A bad case of telephonalgia

By Keith Newbery

Friday, February 7, 2014


THIS ISLAND LIFE CONCLUSIONS are not things to which I jump willy-nilly but there are times when the wary head must be placed above the shaky parapet.

That’s why I’m prepared to wager a shilling or two that most people who attend doctors’ surgeries do so because they are feeling under the weather.

Well done, I hear you say. How clever of you to come to a rather obvious conclusion, albeit one which most of us had already managed to reach for ourselves.

But cease your sneering, for all is not as straightforward as it seems. There are times when you can find yourself sitting next to a distressingly healthy person, who is there ostensibly to comfort an ailing child or parent.

So pleased are they with their non-creaking limbs and mucus-free bronchial tracts, they forget the unwritten law of the doctors’ waiting room — which is the rest of us prefer to suffer in silence.

We infirm, who slump in a surgery wheezing and hacking while flicking mournfully through tatty magazines, are actually giving off a potent message. Briefly translated, it is: "Shut up! I don’t feel very well."

We choose to enter into an unspoken, communal pact of mutual sympathy with our fellow sufferers.

Better still, we choose to enter into an unspoken, communal pact of unspoken mutual sympathy, which means turning off mobile telephones and not presuming your conversation is so compelling it needs to be heard by someone sitting eight seats away.

Yet these people chirp incessantly, while labouring under the illusion sick people can be cheered up simply by being in the presence of healthy ones.

But it doesn’t work like that. The ailing take succour from being in the company of others similarly diseased and afflicted. It makes us feel better to know there are some who feel even worse than we do.

When I dragged my sorry carcase down to Sandown Health Centre recently, I sat near a woman whose mobile phone kept trilling.

She kept pushing the "call refused" button, so the idiot on the other end just kept ringing. This clangorous ping-pong went on for a few minutes and it did not occur to her either to switch the thing off altogether, or disappear out into the cold night and deal with whatever the pressing inquiry happened to be.

Judging by the expressions on the faces of some of the people near me, she was about two rings away from hobbling into the surgery and being asked by her GP: 'Now why would you put your mobile telephone there, of all places?’

Messing in with the big clean-up

REG Langdon would win most polls for the title of most popular Island footballer of the 60s and 70s.

He was a unique mixture of smiles and scything tackles. Even opponents who had almost been cut in half by Reg’s indelicate attention went on to become life-long chums.

I used to make the daily commute across The Solent with the old boy about 40 years ago, when he worked in the Portsmouth shipyards and I laboured for a living at The News Centre, but our paths hadn’t crossed for a long time.

Too long in fact, because I’d heard a yarn about him that I had wanted to use in this column but which seemed so preposterous I couldn’t be sure of its veracity.

Then, a few weeks ago, we met one lunchtime at the Appley Hotel and he was able to confirm this tale in all its glorious absurdity. Reg and his wife, June, made their way from Yarmouth to Lymington early one morning en route to the West Country. They had plenty of time, so having made the crossing they decided to park outside a local hotel for breakfast.

I will let Reg take up the story.

"We were in no rush and had a lovely breakfast. It was still a bit dark and overcast when we went outside — and I couldn’t believe my eyes.

"Our car was virtually covered in seagulls’ mess. I couldn’t believe the state of it but we had no choice but to clean it off before we could carry on with our journey. We explained the situation to the hotel staff and they kindly provided us with a bucket of water and a load of paper towels.

"It’s a heck of a job to remove that sort of mess and we had almost finished when I decided to open the car to make sure the locks weren’t jammed up.

"I pressed my remote key and a car parked about five spaces up the road beeped and lit up.

"We had spent about ten minutes cleaning off someone else’s car — which was an identical make and colour."

Not for the first time, Mr Langdon had made my day.

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