Intimations of mortality

Going to the doctors with a cough and discovering blood pressure high enough to require medication is one thing – being told that the medication is permanent is another. Apart from never being able to eat grapefruit for the rest of my life, the impact is primarily psychological.

Having had an almost survivalist attitude – that going to the doctors is best avoided because the immune system would only be weakened by taking tablets – that it was me and my body against all comers; a suburban Robinson Crusoe complex that implies a life under siege- it is something like being welcomed into a communion to surrender to the permanent embrace of the massive support network that is the National Health Service. Welcome home.

The local pharmacy is quite a social centre – with music (usually soft classics), the rolling news on a silent TV with those comically mangled sub titles translated instantly from speech by a machine trained in phonics but not syntax or meaning; which sometimes create a weird parallel reality – regulars who drop in (regularly) and the chief pharmacist presiding; as warm and conversational as the best sort of pub landlord. People put the world to rights while waiting for their Anusol ointment. If they had loyalty cards there my family would definitely qualify and apply – get enough points and you get a complimentary bottle of Ibuprofen. Accepting a dependence upon others is far more socially liberating than I’d expected.

Getting ready for retirement; sitting and watching the rugby on a Friday afternoon with the sound off and Mahler’s first symphony on the radio. Life on the edge.


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