There's always a moment of pride. The Iron content test. Before you go into the main session they take you aside into a little room prick your finger and extract a drop of blood in a little transparent straw-like thing. This drop of blood is then dropped into the test-tube, and the nurse times the amount of time it takes to reach the bottom of the test tube.
My drops of blood throughout my doning career have always performed incredibly well, thrashing the specified time-limit.. The various nurses have always exclaimed or faked a slightly surprised compliment as it bangs into the bottom of the tube such as "Well there's definitely no problem there" or "That was very quick.". I always try to look like I'm not bothered by their praise, not surprised by this further indication of me possibly being a close relation of God or Daley Thompson. But a little self-satisfied grin is always bubbling just under the surface.
All was going as normal, and a single drop of my championship blood was dropped into the test-tube by a nurse I'd never seen before. Down it went, with speed and with grace. I looked on proudly, then up to the nurse, who quickly glanced at the test-tube then back to her notes. "Just hold that over your finger while I get a plaster" she said and then with the plaster on, "If you'd like to come with me Mr Gracie."
"What?" I said unable to hide my outrage at her apathy to my Premier League blood drop performance.
"You can come through now." She said slightly raising her eyebrows.
"Is there a problem Mr...ehhhh?" she said walking out into the main doning area so all my work colleagues could hear, then she looked at me with a ’It’s ok to be scared of the needle, you don’t have to go through with it look’
“No, I’m definitely not scared of the needle, I was just disappointed with your reaction to my excellent Iron test result” is what I, thank god, stopped myself from staying instead I went, a little too enthusiastically, with “No I’m fine.”
An elder colleague was on the bed opposite, “It’s ok”, he nodded, “it doesn’t really hurt.”
“I know,” I replied ,”This is my fifteenth time.”
“Well this is my forty second time, but who’s counting” replied, a man who was clearly counting, but was annoyed at my overly short and sharp answer.
“I didn’t mean that was anything special, I just…..” and a new nurse arrived before I could dig myself further in yet another hole. I was relieved she hadn’t brought me over the cuddly blood toy.
“Hi, I’ve never inserted the needle before, do you mind if I…?”
I looked around, caught the eye of 42-times-Bob, who smiled at me in a ‘you aren’t scared are you manner?’
“Not a problem”, I nod and as she calls over another nurse to supervise. I can’t watch, I stare out of the window, and watch a bird peck at Vauxhall Corsa while they take the blood away