Saturday, 27 September 2008

Wining and Dining

It's been what Laura Ingalls Wilder's mother would refer to as a 'whirl of gaity' of late. But first up was a matter of work - meeting a woman with 2 Great Danes who wants me to come and house sit for her. One of the dogs is deaf, the other has a pace maker. The deaf one was neglected as a pup - forced to live in a small, 4 ft square area, with his only human contact being the ability to peer over a baby gate into the kitchen. Needless to say, he's now somewhat boisterous!

When I arrived, the owner greeted me pleasantly and led me into the sitting room. Through French doors I could see two small horses trampling over the small garden. When they caught sight of us, they roared up to the window and started barking in a quite ferocious manner. Even as unfazed by dogs as I am, I have to admit to feeling the smallest sense of unease at the sight of these enormous animals roaring at the top of their voices. But when they were let in, they were simple adorable. Truly the size of the dog is irrelevant. It's all attitude that counts. These two were as soft as butter - especially the older one, who came and sat next to me on the sofa, butt on the seat and paws on the floor, and leaned heavily against me. The other one was a little more excitable - but no hint of aggression at all. He did attempt to curl up on the sofa with us, but trying to fit his enormous frame into a space just about large enough for a small cocker spaniel proved a little too much for him.

These dogs are vast. Standing on hind legs, the older one is 6ft 7inches tall. He now weighs in at just over 10 stone, but in his youth he was a good 12. Looking after them poses a couple of problems - firstly, I don't like the fact they're not walked properly. Not the older one, who's not supposed to do any exercise, but the younger one is in desperate need of a good romp. The garden they have is far too small for them - as is their owner, who is simply not physically strong enough to keep a Great Dane under control. She's very knowledgeable, has had Danes for decades, so possibly she knows exactly what she's doing - but I did detect signs that this younger one was under exercised. Perhaps it was just that day, though. She said her husband takes him out, so maybe it was a one off. Just because they're bigger doesn't necessarily mean they need more exercise than an ordinary dog.

The only thing that's really putting me off is the strong smell of cigarettes in the house. The scent itself is pretty bad, but what I'm more worried about is getting used to it - and then deciding the one thing in the world I could really do with is a fag. I came across an old filofax of mine, with some of those sections in it that are labelled awful things like "Objectives" or "Achievements". Under the one rather hopefully labelled "Interests" I'd listed:

1. Fags

Smoking really was rather wonderful. On the other hand, the legacy of regular respiratory tract infections is less wonderful - and I'm very glad I've given up, in the grand scheme of things.

I'm getting tired and my train of thought is wandering. I was going to talk about the Whirl of Gaity, but got side tracked by pooches. I shall be brief.

On Thursday, Spar & Blar took us out for a really wonderful evening of fine dining at Wedgewood . It was a great night, kicked off by Spar actually dragging a moth-eaten tie from his wardrobe and looking proper swanky. As usual, Blarney decided to amuse herself by taking a topic of conversation she knows full well will set me off on a Class 1 rant and playing Devil's Advocate as only she can. 3 hours later, my throat dry, my nervous system an exhausted wreck, and the waitresses on the verge of mugging me with a tablecloth and bunding me into a waiting looney-van, I think I managed to change absolutely nobody's mind about the Rôle of Wimmin in Society. Especially not the large group of robust Aussie males on a nearby table - but they were having far too much fun with their 2 token birds to pay any attention to us, anyway.

It was a grand evening, and the following day Fisher and I were so buouyant we actually braved IKEA on a Saturday - and got some very productive shopping done.

On Friday night we were back in Edinburgh for Pro's birthday meal at Duck's, and very lovely it was, too. The menu was limited, but all the food was superb - especially the Sticky Toffee Pudding: surely the finest I have ever tasted. It was supposed to come with cinnamon Chantilly cream, but as I hate cinnamon I asked to have the salted caramel ice cream which accompanied a lemon parfait instead. It was perfect in every way. In fact, as I think on it now, I find myself salivating so unbearably I will have to stop.

Today we popped up to the G-Spot and saw that work is, at last, progressing at a visible pace. It was quite thrilling. We also took up all the tiles for My bathroom (they're so preeeeeetty!), much to Helga the VWs disgust. She creaked and croaked her way to Perthshire, groaning under the weight of 600 slate tiles - but not groaning nearly as much as we were when we had to unload them all at the other end.

All in all it's been a very fun, and also very productive few days. Next week I have to get my nose to the grindstone and make sure I'm prepared for my Therapeutic Massage exams in October - but I should be able to do a couple of hours a day and still pay Garry as serious amount of attention.

I'm a little pie-eyed at this point. I'm not sure how much sense this blog makes right now, so it's best for me to turn in. Apologies if this is the dullest thing ever.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Holly Cottage moves one step closer ...

... to being sold.

Today, Fisher and I went into Dundee and ordered some replacement lino for the kitchen floor (destroyed many months ago by visiting dogs) and some for the bathroom. We got the cheapest available and we're still £300 out of pocket. Still, half of that was paid by the dogs' owners back in February, so that's something. This means we only have to get the new bathroom painted, the leak around the base of the sink repaired, and, y'know, maybe hoover? before we stick the old gal on the market.

Ah, HC. HQ of the Cheeseboard. The site of many raucous - and not so raucous parties. Venue of Friends' Christmas, of Murder Mystery New Year, of birthdays and Easters, of Treasure Hunts and epic battles of Who's in the Bag? (If, reader, you do not know this fantastic game then I urge you to go out and buy it. If for some reason you come from an uncivilised part of the universe where this game is unknown, I suggest you make your own version. Instructions for constructing a home made WitB will follow, as well as rules. Christ I'm sad and pathetic.) Of pots of tea and biscuits, morning fry-ups or American style pancakes and bacon, of Janus's allergies and Koios's ravenous appetite, of drunken ramblings and even drunker wailings and twangings in the name of music. And food. Restaurant nights, Sunday roasts, Fisher's Thai Green Curry and Breakfast Bread, hearty winter stews, summer barbecues, salads, chicken pie ... not to mention the sweet stuff. Apple pie with apples straight from the tree, home made ice cream, Auntie Brave Bird's lemon cheesecake, honey and almond wafers ... and, to finish it all, cheese, cheese, cheese. And who could forget copious bottles of red wine, the odd splashing of white-and-fizzy, cocktail parties in proper frocks (and that was just the men), Jamaica Sundays, whisky sours and mint juleps? And talking, and talking, and talking.

Good old HC. She's had a good life with us. But soon we'll be taking all of the above and moving on - to a bigger, better, older, prettier version - with a bedroom for everyone who comes to stay. No more sleeping on the futon, or a blow-up mattress on the floor. No more cramming around a makeshift dining room in the conservatory. No, my friends - it's time to move on, to accept that we are too old to play the student, that we like our comforts and a little civilisation - and haven't we always sought to bring a little éclat to proceedings?

Let this be the mark of a new era! We are still young, though the shadow of our middle years grows ever longer. Let the party continue, though our eyelids flutter like butterflies at the eleventh hour. A new chapter is just around the corner. We will not go gently into the noontime of our lives, but raise two defiant fingers - and a rather fruity glass of Chateauneuf du Pape. Our time is now! We have sung a rousing chorus, people, but oh - the song goes on. And it shall be sung all the sweeter, for we have learnt the tune (even if some of us are a little flat).

Farewell HC! Your era is past. Soon, soon we shall embrace you all again (although not, like, in an icky carkeys-ina-bowl type way) at our new, brighter, better home - the G-Spot. Huzzah!

Yep. It's official. I've gone stark staring looneytunes. Enough of this. Fisher has finished watching America's Next Top Evil Antithesis to Women Ever Being Taken Bloody Seriously and I have some serious telly time to catch up on. Farewell. I leave you, as promised, with the Holy Grail of Games.

Home Made Who's in the Bag
  1. Get a few sheets of A4 paper and hand them round your guests.
  2. Each guest writes a number of famous names in a large list.
  3. Some of these names should have a smiley face next to them. This means they are imitations. Try not to choose names that are completely inimitable, but people who have famous catch-phrases, particular accents, mannerisms etc.
  4. Some of the names should have AP written above, to denote All Play.
  5. Tear the paper into individual names and place all of them in the bag.
  6. Divide into teams of 2 or more. You're ready to play.
Rules of Who's in the Bag
  1. Each team is made up of one reader, and the rest are guessers. The reader changes each round. Everyone must take their turn at being reader.
  2. The reader takes a piece of paper from the bag and must try and get his/her team to guess who is written on the paper. They may do this through song, dance, mime, imitation, or simple explanation - but, obviously, there are a few words they can't say. They can't, for example, say any of the names on the card (duh). Nor can they use 'sounds like.' To make it trickier, there's a house rule that says you can't, in fact, say any names at all. So, for example, if you got Hillary Clinton on your piece of paper, you couldn't say: "Famous wife of ex-president Bill." You could say "famous wife of an ex-president" though. Or, alternatively, "scary woman senator with a face like a slapped arse."
  3. You can pass on ONE card only per turn.
  4. If you pick out a name with a smiley face next to it, you must imitate the person. This does NOT mean you can just describe the person in your ordinary voice but pretend to be imitating them by using the word "I". Example: certain female player pulls out 'Bob Marley' with a smiley face. Her 'imitation' consists of saying this in her ordinary, very English voice: "Er ... I'm a reggae singer. I sang No Woman No Cry. I've got dreadlocks.' This is not acceptable. Anyone doing this should be taken out and shot.
  5. If you pick out a name with AP above the name, this means All Play. Instead of just trying to get your team to guess the name, all players can attempt to guess. The first person to shout out the correct answer wins the card.
  6. The player has one turn of an egg timer (or between 45 seconds-1 minute) to get as many names right as possible. If one card is answered correctly, they should take another one from the bag, and so on until the time runs out. Correctly guessed names should be kept and counted up at the end.
  7. The winning team is the one with the most names in their pile.
  8. Points to note: Sometimes a name gets shouted out correctly after the timer has gone. This means the team doesn't get to keep the name - but there's now a card floating about in there that everyone's already heard. In the interests of fairness, it's better to remove the card entirely.
    If you've made your own version of the game, there is a slight problem in that a large number of the names will be ones you've thought of yourself. You can choose to guess them anyway, or you can exercise honesty and agree that, once you recognise that the name is one you put in, you make no further attempt to help your team. Obviously, this only works in teams of more than 2.
    That's that then.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

A List!

I was browsing other peoples' blogs and came across this list of books. The blogger - one Sarah Barlow - says that she got it from a book club, where the average person has only read 6 out of 100. She also made up the last 2 because they were missed off the list she had - so I've made up the last 2 as well. One I have read, one I feel I ought to.

The reason I'm including this is because every book list I ever see makes me feel inferior and rubbish. For someone with an MA in English, I'm always woefully read. This one didn't make me feel too bad about myself, because it's full of some mind bending choices. The Faraway Tree? And no Tom Sawyer? Do the list yourselves and rejoice. I've put the ones I've read in bold.

Seriously - 6???

1. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen (loved the movie, too, every time I see it!)
2. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4. Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6. The Bible (the majority of it)
7. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8. Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9. His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens (I've only seen it on stage.)
11. Little Women - Louisa May Alcott
12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller. Not for want of trying. I just can't get into it.
14. Complete work of Shakespere (as near as dammit)
15. Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16. The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18. Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19. The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20. Middlemarch - George Eliot
21. Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22. The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23. Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy (anyone who says they have is lying.)
25. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26. Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28. Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck (I'm SURE I must have, but can't for the life of me recall)
29. Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30. The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33. Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34. Emma - Jane Austen
35. Persuasion - Jane Austen
36. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini (Loved it.)
37. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
38. Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
39. Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
40. Animal Farm - George Orwell
41. The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
42. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
43. A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving (I've read over half of it, so it goes in. Hate it)
44. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
45. Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
46. Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy. Got half way through. Lost the book.
47. The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
48. Lord of the Flies - William Golding
49. Atonement - Ian McEwan
50. Life of Pi - Yann Martel
51. Dune - Frank Herbert
52. Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
53. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
54. A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
55. The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
56. A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
57. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
58. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
59. Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
60. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
61. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
62. The Secret History - Donna Tartt
63. The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
64. Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
65. On The Road - Jack Kerouac
66. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
67. Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding
68. Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdi
69. Moby Dick - Herman Melville
70. Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
71. Dracula - Bram Stoker (the most overrated book in the history of literature)
72. The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
73. Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
74. Ulysses - James Joyce
75. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
76. Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
77. Germinal - Emile Zola
78. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
79. Possession - AS Byatt
80. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
81. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
82. The Color Purple - Alice Walker
83. The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
84. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
85. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
86. Charlotte’s Web - EB White
87. The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
88. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
89. The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
90. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
91. The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
92. The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
93. Watership Down - Richard Adams
94. A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
95. A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
96. The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
97. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
98. Les Miserables - Victor Hugo
99. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell - Susannah Clarke
100. The Magic Mountain - Thomas Mann. It's sitting on my bookshelf. I WILL read it.

SO, I score 52. Or 53. I lost count. I console myself with the thought that most of these books I've actively rejected, not never come into contact with. I have no desire to read Jude the Obscure. I read the 'because we are too meny' bit and nearly died from despair. I do love him, but not that much. And I've seen a few of these books in play or film form and never felt the urge to read them in the original. So there.

Anyway - head over to the blog 'A Little Dose of Crazy' for the post I got it from.

I'm Back - Briefly

It's been right mental over the past few months, so apologies for my blogs being so intermittent.

First - the throat thing is all cleared up. I went to the ultrasound doctor, who covered me in an inordinate amount of goop, considering he was only looking at a small part of my neck (I was wiping it out of my pants for days) and told me what the endocrinologist, 2 GPs and an ENT specialist couldn't:

"It's a lymph node."

I made a sound much like 'y-whaaa??'

"It might be thyroglossal remnant," he offered. "Either way, it's nothing."

All my other symptoms have pretty much vanished. I still get a lump in my throat sometimes - particularly at the end of the day, if I've been yakking (talking - not throwing up) or singing a lot. I'm still croaky for a while in the mornings, and at some points throughout the day. BUT - the PND has cleared up, I'm having no trouble swallowing (alas for my waistline), and I no longer think I'm about to keel over from an enormous cancerous growth invading my miiiiind. So that's all well and good.

I had to play catch-up with my massage course, which I loathed and abhorred. I had to go to the tutor's house, give her daughter a massage and get assessed, and make a total numpty of myself by not knowing where any of the muscles she asked about were, how many vertebrae there are in each section of the spine, where the bony landmarks are, or the difference between my arse and elbow. It was somewhat painful. And, to be honest, I'm no more enlightened now. I really, really have to get my nose to the grindstone - but I find it so hard to memorise! I've not had nearly the same sort of trouble learning the physiological side. I think it's to do with stories. If something has a story, I can learn it - no matter how dull said story may be. Here's a cell. These are the characters (mitochondria, golgi bodies, nucleus etc etc). This is what the characters do, this is their plot, and this is their conclusion. The same can be said for anything with a function. But learning muscles is just a case of remembering their name and where they are. It's mindless, parrot-fashion learning and I'm RUBBISH at it. How the feck are you supposed to remember which one is a 'process' and which a 'tuberosity'? As for the goddamned muscles of the neck ... splenius capitis, splenius cervicis, semispinalis capitis, and sternocleidomastoid ... they don't exactly roll off the tongue, do they?

So, I've reached a part of my course I'm not exactly enjoying, as well as discovering I'm a bit thick with things like this. I'm liking the client case studies, but finding time for them is proving troublesome, and seeing as they're all due in November I really have to press on.

And, of course, there's the house. To be honest I can't really complain about it. Fisher has done everything. The men are at work, ripping bits up, throwing bits down, preparing for our long awaited move - but there's so much still to do, not least put HC on the market. This means finishing the bathroom and putting new lino down in the kitchen first. I'm determined that, after this weekend's tutorial of horrors, where my humiliation will doubtless be complete, I'm going to get right on the business of house selling. Or, should the market be dead, house renting. Or, should it be truly dead, suicide.

It hasn't all been work and no play, though. We had a lovely weekend at the beginning of September at the Countryside Fair, with Koi, Badger, Janus, Blar & Spar. We witnessed some impressive stunt riding, in front of the least easily impressed crowd you're ever likely to see. The smattering of applause following each stunt was in direct contrast to how pleased with themselves the riders were - especially a tall, blond, handsome young man (with a much uglier brother for whom we all felt sorry) who thrust his chest out like a narked pigeon. We hoped he'd fall off and be trampled beneath the hooves, but it wasn't to be. There was also a, frankly hilarious, demonstration of a princess being captured by evil King's Guards. She had a bag of treasure she was trying to save, but the evil guards were bearing down on her ...

"They're coming!" bellowed the narrator over the tannoy, with an audible rustle of the crisp packet she was eating from at the time. "Poor princess! Run, princess!"

The princess gave a terrified scream, followed by a swift look over her shoulder. Seeing that she was outstripping the horses by a considerable margin, she slowed to a trot then, visibly irked, to a shuffle. The horses 'bore' down on her. She gave another scream, slightly more irritated than terrified, and waved her hands in the air.

"They've almost got the treasure!" cried the tannoy, in a fine spray of crisp dust.

Actually, they were nowhere near the treasure, so the princess gave an actually-quite-angry-now scream, threw the treasure at them and leaped into her captor's arms. I'm not certain, but I think I saw her mouth: "For fuck's sake, Bob, where were you?"

Bob attempted to haul her up behind him, but she was a buxom lass and not easy to haul, so there was a bit of an undignified scrabble before she was safely riding at his back. They exited stage left, to the faint clappa-ca-lappa of unimpressed applause.

"Let's hear it for our brave princess and her vile captors!" mumbled the tannoy, to a torrent of silence.

"Talk about girl power," I snorted loudly. "That was the most pathetic display I've ever seen!"

"His goolies were there to be battered," Fisher agreed.

We all had a vocal discussion about what a wet fart in a rainstorm the princess had proved, until we realised the chap beside us was recording the whole proceedings on video for his brood of under 6s and we were completely destroying the 'magic' with our feminist rantings.

Aside from stunt horses, we ... er ... well, ate a lot. There was the hog roast, the sweetie bar, the fresh-cooked crepe stand ... Oh, Spar and I did some archery (my humiliation continues). Other than that, the dogs had a lovely time, including Dougal who we were looking after for Phid and Wheeler.

Other social events on my calendar included a cheery night with the Cheese Board, which involved me massaging Blarney, Janus, Koi and Spartan, and everyone else getting quite pissed and annoying me by teasing Spar for ... well, basically being a bloke in a pair of boxers. I ask you - do I come to their work and take the piss out of their clients? I do not. Then again, they don't have to work in the middle of what was, ostensibly, a middle-aged pyjama party.

Also, Wheeler and Phid had a housewarming party. We brought barbecue, food and booze. They provided the place in which to put said barbecue, room in the garden for a tent - and a comfy air mattress. Also a 'head torch' ceilidh with music blasting from Norman the van, and a bonfire. We arrived and soon needed to light the barbecue. This was an epic task in itself as they had no lighter fuel and no impregnated charcoal, so I had to use sticks. Still, there were a couple of blokes wandering around looking irritated that I was usurping their role of fire gods, so I took great delight in lighting it with wood, paper, and then cooking food far more efficiently and, frankly, tastily than the gas barbie. The guy who was in charge of that seemed to believe that a) it took 45 minutes to cook a sausage and b) he needed to come and tell me that my barbecue would never light and give me some handy pointers like 'if you wait for a minute or two, I'll come and help you out.' Luckily, the fire was a-glow by the time he turned back to help this damsel in distress, and I'd already cooked 2 sausages - and consumed them. It then turned into an astonishing barbecue rivalry. None of Wheeler's friends would eat my offerings out of loyalty to gas-man. I offered, but was told each time that no, they were waiting for the gas barbecue. This actually suited us down to the ground, as the wood and charcoal barbie was turning over fodder like Jesus let loose in a bakery-fishmonger. We were soon happily fed, chatting in a corner and sucking back beer. There were some nice people there, so we managed not to be utterly antisocial and actually had entertaining chats with strangers. Wonders will never cease. Unfortunately, I developed a cracking headache just before midnight, which even ibuprofen would not shift, so I turned in to our tent. All the other Cheese Boarders buggered off back to the warmth of their beds at home, which was, frankly, pathetic of them. I curled up with a book, which I couldn't actually read without my eyes throbbing, and was blissfully asleep before Fisher arrived back to the tent and woke me up. Even that small sleep had dulled the headache considerable, and when I next awoke - at 2am ish - it was the call of my bladder that was the culprit. I simply cannot camp without needing to pee every 3 or so hours, and getting in and out of a mummy-bag as well as a tent is no joke. There are several occasions I've seriously considered wetting myself.

Ok, not seriously.

Next morning was pretty - sunshine where there'd been rain the evening before, which put a bit of a dampner (har har) on the roaring fire - at least, for those not sitting under tarpaulin cover. Fisher and I had to go home and give the dogs some exercise and attention, as well as sort out some housey stuff, so we couldn't join them at the pub for brunch. We figured it would be easier to sort out feeding fewer people anyway, as many pubs turn pale at the sight of a large party of hungry campers - so home we went and left them to it.

And that's all. Nothing else has happened except me getting back into a tentative exercise regime, struggling to remember muscles and bones of the body (and failing), and gearing up for this weekend's tutorial. Hope everyone out there in the ether is well.


Thursday, 4 September 2008

Quickie Update

Just got back from Ninewells for my appointment with the endocrine fella, who was supposed to check out my lump. To begin with he wasn't there, so my history was taken by the most terrified 4th year student I've ever seen. I was tempted to say:

"Look, I'm no doctor, but the first thing they teach anyone in a medical field - even blimmin' massage - is to create an aura of confidence. You're about as confident as a field mouse facing a feral tabby."

I then reeled off a list of symptoms with as many medical terms as I could remember - at which his pen hand, I kid thee not, went from mildly quivering to a full-on shake. I was wildly entertained - until the specialist remained AWOL for 35 minutes and I was stuck with the quivering fool staring at me, gulping, saying "I really don't know what else to ask you. Is there ... er ... anything you think you should tell me?"

I thought carefully.

"I'm not a big fan of the cock," I said - just to see what colour he'd go.

Unfortunately, that's not true. Anyway, the specialist eventually rocked up and we chatted briefly.

"And ... er ... why have they sent you to me?" he said, in a not very encouraging way. "I deal with the endocrine system."

"Possibly because I have a thyroglossal cyst?" I hedged. Christ ... do I have to do everything myself? I thought. I'm not hugely keen on self-diagnosis, but if he asks me to whack out a scalpel, I'm outta here.

"Oh, all right," he shrugged amenably, and proceeded to poke my neck with a stick. Upon finding said lump, he gave a porcine snort and crowed:

"That's tiny!"

"Yes, but it's what you do with it that counts," I retorted, inexplicably narked.

"Waha," he chortled. "Wa-hahaha. Well, I'm not going to do anything to it. Cutting it out would probably do more harm than good, and would just give you a bloody great scar. You're booked in for an ultrasound anyway, so get it checked out - but my recommendation is just to forget about it."

Just forget about it. Good lord, why didn't I think of that?

So, while there's no need to be alarmed any more, I'm still no closer to figuring out what's wrong with my throat, or why my voice is a bit croaky and weak. The antacids I've been prescribed have done no good. However - the ENT appointment stands, so I've got until the beginning of October to see if things improve, and for the ultrasound department to have a peek at the lump and say "that's tiny" in tones of contempt.

Now leave me alone. I have stuff to learn for my massage tutorial and it won't get done rabbiting away to you lot.