Like most men I am not a fan of doctors or doctor’s surgeries and even less of a fan of being sick. Only if it was hanging off, hanging out, split open or bent the wrong way was it worthy of a trip to A&E and that badge of honour. Even then the long waiting time to be seen and final treatment would only strengthen my resolve not to return again.
As pops was not in my early life I cannot say that he toughened me up regarding sickness and pain and it wasn’t my sweet dear mum even when she was trying to beat the black off me for one of my many transgressions.
Now Joel, my two year old son, may be able to point the finger of his toughing up process a little better or actually maybe not. To his many falls, toys dropping on his toes, toys being taken away from him or even balloons bursting he would hear a fatherly,
“Come on Joel, stop crying and man it up boy”, shot in his direction.
He would momentarily pause the vocals or the quivering of his bottom lip and you could almost hear his brain computing. Just when you think this is that moment, that moment when he crosses the pinnacle from cry baby to baby he runs straight past me into the welcoming soft arms, bosom and soothing sweet words of his mummy. Two seconds later his world was fine again and he was right back to doing whatever put him in that predicament in the first place.
When I was younger I would venture out with mum to go and see my lovely doctor called Dr Parboo (Mrs). Her office smelt of potpourri and it was light and warm and fluffy. She had two soft chairs by her desk. The child was always in the chair nearest her desk. It was so she could easily cup the child’s cheek and smile or we could easily reach over to the full sugar free sweet bowl on her desk. She had a motherly slightly wrinkled face, perfect set hair and a soft pink colour lipstick. She was like a sweet Indian version of Margaret Thatcher. She was always smiling and always listened to what I had to say.
The only downside to these visits was if she was not available and I had to see her husband Dr Parboo (Mr). He lived in the cold darker grim fairy tale room next door that smelt surgical or it could have been embalming fluid. He was a gruff, single expression, semi bald headed man with a barcode comb over. He was a direct brute who didn’t like kids, never had any flipping sweets (only freebie pens) and had already diagnosed me and semi filled out the prescription before I sat down (oh my bad sitting down was a hope as he only had the one chair – which was for the adults).
Fast forward to my early forties and visiting the doctor’s surgery became a choice of three bad choices which were at best a lengthy, over the phone obstacle course or at worse a test of physical endurance. It was either make a timed appointment two weeks in the future or try and enter the scrum of the fifteen minute daily golden window when you could get an appointment for later that day. The third option was to make the mistake and queue up early in the morning outside the surgery. Of course you were never the first one in the queue regardless of the time you got there and then you could kiss bye bye to the best part of the morning. I took the civilised route and booked an appointment for two week’s time.
Not a regular visitor to the doctor’s I had not changed my surgery in over 10 years even though it was now many miles away. I had to leave work early to get there in time as it was nearly an hour away in deepest Peckham. I didn’t even know the name of my current doctor as my original one had long since departed. It had relocated to a new plush office across the road from the old one. I walked up to the shiny new reception and gave the receptionist my name and appointment time. She tapped into the keyboard and then her face began to drop as if she had struck it lucky on Interpol’s most wanted list.
“I’m so sorry Mr Ellis but the locum doctor has not turned up” she replied
“But I have waited two weeks for this appointment” I sighed
“I’m so sorry. I can book another one for you but the earliest appointment would be in two week’s time.” I sighed audibly and added half eye roll for effect. Not enough of an eye roll to tick her off but enough so that she knew I was really not happy.
“Is there nothing earlier” I said half angry and half pleading.
“Well you could go to the health clinic by the school. You could have either a Friday or Saturday appointment”
“I will take the Saturday appointment please.“
She hit the keyboard again a few times. “That’s all been set up for you”.
Saturday morning and I arrived early at the clinic. It was a large clinic with only a handful of people waiting at these early hours of the morning. The LED screen soon bleeped and scrolled my name and into the small office I went.
“Hi how can I help you the doctor asked”.
“Well I have my fiftieth birthday coming up in just a couple of months and I wanted to have a health check. About seven years ago I had a full blood check and it all came back fine except my PSA which was high. They then did another one and the PSA came back as normal”.
He banged and jabbed away ferociously with his two index fingers for what seemed like ages on the keyboard, going through a maze of different menu’s and drop downs. Finally, with the poor doctor looking like he had run a marathon and I’m sure bruised fingers he spoke again.
“Shall we check the PSA again” he asked.
“Umm, umm” I hesitated making shapes with my bottom lip and looked up and down a couple of times.
“Yeah OK why not” I eventually replied.
With that he ticked the final box and printed out a few sheets of paper for me to take to the hospital. I thanked him and shook his hand.