Mackenzie has a cold. He sounds, when breathing normally, like he's about to make a pervy phone call. After exertion (like this afternoon when chasing Middle Dog around Nunhead Cemetery for ten minutes), he sounds like a Geiger counter. This all came on yesterday morning and I had the foresight to book an appointment at the GPs. Lovely Loretta came on the line and said she could fit him in at ten past four today. "Perfect" I said and told Mac he was going to see Cuddly Dr Barnett.
Mackenzie likes our GP practice. The receptionists - Lovely Loretta, Pretty Polly and Cheery Cassie - are suckers for my son and his good looks, wit and charm. All of which, apparently, he gets from his father. He is cooed over upon arrival, offered the least draughtiest chair (our surgery has "character" rather than insulation) and given a lollipop. All before he even sees the doctor. No wonder he spent the rest of yesterday smiling and practicing his cute smile. Dr Barnett calls him "young fellermelad" and often finds ten pence pieces behind his left ear to give to my pride and joy. During the course of Mac's last chest infection, we made enough for an Ayres sausage roll each.
Four o'clock found us in the doctors surgery. Mac had been cooed over, seated in the least draughtiest chair and given his red lollipop and we were told that Dr Barnett is off sick and that "we've got a locum in". Fear not, thought I. Locums are human. Dr Barnett has been my GP for ten years, David's for six and Mac's since, well, before birth. But, okay, today we'll see a locum. It'll be fine.
Ten past four arrived. As did what can only be described a gorgon. Seven foot tall, a shock of grey hair sticking out at all angles, blood red face and breath you could practically see. Mac shrank back in his chair and had to be forcibly dragged into the consulting room. I could see Pretty Polly looking on aghast.
"What's wrong with him?" Locum GP bellowed at me. "A c-c-c-cold" I stuttered. This scenario was alien to me. Dr Barnett and I usually chat about all sorts before we actually get down to the diagnosing part. "Puhchuf!" Locum GP said, looming over Mac and peering down at him. "A cold, y'say? Looks alright to me!" he added before thumping the keyboard of the computer so hard, my teeth began to ache. "Calpol. As directed. Anything else?" he bellowed.
"Erm....." I was at a loss for words - most unusual for me. Where was the chat about the weather, Cheery Cassie's practice nurse daughter and what he was planning for dinner that evening? "N-n-n-no!" I stuttered, hauling Mac out of his seat as Locum GP opened the door for me and practically threw us along the corridor back to reception.
Stunned. That's how best to describe my appearance in front of the girls. "He is a bit......abrasive" Pretty Polly whispered as she sent in the next victim. I looked down at Mac who was still sucking on his lollipop. "Erm." I said again, truly shaken to my core. Even the familiarity of the waiting room seemed to have disappeared - the faded wallpaper and ancient posters about flu jabs no longer looked cosy, they looked seedy.
"D'you want a lollipop?" Pretty Polly asked with a smile, offering me a luminous green confectionery on a stick.
Just off to buy some Calpol!