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Smallville: Alternative Medicine

So when you go visiting the "natives'' in Lincolnshire, what should you take as a gift? How about that well-known ointment which is all the rage in Hollywood because it allegedly holds at bay signs of ageing? Peter B Farrell ventures into the peculiar world of alternative medicine, sings a few songs from the Forties, and return home with the sausage rolls.

I believe it was customary centuries ago for visiting explorers to trade gifts with the natives, for example a handful of beads for a cure for beriberi or snakebite.

Prior to a long awaited expedition to visit our friends Brian and Val in the neighbouring county of Lincolnshire, my wife Margaret read an article in a magazine, suggesting that the signs of ageing could be held at bay by the application of a particular ointment.

“What, you mean the stuff I used for…?”

“Yes, that‘s what it says. It’s worth a try, even some Hollywood film stars swear by it.” I was astonished.

“You’re absolutely certain, on your face?” If true surely there would be a world shortage or the price would be exorbitant?

“Well, there’s no proof, but I need some new face cream anyway so I may as well give it a go, and as you’re going to the pharmacy…” I required some Elastoplasts after pruning the roses.

At the pharmacy I located the Elastoplasts but the ointment merited an enquiry of the assistant. Aware of a listening audience I mumbled my request.

“Large or small size, sir?” The assistant had a piercing voice.

“Large please,“ I muttered. The ointment seemed to be brandished for all to see as I paid for it.

‘It’s not what you think, it’s the latest thing to remove wrinkles…’ is what I wanted to shout, but instead mumbled my thanks and slunk out of the pharmacy.

“Not sure you’re right about this.” I was not convinced by this new health fad, especially from Hollywood, but Margaret seemed taken in. For years, the only medical remedies I knew of were either a kaolin poultice or inhaling menthol vapour from a pudding basin, although I confess to drinking green tea. Only a couple of weeks ago I was astounded to hear of colonic irrigation. A relative having undergone a session went back for more.

“...And she actually paid for it?” The graphic description and what it entailed had me baffled. I visualised a mechanical device with a large tube operated by a burly operator who couldn’t believe his luck when later, he banked the day’s takings.

The following weekend we embarked on our planned expedition to Lincolnshire, to spend the day with our friends.

“Boston Stump. I can see it.” Margaret had spotted the well-known landmark, the church tower of St Botolph’s, which told us we were within ten miles of our destination.

I almost reminded her that many years ago I was a colleague of the daughter of the then vicar of St Botolph’s; who in turn was the brother of Diana Dors the well known British film star, but I thought better of it.

The tall, slender church spires are a feature of the flat, agricultural landscape of Lincolnshire, acting as beacons for the traveller. In the distance would be the outline of Lincoln cathedral. The magnificent cathedral, completed in 1092, has withstood fire and earthquake and rightly dominates the skyline.

“Don’t forget the sausage rolls,” I reminded Margaret. Produced locally they are one of Lincolnshire’s best-kept secrets. Our friends always had a supply in the deep freeze ready for us to take home.

“Well, just remember your diet” My turn to be reminded. I can verify the sausage rolls are the very best and have to ration myself accordingly.

“You’re both looking well, how are you keeping?” Brian and Val made us welcome but their customary greeting warranted a longer explanation. “Don’t ask; we’ll tell you later,” was my reply.

Over the next few hours we caught up with the local news, of family and mutual friends and looking at the photographs. Brian was fast becoming an expert with the digital camera.

“What, you mean the stuff you use for…?” The conversation had somehow spiralled to health and vitality and Val was astonished at the choice of Margaret’s face cream.

“You’re absolutely certain, on your face?” Brian’s turn.

“Well, I needed some new face cream, anyway and if all else fails it will come in handy for…”

“Supposedly, even Hollywood film stars swear by it.” I hastily interjected and broached the subject of the latest therapy. My description of a scene involving a pump, a water supply and an operator in a white coat with a certificate in plumbing was treated with disbelief.

“Colonic…?” from Brian, followed by “Irrigation…?” from Val.

Apparently they hadn’t heard the tom-toms or seen the smoke signals.
The conversation drifted to technology and I picked up some hints on the use of my mobile phone.

“Text messaging, what’s that?” Another language apparently, that had taken the place of the cleft stick and - with my new found expertise -I promised to attempt to send a message when we returned home.
I had bought the telephone two years ago for emergency purposes. Fortunately no emergency had occurred, but in consequence I had never unlocked its mysteries.

During lunch I put on my “Tremendous battle” CD, with its bizarre mix of speeches, air raid sirens, exploding bombs and Hits of the Forties. As usual this had me in fits of laughter, which proved infectious and we followed with a sing along; at least some of us did.

“Before my time,” said Val.

A pleasant day out in rural Lincolnshire and a successful expedition, we had exchanged token gifts with the natives: the very latest cure/dubious advice from Hollywood on the signs of ageing, in return for a supply of sausage rolls.

Returning home, I endeavoured to send a text message, but without success.

I have since reverted to the steam telephone while Margaret has reverted to a more conventional face cream.


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