IT could be the opening stanza of a Philip Larkin poem. But the chest pains were mine, and the moral crisis facing me acute. Just like my pain.

I awoke at 2am with a rapid heart rate, pain shooting down both arms. Hours before screenwriter Peter McDougall was barking down the phone. I made the (almost) fatal mistake of barking back.

Peter is the only practising Buddhist I know who punches chip pans for spitting at him.

Around 18 months ago, my optometrist, Cammy, detected dangerous cholesterol levels during an eye test. “Get checked,” he counselled.

Lockdown intervened and lack of exercise made me barrel.

Appearing on The Alex Salmond Show to publicise my Jimmy Reid book was a shock to my self-image. My face resembled that of the Pillsbury Dough Man.

Protecting the NHS, and myself, prevented me from approaching my GP. Had I left it too late? Suddenly my stoicism seemed not only misplaced but deadly.

Heart attacks and strokes have spiralled since the pandemic took hold. Our reluctance to seek medical assistance compounded by Covid. But health warnings should be heeded, because there ain’t no medals for martyrs.

Jimmy Reid’s daughter Eileen told me: “If you die, McGeachan. I’ll never speak to you again.”

I taxied it to the A&E where tests were taken, a blood pressure machine attached to my arm. As I’m wheeled into a cubicle, and cables attached to my torso, the nurse confided: “We don’t mess about with chest pain, mate.”

Modern technology brings test results in hours. But they caused enough concern to detain me overnight.

Night time turns our imagination dark.

Attached to a machine replete with words I can’t understand, my brain fills in the blanks. RR HIGH. Means what? Resuscitation Risk High? I do understand that at 46 I’m no longer invincible.

Wanda, a West Indian Mother Earth, bestowed tender mercies. An Australian bloke broke free at 3am, passing my window three times before asking Wanda: “Where do I leave, my love? That way? Thanks, sweetheart.”

I succumbed to a fitful slumber.

As a devout agnostic, I’d contemplated death as the endless sleep. Was it wise to accompany an actress friend to hear Billy Graham at Celtic Park? And offer an irreverent commentary, complete with Southern preacher imitation?

That New York flight, six hours beside a Rabbi and we talked only of baseball? He’d written a Broadway show about Babe Ruth and did I know Andrew Lloyd Webber personally? Couldn’t I have inquired about the Kabbalah and found spiritual kinship with Madonna and Ashton Kutcher?

The cardiologist arrived at 7am, clutching more results.

A heart attack was ruled out. But welcome news came with a warning. He didn’t explicitly say, diet or die, but stopped just short of it. He told me never to ignore pain requiring emergency attention. Adding, “The NHS exists to protect you, not the other way around.”

Channelling Larkin again: Never Second Guess The NHS. Be Smart and Heed the Heart.

Brian McGeachan is an author and playwright. His books include They Rose Again and The Cardinal. His plays include Twisted and The Johnny Thomson Story.