Johnnersintheraw's Blog

May 14, 2010

Shitting On The Doctor’s Shoes

The True Story Of My Birth

My life began, as so many lives have begun before mine and as so many lives shall begin after mine, in a hospital delivery room.  Now, typically me, I wasn’t really paying as much attention to my immediate surroundings as I should have done in order to suss things out properly. Because of that, if the physician in charge, who had taken an instant dislike to me, had sometime later in my childhood (when I could hold a pencil and had a less forthright and a more multisyllabic vocabulary) set an exam for me, I doubt whether I would have scored very high.  Mind you, I never did very well on any of my school exams, but that was without his help.  It was, rather, through practice and diligent study.  After all, with enough determination, imagination and ill-will towards men, one can actually learn to fail with such conviction that you can fool everyone. What I mean is, if you can convince enough of the right sort of people that you are a born-again idiot, they will then waste no time in convincing a great many others of the right sort of people that you’ve got the ability of a roll of used toilet paper, and before you know it, they will actually start leaving you alone and to your own devices.  The more hopeless you are, the more likely it is that they will not give you those pesky passing marks that will oblige you to carry on failing for an additional four or eight or twenty-seven years in some institute of higher learning, or alternatively, in a borstal (or perhaps, a combination  of both, for those two opposing types of institutions offer many of the same attractions, such great grub and lots of it, plenty to do to occupy your time, and it goes without saying, great-looking inmates). Having gleefully failed your miserable self and thrown you on to the academic rubbish heap, those in charge will actually discourage you from even mentioning your old school’s name on your Curriculum Vitae (I even know what that means, for I went to a good Catholic Borstal, where we conjugated Latin verbs whilst perfecting our mugging techniques).  And if you have even managed to score lower than anyone else in the history of the school – in other words at the very bottom of the ‘Imbecile Scale’ of ‘minus-one’ to ‘minus-five hundred fifty-seven point five’, the school governors will actually accord you the ultimate honour.  They shall deny having ever set eyes on you, and shall swear on a stack of Bibles that your name (“what did you say it was?”) has ever appeared on their records.  And if challenged by your long-suffering parents who, for some unfathomable reason continue to have a steadfast (though slightly diminished) faith in the unlikely possibility that your obscurely manic personality, coupled with a tendency to indulge in gracious though rabidly antisocial behaviour, might herald a promising future as an unemployable remittance man, the school governors will merely smile and say they are possibly confused.  Now, according to the Head Master (who should know), there had been a young gentleman with a similar surname, but he was obviously not who they were talking about.  In fact, this young gentleman probably wasn’t even related (if only because he knew how to spell his name correctly, whereas the other one – the one the school had not heard of – always tried out a different spelling each time he wrote a paper which he didn’t write, if only because he wasn’t attending the school when he didn’t write it).  At this point, my parents’ eyes would light up and they would say, “That just might be the one; he sounds familiar.” But, of course, by that time the Head Master was intent on concentrating solely on the other boy (you know, my brother, Ol’ Whatisname, the radish), and he would actually encourage my father to acknowledge that he only had the one son.  ‘The keeper’, as the Head Master referred to him, had distinguished himself in particle physics, as well as in good behaviour.  Could my parents be thinking of him?  “No,” my father would answer, “we can account for him; he’s the one who’s let us down dreadfully by having his doctoral thesis accepted before beginning his first year at university. A terrible disappointment, he’s been.  He’s brought shame on to the family.’’  And then he would sigh.

Having put the Head Master in his place for the crime of erasing me from history, my parents took refuge in one of those posh public houses that situate themselves opposite the front of schools such as the one that had written me off as being among the ‘never was borns’. My father, who was by that time in a more reflective frame of mind (helped no doubt, by the half-dozen water glasses of single malt he had downed) moaned and shook his head sadly and squeezed my mother’s hand, and said, “Well at least he’s as bent as a pink bendy straw.  There’s always the hope he’ll never breed.”  Whereupon my mother, who knew I blew whichever way the wind wafted, replied,   “Don’t get your hopes up, dear.  For all we know, there might even be a whole bunch of little ‘hims’ running around, even as we speak.”  That’s when my father had the idea of taking up shooting.  “Do you think we can persuade him to be one of the beaters,” he asked.

But let us return to the circumstance of my birth, and to the unspeakably condescending physician who attended my mother during her confinement. Looking back at it I still consider his attitude toward me to be distinctly ill-mannered, rude in the extreme, and quite inexcusable.  And no matter what he later claimed, his tantrum was certain not provoked by me.  After all, I had just arrived on the scene, having splapped out of my mother’s birth canal not one second before; furthermore, I was blinded by the lights, flash-frozen by the arctic winds blowing through the hospital, and I was deafened by his shouting in my ear.

You now are going to hear my side of the story.  It was in the dead of winter – a not ideal time in which to be born.  But then again, it was not of my own choosing, no matter what the physician said.  I mean, if I had had any say in the matter, I might have selected early autumn, for early autumn is always such a delightful time.  You know, what with grouse shooting giving way to point-to-point and with fox hunting just round the corner, and with  all the leaves painting themselves all shades of fashionable autumnal colours.  But could I force my way then?  No!  My mother resolutely refused to cooperate with me. She clamped her legs together, wrapped her knees with an iron chain, which in turn she fastened with one of those unpickable medieval puzzle-padlocks, and promptly sat down for the next four months. So, to reiterate, it was not my fault I was born in January.  I had tried my best and did what I could. 

The only thing for it was revenge. And, since by now I had an additional four months to plot my course of action, I came up with a cracker.

I staged a blizzard.  I’m sure, if you think hard enough, you will remember the one I’m talking about. It was the one that iced over the entire country for three and a half weeks and made the roads impassable. And this was why I wasn’t whelped at home as was my birthright, but was forced to withstand the indignity of being manhandled by an extremely cold and unsympathetic pair of hands that were more at home with the niceties of proctology than with the baser arts of obstetrics.

In other words, I was forced to be born in a hospital.  A hospital which is, I am sad to say, no longer there.  Something about a fire.  But no matter.

So anyway, the countryside was more or less locked in by the blizzard, and my father decided – because of the complications which accompanied the birth of my brother – (you know: the other one, Ol’ Whatisname – old toad in the hole) – they shouldn’t chance a home birth.  And so, when my mother’s iron chains were about to burst, he set about getting her to hospital.  And no, it wasn’t in a one-horse open sleigh; it wasn’t on a pair of snowshoes, and it wasn’t in my grandmother’s tiny little single-engine plane. It was in one of those strange vehicles called an ambulance.  They had thought about asking the postman – for in those days, the post actually did get through – but he demurred, saying that my mother was so vast what with all the water she had retained, that not only could she not fit through the door, but that she would break the springs.  And since my father held strict views when it came to throwing money away, and since the cost of an ambulance was less than that of a new van for the post office, an ambulance it was.

So anyway, there we were:  My mother on a special bed designed for the birth of Jumbo the elephant; there was I swimming about in inside her womb, happily thrashing my legs, kicking the walls of her uterus because I was outgrowing the space, and singing at the top of my lungs “Free at last, Free at last, thank God Almighty, I’m almost free at last!” And there was this niggardly physician, rolling his eyes and wondering what he had ever done in his past life to deserve this.

Now, lest you get the idea that my mother was normally the size of one of those behemoths that hovers over the pastry cooler in Asda deciding whether she should take it all with her or eat half of it in the checkout line, let me make it clear that – when not pregnant – she was a tiny little thing and that until the day of her death, she had the figure of a flapper.  And if you don’t know what a flapper is, think of Twiggy back when she was the first size zero model and was causing a sensation on the catwalk with the first miniskirts.  And if you don’t know what a Twiggy is (and no, it is not the next version of Twitter), think of a blade of grass with a head on top.  

Interestingly enough, although she beat Twiggy to the punch by a great many years, my mother wore her hair in the same Eton crop, though not because of Twiggy (because Twiggy was not yet called Twiggy and was still a schoolgirl), but because it was the easiest thing to manage with a pair of garden shears.  And on her it was always chic.

Anyway, came the big day.  There we were: my mother, a couple of nurses (this was in the days of full-employment), an anaesthesiologist, his assistant,  a couple or three nursing assistants,  the lady handing out chocolates,  and the physician, who would not have been there at all had his car not skidded into the river, where it was now locked away under twenty feet of ice.  And then, of course, there was me. But not my father.  For a start, even though my father had a medical degree and actually knew what was going on, he was still a father.  And fathers, being fathers, were complete zombies when it came to childbirth.  As far as everyone was concerned, since the fathers had already completed their part of the childbearing contract through the donation of their priceless spermatozoa, as well as through the agony wrought by the relentless pumping of their loins and by the gut-wrenching ejaculation of their precious swimmers into their wife’s vagina (followed by a debilitating nap), it was now considered their duty to pace back and forth in the waiting room, sweating profusely and smoking a dozen packets of cigarettes.  And feeling very thankful that the whole trend towards husbands assisting in the delivery of their son or daughter,  and possibly even pointing a video camera up the downspout while his beloved wife screamed and yelled and hurled curses at him, had not yet been invented.

In any case, my father was at home, looking after their other son (you know, the other one: Ol’ Whatisname – old numb-nuts).  It seems that both my grandmothers were somewhere else, possibly dispensing blankets and hot beef tea to the starving, frozen hoards taking refuge from the storm in the loft above our barn. Consequently, the only two extraneous people in the house were, Number One, Miss Frame, whose only interest was in my grandmother’s cascade and rockery, and who couldn’t even mention childbirth without lowering her voice and blushing, and, Number Two, Sophie, who was very good when it came to polishing the floors but who thought children were the work of the devil.  There was also a housekeeper or sorts, but as I recall she was ‘not to be asked’ to assume any responsibilities not previously agreed upon.

Sophie, by the way, was the one who, before entering a room, would bellow through the door in her foghorn voice – (especially during the summer months when my parents might decide to shed their clothing at the drop of a hat) –“Get your bleedin’ breeks on and clear out; I’ve got the cleaning tae do.”   And she would then give them exactly thirty seconds to comply.  Now I don’t know what other people’s experiences are with ‘the help’, but this is the reality.  The soon as you hire someone, you instantly become an interfering busybody (as well as a hopelessly incompetent know-nothing) who is always in the way and who is always deliberately making a mess right where they have just cleaned, which means that they will be forced to let their tea go cold while they re-clean the place they had just cleaned in the first place.  It’s called a never-ending cycle.  And, yes, they have all observed you on the toilet – or as they say, “We’ve seen better, dear”

Now, just so you get the picture, Sophie entered our lives by simply turning up one day; in a minute and a half she determined that my parents were as helpless as two kittens tied up in a bag, and that the house would fall down without her. In other words, she ‘took pity’ on them and proceeded to adopt them. And then in the fullness of time, she demanded to be paid for the privilege of tormenting them.  Within first day and a half (when she was “et up by the demon curse”), she decided that she would call herself a parlour maid.  Thereafter, whenever she was “et up” by PMS (which eventually became a more or less permanent condition), she    took to surmounting the greasy overall that she called her ‘uniform’ with an old-fashioned  French maid’s bonnet, which she had ‘borrowed’ from her church’s dressing-up box.  Now Sophie smoked like a chimney and swore like a navvy and was not all that fond of washing. She was also a stalwart lass and I pity the soul who came up against her in a dark alley.  Miss Frame, my father’s intrepid termagant in the rockery, was not amused by her antics, and neither was the so-called housekeeper – another frightening spinster who had previously taken my grandparents in under her fearsome Presbyterian wing.  However, my father thought Sophie was the bee’s knees and he was thrilled by her antics. After all, how many other families existing on a professor’s salary can claim to have a parlour maid (let alone a housekeeper and a gardener and a string of horses)?

That being said, my father was a farsighted man who loved his family. He was not about to venture out into a blizzard, leaving his first-born son (the one with the brain:  Ol’ Whatisname, old clam breath) in their care of this coven of witches.  After all, if he didn’t manage to get back for a week, there was always the possibility they would eat him.  So, he decided he would do the sensible thing and stay home (much to the chagrin of the coven, which always looked forward to the many opportunities offered by the absence of my parents.  After all, there were so many secrets they had as yet to uncover.  For example, there were these locked trunks in the box room in the attic, and the housekeeper had unearthed a  mysterious ring of keys…

Now, during all this time, while I have been filling you in on some of our household idiosyncrasies, my mother was still in labour.  And she was not a happy person.  And since she was not a happy person, and insisted on proving to everyone exactly how unhappy she was, no-one else was happy either. In fact, she was doing all she could to make their lives as miserable as possible.  So it was that the full complement of nurses – a good captive audience if ever there was one – plus the anaesthesiologist, his assistant,  a couple or three nursing assistants,  the lady handing out chocolates, all the custodians, the administrator, and, last but not least, the physician, (who, if you recall, would not have been there in the first place had his car not skidded into the river, where it was now locked away under twenty-feet of ice) -were all feeling distinctly sorry themselves.

Finally the moment came. The dam burst. And I arrived in a screeching, squalling gush.

Now you have to remember something.   Nowadays, all medical personnel are togged up in those lovely greeny aquamarine outfits, complete with matching disposable slipper affairs that go on over their shoes.  However, back then in the dark ages, before it had occurred to anybody that doctors and surgeons might be more comfortable and relaxed in aquamarine, they sort of wore white lab coats.  And if they were of an elevated status – in other words, if they were a male doctor or surgeon, they would wear a suit and tie (minus the coat) under their white lab coat.  Nurses, of course, wore starched uniforms and caps very much like those favoured by Sophie (because, don’t forget, nurses had originally been considered servants), except, of course, they were clean. They also had starched collars and cuffs, as well as immaculately whitened shoes.

Now, when it came to doctors and surgeons, they basically wore their street shoes.   After all, they had an image to uphold and were very much at the top of the ladder.

Now this physician, who was possessed of an extremely impatient nature, and who – even before meeting me loathed the sight of me – summarily grabbed me from my poor mother’s crotch and smacked me on the bottom.  Quite naturally, I showed by displeasure by pissing in his face and shitting all over his new handmade Italian leather shoes, and – as a bonus – by ruining the trousers of his Savile Row suit.  He claimed afterwards that I had laughed, and that – had my mother not been present – he might have accidentally tossed me out the window into the snow.

In any case, he stated categorically that he had never before encountered such a vile and ill-considered creature in all his born days, and he predicted then and there that nothing good would ever come of me.

The real reason I am bringing him into the rather sad story (besides my shitting on his shoes) was that he we later discovered that he was the brother-in-law of the Head Master who not only condemned me to a life of penury and loneliness, but who actually erased me from history.

Let this be a lesson.  No matter how you feel, and no matter what your mood is, and no matter how cold his hands are, think twice before you shit on your doctor’s new shoes.

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