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30 October 2016

It’s Rosh Hashana, but the year 5777 doesn’t begin smoothly for me

Readers, forget the 80 minutes for an ambulance. This was Sunday night in A&E. 

By Maureen Lipman

It was Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, and a time for good deeds. I was feeling a bit bruised. I hate to admit why, because it’s so luvvie. My book launch, two days earlier, had been, not a damp squib, but a soaked squid. I’d planned it so carefully. The gallery, invitations, canapés; the illustrations on the walls to sell for a myeloma charity. I’d even hired Luke to make me up as an exotic bird for the event with black plumage and yellow legs. Well . . . it’s a funny old book.

Almost no one RSVP’d, then only a few bought a painting; no press showed up, not even Jewish Quarterly; then someone elderly passed out and 999 said an ambulance would be 80 minutes for an assessment! Outside, we couldn’t find a restaurant for ten stragglers who wanted cheering up, so Guido and I went home to beans on toast and rice pudding from a tin.

I kept repeating, “I am not in Haiti, I am not in Haiti,” to divert me from the anvil in my stomach – and the next day, at ten to 6am, I had a brainwave. We would get on a train from Paddington to Totnes and surprise Guido’s daughter Yolanda, recovering from surgery. Guido – less sure but keen for me to be happy – got online, then we got on board with a tuna salad and Private Eye and off we jolly well went, the train taking the strain.

Lovely day, happy faces well met, osso buco round the farm table and Yolanda roaring with laughter at my book. So there. A perfect B&B. Then Sunday brunch at a waterside café with my mate Julia McKenzie and her husband, who live nearby.

Unfortunately, there was a mix-up over the numbers. A hasty rearrangement of chairs followed and suddenly Guido disappeared under the table, landing on his hand. Stoically, he sat through fish soup and French fries, but on the train back it swelled up like a soufflé, so on return to Paddington we decided to check it wasn’t in need of a cold compress.

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Readers, forget the 80 minutes for an ambulance. This was Sunday night in A&E. Drunks and druggies, 12 harassed police persons, people hanging off trolleys, toddlers howling while their dads studied iPhones, and four hours later a revealing X-ray, showing not one fracture, but two. My fault for suggesting the jaunt.

To redeem myself, I did my second mitzvah (good deed) of 5777 by escorting a young, weeping Portuguese woman to a black cab in the rain on her crutches. I carried her things, assuring her that I was honest and well known in the area and prevented her stumbling as she got into the “Sorry, no credit cards” cab. I slipped her 20 quid and my address, closed the door and waved her away.

Her face was distraught . . . she was mouthing something through the window. In the gloom I tried to make it out . . .

“Please can I have my handbag back?”

Miscast, downcast and plaster cast. 

This article appears in the 25 Oct 2016 issue of the New Statesman, American Rage