Liam is mended enough to return to work (at a doctor’s surgery, ironically). Broken ribs are a nasty business and it’ll be months before he’s fully repaired. In the meantime, he’s popping the pills to get him through the day (and particularly the night). It reminds me that, during our midriff years, we need to do what we can to keep ourselves match fit for the future. No one wants poor health to spoil their twilight years. At my annual MOT last year, the quack told me to watch my glucose levels or I’d be on the road to diabetes town. This stark warning spurred me on to move more and eat (and drink) less. Twelve months on, I’ve dropped over a stone and my glucose levels are almost back to within normal range. So it’s a little less sugar and spice and everything nice – except for Christmas, of course, when all bets are off.
On Christmas Eve my thumb began to ache and throb. I drank through the pain. By the Feast of Stephen, it resembled a medieval pox. The image doesn’t really do justice to the horror of it all. Though angry and weepy, it hardly seemed serious enough for a mercy dash to A&E: the busy medics have quite enough to do over the festive period without me pitching up with a silly sore thumb. So what’s a boy with a pussy digit to do? Well, a call to our local surgery the next day provided the answer.
“The nurse can see you later today,”
said the helpful receptionist.
“Nasty infection. A few pills will soon sort that out,”
said the lovely nurse.
“Oh, and it might burst in the meantime,”
And so it did. I took the pills and drank through the pain.
Liam suffers from acid reflux – indigestion from Hell – which he controls with early dinners and prescription drugs. In rare cases, the condition can lead to oesophageal cancer, something most sufferers don’t know they’ve got until it’s way too late. Early diagnosis improves the odds massively. If only there was an effective screening programme for those most at risk.
Enter stage left, the boffins from the University of Cambridge. They’re trialling a low-cost diagnostic tool which, if successful, could be the answer. Enter stage right, Liam the lab rat. He swallowed a large pill attached to a length of twine. Going down was the easy bit (isn’t it always?). The pill dissolved to reveal what Liam described as a Brillo pad which was tugged up through his gullet, scraping the sides as it travelled. It was quite a performance by all accounts.
To get over the shock of the drama, Liam took himself off to Cinema City to watch Stephen Sondheim’s Follies broadcast live from the National Theatre to 2,500 venues globally. Liam is a huge Sondheim fan. I’m not, so I didn’t crash the party. The last time we watched a live performance beamed to cinemas was Billy Elliot. Now that’s my kind of musical. It’s a great way for the fiscally-challenged to watch a top-notch West End show at a knock-down price.
I joined Liam later for a bottle. He was delirious after Sondheim – almost losing his mind with the pleasure – and needed a large red to bring him down to planet Earth. Throat well lubricated, we raised a glass to the miracle of medical science. It’s keeping us alive, after all. And now we’ve both done our civic duty for the greater good, we’re feeling rather smug.
Once more round the sun and it’s that time again to look back at the top of the pansy crop. For some reason, matters medical and mortality caught the imagination this year. On a happier note, stepping back in time to renew old acquaintances and bear witness to vows ’til death they do part also proved popular. So ladies and gents, I give you…
A Manifesto for Life | Back to Bodrum | Perking the Pansies | It’s All Double Dutch to Me | Victoria Wood, RIP | Scarred for Life | Postcards from Gran Canaria | See the Tree, How Big It’s Grown | A Pain in the Arse | David Bowie, Starman
And then there were the year’s three most popular images. Really, have you no shame?
I recently had a lumpy growth on my ankle. It looked exactly like the ‘wisdom’ wart I’d had on my head a few years ago. Clearly I’m getting wiser as I get wider. I had the wisdom to have that ugly bugger sliced off.
So off I went again to the doc. She said,
Looks like a wart to me but best get it checked out.
I got a call from the local hospital the next day and a few days on, I was flashing my warty ankle at the dermatology top dog. He said,
Looks like a wart to me but best get it sliced off.
A week later I was flashing my warty ankle at the dermatology underling for the slicing. She said,
‘Looks like a wart to me but best get it to the lab.’
I felt rather guilty as I hobbled aboard the bus taking me home. Not to put too finer point on it, the National Health Service is facing a number of difficult challenges right now. The care I received was fast and faultless but just a bit over the top for a simple wart. But what did I know?
Two weeks later, I received a letter.
The shave excision from your right foot showed a slow growing type of skin cancer known as basal cell carcinoma*.
So. I’m not so wise after all. And it turns out I need a bit more dug out. At this rate I’ll be hobbling all the way back to Bodrum.
*Basal cell carcinoma is a non-melanoma type of skin cancer that rarely spreads and is easily treatable. It’s probably the result of me prancing about barefoot and barely clothed in the Far East during the sixties. Serves me right, I suppose. Had a fabulous tan though.
17 miles west of Norwich in Norfolk’s rural heartlands lies the sleepy market town of Hingham, home to just under 2,500 country cousins. Not much happens in Hingham. The sun rises, the sun sets and the seasons turn. That’s about it. The town’s main claim to fame is as the ancestral seat of two famous Yankee clans – the Lincolns (as in Abraham) and the Gilmans (as in Nicholas Gilman, signatory to the US Constitution). But that was a long, long time ago. Now, heavy-eyed Hingham has woken up to a newsflash. Nothing scandalous, you understand. If anything salacious is going on, it’s kept firmly behind the neat net curtains. It wouldn’t do to frighten the horses. No, I’m delighted to say the local doctors’ surgery has come eighth in a national poll of GP practices commissioned by NHS England. That’s 8th out of 7,709. It got the hacks from the county rag rushing in for a photo call. And, yes, that’s my Liam second from the right. He wore his best pale pink shirt for the occasion.
A round of applause, please.
The image is courtesy of the Eastern Daily Press and you can read their article here.
Norwich is a retiring kind of town, the perfect place to hang up your boots. The micro-loft is the ideal roost, a lift just wide enough for a mobility scooter (I fancy a tiffany blue number with a harlequin shopping basket in fuchsia), tiny bills that won’t break the piggy bank and a small enough footprint to make light work of domestic drudgery. We’re spitting distance from the local quack for all those inconvenient ailments that get us all in the end. The medical centre comes with a handy on-site Boots for the pills and potions that will keep us going beyond our three score and ten (fingers crossed). And, when one of us does drop off the perch, the Co-operative funeral parlour is right next door (I hear they do a lovely spread, or is that spread you out lovely?) with the Samaritans opposite for the grieving widower. Should either of us try to hedge our bets by finding Jesus at the last minute, we’ve got a church on the corner. Amen to that.