Asylum Walls

Today I had to go to Ealing Hospital to get some blood work done.  The hospital is huge, and I don’t think there is a more dire looking place in all of London.  It’s a concrete mass with all pedestrian entrances hidden amongst abulance ramps. It seems made of perpetually rain-wet, pebbly cinderblocks.  In back of that there’s an old 19th century pauper’s asylum backed up against the canal– it was at one time the largest asylum in the world.  The wall separating the asylum from the canal contained an entrance which has been bricked up, and that segment of the wall is a stone’s throw from my house.  The asylum is now run by the West London Mental Health Trust and my partner does assessments there.

The place has the agitated grimness that comes from trapped ghosts.  (I am not the only person who sees this, no doubt– the place has inspired a LiveJournal  fiction community and fake wiki page complete with a TB outbreak and a serial killer hide-out).

In 2008 the Hospital was rated the “Worst Hospital in England” based on patients’ ratings, which makes sense now that I’ve been inside its grim, seemingly windowless maze.

The pathology room has a number system, like a deli.  Multiple numbers are called at once and there’s a rush on the phlebotomists, who are all parked in a little room– ladies with needles making chit chat or glowering.  I always remind myself that even though I live in London, I still have time to be polite and thoughtful, to make room for the aged.  You’d think I would have learned by now: elbowed out of the way be pensioners who had the numbers after mine, I was told to wait outside, and then scolded for not coming up when my number was called.  I realized too late why the one pensioner had pushed me out of the way– she got the friendly one.  If I left the room I would never be called, so I stood there stupidly, as if I didn’t understand what was said to me.  Brazen obliviousness– I’ve used it on more than one occasion.  Eventually one of the mechanistic needle-weilders took me.

I didn’t feel a thing.

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