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Our NHS is a wonderful thing

Yesterday, as it turned out, I didn’t have a procedure at my local hospital in order that a biopsy could be taken of a small blemish in the centre of my forehead in order to check whether it might be something serious – or hopefully confirm that it wasn’t.

At my age and getting older by the day, of course, one is hesitant to take the line that any report one provides of something which happened in the past is going to 100% correct down to every last detail.

Let me suggest here therefore, dear reader, that what follows is my personal recollection and/or perspective upon what happened, a statement which both permits me to claim that it is accurate to the best of my ability yet also allows for the possibility that these days ‘the best of my ability’ may not be quite as stringent a standard as it once may have been.

About eighteen months – maybe  two years – ago I first noticed (or had it pointed out to me) that I had a reddish blemish/spot/scar on my forehead, as near as dammit just above and halfway between my eyes. At first I did wonder how long it would take for those who know me well to give me the nickname “Cyclops” in jest: I say that primarily because they tend to be the type of people who would.

Yet in the event they didn’t. Maybe this was because they figured I’d be self-conscious about it, feeling sorry for myself and/or concerned as to the cause of its sudden appearance.

For good or ill, throughout my life I have consistently tended to take relatively little trouble over my personal appearance.

I like to think that this has largely been because I don’t possess a great deal of ego or a high opinion of myself – arguably characteristics to be admired, one might like to think – but also because, taking an even-handed view of the situation, I am happy to admit that when “good looks” were being dished out in the great Scheme of Life although, if I wasn’t necessarily right at the back of the queue, I certainly wasn’t anywhere near the front of it either.

From an early age I was a physical kid who liked a bit of rough-and-tumble (wrestling), became particularly adept at climbing trees, was always prepared to ‘do things for a dare’ and loved sport. Coming with this territory came the occasional bruise, cut, scrape and sundry other minor injuries which I regarded as occupational hazards if not on occasions ‘badges of honour’, the kind of thing that one only noticed after the battle was over and hopefully won.

At my prep school each boy was allocated to one of six units called a section that were then judged competitively throughout each term by the number of merit points each collectively won, minus the demerit points they had picked up.

At the end of one term, during the traditional school assembly at which the headmaster dished out the gongs, he told my outfit – the Seagulls – that, as long as I belonged to it, we were unlikely ever to be awarded the main cup available because in all his thirty years at the school he had never come across anyone as scruffily presented as yours truly: if memory serves the phrase “dragged through a hedge backwards’ was mentioned in his description of my daily appearance.

One ‘badge of honour’ from those days that I still carry with me today is the missing jagged one-third of the left of my two front teeth.

I lost this in spectacular fashion during an Under 11 football match against a nearby rival school. During the second half, with the score 0-1 to the opposition, a member of our defence booted the ball high in the air towards their goal and the denouement became a side-by side foot-race between me and a much larger member of the opposition.

As we sprinted after the ball – with the goalie the only other defender of relevance should I get to it first – we began wrestling for supremacy in our flight, trying to get ahead of each other.

Suddenly my opponent’s left elbow came up forcibly, most probably accidentally, and caught me straight in the ‘mush’ (face), causing – I later discovered – an explosion of blood from my mouth and the sensation of “bits of grain” filling it.

However, at the time, this didn’t seem to matter. Somehow I reached the ball first and managed to slot the ball past the goalkeeper to gain my school a 1-1 draw that, on balance of play, we probably didn’t deserve.

The “bits of grain” turned out to be the debris of one-third of my aforementioned front tooth.

Subsequently – on at least four occasions in my teens – my parents and/or my local dentist offered me the opportunity to have my tooth capped or replaced. I declined all of them. I wasn’t in pain from it (presumably no nerve affected) and I figured that ‘it was part of me’, so why should I bother?

[As a matter of fact, the first thing that one of those dentists – a new one that my mother had taken me to – said, after making his initial cursory examination of my teeth, was “Hmmnn … you’re a fighter, aren’t you?”, a comment that, to be fair, at the time was more or less true.]

Fast-forward to yesterday.

Last year, after nine months’ worth of constant nagging from Her Indoors, I agreed to go to my GP to check my forehead blemish because she feared it might be a melanoma or worse. The GP duly booked me an appointment with the dermatology department at my local hospital last February, at which the doctor said she suspected it was nothing to worry about but she’d book me in for a biopsy anyway.

That appointment, postponed twice in the meantime, was that which I attended yesterday.

I walked in – called ten minutes ahead of my given time, it should be noted – wearing my face mask of course, lay back on the bench and was examined by a lady doctor in full PPE. After less than a minute she said she knew exactly what my blemish was – and it wasn’t anything to worry about.

She explained further, handed me a leaflet and sent me on my way.

I emerged into the sunlight of a suburban afternoon and reached my car in the car park on the stroke of the time my appointment had been due.

For those Rusters unfamiliar with one but yet possibly interested, here’s a link to an internet explanation of what a Spider Angioma is – BRITISH ASSOCIATION OF DERMATOLOGY

About Henry Elkins

A keen researcher of family ancestors, Henry will be reporting on the centenary of World War One. More Posts