Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Marching penguins

The doctor finally phoned me today to tell me that I’d officially had whooping cough. He said there wasn’t much else he could do, but hoped that the information would at least put my mind at rest. I suggested that the other doctors in the surgery – primarily the one who’d told me that my inability to breathe after coughing attacks was psychosomatic – would be informed that they’d missed a corker of a diagnosis. “It’s a very rare condition” said the doctor. “Which they instantly spotted with my brother- in-law.” I said, “I just think, if it’s out there, it might be worth doctors considering it as an option when patients come into the surgery with the same symptoms in the future. After all, how many times can you tell a patient to come back in 2 weeks, before it becomes clear that something very bad is wrong?” At that instant I was reminded of my visit to the same surgery just after Christmas this year to say that I was worried about my voice because it felt gravelly. “I assume you're worrying that you have something like cancer?" Said the doctor, "you don’t look like someone with cancer.” As it happened, I had a polyp – which needed to be tested for cancer. It frightens me what GPs miss...

Anyway, the doctor I spoke to said he’d pass on my comments, and sure enough, within about 20 minutes, the doctor who'd misdiagnosed me called me up. She might as well not have bothered. Her voice bristled with passive aggression. “Thank you for letting me know about your diagnosis,” she said, through clenched teeth, trying to find a smile in her voice, “it’s so kind of you to keep me up to date.” No word of apology, of course. She waffled on for a while about how rare the disease is. “But it’s out there, isn’t it?” I said. “It looks like my partner, my brother-in-law, and possibly my father have all had the same thing. It might just be worth adding the illness to the list of things you look for when someone comes in with a bad cough.” Frankly, I couldn’t wait to get her off the line, and I think the feeling was fairly mutual.

Fiona and I went to the colourless business park at the bottom of Colney Hatch Lane this afternoon. It was a fairly revolting experience. Fiona said it reminded her of countless out-of-town malls in Texas, and we laughed at how little we could think of to buy there. I went essentially to buy a new bulb for the rear light of our car and a very nice gentleman even fitted it for me for a ludicrously low fee of £3. The bulbs themselves were only £2. I thought the whole thing was going to set me back at least £30!

We took the opportunity to look around Currys and various electrical appliances stores, which made me feel weirdly claustrophobic. I loathe looking at rows and rows of things made in China. I hate that our entire world is cluttered up with cheap items of tat made in a country with such a grotesque human rights record. I bought an iron to replace the one that exploded a few weeks ago and was horrified at the level of customer service. I waited about five minutes to be served, and then, just as I reached the front of the queue, another member of staff interrupted, and without apologising, asked the bloke serving me if he could help her with another transaction. He duly obliged, I twiddled my thumbs for another two minutes, and then, just as the man started serving me again, he was interrupted once more by the same (plainly incompetent) member of staff. Still no apology. He eventually returned and started some spiel about a special offer. I rudely snapped at him, telling him I felt like walking out without paying. My comments were neither witty nor charming, and Fiona immediately told me she was horrified at my rudeness, which rightly made me feel ashamed. I’m just on a bit of a soap box at the moment. I think, with so many people out of work at the moment, those of us with jobs, should be polite, hardworking and above all, effective. Readers will be unsurprised to know that all of this happened in Comet, which is currently losing most of its branches. Good riddence to them, I say...

The highlight of my day was undoubtedly a Skype call from Nathan in South Africa. I was even able to see his face on my camera phone, and he showed me the room he’s staying in, with its little twin beds and red cushions with pretty African ladies drawn all over them. He went out onto the balcony and a glorious orange sun immediately lit his face. It is, of course, the height of summer over there. I wonder what he’ll think of the stars. Everyone says that the southern hemisphere stars are the most extraordinary things.

The 16th November, 1661, yielded a three sentence entry from Mr Pepys. He worked at the office in the morning, had lunch at home, and then went to the Temple to do some business. Nothing like as interesting as the penguins I’m watching on telly!!

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