The Last Time My Brother-in-law Saw a GP, Was to Get a Covid Shot

By Ray Wilson

Motorcycle Emptiness

My brother-in-law used to look more like Frohike than he does now—the same substantial build, surprising agility in tight corners. Quick-witted, jokey, and volatile— fascinated with cars and super fast motorcycles—but things have changed. He was the one who told me about water for octane. He disassembled complete motorcycle engines in the bedroom of a London tenement building and machined new parts in an adjoining engineering shop. He was 14 years old and hated the indoctrination of school, so he dropped out. His dream was to violate all the laws of thermodynamics; he had other ideas for H2O. The rebuilt engines on his motorcycles ran perfectly, as smooth as silk.

The Fire blade, his last motorcycle, is abandoned beneath a tree in his garden. The green tarpaulin flaps in the breeze, and the motorcycle is visible for a moment, revealing its white, purple, and red fairings that still have a lingering vibrancy in the sunlight.

“All set?” I ask.

“Do you remember the Hastings camping trip? Up on the cliff, it was lovely weather that day, but that night, the heavens opened. The tent blowing away—you hanging from its guy ropes.”

“Yes,” he replied.

“The lightning illuminating you—lucky the wind dropped or you would have gone over the edge.”

“I just saved our arses, you said—or something to that effect. Never forget you dragging it behind you out of a muddy quagmire.”

We started laughing like idiots, and we both fell over. As we lay there, catching our breath between fits of laughter, I couldn’t help but feel grateful for the memories we shared. The bond we had formed over the years was unbreakable, even in the face of a storm.

The next morning, the motorcycle was on its side, its stand having sunk so far into the mud that it could no longer support the weight of the machine.

He doesn’t answer. I look for a spark of lucidity in his eyes as I open the car door for him. He slowly lifts his leg—an effort—as if his legs have lead weights attached.

He looks at me, his face weathered and gaunt, and his hoodie emblazoned with his company name is so faded that its letters are barely discernible.

As we enter a utilitarian building with vast expanses of glass, the security guard looks blankly in our direction and points downward. The glass doors in front have a chrome plate in the centre with the words “push to open” emblazoned on the rectangular button. The small, functional lobby has a desk in the corner.

A woman with sharp, darting eyes looks up from her clipboard.

“Name, what time is your appointment?”

“It’s ten past one; you are with Yves Adele Harlow, aren’t you, mate?” I answer on behalf of my brother-in-law, who is looking down at his shoes. He hasn’t shaved recently. He will be unrecognisable with a full beard.

“You are with Diane, first floor desk 9; is he alright with the stairs?”

“I think he’ll be alright,” I answer.

The first floor is a huge modern space; workstations are dotted all around; most are ghost stations; only a handful have anyone sitting there.

Another security guard hovers in the vicinity of the first floor entrance. Smoked perplex globes blink in orderly lines, recording every event.

“Sit down, mate, take the weight off; we have a few minutes—I’m going to have a look around,” I say.

I walk up the central aisle. I scan the vacancy board. There is plenty of work for carers; interestingly, there is an urgent opening for a studio make up artist, and the annual salary seems very generous. I walk towards the expansive glass windows—sunlight is streaming in. The security guard nods in acknowledgment as I pass by, his eyes moving; he is motionless, never leaving his post. I wander across the room to look at a rainbow, its arc encompassing the town’s skyline.

“Move back to the centre,” the security scuttles up behind me, gesturing for me to move.”

“I was just looking out of the window,” I reply.

“Yes, but there might be confidential papers on the desk,” he says, pointing to an empty desk with a leaflet on it.

“Fine,” I reply, and I move away.

My brother is fidgety. I sit down beside him.

Two smartly dressed gentlemen sit in the chairs facing us; they are both immaculately dressed—both clean shaven with thick, dark coiffured heads of hair. I glance at my brother, who is now visibly nervous. The two gentlemen exchange a knowing look before one of them speaks to the other. I am trying to work out their language.

“Sir, are you Warren? Sir, please sit here.”

She waves him towards the chair by her desk. The other gentleman glances at his watch. It looks like a Cartier watch and gets his mobile phone out, momentally looking up to look at Warren, his companion.

Warren sits at the desk and speaks in passable English.

“Your address, please, sir.”

“Flat 26,” she repeats, “the Home Office provided it for you, but it’s not permanent; have I got this right?”

“Please wait a second. I just need to consult with a colleague. It won’t be long.”

She gets up and walks bristly to a desk on the far side of the room.

Behind us on desk 9, there is a video call going on. I catch occasional words. In front of Warren, who has turned his chair to face his interpreter, they get their phones out and record their surroundings. I don’t understand the language, but they are animated and jovial, nudging each other.

The woman returns and introduces her colleague.

“It might be better if you come over to my desk,” he says, giving me a cursory glance as he walks back.

“Okay Warren Just a couple of things before we go over—we have an English class here at the job centre—would you be interested in improving your English?”

Warren looks at his friend, who nods.

“I will put you down. You will get a message on your phone all about it, right? I just need to quickly mention if you need a dentist or doctor; they are nearby, and I will message you the details. If it’s urgent, you must go to the hospital, but again, I will provide all the information. Is that all okay?”

“Yes,” Warren says as they get up and stride off towards the other desk.

My brother is called, and he gets up shakily.

“Are you okay?” I ask him.

“Yes, fine,” he says as he shuffles to desk 9 for his interview. At 60 years old, this is his third encounter with a job centre in as many weeks. Up until then, he had never darkened their doors—never in his life had he asked for a handout.

The last time my brother-in-law saw a GP, it was to get a COVID shot; since then, he has progressed less well. His health has rapidly declined.

He explained to me at the time, “I am not worried about me, but I promised her I would get the bloody thing—thats it, Ray—it is my decision and its final!”

His partner, someone identified as being in the most vulnerable groups, has many co-morbidities and now has no one to care for her, and my brother-in-law needs care himself.

Gaslighting on an industrial scale—celebrity doctors—the clanking media machine—hoovering up yesterday’s heroes to promote today’s disastrous intervention—a veritable bandwagon—possibly the most heinous in history—but don’t worry, it’s being rewritten along the lines of the Spanish flu—not Spanish or flu but a mass poisoning by injection.

“Ray,” he calls, gesturing to me to come over. He is all fingers and thumbs with his big button phone; it is not responding, and he is trying to check his messages.

I am told that in the next meeting, a disability specialist will be present to do an assessment on him.

“Are you going to be alright on the stairs?” the cleaning lady asks, looking with concern at my brother-in-law.

“He’s getting his mobility back in leaps and bounds,” I answer for him, edging in front of him.

Now is not the moment for a Frohike event, even if it expedited a visit to the hospital.

I try not to think about the various protocols that they may have up their medical sleeves.

He still has the Frohike look—just not the muscle, prowess, or mental acuity—but he definitely is not in need of a toupee. I guide him down the stairs carefully, making sure he doesn’t lose his balance. As we reach the bottom, I can see the relief in the cleaning lady’s eyes, knowing he made it down safely. Maybe we will stop off and visit one of the many new Turkish hairdressers that have sprung up recently in town.

“Under neon loneliness
Motorcycle emptiness
Under neon loneliness
Everlasting nothingness.”

—Manic Street Preachers

Resist digital censorship and tyranny by subscribing to our printed Freedom Magazine!

We don’t use social media. Please share this article by email: