I had been dreading this day for quite a while. The alarm went off at 7am, an abrupt change from my usual gentle 11am start with Mrs Mo waking me with tea and toast... oh yes, I know... Germaine Greer would love me, Mr Misogynist... as Difford and Tillbrook wrote "She doesn't mind the language, it's the beatings she don't need". Soon I dragged myself out of bed, bathed, scrubbed my teeth and repeatedly mouth-washed before I realized... zoiks I've just filled my mouth with alcohol after 3 days total abstinence. What a wally... duh... bad start.
Mrs Mo had the morning off so came with me which was great. She drove. Although I'm dreading losing my licence, the truth is I really don't enjoy driving anymore. We had been supposed to see Dr Methuselah at his home out in the country but when his wife (who the DVLA referred to as his secretary) realised there was blood to be taken she arranged for a room at their local hospital, "if you could be at the Day Hospital for 9:30"). Once at the hospital we found a pleasant and helpful lady on reception (most unusual, not a burnt out, bitter, twisted witch, I presume she must have just started her career in the NHS). Nice Miss Sweet Honeysuckle gave us a huge list of directions like a spaced out drill sergeant "Left, left, right, left, along the long corridor to the end, then left, right and it's on your right". We set off on our expedition. The hospital seemed like the Marie Celeste. We never saw a soul, never heard a sound. And it smelled like old hospitals used to back in the 1960s and 70s... spooky... brought back a lot of bad memories, haven't smelled that for years. Our local hospital is fairly shiny and new and must use modern disinfectants (or none?).
We got lost a couple of times but eventually stumbled into the day hospital. We waited outside for a while due to the notice that implored us to wait outside for a nurse. After abandoning all hope of the nurse appearing we walked in. We wandered freely around the deserted day hospital. We should have just walked out with the TV and HiFi, ain't NHS security fab.
An elderly man bumbled in, I eyeballed him but he wandered past, perhaps today's first patient for the day hospital? We walked around in circles hesitantly as did he. When our paths crossed again he asked "are you Mr Fudpacker?" (I have changed the name...fnarr, fnarr). "No, I'm Mr Mo"... "bah" he mumbled some stuff then bumbled around again... poor dab. We waited by the door. Eventually he came back and asked "who are you here to see?"... "Dr Methusalah"... "Why that's me" he said "hmmm". There ensued a lengthy and complicated debate, not helped by his deafness. He said he wasn't meant to see me till tomorrow and where was Mr Fudpacker? In the absence of Fudpacker he agreed to see me. I asked if my wife could join us, he looked unsure but hmmphed and nodded and shut the door. There was only one chair. I rolled my eyes then left to go and find another chair, returned and we both sat down. He seemed oblivious to all of this, still perplexed about Fudpacker's absence and faffing about with his papers. It occurred to me he wasn't Benjamin Button at all, he was Ludicrus Sextus from the film Up Pompeii... he was a doppleganger for the late Michael Hordern.
Once in the consulting room he discovered my documents, shuffled them about, dropped them and generally fumbled about somewhat aimlessly. He was very tentative and uncomfortable when asking about my alcohol consumption... "there are some very delicate questions I have to ask you about your drinking" he shifted on his seat as he spoke. He carefully explained an extremely outdated method of calculating units of alcohol (from the days when folks drank 125mls of weak Liebfraumilch or a pint of 3.5%ABV beer). "A glass of wine is one unit and a pint of beer is two units". I did not try and inform him that most serious boozers I know drink Tennent's Super lager which at 9%ABV is over 5 units a pint, nor did I mention my large glass of 13.5% Merlot is three units not one. I simply told him I drank two nights per week and had either two tins of beer or three glasses of wine.... 6-8 units/week in his language (18-20 units/week in the real world). Not that it really matters as it is all lies anyway. He asked if I had any other illnesses apart from "alcohol" and asked for my medicines. I gave him the boxes he picked up the first one and started to write down "enteric coated semi-so...sem.. semi-sodi... errr.. ahh... emm... Depakote... two twice a day" My wife tried to correct him about the dose but I could see he was getting worked up so motioned her to say nothing but let him be. Let's keep him onside. I was then put through a series of sobriety tests that you only ever see in old American Highway Patrol shows... close your eyes and touch the tip of your nose etc.
He sounded my chest, checked my blood pressure (after eventually managing to fix the cuff correctly), then tried unsuccessfully to initiate reflexes from my arms and legs. Then came the real problem... my veins. I have small difficult veins that tend to collapse after a couple of mls of blood have been withdrawn and any further prodding causes spasms and pain. Old Methusalah hummed and hawwed and adopted bizzarre postures, putting his foot on my leg then my arm up on top of his leg! I have never seen anything like it in my experience of over quarter a century of phlebotomy. I didn't want to upset him at all and risk my licence but I ultimately suggested that I lie down on the couch and he apply a tournique to my right arm "that usually works best". Fortunately he agreed to try it this way... but he did not want to use the new fangled needles on me and instead went off in search of a good old fashioned large syringe (as he also needed a lot more blood he said!) and a green needle.
A long time passed and then he returned and went straight for my wrist!!!! Surprisingly I never felt a thing and I'll give him his due, he succeeded in getting loads of blood from me in his old fashioned way. In fact he got too much and spilled blood everywhere. He then knocked over one of the containers spilling even more blood all over the forms. Having been brought up in the stone age it never occurred to him to wear gloves or use the red bag for contaminated waste. Nah, fingers, paper towels and the paper bin were fine. And people wonder why we get hospital acquired infections. God help Mr Fudpacker.
Methuselah was an old, deaf buffoon but quite a pleasant, old buffoon. I roared to him that he shouldn't be doing this at his age but be outside on a nice day like this enjoying his retirement. "I'd love to pack it in but nobody else is prepared to do this"... oh yeah, private doctors are renowned for their kindly work for modest fees. I'm being too hard. He was neither snotty, arrogant or unkind. He was just a nice old man earning a few bob in his retirement as anyone else would do were they a joiner, a gardener or plumber.