, convinced you’re losing the plot and you need a great big injection of sedative. You’ll be needing a cup of hot sweet tea, she says, and brings it.

I’m not sure how long I’m staying in the hospice, but in the meantime, I’m one of 392 people taking part in a “study to explore the associations between beliefs and psychological status in patients with life threatening illnesses.” In other words, will I find God before I die? Especially if they give me really strong drugs? I only hope I live long enough to find out. (As I’d really like to know).

In all honesty, I’m not sure that the evidence of me and the other 391 (for statistical purposes) will be of much help, as the survey seems to confuse spirituality with religious belief. But as it sets out to tackle questions that have baffled the world’s greatest thinkers since time began, and as I may not get to complete the final questionnaire, I’d like to give my answers now:
1. No God or gods
2. No religion, thanks very much
3. Mankind is essentially good
4. I’ve had my fair share
5. Imagine all the people… living life in peace…..

If any of this changes in the next few weeks, blame the drugs.