In 10 days I go under the knife for my deviated septum - and still no one has talked to me about procedure, recovery time and possible complications. "What do you care about any of that," my wife asks over dinner, "if you're going to become a vegetable due to some freak anaesthetic accident?" I suppose she has a point - I have mentioned my fears on this matter once or twice - but need she be quite so blunt?
A colleague pops over to relate how he suffered an anaesthetic reaction during surgery in 1993, and woke up in intensive care to find a doctor moving his fingers in front of his eyes, and asking him who was prime minister. A panic attack ensues, and I ring the Charing Cross's day surgery unit to seek reassurance from Rosanne Charles, the very sweet nurse who so mystifyingly declared me fit for surgery. Rosanne is busy, and the receptionist suggests I speak to the ENT surgeon himself, a Mr McKay. I am too distressed today, but may do so tomorrow.
Mr McKay (no doubt he has a first name, but I take a dim view of familiarity with surgeons said to be pre-eminent in their fields) has just rung me back from his Harley Street rooms, and very patiently explained everything. The sub-muchosal resection (in which he will break the septum, scoop out some of the cartilege beneath, and then reset it) has an 85% chance of improving my breathing, and he suggests a week or so at home recovering. As for complications, he outlines three possibilities: severe bleeding requiring a return to hospital (very unlikely); a perforation of the septum (not uncommon, but unusual for the patient to notice it); and - another very long shot - "although the op is not intended to change the shape of the nose, you can't guarantee that it won't".
"Oh splendid, you mean I might come out of it looking like Jimmy Durante?"
"That's extremely unlikely." And with that, Mr McKay bids me farewell until tomorrow week.
I awake shattered and morose, having passed a desperately troubled night. In the dream, I suffer a violent anaesthetic reaction, and awake two days later in intensive care. A cheery, bearded man, whose badge reveals him as a Dr Dobson, wags his finger in front of my eyes, and then asks who is prime minister. "Alastair Campbell," I reply in a tiny voice, "it's Alastair Campbell."
"Oooh, you amaze me," says the doctor. "Turn the machine off, would you, nurse and call the morgue? We need the bed for someone from a more sensible newspaper."
When I call my physician, Dr Sarah Jarvis, at work, she is in the middle of a coughing fit. "That sounds nasty," I say, " you should see a doctor." Eschewing the sarcastic laugh, Dr Jarvis asks after the purpose of the call. "It's about my surgery. I'm worri..."
"You are NOT going to suffer brain damage."
"...worried that I might bec..." "You will NOT become a vegetable."
"But I'm breathing better at the moment, and ..."
"You ARE going to have your operation, and you ARE going to come through it perfectly well."
Mm. It's easy for her to say that.
Listening to the Archers omnibus as I drive to Newbury to see my godson Benjamin on his birthday, it occurs to me that there is a cure for cancer after all: move to Ambridge. They may have steamy sex scenes in the shower in the cause of realism, but no one ever has the semblance of a tumour.
I awake feeling drained and jumpy from another troubled night. In this dream, I come round in the recovery room to find two people in white aprons smiling down on me. It is amazingly hot, partly because there is a very strong flame beneath what is not, on closer inspection, a bed at all, but a huge griddling pan.
"OK, Deeliaugh," says a Dr Grossman, "wort are weeee gawinn to do nauuuow?"
"Well, Lloyd," says Dr Smith, "the thing about frying aubergine is making sure you season it well before cooking."
"Eau absoloootely," says Loyd, and begins to douse me in lemon juice and garlic.
I try to speak. I want to shout: "For God's sake, what about a pinch of paprika?" But remembering that I am now an aubergine, I abandon this plan and awake, nervy and disorientated and more tempted than ever to pull out of the op.