Friday, March 16, 2012

'Vast Difference'


I hadn’t really read the letter properly.

A part of me didn’t really want to read the letter properly.

It was Monday morning and I was pleased that I had found a free parking space just beyond the hospital’s charging zone.

This joy was fleeting. I looked at the ‘how to find us’ map on the back of the letter and realised that the procedure that dare not speak its name was actually at a health centre on the other side of the borough.

I rang them and apologised. They agreed to see me if I got there within a half hour.

I could be forgiven for the lapse. My doctor has a disconcerting approach to consultations. She dictates referral letters into a machine, pausing the recording to restart the conversation, then pausing the conversation to complete the letter.

‘Dear Dr Yadda Yadda [minor surgery, can’t spell his name, please check] comma,

Hits 'pause'.

'Lovely man. He's done thousands of these. Literally thousands'

Hits 'record'.

'My patient, comma, after long deliberation with his partner, comma…’

Hits 'pause'.

‘Much prefer the comma to the dash don’t you? Too many people using dashes these days. Think they run scared from commas ‘cause they’re not sure how to use them. You still writing?’

I nodded. ‘Blogging mainly, half a novel…’.

Hits 'record'.

'…believes that his family is…’

Hits 'pause'.

‘You have discussed this with Maude haven’t you? I mean, you don’t technically need her consent these days, but your partner really does need to know.’

I nodded.

Hits 'record'.

‘…complete. I have outlined the preoperative requirements, comma, the nature of the procedure, comma, the risks, comma, and the usual recovery period. Full Stop ‘

Hits 'pause'.

‘Have you thought of joining the Royal Society of Authors. God-send. Got thoroughly fed up with the writing scene around here – so parochial. I go to RSA meetings in Edinburgh. Made lots of contacts – novel out in two months. Bingo.’

Hits 'record'.

‘Please arrange for surgery at earliest convenience. Patient will prepare as advised and adhere to preoperative instructions. Double space. Yours sincerely, comma, line line line line [room for big signature]. All the letters after my name.

Hits 'pause'.

‘Lovely to see you. Come back sharpish with any complications (very rare). Look into the RSA thing – good source of critical readers for fiction and, if you don't mind my saying, I think you need a direction, a plan.'

Opens door with a smile. 

'Not sure about blogging though, not really worth the effort…’