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Friday, 4 July 2014

Hasta la vista, baby

One of the benefits of leaving the first flush of youth behind is that you can talk effortlessly to anyone about anything. It wasn't always so. 

I remember as a teenager trying to ask a pretty shop assistant for orange juice, forgetting the word for the glass object they sold it in - it was a bottle - then hearing my voice ascend from manly to falsetto halfway through an already stumbling sentence. Adolescent hormones do bad things to boys' bodies.

But these days I can talk to anybody, anywhere. So when a hospital consultant starts chatting suavely about his holidays, I have no problem in responding equally urbanely about mine. 

It's just that I'd rather not. Why? Because this consultant has that instrument up my arse at the time.

See he's one of these medics that believe in distraction. They get it from old films where the grumpy but lovable doc chats to the soldier who's been shot to pieces about his mum back in Kansas on the farm, then suddenly goes "Hold him down lads!" and saws his leg off.

I can't be doing with docs like that. If something's going to hurt I want to be braced not distracted. That way there's a small chance I won't squeal like a girl. And in case you haven't guessed, this is the prostate biopsy piece I've been threatening to write for weeks.

So the way it works is the consultant wields that instrument, the way Arnie comes at you with an Uzi 9 millimetre, and I'm half expecting him to go “Hasta la vista, baby," but instead he says "Drop your pants, lie on the bed and bring your knees up to your chest."

Then he rams it up. And I don't mean inserts it smoothly the way nurse Bridget inserted her finger. I mean shoves it up the way we used to shove our Christmas letters to Santa right up the chimney. We made sure there was no chance of them falling back down and us getting a woolly jumper instead of a train set, and so does this guy.

No doubt some transrectal ultrasound probe handlers are soft and gentle, but this one isn't. He's hard and rough, and it turns out this is the most painful part of the procedure - which might surprise you when you hear what comes next. He starts shooting a succession of hollow needles out of it, one at a time, through the rectal wall and into the prostate, where each retrieves a core of living tissue one and a half centimetres long.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. First the entire area has to be inspected for invaderswhich in this guy's hands means much lateral motion of the probe. Now you and I can see at a glance that this instrument is designed for longitudinal rather than lateral motions, but he can't it seems. So he goes sideways, forcefully.

You'll have heard the expression "bent out of shape", no doubt, well that's what's happening to my bum. By the time this is finished I'll have one cheek between my shoulder blades, I'm thinking, and the other round my knees. I'm just picturing how good that'll look in a swimsuit when he starts chuntering about his holidays. 

"Have you anything planned?" he says. "We're going to California."

"Just a couple of days in Argyll," I tell him. "But California is where I'd love ..."

There's a loud crack and a sharp pain inside me. "Ow!" I yell. "What was that?"

"The first needle going into your prostate gland," he says. 

"How many more?" I say.

"Let's not get ahead of ourselves," he says. "I've been to San Francisco and Los Angeles, of course, but this time we're booked into a tour of the vineyards. I'm really looking forward to it." 

Now at this point what I should have said is, "I don't give a flying fuck about your holidays, pal. Tell me when the next needle's coming." 

Instead I burble on about wine and holidays and California, and so does he, and every half minute or so his trained shark takes a bite out of my internal organs and I pretend not to notice. 

See this is what being civilised is all about and my point is - because this is a story with a moral - it makes no sense. The teenage me couldn't control his brain, his vocal cords and several other parts of his anatomy, especially in trigonometry lessons for some reason I could never fathom, and it's why cosines can make me blush to this day. Where was I? Oh yeah. 

But being a straightforward, working-class sort of guy he wouldn't have taken this crap. He'd have insisted on an answer. Not now though. Oh no. Years of mixing with the middle-classes have made him as big a phoney as they are.

Which is why the bankers and politicians have got away with swinging a wrecking ball through the economy and blaming it on the poor and disabled. Any sane set of citizens would long since have strung these scum from the nearest lamp-post. But that would be terribly ill-mannered, wouldn't it? So instead we discuss and debate and converse and endlessly beg to differ, while they steal our money, ravish our women and rend the fabric of society for their own psychopathic greed.

So here is the moral, guys, and it's the most important thing you'll read all day, so write it down, commit it to memory and repeat it three times a day. 

When somebody tries to stick it up you, don't make polite conversation.

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