Liam and I registered with our local GP practice. The serene surgery is a far cry from the NHS bedlam we left behind in inner city Walthamstow. Natural politeness reigned supreme and you could hear a syringe drop in the waiting room. The entire process took no more than ten minutes. I have wobbly legs to check and periodic limb movement disorder to re-diagnose so I booked my first appointment. I was greeted by a smiley Germanic quack who listened intently to my dancing calf story and examined the test results I had shipped over from Turkey. She checked my blood pressure. “A little high,” she said, “but that’s because I’m a scary doctor.” We laughed. “Best we re-do the tests,” she continued. I’m booked in for a fasting blood test in a few days and I’ve been given a home blood pressure kit to check the numbers every waking hour on the hour for the next week. I suppose I’d better cut down on the sauce a bit. Frau Doc has also referred me to a consultant cardiologist for an arterial MOT. Apparently, I book the appointment online. I have a sneaking suspicion that Teutonic efficiency will cut through the NHS flab like a hot knife through butter.
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We threw caution to the wind and have a gay old night in old Norwich Town. We are blessed with three bone fide out-and-proud gay bars and one club. Who’d have thought? The Castle Public House was our inn of choice, a popular haunt perched unglamorously on the corner of a ring-road roundabout just outside the city centre. We knew we’d arrived when we spotted their open top Big Gay Bus parked up outside. It’s used to frighten the farmers as it cruises the length and breadth of the county spreading the word. Not quite Priscilla, Queen of the Desert but you get the picture. The bar was a pleasant surprise. We were expecting tired, tatty and torn. We got camp, colourful and clean. The clientele was a manic mix of trendy young things, most of them squeezed into skinny jeans and Primark plimsolls. Metrosexual girls and boys mingled amiably, gossiping and giggling over the latest must-sup alcopop being flogged by the multi-nationals.
We popped across the pretty garden and crept into the glass-fronted club out the back. It was like stepping into a village hall on acid. We didn’t last long. The two old codgers quickly decided they were way too old for the thump, thump, thump and returned to the snug to finish their halves of mild. After a while observing the Norwich queens in their natural habitat, Liam suggested we leave the children to their play and stumble back home for a welcome cup of cocoa. As we strolled past the cathedral, Liam noticed that my ancient legs (the ones that had been given me so much gyp of late) were firing on all pistons. He was right. No pain whatsoever. Remarkable. Sightly sozzled and suspecting divine intervention, Liam looked up at the dreaming spire and spoke to his maker. “Praise the Lord!” he slurred. “It’s a miracle.” Indeed. He’ll be feeding the five thousand next.
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I’ve had an MOT at a local private hospital five minutes walk from the house. I thought it would be wise before re-entering the well-meaning but labyrinthine world of the National Health Service when we return to Blighty in a few weeks. It was prompted by a sudden and unexpected rise in my blood pressure. I used to be troubled by hypertension before our exodus but after entering Turkish airspace my blood pressure reverted to normal levels and stubbornly stayed there despite my lifestyle addictions.
Recently though, the bloody thing has been on the rise again and I’ve developed some difficulty walking anything more than a short hop. Hills in heels are a nightmare I can tell you. Like most men, I ignored it – until Liam nagged me into submission. After a determined and relentless campaign of drip-drip harrying, I conceded and made an appointment. I can report that the experience was easy, fast and efficient. A wonderful northern lass employed to guide witless foreigners ferried me around the system and smoothed the waters with tact and smiles.
The outcome? The good news is that my ticker (and wait for it) liver and lungs are all in fine form. I nearly fell off the back of my chair when the nice cardiologist told me that. The bad news? My cholesterol levels are through the roof, my blood pressure is way too high and I have developed Periodic Limb Movement Disorder. I’ve been called disordered many times before but not because of my limbs. Essentially, my brand new condition causes my calf muscles to spasm involuntary when I sleep and it’s the nocturnal workout that causes the pain when I mince about town. After the diagnosis, Liam stayed awake for nights on end to check what was going on. Apparently, my calves throb so regularly, you could run a clock with ’em. And there was me thinking I was just kicking him out of bed to make my morning cuppa or rehearsing for a spot on Riverdance.
I’ve always wondered why I have the legs of a Premier League footballer and the belly of an armchair fan. Now I know. The cardiologist put me on drugs to control the rhythmic twitching. Liam put me on a rolled oats regime for my cholesterol. He calls it porridge. I call it cruel gruel.
What does this all mean? Simple. I am now officially old.
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