Beware! Doctor’s Surgery! by Barbara Nadel

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So, did I eat a chocolate pizza last weekend? Well that, rather in the vein of Colin’s blog about Harrogate last week, depends. I too write fiction for a living.

In my reality, that chocolate pizza is history. I ate all of it, didn’t put on a pound in weight and I slept like a baby afterwards. In what I like to call tedious, real reality I was far too riddled with guilt to even get near the shop. Such is the power of the UK health paranoia merchants who clog our airwaves, hijack our publications and scream at us from our TV’s. I am not diabetic, I have no cardiac problems and I am not morbidly obese. So why am I worried? Well basically because every magazine and newspaper I have read for the last year has told me that I should be. On the TV, a peculiar person called Dr Gillian (who isn’t apparently any kind of doctor) exhorts us all to exist solely on mung beans and even quite sane people scream in horror every time a ‘celeb’ is seen eating anything that is not celery. ‘Oh – my – God!’ you hear them cry. ‘Kerry/Victoria/Lily/Cheryl is going to get SO fat!’

Now as a woman of a certain age, this doesn’t usually cut much ice with me. I am as I am and although that may not be up to Madonna standards, I get by. No, this awful anxiety fuelled inaction is down to doctors. Not that I have consulted a doctor myself of late, I haven’t. But my oldest friend has been very ill for almost a year now and, because he has a lot of mobility problems, I have been running him backwards and forwards to his GP surgery as well as various local hospitals. More often than not I have failed to take a book with me to while away the many hours while my friend is having ghastly things inserted into him. And so I’ve picked up whatever reading material that I can. Alongside leaflets detailing the horrors of genital warts, this has included magazines with either one word or some other such snappy title that claims to deliver the ‘goss’ on ‘celebs’, ‘real people’ and sometimes both. I’ve absorbed a lot – too much really. I now know how ghastly and suicidal a certain soap opera actress became when she briefly lost sight of her ribs and became convinced that the fat imp had come to stay around her middle. A lot of monstrously obese ‘real women’ have given me the benefit of their experiences in ‘real life’ stories about addictions to crisps, hula hoops, jumbo hotdogs and men with a penchant for firearms offences. Their ‘health and beauty’ pages have convinced me that I have neither of those two particular attributes. My only salvation, apparently, lies with either dieting, buying an instrument of torture designed to simulate skiing or getting rid of my husband in favour of an ‘exciting’ man who seems to be both macho and sensitive to my needs at the same time. From what these magazines and their stories have told me before, it would seem that this ‘perfect’ man is not a)my husband, b)someone with a penchant for firearms, c)any sort of chap met on holiday in foreign parts, c)a tinker, a tailor a candlestick maker, anyone who does or does not have a job. I think that he actually has to be a ‘celeb’, preferably a footballer. He, and only he will, apparently, take my mind off chocolate pizza.

So I am doomed. Guilt tripped into not eating the chocolate pizza, I now wait in vain for some over-paid sportsman or a machine I can probably not even begin to assemble. I think I’ve just reached the point where I would really rather be actually fat and unhappy or both. Sadly for me however most of the shops are shut now as we enter the period of time known as ‘The Fortnight’. Back in the days when the mills were still going and northern cotton was king, ‘The Fortnight’ was known as ‘Wakes Week’. This was when all the mills in turn would shut for a week over the summer to allow the workers to go on holiday. So one week all the mills in Rochdale would shut, the next all the mills in the Calderdale Valley etc. People used to go to the coast, mainly to Blackpool where fun and frolics and a lot of drinking would take place on the seafront and around the Tower. Now the mills have either been converted into apartments or have just crumbled into dereliction, ‘Wakes Week’ is a thing of the past. But ‘The Fortnight’ remains and what it means these days is that most of the local shops and the outdoor market are closed for two weeks. So those that make chocolate pizza are probably on some mad ride at the Pleasure Beach. It’s a shame. But then when in doubt or danger, there is always booze and there is a bottle of absinthe downstairs in the cellar with my name on it. And anyway chocolate pizza man will be back long before the end of August. This time next month I will be in Turkey and so, if I play my cards right, I could be both overweight and spotty before I even so much as try to squeeze into my new swimming cossie. But will I be happy? As long as my husband stays just the way he is and I don’t find myself bookless in a doctor’s surgery in the near future, I think that I probably will.

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