Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Larry has left the building

Maude and I went on a date last night – to a 'gig' in Newcastle.

We hadn’t seen Larry since Maude’s birthday back in December and just presumed that he had hibernated for the winter.

‘Perhaps he’s having an extra long sleep this year. Perhaps he’ll burst out into the world with more energy than ever and, well, a direction.’

Maude is always admirable in her optimistic take on her friends’ capabilities and motivations.

There was the usual long gap between the moment when the support act finally succumbed to boos and groans and left the stage and the moment when the main act deigned to appear. It was during this window that the familiar figure of Larry came into view through the chattering crowds around the entrance to the hall. Maude had inadvertently spilled her drink on a huddle of sixth formers to create some space for us at a rail on the mezzanine. We could see the stage and the door from one vantage point.

Larry has a distinctive gait – part shuffle, part swagger. He rarely looks where he is going – preferring instead to scan the room for familiar faces and pretty girls. On this occasion, though, he seemed fixed on a point in the distance and his movement was more shuffle than swagger.

Maude waved. Larry, however, didn’t respond or deviate – instead he maintained a steady pace in his shuffle into the room.

‘The idle swine is ignoring me.’

I tried to reassure Maude that Larry didn’t seem to be himself. Maude rapidly called Miles, a mutual friend.

‘I just saw Larry in a public place and he ignored me! Have you spoken to him lately?’

I detected something slightly odd about Larry. As he drew closer I could see profound irregularity in his outfit. Larry habitually wears black – he expends less energy on choosing outfits that way. Tonight, he was a riot of stripes.

Maude nudged me. ‘Miles wants to know what he’s wearing…’

Larry emerged through a wave of dry ice and came into clearer focus.

Maude passed the phone to me:

’The last time I was fixing Larry’s Teasmaid', Miles said, ‘he told me about the ‘pyjama caper’. Whenever he needs to get into a club, a gig - or anywhere really - without paying and he can’t get Dink or Helmut to pay, he puts on pyjamas and ‘sleepwalks’ in. Glazed eyes, pyjamas. While the bouncers are laughing and pointing he's in past them and runs into the crowd.’

‘Yoo-hoo!’ Maude was unfazed by the cool attitudes of those around her and thought it best to adopt her grandmother’s way of attracting the attention of a passer-by.

Maude’s cry roused Larry from his ‘sleepwalk’ and queered the timing of his routine. The house lights dimmed. As the crowd began to show its appreciation for the imminent arrival of the main act, Larry’s muffled whimpers could just be heard under the weight of a heavy man who had proved himself to be deceptively light on his feet. The conqueror rose to his feet and a broad back showed the legend ‘STEWARD’. Larry was leaving the building - with his head held high, and his feet held higher.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

A bit of a cheek...

I have a mystery ailment. Every once in a while I will get up, look in the bathroom mirror, and see that my right cheek has swollen to make me look battered – or slightly more battered than usual.

‘Perhaps it’s stress related.’ Maude does her best to be sympathetic. I pointed out that if stress were at the root of it, then it would be a permanent fixture.

‘Oh, is it not?’ Maude doesn’t actually look at me much these days.

The doctor was sympathetic, typed a great deal and looked perplexed, but didn’t actually have an inkling as to what the problem was.

‘Perhaps you should try the dentist – it is near your teeth.’

Heartened by such thorough attention to my ballooning face, I made my exit through the guard of honour of coughing pensioners in the surgery waiting room. The dentist referred me on to the Dental Hospital in the centre of town. in the waiting room some had similar swellings to my own and some had teeth so protrusive it was hard not to look at them. It was also hard to imagine what on earth an x-ray could reveal that wasn’t on show to the world.

My turn came and I realised that I was being shown into a room full of students, who were about to observe my x-ray experience. Apparently I had signed a form which included my consent to this. They all looked very young and slightly bogus in their white coat & trainer ensembles.

The qualified radiologist smiled at me and nodded towards her acolytes.

‘We’ve got company this morning.’

The radiologist trainer was one of the smallest women I have ever met. The x-ray machine was vertical and designed to work as the patient stood.

The tiny woman turned to her students:

‘Hey, we’ve got a big one here! How’s little me going to manage?’

The radiology expert then rummaged in a low level cupboard and produced a footstool.

‘Be ready for every eventually when x-raying.’

It struck me that a resourceful boy scout could perform x-rays if this is the level of expertise required.

I tried to smile as the little woman teetered on her footstool and raised the height of the machine to its limit. I stepped forward and the top of my head still hit the frame, just.

‘I could stoop ever so slightly’, I offered.

‘No, I’m sorry sir. Stooping would affect your posture and impair the x-ray.' She then turned to the students to reiterate this last point: 'Stooping, not good'.

The room fell quiet for a moment as the students made zero useful suggestions and the little woman’s brain whirred as her resourcefulness was tested once more. I then saw her expression brighten as an idea struck her. She lowered the apparatus to the level of my groin. I was perplexed by this and thought I caught a titter from one of the male students.

‘One sec!’ The radiologist darted from the room with some purpose.

I stepped away from the x-ray machine and briefly put my hands in my pockets to try and look relaxed and unembarrassed. I thought better of this and took my hands out – only to send a pound coin skidding across the buffed floor. One of the students trapped it under his trainer and offered it back to me in silence. I thanked him and he nodded slightly. I guessed that the ‘communication with patients’ module was later in their course.

It was then that the silence was challenged by a regular squeak in the corridor. The squeak drew closer. The double doors then flew open and the tiny radiologist entered the room with an expression of triumph and a battered wheelchair.