It’s tempting, isn’t it, to think of mankind’s evolution as one straight race to the stars; an uninterrupted, relentless ascent. I’ve been on this pro-human bandwagon since pretty much day one of my existence. It wasn’t until year thirty-three, month eleven, day thirty (i.e. this Monday) of my existence that I had my faith in progress checked.
I should warn you that if you’ve eaten in the last three hours, or if you plan to eat in the next three hours, then this piece probably isn’t for you. Because the point where the thundering bolt of doubt in human endeavour landed was precisely the point where nobody wants thundering bolts of doubt to land: straight between the cheeks of my bottom.
I’d already had piles for a week before the bolt struck. It was excruciating. I don’t know what brought them on. Maybe it was because I’d strained to move my wardrobe (to accommodate a gas engineer who, in one moment, was telling me how National Service broadened his horizons, and the next was telling me how ‘them foreigners’ don’t value life), maybe it was because I’d sat in an uncomfortable seat during Dunkirk (the film, not the event). Or maybe it was because I’d had my blood boiled by a water bill which, judging by its demands, suggested that rather than showering once a day and occasionally washing-up, I’d actually spent the last quarter walking around town with a long hose filling people’s ponds. Whatever the origins of my discomfort, the hard facts remained: things were rough down south, hot below the equator and none too cracky on my cracky etc. etc.
Over the phone, the doctor had recommended the haemorrhoid holy trinity: creme, fibrous food and wet wipes. Call back in a week, he’d said, if it wasn’t tickety-boo.
One week later and my boo was far from tickety. I was invited in for a rectal MOT. After a quick waiting-room flick through of autumn 2009’s edition of Country Living, I felt the need to move onto the harder stuff: the Gideon’s Bible. I thumbed my way through Acts and, despite its name, found no relevant advice. I was just about to try my luck with Exodus when the beep went and my name flashed on the screen:
Mr R Pugh – Room 8 – Arse Specialist
After a few minutes of pile-related small talk, the doctor asked me to ‘pop’ my trousers off and lay down. I like how doctors tell you to ‘pop’ items of clothing off. Whichever doctor came up with the idea to use that word is a genius. All the alternatives to ‘pop’ seem either too serious or too creepy: remove, take, slip, slide, ease… Pop is perfection. Verbal balm. And yet, dear reader, Edward Jenner is the one who gets the statue in Kensington Gardens. Shameful.
As I lay facing the wall with my bottom exposed, it struck me what a strange job doctors have, all things considered. It’s moments like this, faced with a Great British proletariat rump, where all that extra effort they put in at school must feel like it has paid scant dividends. All that graft, all those immaculately-referenced theses, all those late-night trainee shifts on emergency wards. For what? To be confronted with the arse of a man, who, after a week of applying the creme himself, was simply happy to feel a different finger up there.
‘Yes,’ the doctor said, shining a light where the sun refused to do likewise. ‘I can see the problem. It’s what we call a thrombosis.’
‘Thrombosis with love,’ I said. He didn’t laugh. Probably not a Bond fan…