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Smallville: Life Is A Cabaret

An irritating digestive complaint...a hospital visit to see a specialist...a photographic exploration... Peter B Farrell's account of an unwelcomed encounter with the surgical equivalent of a stapling gun will have YOU in stitches.

A funeral had been a family reunion of sorts.Having been reacquainted with my brother and his wife, they invited us to visit their home in Dorset in the summer.

Back home, after seeing an advertisement in the national press for the show Cabaret, a favourite musical of ours, announcing that it was to be staged in the Bournemouth area, I sent away for tickets, our contribution to the forthcoming holiday.

“I’ll put it in my diary. August 21” - and my wife, meticulous as ever, pencilled in the date.

As a backup turned to our computer - Microsoft Outlook - Personal Folders - Calendar - 21 August - Attendee - ticking the alarm to ring every fifteen minutes. Reminding myself that I must also switch on the computer on that particular day, I scrawled a note on the calendar on the kitchen wall.

A month before the departure date I needed to visit a doctor’s surgery, troubled with an irritating digestive complaint. My doctor was unavailable, but I could see the visiting locum if the matter was urgent.

“No problem”, and I sat in the waiting room with Readers Digest’s ‘Laughter is the best medicine’ was one of the magazine's features, but this particular medicine didn’t work for me. I wondered if my back copies of Punch would make a difference to the general conviviality of that waiting room.

“Oh no they wouldn’t. Try Zoo, Nuts, Lads, Playboy or Gayboy.”

“Drop zee knickers.” This was later.

The locum proved to be a German lady, and I obliged, laid on my side, closed my eyes and went through last week’s football results while she went through a routine with a surgical glove.

In no time at all I was on the street with the assurance that I would be seeing a specialist very shortly.

“Very shortly” in my phrase book meant desperately urgent and I ruminated over the outcome.

Later, at home, I began to take stock. Over sixty-five, not had a bad life, mustn’t grumble (why not?). Best check the Insurance policies... teach my wife how to access files on the PC…on second thoughts, would I have that long?

Should I have a garage sale? Would anyone want to buy over 200 LPs of obscure blues artists/modern jazz/John Cooper Clarke? Who on earth reads James Thurber/E F Benson nowadays? And what about the collection of toast racks?

“Rubbish” This was not an assessment of my inventory of garage sale goods, merely an observation by my wife on my medical diagnosis. Cheered by the fact that she is always right, I put the garage sale on hold.

A few days later I received an invitation to the hospital-that-specialises-in…well, the unmentionable.

“Please bring your partner, (a dance?)…You will be able to discuss your forthcoming procedure with our specialist nursing staff.”

On the prescribed date we drove to the hospital, there to be directed to a lecture hall crowded with the desperate, accompanied by the apprehensive. Not the secluded private room I had envisaged.

At the appointed time a nursing sister introduced herself and with the help of a series of wall charts, explained the various procedures and the dates on which they would be performed.

* * *
”Who’s having this?”, pointing to what I was down for.

“Gulp, me please miss,” unfortunately the date was the supposed day of our visit to see Cabaret in Bournemouth, and I was back in class admitting to some minor infringement of the school rules. From the swivelled heads and stares I gathered I was either unique or everyone else was too embarrassed/deaf/shy or had wandered in out of curiosity.

A photographic exploration was to take place. Tracing the route with a large blackboard pointer, the expedition leader described the journey.

“Fairly straightforward. We’re heading due North, turning Eastwards, then when this point is reached it’s due West. By this time we should have sufficient information to diagnose a plan of action.”

Not her actual words, but a rough translation after removing the medical jargon.

“Er, is it painful?” I was feeling a bit weak at the knees.

“You can have an anaesthetic. Unless, of course, you expect to drive off directly on holiday, accompanied by your wife. who cannot drive , on a 285 mile journey to Bournemouth, where you will be expected quickly to get into your glad-rags and join the rest of your party at the theatre... in which case don’t forget the cushions.“

Just to make matters more interesting, I was given a do-it-yourself enema kit to use early in the morning of the procedure, before driving to the hospital. My preoccupation with the instructions helped to pass the time during the weeks of waiting.

On the appointed day, rising early, I activated the do-it-yourself kit, emerging ashen-faced from the bathroom half an hour later.

No need to look at the calendar. Forget the computer alarm. Here was a day that would remain with me forevermore.

A blanket need-to-know policy on the medical events was imposed. I watched my wife eat breakfast then we loaded our luggage into the car, locked the house and set off for the hospital, maintaining a silence.

After a quick change into the obligatory open-at-the-back gown, a particularly humiliating costume, the performance in the operating theatre began.

During Act One I lay inert while the leading man carried out an internal exploration with an unspeakable device, the procedure relayed to a closed circuit TV monitor. I declined the offer to view what was going on, preferring to spend the whole uncomfortable half hour - eyes shut - dwelling on the route to Bournemouth.

Cromer, Thetford, ouch…Cambridge, Milton Keynes, aargh…M25, Basingstoke, Winchester, eek…Ringwood.

At that point the leading man did something with the surgical equivalent of a stapling gun… yikes!

I reached Bournemouth... and it was all over.

“Nothing amiss. Just a minor repair.”

Act Two consisted of a discussion about my life style.

”Probably your diet. Too much roughage.” The conclusion being that my fondness, bordering on addiction, to anything sold in a health food store was counter productive.

I vowed to revert to a more unhealthy regime.

The final curtain came down when I was wheeled out.

Later, while recovering in the dressing room I thanked the members of the cast but declined the offer of a souvenir internal photograph in the form of a tablemat.

* * *
Aided by strategically placed cushions I was able to make the painful journey to Bournemouth. Later that evening we enjoyed the performance of Cabaret in the company of our hosts.

They were moved to comment that the performance had brought tears to my eyes.
They were so right.


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