The Clan Matriarch has been having a bit of bother with her foot. She’s worried about arthritis. She consulted widely with her advisers and, by that I mean, everyone on her street, her book about arthritis, the internet, and finally, her GP, who ordered an X-ray.
She was chuffed to bits to receive an appointment superfast, on a Saturday, no less.
“Well,” I said, “that’s because the NHS is running hot.”
“What does that mean?” She demanded.
“Means it's working really hard to catch up,” I mumbled.
“Did you make that phrase up or is it something you picked up off some American police programme?” she barked.
She’s used that tone before. In 1977, I said “copy that” when told that it was Spam and chips for dinner. Burt Reynolds said it in Smokey and the Bandit. My use of switched-on slang didn’t impress her then and it didn’t impress her now.
The hospital in question is a bit awkward to get to, and given that restrictions have eased, I’m in a carer capacity and mum is a double-barrelled vaccine queen, I figured it was safer for me to take her.
We checked and I was allowed to go in with her to the waiting area and a pleasant wee radiographer bustled in and swept mum off.
Seconds later, another masked front-line hero popped her head around the corner
I looked about. There was no-one else there.
“No,” I said, and then said the phrase that makes us all kids, no matter what age we are, “I’m with my mum.”
The masked hero looked at her sheet. Her eyebrows rose “Are you?”
“Yes,” I said, “she’s here for an X-Ray. She’s really pleased to be getting one so soon. I told her that was because the NHS was running hot.”
The eyebrows rose again, but this time in a more alarmed manner “What does that mean?” she said.
“Never mind,” I sighed, “But I’m still not Mrs Thomas.”
“Are you sure?” she said.
She looked at her clipboard again and then back at me, in a manner I can only describe as calculating. I think she was trying to work out if she was dealing with someone who had come to the picnic short of a French Fancy.
The possibility that I might be co-erced into an X-ray machine was beginning to cross my mind.
The double doors into radiography crashed open.
We both turned to see a hospital porter pushing a wheelchair carrying a lovely old lady. A very old lady.
“Here she is,” said the cheerful porter, “Mrs Thomas.”
On the sheet where they have your names for all sorts of medications and scans, they have your date of birth. It's to ensure they have the right person.
I suspect dear Mrs Thomas was born in a year that puts her close to getting a birthday card from Her Majesty. In other words, some 30 years older than me. The radiographer had looked at it twice. And at me.
The front-line hero and I exchanged chilly glances over our respective masks. I’ve stopped saying things are “running hot” but I am l looking into the possibility of cosmetic surgery.