A cup of tea and a biscuit. That's what you used to get in the UK when you gave blood, if my memory serves. In Spain it was a vaguely orangey flavoured drink but, alas, no custard cream nor ginger nut. It always seemed a bit churlish to ask for the complaints book whenever I went, so I'd take my grave biscuity disappointment on the chin and toddle off into the afternoon heat, nearly an armful of blood lighter.
That was all a good many years ago, I'm ashamed to say, when I used to give blood frequently. Whenever I saw one of those big old buses parked up somewhere, I'd pop in, leave behind some of my very common blood type and pop out again. Easy. But then it all went wrong. The mad cow disease thing happened and I was completely stonewalled one day by one of those doctors who delights in talking down his nose at you. He was trying to impress the nurse, I think, not noticing the expression of mild disgust she was sporting.
“Hi, I've come to give some blood.”
“Where are you from?”
“That's very social of you, my man. Liverpool, England. What about your good self?”
“England? No you certainly can't give blood, too many mad cows bouncing around.” He sniggered and looked to the nurse for admiring glances. She stared at her shoes.
“I haven't been back there for seven years.”
“How do I know that? It's not going to happen. Your country's overrun with bovine lunatics.”
“That's very rude. I'd thank you not you talk of our politicians in that manner, however right you may be.”
So I left, somewhat bemused. The nurse offered a knowing look as I departed which said something like “The man's a total fool.” I nodded back and stepped out into the afternoon sunshine, just as full of blood as when I had arrived, though its pressure may have doubled by this point, I fear.
Then, I just sort of got out of the habit. Every time I saw a blood bus, I'd picture Dr Pompoustwittington and his tassled shoes and walk right on by. This was wrong of me. One bumptious idiot doesn't an entire health service make.
All of this came to mind recently because there was a shortage of blood in the banks in Malaga province. It's about time I got back into the old routine. Cows have long since recovered their sanity, and, you never know, there might even be a jammy dodger on offer these days.