Giving Blood - A Quintessentially British Experience
We, the British – stoic in our sensibilities, steadfast in our sentiments, and famously stiff in our collective upper lip; our tears seldom shed, our smiles seldom seen, our heads often shaken.
Even whilst sharing a mutual objective, the motive of the Englishman is varied and many. I see it in their eyes. I hear it in their sighs. None of this matters. Ultimately, we are gathered here today to serve one extraordinary purpose – to save lives.
I am late. Hesitantly, as is my nature, I enter the Church Center and navigate my way to the first nurse. She asks if I’ve brought any paperwork. I have. She asks me to go to the waiting room. I do.
Time temporarily stops, my eyes glaze over and I stare straight through the nurse in to the blood farm behind. Blue uniforms swim through the aisles between the beds like sharks having caught the scent of blood. Cacophonous alarms signify the conclusion of each harvest, and dry zombie donors drift like specters around the demure religious hall.
Briefly, my mind teeters on the brink of the Thanatopsical. Is this place to be my tomb? Any sepulchral ambiance is quickly dispelled by an overwhelming unease as I enter the waiting room and am met by a pansophy beyond my understanding.
Encircling the room like serried suids awaiting slaughter, my fellow donors study my shambling lack of savoir-faire. Every seat in the enclosure is taken and I am forced to shuffle awkwardly around a small table near the entrance and take my seat at a piano stool, half sheltered by a wooden screen. As I glance around for a familiar face or a frame of reference, they stare back with askance. I am an outsider. We are all outsiders here.
Given the heroic circumstances one would imagine a mild sense of euphoria may be apparent. Not so. This is England. I’ve lived in this country all my life. I was not expecting fireworks. Though I was expecting more than a deafening silence. We sit not as if we are here to save lives, but we are to have them snatched from us, as if we wait in an oncology department and each expect bad news.Continued on the next page