Back in the days when James Bond had the correct accent, there was nearly always a moment when some saucy lady drugged our hero, who later awoke attached to some fiendish machine.
A beam of brilliant light would be cutting its way thought the table upon which our lad was bound, heading towards his naughty bits. This was usually the point when the bad guy would appear, clutching a cat to tell us all the plot.
The exception to this, of course, was during Goldfinger when Mr Goldfinger himself popped in for a spot of banter.
Bond: “You expect me to talk?”
Goldfinger: “No, Mr Bond, I expect you to die.”
Just not the rules, old man. Bond promptly made his excuses and left.
When I was a kid, I thought that beam was pure radioactivity, and so when I was told I’d need radiotherapy, well, I thought, I’ll bet its just like that machine there. Best make sure my delicates are out of the way, since the Western General seems hellbent on getting its mitts on my bits.
I think I have worked my way through most of the Big Machines in the NHS. I’ve done battle with MRI, CT and X-Ray, not to mention that other contraption that went whoooooosh, which, on hindsight, might have been an automatic door. So why not collect the set?
Radiotherapy is not, as a friend of mine thought, listening to Radio 4 for a week. It’s yer actual radioactivity. This came as something of a relief to me, since, on balance, I’d rather be irradiated for several hours than be forced to listen to The Archers.
You can tell its radioactivity from the waiting room. For one thing, every time one of the machines kicks into life there’s an alarm like the bow doors closing on a CalMac ferry, which I find oddly comforting, and the staff run for cover, which is very exciting.
So, I thought, sign me up for Goldfinger’s toy. Disappointed. There are no laser beams, melting metal or Bond villain banter. This machine is a quiet big beast. The arms whirl smoothly above you, eerily silent, following calibration marks they tattoo onto your skin.
It generates more heat than Gordon Ramsay in a failing kitchen. As a result, they have what they laughingly call “air con”. It’s the kind of wind that blows small dogs to the Land of Oz.
It’s important to remember that the NHS is obsessed with of a sort of heavy-duty kitchen roll. They love wiping things with is, wrapping surfaces with it and covering you in it.
So, when you go on to the Big Radiation Ride, you are carefully draped in a delicate white paper sheet. You’re not tucked in, nor do they deploy that other bit of kit so beloved by the NHS, surgical tape, to anchor your modesty blanket. The combination of paper and breeze mean that the blanket starts to flap about, but you must not move, or that beam of radioactivity might ping elsewhere and you might lose all the hair up your nose.
Immobility must be maintained, even when, as you always knew it would, it blows clean away.
It is, boys and girls, like being subjected to Goldfinger’s worst interrogation techniques. Well, if SMERSH had gone a bit soft in its old age.
You can never find a radioactive spider when you need one
Like everywhere in the NHS, the staff are stunning. For reasons I have yet to fathom, radiotherapy and X-ray appear to be entirely staffed by lovely friendly young women, and they are overwhelmingly tiny elfin creatures, which I find slightly worrying.
Did the radiation shrink them? No, I was assured. We’ve always been this height. Even more worrying then, does the NHS have a height restriction policy? Or are we now recruiting in Fairyland for staff to stave off the effects of Brexit?
As a matter of fact, many come from Ireland. As a result, you feel like you’re in the care of a younger version of Father Ted’s housekeeper, Mrs Doyle.
They have the same indomitable cheeriness, even as they care for people who are clearly appallingly ill. I’ve seen them bring smiles to faces etched with weariness and pain.
They treat me like Father Dougal. I think they think I’m bright enough, but a bit of a liability, and not to be left alone with a metal fork in the vicinity of power socket.
All this radiation and nary a superpower in sight.
Stan Lee, creator of Spider-man, Iron Man and Thor, who died this week, could have conjured up a superhero, irradiated in error by the NHS, but suddenly imbued with mighty powers, such as the ability to keep a sheet of white papery stuff in place in a room with air con breezier than the downdraft of a Sea King helicopter.