Tuesday Such is the current medical embarrasse de riches, I simply don't know where to begin. With the back and shoulder disorder which has forced me to bed for a week? The throat infection that makes every swallow an ordeal by fire? Or the spot on the end of my nose, now so vibrantly red that it could, in an emergency, be sequestered for use above the entrance to an Amsterdam whorehouse? So much is so wrong that, paralysed as much by indecision as the muscular disorder, I can do nothing about anything.
Wednesday When distressed on several fronts, I read in the Guardian recently, what Bill Clinton does is separate the problems and deal with each individually: it is called 'compartmentalising'. Mindful of this, I decide to start with the back problem, and after breakfast ring the Grove Medical Centre. 'Hello, this is . . . ' 'Mr Norman, and how are we today?' 'I would not presume to speak for you,' I tell the receptionist, 'but I've never been worse. I'd like to see . . . ' 'I'm sorry, Dr Jarvis is fully booked all week. But Dr Smith can see you tomorrow at 8.30am.'
Thursday Dr Yvette Smith, an excellent physician whom I have not seen since a bout of bronchitis (or 'little cough' as she more technically put it) two years ago, examines me and discovers restricted movement on the right side of the back. Suspecting a damaged trapezoid muscle, she refers me to the osteopath. I call at once, and having explained that this is an emergency, am rewarded with an appointment on Tuesday morning.
Friday I am woken at 4.35am by agony in the left ear. The walk to the bathroom for the Nurofen suggests the back is slightly improved, and should be fully recovered by Tuesday, but a glance in the mirror reveals bleeding from a nose spot which now appears to be flashing on and off. 'You don't think it looks funny, do you?' I ask my wife later, as she rubs in the Tiger Balm. When Rebecca's coughing fit subsides, she departs, promising to call Sarah Jarvis and ask if she can squeeze me into her emergency clinic tomorrow morning.
Saturday Dr Jarvis seems very jolly, grinning every time she looks at me. 'It's my nose, isn't it?' I say eventually. 'You find my nose amusing.' 'Not at all,' she replies, looking away. 'I'm just so pleased to see you. But now you're here, let me take a look at it.' I am compartmentalising, I explain, and will return on Monday for the nose; for now, I am concerned only with left ear and throat. After examining them, she says that the ear is fine, the pain being referred from a throat which is 'red raw, bright red, about the colour of your . . . Anyway,' she goes on, looking up at the wall and delivering the requisite fake sneeze, 'it's a nasty streptococcal infection.' Handing me a prescription - my second in three months, after four years without one - for Penicillin V, she bids me farewell until Monday.
Sunday I awake drained and depressed having passed a profoundly troubled night. In the dream, the back disorder has crippled me so badly at that I can no longer write, and am forced to seek other work. At the job centre, I explain the trapezoid muscle problem to the interviewer. 'I see, well in that case I have just the thing,' says Dr Yvette Smith, rifling through a pile of papers. 'Ah yes, here it is. How do you feel about working in a circus?' 'I'm not sure. What's the job?' 'Billy Smart's looking for a trapezoid artist,' she says. 'Can you start today?' When I protest that I'm in no state for acrobatics, she looks furious, until, noticing my nose, she begins to giggle. 'Okay, then, I'm sending you to Cornwall,' she says. 'There's a lighthouse keeper near Penzance who's looking for a part-time beacon.'
Monday At the Grove Health Centre, Dr Jarvis is in ironic mode. 'It's been much too long,' she says, and humming a not quite audible tune (something by the Police, perhaps?), inspects the spot. 'We can remove it,' she concludes. 'We have the technology.' The technology is not bionic, it transpires, but liquid nitrogen, and I must attend Dr Beverly McDonald's Thursday clinic to have it frozen off. 'Is that it, then?' asks Sarah Jarvis, once assured that my throat is improving. 'Have we emptied all compartments?' We have, for now, and I rise to leave. And as I shut the door behind me, I heard a strange sound coming from Room 19. 'Roxanne,' the doctor is singing, 'You Don't Have to Put On the Red Light . . .' Till death do us part A transplant organ in transit