Whether or not the onslaught is a psycho-somatic response to the disappearance of Sarah Jarvis's (my personal physician has gone to Barbados for a wedding), I am assailed by a cocktail of ailments unusually virulent even by the standards of my own medical career. May God have mercy, I am not well enough to catalogue the disorders now. All I can do is pray for the strength to do so tomorrow after an early and untroubled night.
Which symptom is most responsible for keeping me awake until almost 5 am I cannot say, since they melded into one amorphous army before midnight, but the smart money must be on the abscess on the wisdom tooth on the lower right hand side of my mouth. Second favourite is the shooting pain down the back of both legs, while no one could rule out the horrendously blocked right nostril, the jagging waves of agony in the genitals,or the unnerving tingling sensation around the heart.
Emerging from another profoundly troubled night, I call the Grove Health Centre in despair. "I'm sorry, but Dr Jarvis is away until Monday," the receptionist tells me. "I know, she's in Barbados," I reply. "But she's flying back today and I need the flight number." "I'm sorry?" "There may be time to intercept her at the airport. I must have that flight ... Hello? Are you there? Hello?"
So intense is the wisdom tooth agony, I am forced to visit to my dentist, the excellent and most gentle Julian Ede, in Covent Garden. "It's a serious abscess, isn't it?" I say when he has invited me to rinse. "Actually," says Mr Ede, "It's not an abscess. Your gum is inflamed because the wisdom tooth is trying to work its way through but there isn't room."
"Ah. Then I'll need surgery to remove the tooth?" "No," says Mr Ede, handing me a prescription for Penicillin V and a tiny brush with which, apparently, I am to wear down the gum, thus enabling the tooth to come through more easily.
Controversy grabs the marital home by the throat when, during breakfast, I complain of having passed yet another horribly troubled night. "Oh you did, did you?" says Rebecca, lobbing some mouldy pears into the blender. "Yes, I did." "Really?" "I certainly did." "Oh, did you indeed?" When I ask after the point to this imprompt audition for the inquisitor's part in the Yes/ No Interlude, she heads for the stairs, then thinks better of it and marches back. "I'll tell you why," she says, hands folded. "Because I was kept awake between 1.30am and 4am by your fucking snoring." This is uncalled for. She well knows that this is caused by the blocked left nostril ... the result, according to a Harley Street specialist, of a "significantly deviated septum". Still, I guess Rebecca has a point. If the wisdom tooth must stay, it may be time for the septum to go.
The antibiotics have failed to kick in, and the oral pain has moved so far out of the reach of Neurofen Plus that I am forced to call in the Famous Grouse as an emergency anaesthetic. Eventually, this ploy works, and while Rebecca is removing lunch (a piece of lamb) from the oven, I drop off at the kitchen table. When, on waking at a quarter to five, I answer her rebuking glance by observing that a malevolent wisdom tooth is probably more painful than childbirth, communication between us ends for the day.
In the Grove surgery's Room 19, Sarah Jarvis seems keener to discuss her week in the Caribbean than my genitals. After indulging her for 90 seconds or more, I interrupt, pointing out that I believe the recurrent, searing agony when peeing and raw tenderness throughout groin and buttock areas indicates the infection prostatitis. "You'd better do a urine sample," says the doctor, wearily, and as she fishes the plastic jar from her desk, it seems to me that a brightness in her pupils has been extinguished. "Welcome home, doctor," I say, "It's good to have you back." "Is it?" she mutters, rising and steering me towards the door, before I can mention the deviated nose bone. "Funnily enough, it feels like I've never been away."