Monday, May 26, 2008
Big Chris is a lad who drinks in a bar I go in. I forget how we first got talking. It probably started with a nod of recognition and a ‘how’s it going?’ Over time that simple three word greeting would have stretched out and grown into the usual pub conversations us men have; football, music, work, that sort of thing. We would have bought each other a pint or two. At no point did we ever swap numbers or arrange to meet up. If we happened to bump into each other in the bar, we’d have a drink and a blather; football, music, work, naturally. And another evening would pass in an uncomplicated blokey way. Then I got ill and stopped going out. It was a few months before I ventured back to the bar. When I did I was a couple of stone lighter and off the booze. My life may have changed, but life at the bar had trundled on in much the same way. I was pleased about that, and I was also pleased to see Big Chris sitting on his usual stool in his own inimitable way. (You know how small children sit in school assembly with their legs crossed? Well Big Chris somehow manages to sit like that perched on a bar stool, which is a pretty impressive feat given his bulky frame.) Chris asked how I was. Word had reached the bar that I hadn’t been well, and he knew I had some sort of stomach problem. I explained how I had something called ulcerative colitis and gave him a crash course in all its little quirks and complications. It was new conversational territory for us. Football, music and work took a back seat as Chris asked lots of questions and I spilled out all the gory details. After a while Big Chris revealed he was diabetic. Our roles reversed and it was my turn to ask lots of questions. As we talked it became apparent that although we have two very different illnesses, they affect our lives in very similar ways. We both have to be careful what we eat and drink, we’re both reliant on medication; we both have to take things easy and have had to change our lifestyles accordingly. We both know that we can’t always do the things other people take for granted. If we have a bit of a mad night, we know that we might pay for it with more than just a hangover. But to the casual observer we’re just two ordinary blokes in a bar, most probably talking about football. Which I think is how we like it. No one needs to know any different. Now when we see each other and nod and ask ‘how’s it going?’ it has a slightly different, deeper meaning. We can now add UC and diabetes to football, music and work.