Monday 7 December 2009

A he-man at last, and another Big C

15st 2lb, 9.0 units. It is hard to believe that I once managed to write this blog as a daily discipline. Now a month slips into oblivion as easily as an oyster without my fingers ever straying onto the keyboard. I was keeping an increasingly sketchy diary as an aide memoire against the day that I felt the urge to go back and fill in the gaps in my record, but even that has been blank for almost a fortnight. What on earth have I been doing with my steadily diminishing ration of precious time?

It would be easy to blame the relentless pressures of childcare, but for the fact that my great aunt has changed The Baby’s nappy more often than I have, and she’s only done it the once. If you can arrange a similarly relaxing introduction to parenthood, I really cannot recommend it too highly. Every day brings some fresh delight, like observing the face he pulled yesterday lunchtime when Mrs H introduced him to broccoli for the first time. He’s been working his way through a growing range of puréed fruit and vegetables, in defiance of the Government’s categorical advice that he should experience nothing other than milk (and preferably breast milk) until at least the age of six months. His reactions suggest that he accords as much respect to the pronouncements of Government as I do. That’s my boy.

In the last few days he has also mastered rolling over and begun to crawl, though progress is mercifully constrained by the fact that he has not yet worked out that his arms have a part to play in this process. So he keeps them firmly by his side and his face pressed to the mat as he purposefully raises his buttocks and edges forward like a colourfully dressed and mildly disabled caterpillar.

I suppose a certain amount of my time has been employed in packing up things (mainly books) in Northumberland, then unpacking them again in Cheshire. The unaccustomed exertion has given me a painful condition in my left arm that my doctor describes as being “akin to tennis elbow” (whatever that is) while my right leg is also crippled by something no doubt “akin to housemaid’s knee” (not that I have bothered to ask). Top of the Health Worries Hit Parade, though, has been the purple-black lump that first took up residence on my left temple about a year ago, and has been expanding steadily ever since.

It finally reached the stage where I felt the need for some informed reassurance, so I popped in to see my friendly local pharmacist in Cheshire. He did not yell “Oh Jesus Christ!” at the top of his voice when he caught sight of the excrescence, but I could tell that it was quite a close-run thing. But, being a professional, he managed to confine himself to a sharp intake of breath and an “I’ve never seen anything like that before” plus an “I don’t like the look of it” (with special reference to the unevenness of its edges) before concluding “You definitely want to get that checked out by a doctor. No rush, but you should just about catch the surgery if you run.”

As it was, I went to see my own GP in Northumberland a few days later. She did not yell “Oh Jesus Christ!” at the top of her voice when she caught sight of the growth, but I could tell that it was quite a close-run thing. But, being a professional, she managed to confine herself to a sharp intake of breath and an “I’ve never seen anything like that before” plus an “I don’t like the look of it” (with special reference to the unevenness of its edges) before concluding “You definitely want to get that checked out by a doctor who knows more about skin can … lesions than I do. No rush, but there is a drop-in clinic at the RVI the day after tomorrow.”

So we found our stay in the North East extended so that I could attend something at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary that was reassuringly billed as their “Melanoma Screening Clinic”. The state of the lavatories bore eloquent testimony to the nervousness of many of their patients, but I turned out to be one of the lucky 90 per cent. For, after a wait of just over an hour, a young doctor peered at my temple through a magnifier and pronounced, after his third inspection, that what I had was “definitely not a melanoma”. It is, apparently, something called a hemangioma; an unexplained agglomeration of blood vessels under the skin that cause no harm except to one’s beauty. He said that they were reasonably common, though my subsequent examination of the internet suggests that they are far more prevalent in new-born babies than in late-middle-aged adults. At any rate, I am consoled by possessing something with “he man” qualities for the very first time in my life and am thinking of buying a bigger hat and keeping it tipped jauntily to the left at all times. Indoors as well as out. It could yet prove to be the risk-free contraceptive solution we have all been looking for. But then so could the growth, to be honest.

As a pessimist, I am also kicking myself because I allowed elation at the apparent lifting of my death sentence to get in the way of such elementary precautions as asking the doctor for his full name, title and professional qualifications, and carefully writing them down in my notebook, so that my widow will know exactly who to sue if, by some mischance, his categorical reassurance should turn out to be incorrect.

Apart from that, our most interesting discovery of the last month has been that The Dog has never really wanted anything all his life apart from a plastic duck. We found this out the hard way when we bought a family of three of them to entertain The Baby in his bath. Now it is impossible to bathe the child without The Dog bursting into the room and howling plaintively for the object of his desire. We tried to make it up to him by taking him to Pets at Home and buying him a lovely, quacking, stuffed duck (along with a lovely, squeaking, stuffed sausage dog that he somehow managed to cram into his mouth before we could stop him) and he took some brief pleasure in shaking both of them to death. But the urge to possess a plastic bath duck of his very own is apparently completely unabated. I am already making plans to return to Bainbridge’s in Newcastle and buy him an identical set of his own, avoiding potentially unhygienic confusion by marking them boldly on their base with The Dog’s initial, using an indelible marker.

I suppose, with the benefit of hindsight, that it wasn’t our brightest move to give The Baby a Christian name that begins with “C”; the same initial as The Dog’s.

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