Ok, we’re back on the horse; I’m reading me from now on because I am me. And for this first shot, I’ve got my superb pal David McClelland to deliver the dulcet tones of Dr Nunn, my GP here in Crystal Palace. David and I first crossed paths when I was a lily-livered art student at Sheffield City Polytechnic in the 80s. He played a mildly disturbed barber for my degree show film, which was shown throughout the land in one cinema. This brings us back together for the first time in 30 years. Hope you like it x
I’ve been having insane dreams of late. Seriously out there. One of them had a friend of mine serving sandwiches in a cricket pavilion as it filled up to the ceiling with water, and another saw me crossing an Egyptian desert, half-starved, bug-eyed and decomposing under the relentless heat. I may be mistaken, but I’m pretty sure the subconscious is kicking off big time and I have no idea what it’s trying to tell me. The fact that I’ve been off the tuck for a while could be a contributing factor, but let’s be honest, that’s why we have cigarettes. No, it is surely something more sinister, possibly to do with the grim reaper approaching, and I’ve done next to nothing to prevent my untimely demise. And when I say next to nothing, I mean nothing.
The trouble with getting stuck in this mindset is that once you’re there, just about everything becomes an augury of one’s own final exit. My recent trip to the doctors is the most obvious, but less pertinent events can still give me the willies. A black cat looking at me funny doesn’t mean I’m going to cop it, or at least it shouldn’t. And when two crows run off like the clappers across the park, it’s highly likely they’ve seen a worm or mouse in the borders and are not the harbingers of doom I’ve concocted in my head. Even the washing up can get ominous, particularly when a knife clatters to the floor, spins around a few times and gurgles “Redrum!!! Redrum!!!” from the back of its non-existent larynx. It’s a miracle I get up in the mornings.
I mentioned the above to said friend (who happens to be interested in the significance of dreams), and she put me at ease somewhat. Fortunately, that room filling up with water does not represent imminent death. Not at all. Rather, it suggests deeply suppressed sexual anxiety and an unsuccessful struggle to resist evil, foreshadowing trouble, sickness and misery. Phew! And as for the other one, well that says something or other about my dissatisfaction with present companions and employment. Yeah, whatever. At least I’ll still be around to hate them when I get sacked.
Just before my great-grandmother passed away, I remember visiting her bedside in a small suburban house in Surrey. She was on the verge, but still pretty lucid. And we were having a chat, like you do when you’re six and talking to an old lady who smells of cabbages, when she suddenly sat bolt upright and pointed at a speck on the opposite wall. Her eyes were blazing, her hand trembling. I never found out what it was that irked her (she died shortly afterwards), but as I march towards the same place at breakneck speed, I do wonder if these visions become more real than life itself at the end. Or if you just need a good wank and a sarnie.
Wrestling myself into consciousness on Saturday morning I noticed, right there in the bed beside me, a bump I didn’t recall inviting in the night before. It had not been a dramatic Friday, for I’d only had a quick pizza with my friend Donald before making it home without a statutory flying visit to Wetherspoons. I did briefly consider waking it and offering it a cup of coffee until I discovered, to my escalating horror that, indeed, my guest had not muscled its way back after an ill-advised drinking session, but was actually attached to my person. And as if that wasn’t appalling enough, to an area not traditionally associated with the finer points of romance.
A more intimate inspection was clearly requisite, one that involved my shaving mirror and a rudimentary attempt at yoga. And there, as in one of those early Victorian birthing daguerreotypes, was a minuscule extension of myself, nestled deep within the nucleus of an unattractive forest of hair and flesh. It was approximately the size of a hazelnut and seemed perfectly at ease with its newfound location, to the extent that it made me feel like a low-rent Henry Morton Stanley having just stumbled upon Dr Livingstone. I almost apologised for disturbing it.
Several online diagnoses later brought me to the unhappy conclusion that I was going to have to radically alter my diet, drink less Pinot and more water, do exercise and shower every five minutes just to appease the little bastard. For this was to be no symbiotic arrangement, at least as far as I could tell, which I bitterly resented. And as its correct medical moniker was way too long and disgusting for me to use on a regular basis, I decided to call it Samantha by way of softening the blow. In retaliation for this perceived slight, she made it nigh-on impossible for me to sit down for three days.
Unless I’m steaming, I’ve never been particularly deft at making new acquaintances. I tend to linger behind the protective cloak of shyness until somebody else makes the first move. The doctor at my GP’s, however, was unfettered by any such inhibitions. She and Samantha got on famously, chatting away as if they were ensconced inside a nightclub lavatory and had known each other for years. I lay on my side, facing the acid green wall with my knees pressed up against my ears and wondered at which stage of the appointment they might notice I was still present. After they’d exchanged phone numbers, I was told that Samantha and I would have to learn to get along, and turfed out into the rain.
To be fair, she’s eased off a bit on the searing pain. But frankly, I’m getting sick of having to make all the effort. If she were a flatmate, I’d have words. But she’s not. She’s a thrombosed external haemorrhoid. Try telling that to your mates and staying fashionable, bitch.
In May 2013, I made an appointment with a certain Dr Nunn for a routine blood test. Apparently you’re meant to do this sort of thing when the ratio of your years left on the planet versus years already used up, tips unfavourably towards the latter. I made light of any reasoning behind it, of course, suggesting that my request was purely investigative and of no great consequence. However, Dr Nunn is no fool. Looking straight past the saffron-tinted jellies through which I decipher the world and deep into the very core of my being, he offered me a seat next to the computer. Then he made me wait. For eons.
Time slows down to a crawl when you know you’ve been rumbled. The skinny document containing my records was theatrically scrutinised, and accusatory glances from over the top of his half-moon glasses were staged for maximum gravitas. I knew what was coming next:
Dr Nunn: Smoker?
Me: Er…Not really. The occasional puff, perhaps.
Dr Nunn: How many?
Me: Hmm…Depends on my week, I suppose! (laughs nervously)
Dr Nunn: I’ll put you down for twenty. Sound about right?
Me: Absolutely. (rapid blinking)
Dr Nunn: What about alcohol? How many units per week?
Me: Units? I’m not really sure, to be honest. How do you…
Dr Nunn: Someone of your age should be looking at no more than one or two small glasses of wine a night. Preferably with breaks in between. The liver isn’t a miracle worker.
Me: I see. I think it would be fair to say I do drink a little more than that. Not always, and I do try to keep it to…
Dr Nunn: I need a straight answer. Or we’re both wasting each others time, aren’t we?
Me: Yes, I’m sorry. Well, on the odd occasion it has been known for me to get through half a bottle of red wine in the evening, and sometimes a beer or two.
Dr Nunn: How often?
Me: Every night.
Dr Nunn: No more than that?
Me: No. (swallows)
Dr Nunn: Right, I need you to come back next week. Give this in at reception, they’ll make another appointment for you.
Me: Thanks very much for…
Dr Nunn: Goodbye.
I looked down at the printout thrust into my hand. There, in a little box marked ‘Relevant Clinical Details’ was the evidence statisticians and the red tops pay top dollar for, no doubt to keep social pariahs such as myself out of the surgeries: ‘Screen: High Alcohol.’ And it works. Because I never went back. If half a bottle of pinot and a hop-based aperitif counts as alcohol abuse, my return visit would have seen Dr Nunn strapping me into some kind of detox seat, like Alex from A Clockwork Orange, forcing me to watch endless loops of waterfalls and Bavarian milkmaids until I recanted my feckless ways. Do me a favour…