Final Stoke Days

All the months spent here have been quite regular. Monday to Friday I dutifully woke up early in the morning got ready and went to work putting in my eight hours and then coming back. I was on my own not really having to worry about anyone else since there was no one else take care of in my immediate grasp. This week has been different as our reunion changed the whole dynamic of my monastic experience here in Staffordshire. 

Every little thing is big now as everything we do has been in preparation for our little adventure. Chrl has been adjusting to the time difference like a champ. Since I’ve been working all week she has had time to relax and continue finishing her courses that still have about two weeks to go. Since the beginning of this idea of our trip together I had known that she would need some time to do this. In many ways staying in this hotel is much better than if we were in that other place. The host of that place messaged me with more of of the refund and explained that his grandma was hospitalized. I hope she gets better but the condition he mentioned is dire. Still this hotel is a nice walk away from the hospital that I’m working at and where she is likely being treated.

This last week of work has been busy. The whole bunch of previous weeks have been pretty busy but this last week especially so. The hospital is housed in a building owned by a multinational conglomerate. The Trust that operates the hospital service itself rents the space and equipment from this company. The buildng was specifically built for this purpose and is five years old. The company needs a week to perform maintenance and inspections of this area as well as beginning the removal of one of the older cameras in the department. There are people on holidays, people who are about to get married as well as, one colleague who is about to give birth with another who just found out that she is beginning her gestation. There has been a few people who have left their post and they haven’t been replaced yet. Having this as a background to all the extra scans that were ordered as we tried to get the most critical studies done. Many of our procedures form a baseline before the beginning of therapies. Some of these tests were critical. 

The week was tough work wise. I moved between injections in the morning and scanning after lunch. All of us were running around working quite well together. I could have been lazy but I’m glad I put in the effort to help out as much as I could. Having Chrl here has certainly lifted my spirits. My sly commentary and mischievous humor was dished out with the banter that we have developed as colleagues over the past six months. Even though it was busy it was kind of fun. Well at last for me the stress did out one over the edge as it compounded something from home. 

Having someone to come home to brightened up my mood. The couple of months just prior to Chrl’s arrival did get a little tough. The monotony of the work and the travel as well as the project itself all contributed to this development. It is kind of natural that such feelings developed. Those feelings are behind me now and there is no need to dwell on them. I’m focusing on being open to the present experience and savouring the sensory sensual experience of being together. 

Our hotel offers us a unique location for that. It is up on a hill facing east so the morning sunrise shines in every morning through cracks in the curtains. The soft white bedding and a comfortable bed allow us to be comfortable during slumber. This place is old and it has a lot of character that kind of balances out the state of its finish after all the years of use and existence. The weather has been great for the most part. It’s been warm and partly humid with the clouds always offering some drama or accent. 

In preparation for the trip there was still some organizing to do. I had to rearrange my possessions into a more manageable form. Much of my stuff will remain at a friends house. What I will be taking with me will go in a suitcase that we picked up in Hanley, the heart of Stoke at a discount retailer. We had some dinner out there in a pub. Pubs have traditionally been a cornerstone of British society and it’s important to show Chrl some of that. On a weekday night this part of the city is quite devoid of people. 

On another night we went to Newcastle and walked around that part of the city. Chrl met me after work and we walked the short ditance to that city centre. There we went to a fancy chain restaurant that Chrl really enjoyed the ambiance of.  It had that rustic modern look; bold colors, well worn hardwood flooring, modern lighting and displays as well as tastefully chosen accent pieces. 

On another night we went to a pub restaurant right by our place but the wait was an hour for food! We decided to go somewhere else and as we walked towards Newcastle Chrl spotted a typical kebab shop and it was the perfect place. We ordered a piri-piri chicken meal that the counter guy recommended. He sliced it himself and he gave us a generous portion of side orders to boot. The whole meal was delicious and we were both hungry enough to devour it all. We were supposed to meet Em for a drink and a meal but she informed us of a disaster that developed in her home. The washing machine decided to go on the fritz spilling an inch of water all through her kitchen. She posted pics of towels strewn all over the floor trying to soak up the water. 

The last day finally arrived. For some reason I was up early even by my standards. The sun hasn’t even risen yet but the brightening sky signaled its impending arrival. Maybe it was anticipation or maybe impatience nevertheless Chrl was also affected by this condition. We decided to get up and have some breakfast. On our earlier trip into Newcastle we spotted this little place selling oatcakes. Castle Oatcakes specializes in the local dish oatcakes! The hours of operation are from five am to one in the afternoon. We were there at seven ordering something from the menu. It is a relatively cheap food and according to the big guy behind the counter they developed as a way of eating a meal while working in the potteries back in the day. The oatcake wrapped some kind of a stuffing and this was placed in the kiln to warm up the snack before consumption. This is the only place in the UK where one can get these. This particular place sells about a thousand of them a day. “Stokes favorite hangover food.”

We kissed and parted ways and I walked to the last day of work. It was a bit mad and as chances are it had a challenging slate of patients. We commented to each other about the challenging vasculature of many of our patients. This held up the injection rooms delaying our progress. Days like this is when good humor is important. I helped out as much as I could and everyone contributed with their effort to our goal of completing this day. Most of us were scanning after the injections were done and some were packing and moving equipment down to the PET department where it will be stored during the shutdown. I have never heard or experienced anything like this in my career. I’ve worked through installations and electrical testing and in all these cases minimizing disruption to the department was of primary importance. They certainly never shut down a department for a whole week. They are saying that it’s going to be a yearly occurrence. It is something that I strongly disagree with. They don’t ask to have any say in this decision. The day ran late despite our best efforts and at the end we congregated in one of the rooms and said our goodbyes. There were some moist eyes and we hugged it out. They gave me a t shirt with a colloquial Stokie phrase on the front. I got a card as well and I gave them mine in return. I left elated and a but sad walking along a new route to the hotel. It was a fun bunch to work with despite the internal politics that exists within all departments. 

Em met up with us later on after she finished clearing everything. We went to a pub that she was familiar with and chatted over proportionally sized glasses of lager. Em wanted to meet Chrl being curious about the kind of woman who can stand being with me. I’m sure Chrl didn’t dissapoint and maybe even provided her with some insight into my personality. After that it was back to the hotel to pack in preparation for our final journey out of Stoke. 

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