74. 2020’s Blockbuster Film is: Scratch and Sniff


I started the month off with a Prostate Cancer UK session delivered via Zoom for church but all were invited. A first for me and advertised heavily on the churches men’s groups (there are four geographical locations Brixton, Birmingham, Walthamstow and Kilburn. I thought I had all the bases covered when I delegated all of the tasks surrounding the talk – letting people in, opening prayer but I forgot to put aside the password for the meeting. That meant that only half of the meeting was recorded so it’s not something that I can ever use.

I was able to talk much more detailed that I usually do. I normally talk for about 45 minutes and then have questions taking me up to the hour. On this occasion I included my full range of case stories and spoke for nearly 1 ½ hours. Even then I still missed out parts of my story that I only realised afterwards. I had 40 people at the start and 25 were still standing at the end so I think I did well and was very pleased. There were even a few faces from the blog 😉

One of the guys in the meeting, Tony, told me that he had recently been tested. His PSA had come out at 2.8 and his threshold, just like mine, is 3.5. He was to email me a couple of weeks later and tell me that he had been tested again and it had gone up to 3.1. He discussed it with his doctor and he is now being referred to hospital. They are bypassing the other tests and going straight to the MRI scan. I said to him that if he needs any support, I am only a phone call away.

The pandemic has hit cancer sufferers in a couple of ways. Those that have been trying to get tests have been subject to delays whilst the others have had to self-isolate or have avoided hospitals like the plague. One casualty of the latter is the group at reimagine. The non-technical and non-medical explanation of what the team aims to achieve is to find out if an enhanced MRI scan can reduce the number of biopsies that are carried out on potential prostate cancer sufferers. The number of volunteers for the study has fallen off a cliff. As a result they wanted to create a video to demonstrate what procedures they have put in place to protect the volunteers regarding COVID-19  exposure.

I was only too happy to help. Great thespians like the mighty Oak tree start from humble beginnings. Denzel was discovered after all on that small medical show called St Elsewhere.

I arrived early for my shoot at University College Hospital in Warren Street, ordered a hot chocolate and sat outside the McDonalds to take in the morning sun. Now in my day Warren Street was a busy, cosmopolitan area for the hip, young graphic designer sort of person. Today as the fresh urine smell surrounded me it had become an assortment of dodgy homeless and nefarious looking characters. I had that confirmed when there was a commotion across the road. What would have seemed like a bag snatch attempt, from a distance, was in fact a store security guard trying to prise a box of beer from a drunken woman’s arms. Once retrieved by the guard he was slowly and haphazardly pursued by the same cursing woman back to the shop.

The director casually informed me that she took offence to my description of our previous shoot. Even though my thespian talents were subject to Stalinist directorial tendencies, I could see nothing in my previous blog that she could have taken offence to. Regardless I had been put on notice that she would be watching my next blog.

We started off with my old friend the MRI scanner. The nurse in there treated me to stories of flying gas cannisters and other metal objects flying dangerously into the scanner. I could have been there all day listening to her dangerous stories but alas we had a shoot to deliver. I never realised that the magnet in the scanner is actually on all the time. We then moved to the waiting room area and shot some scenes there. Unlike my last shoot I even had a number of sentences to deliver, which I tried to learn on the day. Not that hard I thought.

I fluffed every line, every single time so it was set to be a looooong day.

Then I had one of my brilliant moments. We are all in PPE (wearing face masks) so why am I getting so hung up on getting the lines right when all I have to do is just speak into the camera like I am saying the right lines and I can read the lines verbatim afterwards and just have them added in post production.


We eventually moved downstairs and had a break. The videographer put her equipment behind the security desk.

I can still see it like it was this morning. I am still horribly scared by the memory.

Now the great thing about wearing trousers is that if you need to have a discreet scratch or readjust the King you can do so, without detection.

Discreetly and detection, being the operative words here.

Out of nowhere, one of the security guards, behind the desk and in full view of everyone starts to scratch in his trouser pocket. Forget discretion, and I don’t mean a simple scratch. This could only be described as a prolonged assault and battery with added gusto. The French also have a formal term for it.

Attaque vicieuse or vicious attack.

Any drunkard attempting to steal the hand wash for a quick aperitif was playing a game of Russian roulette regarding who was going to man handle them back out onto the street.

I tried not to stare and quickly looked away. However, from the corner of my eye it looked like my man was fighting a wild animal with one hand that had got itself trapped between his y-fronts and trouser pocket. I walked away with the director, trying to physically shake the image right out of my head. We took a walk to the canteen to see if we could get some hot food. I had to ask the director if she had just seen what I saw. She was as shocked and disturbed as me. Other than me remarking that at least he was in the right place to see a doctor quickly, we left it there.

We got turned away from the canteen, before we had even got close enough to see what medicinal offerings were simmering under the metal pans. It would seem despite the fact the director was a fully paid up, card carrying member of the NHS and we were clapping collectively for them a couple of months back, the canteen staff were having none of it. This was for UCLH staff only. We were sent back with a flea in our ear and our empty bellies.

Now maybe he just wanted some attention, thought he was still under his duvet at home or in the pursuit of relief amongst his colleagues but our security guard had now moved from behind the counter to the middle of the hospital floor where he continued his energetic genital assault. We looked and left him in disgust.

There were some hand washing shots by the reception area. Needless to say I can think of a security guard that needed to be doused in the antiseptic gel but lets stay to script.

Back upstairs we found a little room where we could record the audio. Here my thespian talents were stretched as the director chopped and changed the lines but eventually we got it right.

Just to reiterate to reassure the men required for the reimagine study,

You are given a timed appointment.

You will be collected promptly from the waiting area.

The MRI and all equipment are thoroughly cleaned before your visit.

There are stations at the door where you can sterilise your hands or obtain a mask.

They will get you a Uber home (yeah, better than I got. It was the bus stops over there now do one!)

There is at six tons of reinforced concrete floor between you and the security guard team.

But you accept gummi bears or similar loose confectionary, from a smiling security guard at your own risk!

3 thoughts on “74. 2020’s Blockbuster Film is: Scratch and Sniff

  1. Hi Peter I really enjoy your blog, thank you for taking the to keep posting. What did you mean when you said your threshold was 3.5? Is that a post-op threshold?


    • Hi Chris. Thanks for reading. That threshold is the PSA, which is different depending on your age group. So as a 50 year old black man mine was 3.5. The older you are the lower the threshold.


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