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Doctor, I’m in trouble – in the swimming pool The surgery refuses to investigate my breaststroke problem. By Jem Clarke

Blog | By Jem Clarke | Oct 05, 2023

Jem Clarke is in his very, very early fifties, is five foot zero inches tall and has never left the family home in Cleethorpes, which he shares with his parents...

I have asked my doctor if it would be better if I postpone my return to swimming till things have settled down a bit, internally.

He said it would be better for him. He’s got even more huffy and time-poor than usual recently. He doesn’t have much tolerance any more, even for my most curable conditions.

His surgery gatekeepers started a rule of one illness per appointment. I have explained to the mass-of-seething called Celia, sat all long-necked and tall-stooled behind the medical practice desk like a psychotic swan, that I’m not bringing multiple illnesses to my single-illness appointment, I’m simply bringing multiple symptoms.

I don’t know how many illnesses I even have: it’s up to the doctor to hear my multiple symptoms and then sort them into single or multiple illnesses, I explain to Celia.

Once with the doc, in order not to waste his time, I offered to get onto his examination couch. I’d model the swimming stroke I intended to use and he could just check if anything looked as if it was going to pop out.

His heart wasn’t in it. He swivelled round, pressed a button on his keyboard and casually side-mouthed that he’d sent a prescription, that should make me swim-ready, to my local pharmacists.

I normally love it when the doctor presses the magic button that sends an electronic edict to the chemist. It still seems a bit sci-fi and makes me feel special. I used to love breezing into Boots, and explaining, Roger Moore- style, ‘Clarke, Jem Clarke – you’ve been expecting me.’

I would often fantasise about dating the third-best-looking assistant pharmacist. I sensed a frisson. But I hesitated – do I want to romance someone who knows I’m on free

prescriptions? Mind you, given they would know your medical history, it would save any awkward conversations later about surgical stockings, strawberry rashes and full-scalp psoriasis. It’s not contagious but, in an erotic context, can get flaky.

Recently, I’ve hated going to collect my prescription because there’s a man who stands directly outside the shop, constantly dancing. The dance is no more than a small two-step with outstretched arms and constant rhythmic rotation of his wrists. You get a sense from his Adidas top, perpetual Joker grin and suede Puma trainers that he is permanently stuck inside a rave tent of his own imagining.

I often sit in the café opposite trying to out-wait him, but he dances for the whole morning. Social-network enquiries reveal he often starts in other locations at dawn. He’s pushing 60 and looks well on his diet of perpetual dance, but he annoys the heck out of me.

Most locals find him charming. But, for me, it’s all about context. What if I took to standing outside nightclubs and began asking people in the queue if my repeat prescription was in and would they be willing to put double points on

my loyalty card if I bought an ad-hoc athlete’s foot spray from their point-of- sale display? No one would update their socials, gushing, ‘He was amazing. My kids love him.’

How can I control this mimer of modern dance, when I have no control over even my own teatime? My written request to ‘shunt tea up the track half-an-hour’ when my TV treat Neighbours was cancelled didn’t go down well.

Mother hollered, ‘No more shunting of teatime. No wonder your large intestine is like a sun-perished hosepipe.’

On reflection, my attitude towards the perpetual dancing man has softened. The other day, I noticed his dancing was a little slower and lacked his usual snap. My guilt grew worse when I saw him walking away after a meagre two hours, rubbing his hamstring.

On my next visit to the GP, I smiled my best smile at Celia and said, ‘First, could you pass on to the doc my compliments on his recent prescription – the codeine. And, while you have his ear, could you ask him if he has any opinion on the safest level of – or recommended daily amounts for – silent raving?’