DOWN THE LINE

Blood Money, Blood Oath!

From: Stories from Other Places by Graham Bathgate

In the early 1970s my friend and I travelled as students from Edinburgh to Rhodes via Athens. We didn't have much money so when we saw a street sign saying "Money for Your Blood" outside a clinic, our Scots blood was fairly pumping. Five pounds each would finance more cups of coffee, more plates of tasty fetta, tomatoes and olives, and quite a few glasses of the pine-flavoured Retsina wine. We discussed the wisdom of donating in a country that we suspected would perhaps not have the same medical ways as Scotland. My friend, a 5th year medical student assured me the money should allay all my hypochondriacal fears. We were ushered into a waiting room and sat recounting comedian Tony Hancock's brilliant and fear-filled sketch "The Blood Donor". After 10 minutes a nurse beckoned us into a big airy room with beds, all of them occupied by people giving blood or having a short rest after "leeching". We lay down and the necessary needles were inserted. The amount they were taking was more than the usual pint of blood – probably nearer 2 pints. We were worried about the after-effects but thoughts of the money staved off all fears! As the blood jars began to fill my friend noticed how quickly the levels were rising - he grunted a profanity, his saucer-like eyes exhorting me to look at the flood-tide. We managed only just to remain conscious. After the bloodletting we were given small glasses of orange juice. My friend said we should rest for at least 20 minutes before going back into the 32-degree heat of Athens streets. I am not sure if the money was the worth the dizziness and fatigue after the donating but the Retsina and olives that night tasted better than usual.

Back to Stories from Other Places