Mouthing Off!

I've had a sore toe. And, to those of you now snorting with derision, it wasn't funny. Farcical at times, but certainly not at all amusing. Isn't it strange, how the mention of particular bits of the anatomy always incur barely suppressed sniggering? Toes, noses, buttocks. Similarly with various ailments. itchiness, anything involving uncontrollable flatulence, or requiring constant proximity to an unoccupied toilet. Your pain and discomfort seen as nothing more than a welcome source of mirth and merriment.

And another thing, it seems to be one of the many Laws of sod that ailments and afflictions always deteriorate as the evening, or the weekend, approaches. Have you noticed how fillings disintegrate on Christmas Eve, spots erupt into festering pustules en route to Glasgow airport and a cold always, but always puffs the eyes and dribbles from the snout just as you prepare for a Grand Nicht Oot.

The cause remains a mystery, a stinging nettle itch had quickly responded to anti-histamine. However, a fortnight later, it returned. And this time, it was painful! I peered at my pedal extremities, prodded, compared the feel of one foot against the other. Unable to see exactly what was happening at such a distance, I relied on touch and the developing difficulty in mobility. Unaware just how quickly the shape of my foot was changing. Not to mention its colour.

As the afternoon advanced, shoes were discarded; anything worn on my left foot felt uncomfortably tight. So, I capitulated and phoned the Health Centre, secured an appointment for the following morning and the contact number for the local practice which was providing emergency cover into early evening. Then awaited total and sudden recovery. Surely the complaint had been as much in my mind as my toe; a product of circumstance. I hopped around the kitchen, fed Mr. Dog, pecked at dinner and shivered in the dropping temperature. How could husband thole it, wandering around in shorts and t-shirt? I peered down at my left foot, gave it the occasional, tentative prod and wished I could see clearly beyond my knees. Time was marching, even if I wasn't, but long, long watches of the night loomed between me and my morning appointment. Another prod, left foot then right. Toe wriggling was now impossible and my ankle bone felt less distinct. And there seemed to be stuff oozing around my pudgy, swollen toes. I couldn't have stood in anything; I couldn't put that foot on the ground. Nauseous and shivering, I realised something very odd was happening. It was time for another phone call.

Although there were still half a dozen cars in the Health Centre car park, the main door, was locked. Were we at the right place? Thank God for mobiles! And a good memory! Teetering on my good foot and with Mr. Dog's lead looped around one arm, I tapped in the number for emergency cover whilst husband rattled doors and squinted through windows.

“Oh, is that you stanning oot there? Naw, thae doors shouldnae be locked, no until half six. I'll just hae a word.”

Out from windows and down my mobile, I heard muffled conversation. Perhaps the consultation would be delivered as, like a Tiller Girl, I pranced round the building, coinciding each kick of my left leg with each window. Or perhaps I could just press the offending limb against the glazed panel of the main door. The voice returned, directing us to the cottage hospital. No explanation was given as to why no-one could unlock the door and admit us. Had they all been taken hostage, and were now awaiting a Bruce Willis rescue? Would the SAS roar into view just as we left ?

Across town, the hospital drowsed in evening sunshine. Car park empty; all doors closed. Eventually, husband discovered a bell, secreted under the foliage festooning a door labelled, ‘Minor Injuries’ and there we stood, expecting Miss Havisham, or possibly Igor, to usher us indoors.

It is most disconcerting, not to mention uncomfortable, to sit with one naked foot outstretched, while a doctor takes a sharp intake of breath, twists said foot from side to side then announces, “Nurse! Come and look at this! I guarantee you'll never have seen anything like it. Ever!” Unable to judge their facial expressions or body language, I cowered at the other end of my leg, whilst swabs were taken amidst more prods and twists. Mr. Dog joined in, giving the sole a few generous licks. Was this canine sympathy or was my foot now exuding a faint odour of incipient decay?

Apparently, my foot had been attacked by an opportunistic infection, which sounds like the bacterial equivalent of one of those hoodied youths who smashes in your car windscreen and skedaddles with the satnav. The treatment was antibiotics and off my feet for the next few days. In the dreich days of winter such an instruction would be fine but in summer, even with the current weather, house arrest drags. Especially when it means postponing a shopping trip to Glasgow and cancelling a hair appointment. The time taken for highlights, cut and blow dry would have meant my foot being on the ground for too long. And I doubt if either the staff or the other customers would have appreciated a foot resting on a chair, yellow pus pouring from its sole. Which it did for the next three days, gradually subsiding to its more petite, size three dimensions. It would have been an ideal subject for time lapse photography. I entertained visitors sprawled across a sofa, offensive foot resting on piled cushions. I was the only person to give it the occasional prod. But then, I was the only one who couldn't see it.

Now, a fortnight later, all seems well. My hair style is that of Shirley Williams in a hurricane but toes wriggle, shoes fit and all pus, cracks and peeling skin have gone. Whatever it was, trench foot, mud fever, has succumbed to modern science. A salutary lesson. Musing on the sofa, I remembered my Grandmother, a redoubtable Victorian, recounting how many of her contemporaries succunbed to ‘fevers’, a word she used rather as nowadays folk refer to ‘viruses’. And it could have been worse; at least I wasn't a sheep!


© Charlotte Bennie 2007