Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Lost in the Mists of Time

I wouldn’t say my arms are my best feature, being short, podgy and freckled. Much of a piece with the rest of me, I suppose, but a future spare-part surgeon would be challenged to find a match in his (presumably frozen) stock.

Aesthetic considerations aside, an out of town car trip and an overnight stay in a bargain hotel chain resulted in additional bright red blotches.

It wasn’t so much the appearance that annoyed me as the constant itching. When, after a week, it was no better, I consulted a GP.

From what I hear I’m lucky, because if I get to my local surgery by 8am I can make an appointment to see a doctor the same morning. That’s if I’m not too fussy about which doctor I see. I’m not; I assume they’re all more or less trained to the same standard and in any case I like to meet different people. As it happened, said the receptionist, I could see Dr X right away.

By the reflected light of his PC, the doctor looked a little pale. I asked him how he felt instead of the other way round and perhaps we got off on the wrong foot. After all, 8am isn’t an unearthly hour. I showed him the problem and asked him if the allergic reaction could be any way connected with the flu and pneumonia jabs I’d been persuaded to have the week before. He looked offended. ‘Unlikely’, he said, moving his eyes back to the screen. It was even more unlikely, in my opinion, having survived 65 years, three of them in the tropics, and never had an allergic reaction before, that they were unconnected.

Let it pass, I thought.

After a glance at the blotches and a verdict of ‘Insect bites’, he typed a prescription. Then he scrutinised me. ‘Do you smoke?’

I told him no. ‘What about in the past?’

‘Oh, only about forty years ago, when it was fashionable.’

His features, never exactly cheery, took on a graver cast.

‘I don’t think smoking was ever fashionable!’ It sounded like a reprimand to frivolity.

I sized him up. He’d be in his mid forties, I guess, the same age as my daughter. He was too young to remember the TV ads of the fifties - ‘You’re never alone with a Strand’ - or those Bacall and Bogart films where you could hardly see the stars behind the clouds of cigarette smoke. Not to mention Jack Hawkins and his pipe in ‘The Cruel Sea’. Didn’t he know that medical practice has its fashions, like education? They must keep the historical aspects from them in training.

So I said nothing, but, as R’s mother would have said, ‘thought the more’.

I’m glad he prescribed antihistamine tablets and cortisone cream instead of a course of leeches, though. The problem cleared in three days and my arms were restored to their usual level of unsightliness.

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