My run of good health concluded at 8.03am when, during the fortnightly cranial-oral examination, I discover something in the mouth a hard, almost bony mass on the right hand side, parallel with the tongue. "Ahmagodge, av foond uff chewmarrh," I say to my wife. "Try that again without half your arm inside your mouth," Rebecca replies, gouging the stone from an avocado. "I said, Oh my God, I've found a tumour." "On second thoughts, put your hand back in," she said, "I prefer it when I can't understand a word you're saying."
I have been vomiting almost hourly. "Do you think it's spread to the stomach?" I ask my wife. "I imagine so, yes," she says. "It can't have anything to do with you putting your hand halfway down your throat all the time like a bulimic, can it? Or the fact that you've been drinking whisky all day on an empty stomach?" It's true, I have taken the odd drop, to calm myself. "No, all in all," says Rebecca, judiciously, "I'd say a stomach tumour was favourite."
Too scared of the inevitable confir mation until now to consult my excellent physician Sarah Jarvis, tonight I can contain myself no longer. Finding Rebecca's address book (in a new and suprisingly obvious hiding place, buried beneath the phone directories), I dial the number. "Hello?" It is Simon, Dr Jarvis's husband. I introduce myself. "It's 10.30," he says, before fetching the doctor. "It's 10.30," she says. Stifling an enquiry as to whether the Speaking Clock Family Training Course is residential, or whether you can take it at home, I report my discovery. "I'm at home tomorrow," she says wearily. "You'd better pop round at 12.30pm."
Perched on Dr Jarvis's sofa with a cup of coffee, I experience an historic moment. The doctor's latex gloves are in the car, she says, and she cannot be bothered to fetch them, and so for the first time she embarks on an internal examination without them. The fingers root around. "Is that it?" "Nugghh". "Is that it?" "Naaggghhhh." "That?" "Nugh." "Is that it?" "Yeuuth." "That's your hyoid, a kind of bone," she announces, heading for the sink. "Everyone has one. But how did you find it? How? How did you find it?" How? I just looked.
I awake feeling tired and tetchy, despite having passed a curiously untroubled night, and check the mouth... not this time the right side, but in search of the equivalent hyoid on the left. There is nothing there.
For two days now, this perplexing absentee has prayed on my sanity. It is true that my waist is far plumper on the left side (albeit the right side is no Gandhi), the left shoulder is extremely hairy where its equivalent is smooth as a billiard ball... and yet, disturbing though they are, these asymmetries seem trivial next to the missing hyoid. Although I am typically stoic and attempt to keep my concerns to myself, Rebecca suspects some private agony whether telepathically or because I do not speak for five hours - and calls the doctor to arrange an appointment in my usual slot, tomorrow at 6.20pm.
In Room 19, after explaining my doubts as to whether Dr Jarvis felt the correct bit on Friday, I sense a regression in our relationship when she dons the latex gloves she so blithely eschewed three days ago. "It is definitely the hyoid, and the epiglottic cartilage," she insists, and fetching Grant's Method of Anatomy, points out a diagram. "Yes, but why is there no hyoid on the left side?" "Everyone is different," she says. "It's there but it's tucked away behind the skin so you can't feel it." "I'm sure you're right, but all the same I'd like a referral." "Well, you're not having one." "Please." "No."
I ponder this for a second. "Doctor, have you ever thought I sometimes tend to worry unduly about my health?" This answer she delegates to her eyebrows. "In that case, I'd like to be referred to a psychiatrist." "Nope." "Oh, go on." It is her turn to ponder. "I'll think about it," she says eventually. The tantalising spectre of an entirely new chapter in my medical history elates me, and, almost skipping, I begin the journey home.