Although we generally do our weekly supermarket shop online, I needed to go and pick up some Gordon’s Gin & Tonic 0.5% abv from the physical shop the other afternoon. As I reached for the hand-sanitiser inside the entrance, a chap was making his way into the supermarket, his left leg all encased in rods and strapping. To my eye he was making a bit of a meal of it and I ask whether he needs any assistance. He tells me he’s fine. Out of curiosity I ask whether it’s his ankle or knee and get the “Both knee and hip and don’t get me started!” line, with a light-hearted tone in his voice. I see him later struggling with some bags of Bok Choy and raspberries but leave him to it, his determination obvious to see.
My local GP surgery moved from Sackville Road into the renovated, deconsecrated Holy Trinity Church in 2017, joining two other surgeries to become the 16-doctor Trinity Medical Centre; co-located in a new building is the Trinity Pharmacy.
After a recent prolonged period of bloatedness (see PC 28 Balloons, Bacteria & Bloating) and an email consultation with my doctor, she asks me to come in; yes, actually face-to-face …. or mask-to-mask! This led, inter alia, to the need for a microscopic examination of my faeces: “We will get to the bottom of this!” I left the old church clutching an envelope with all the instructions to follow and a warning from the receptionist ringing in my ears: “Follow the instructions carefully as 25% of the returned Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) samples are unusable.” This suggests to me the instructions need rewriting?
Having done what the instructions have asked of me, the following morning I walk up to the surgery clutching my enveloped-sample; not a lot, in fact only enough to fit through the eye of a needle! Normally the space that would have been the church nave is crowded with chairs, the majority occupied. Most will now be familiar with the Check-in Procedure on a wall-mounted computer screen; name and date of birth and then, ‘Take a seat’ or ‘Go to the first floor waiting room’. Another screen high on the wall indicates which of the waiting individuals should go to which doctor’s room. In between patient announcements are advertisements for treatments for this and that or, for instance, what to do if you think someone’s having a stroke – look for indications in FAST (Face, Arms, Speech and Time). We are reminded that every booked appointment that is a ‘no show’ costs the NHS £150. Bit like double booking a meal out and being too ignorant to cancel! Oh! To be able to think about eating out! Currently it’s like the Marie Celeste (note 1) but unlike the Marie Celeste a skeleton staff operates and greets individuals outside.
To the left of the main doors an intercom/entry device controls the large, glass double doors. I have timed my visit to miss the peak times, normally first thing in the morning when the night’s fears and niggles need addressing. Already there’s an elderly, slim, white headed lady standing by the door. One rarely chats to others in the waiting room, often lost in your own reasons for wanting to talk to your doctor and not wanting to invade others’ personal space. Generally we never talk about our health to strangers, unless you press the ‘on’ button of a health bore and then you get chapter & verse and if you are extremely unlucky Volume 2. Outside it’s somehow different:
“Good morning. Have you dialled the number?” my head nodding in the direction of the intercom.
“Ya! Ya!” she mutters with impatience “but no von comes!” I ask whether she’d been waiting long – she eyes me rather suspiciously: “Long time! But no von comes!” I often try to hear the origins of an accent and in this case think she’s either Jewish or Polish. She reminds me a little of Rose Tobin, who used to accompany my grandmother in piano duets in the Roman city of Bath.
I walk over to the intercom and press the interrogation button. It rings out; I try again and again ….. eventually Anne-Marie the Irish receptionist on duty answers and promises to be out shortly.
“She’s coming” I say to my companion who gives me an ‘about time’ sort of look. Anxious not to talk about the weather or politics or Covid or Brexit (is there anything else?) I say casually: “You wouldn’t want to know what’s in my envelope!”
“Can’t be as bad as mine!” she boasts, without smiling.
The electronically operated doors swing open and Anne-Marie appears, all smiles and apologies (well she’s masked so I don’t see the smile of her mouth but her eyes smile – best we can do these days). I let the old lady offer her envelope first ….. then give mine; they are both the same, both FITs, both of us leaving a deposit of our poo to be microscopically examined.
I smile as I leave – a connection!
Richard 2nd April 2021
PS Completely coincidental that these scribbles about Trinity, those three GPs surgeries coming together to form Trinity Medical Centre, in the old Holy Trinity church and of course ‘the Father, Son & Holy Ghost’, are posted on Good Friday 2021.
PPS Doing our little bit for the planet, we ordered some 100% free-of-plastic loo paper made by a British company called ‘Who Gives A Crap’ – crap of course is slang for rubbish. Learn more about Loo Paper in PC 47 and about Thomas Crapper in PC 54.
PPPS An afterthought to PC 223 (Chips and Shoulders). My brother, who had a full career in the Royal Navy and in the Fleet Air Arm, writes: “Before taking over the Lynx squadron at Yeovilton in 1980, I had to learn to fly the beast (Ed. The Lynx helicopter). As the CO (designate), I was known on the training course as COD. Inevitably the (student) observer with whom I was often paired was dubbed “chips”.”
Note 1 I have mentioned the Marie Celeste before (PC 166) and was surprised when one of my readers expressed ignorance as to what or about whom I was referring! The Marie Celeste was a two-masted ship that was sailing from New York to Genoa in 1872. A month after leaving the US, it was found adrift, off the coast of Portugal, intact but with no soul on board. There has never been a satisfactory explanation as to what happened to the Captain, his family and crew; they were never found.