So I was casting around for a theme or topic for my next blog – by which of course I mean I was sifting through the rich mixture of memories, experiences and exciting radical views that run through my fecund mind (alarmed at word fecund but it says richly fertile, so that’s exactly right) when I had an idea.
Make a note of it, son. Write it down in your little book. It will be gone in a flash. Hurry.
During my many blogged treatises on the pleasures and occasional disadvantages of life during relatively advanced years, the sole selfless purpose of which is to help you young boys and girls under 60 to avoid making the same mistakes that I have, I have occasionally touched on issues of health with examples of the odd illness or injury bravely borne. It is by suffering that human beings become angels, wrote Victor Hugo whose blogs always had the edge on mine so who am I to argue with that?
Well, on Monday last week I stubbed my big toe. Oh, yes, you may scoff and sneer and ridicule. It was a big stub of a big toe on a big stone step and I was barefoot. This summer I have mostly been dispensing with footwear, including socks, around the house. I ran through my complete range of oaths and obscenities gathered assiduously in newsrooms, magazine offices and packed press pubs over the decades and as I recovered was grateful that Zola is a small cat, not a perceptive parrot like my Great Uncle Davey brought my Grandmother home from the Navy.
Within the hour the toe was blue, then black and when my delighted wife, a former ward sister at a London hospital so not easily impressed, had painted it a few times with arnica the deep purples and magentas, enlarged by the swollen toe which was now rudely pushing the next one out of the way to its scarlet annoyance, were spectacular. She surveyed it with artistic pride and observed on a number of occasions in the next 24 hours that the bruising was coming out beautifully. I said I was glad it was giving her pleasure.
After several days of stoical suffering I eased a shoe painfully over the throbbing toe and went to do some emergency shopping. It is fair to admit that my wife had already done some of this, but her idea of emergency shopping and mine are not absolutely identical, although she had included a bottle of Jack Daniels which glistened and glowed in the evening sunshine on my bedside table. My heroic excursion took a heavy toll on my battered toe and when I removed the shoe I cried out in horror at the swollen, pulsating monster that lay on the end of my right foot.
‘That bang you gave it has brought your gout back,’ said my wife, without a great deal of compassion I thought, considering the years she spent running wards full of suffering patients. And she took the bottle of Jack Daniels away with her. And a few other bottles beside.
I surveyed the toe thoughtfully. It did bear some resemblance to the gouty left big toe I had suffered briefly many years ago. The rapidly spreading, swollen area was just like the one I then Googled on my tablet. Talking of tablets, I have been on Allopurinol ever since the first attack and the condition has never recurred. I explained carefully to my friends that it had nothing to do with my very light consumption – compared with my earlier working days, that is – of alcohol, but was due to purine which left excessive uric acid crystals in the joints. ‘Peas, ’I observed patiently, ‘are apparently very high in purine, as is bacon or lobster. My doctor assured me that many sufferers are, in fact, teetotal.’
Much mirth followed. They all went off to the pub, advising me to steer clear of bacon, lobster and peas. My staff never respected me. I thought I had better keep clear of alcohol, just to be safe, and followed a reasonable diet list. This, and the daily Allopurinol, kept the gout totally at bay for the next decade or so and enabled me to drink again, with my usual sensible moderation. (You what?)
And so my gout became history – until last week. I spent the weekend surveying the toe suspiciously as it stuck out of the end of the bed and was capable only of hopping to the bathroom occasionally. Was it broken? It looked and felt like it. Or was it gout? Was it both? It was partly the pain and partly the mental agony of wondering whether in the hour of my heroically borne suffering I was going on the wagon UNNECESSARILY!
The doctor surveyed it for a minute or two and after some very painful light prodding and pinching asked me whether it felt like pain from the trauma of the impact or returned gout. Both, I said. He said an X-ray was sensible – they sent the results back swiftly, he assured me – dispatched me to the radiology department of the local hospital where they asked me the same question. Both, I said. They took some charming portraits of it, full-face and in both profiles. ‘Is it broken?’ I asked.
‘We’ll let your doctor know,’they said. ‘In twelve to fourteen days!’
Well. I mean, well. So is it badly broken? Is it bruised? Is it gout? The nation waits with bated breath and no bulletins can be issued to calm it down. Two weeks! Imagine Chelsea Football Club telling the press to come back In a fortnight to see if a star player had tragically broken his toe! Meanwhile I have to stay off all drinky doodles – I do beg your pardon, alcohol. Deprivation deadens the mind – for two more sun-soaked sodding weeks, just in case it is gout. Such an experience could break weaker men, but I shall struggle on manfully without complaint.
I just looked up the old anti-gout diet sheet. It is far, far worse than I had feared. The banned list includes cod. And ‘chipped potatoes’. That’s fish and chips! The basis of daily life. It probably includes cheese scones, too, but I am going to set it aside for now and prepare salad (No bleeding tomatoes, it says!). No chicken? I will just sit here and plan my menu for this evening. After all, it is now past six so drinks time is upon me and I can pass the next two hours planning my food with a refreshing glass or three of water.