Monday 16 February 1987

…I had to go to the doctor’s again today.
After waiting 40 minutes we saw [the same person as last week].
My infected ear has got better but I was still deaf in it, and my left ear was the same.
I had a hearing test and the results were LOW.
I am now taking medicine…

The thing that strikes me most about this passage is the waiting time: 40 minutes. I’d forgotten how bad things had become by the mid-late 80s. A waiting time of at least half an hour was simply, if grudgingly, accepted. Looking back through recent entries I see that I always had to wait at the surgery, even when I got my “emergency appointment”. But I never complain about it. I state it as a fact. A fact of life.

Thank goodness that sort of thing is now safely confined to a previous century. Oh wait a minute…

Sunday 15 February 1987

…After I finished tidying my desk I went downstairs to start a recording session.
I taped myself singing All-Time High.
It sounded stupid.
Then I played it on the piano.
It sounded weird…

Still irked by the absence of the theme from Octopussy on my favourite Christmas present, and being now in possession of a James Bond songbook, I resorted to committing the tune to tape by myself.

The results were shocking. All-Time High is pitched, counter-intuitively, in a rather low key. (Here’s Rita Coolidge with a very greasy face bellowing her way through the song in 1983.) But even though this was back when I was still blessed with the pipes of a boy soprano, I had trouble picking out all the right notes. I blame having a gammy ear.

My misguided oral acrobatics were only slightly bettered by my subsequent instrumental version, which proved trickier than I thought thanks to the song being written in the key of A flat.

This meant having to wrap my fingers around slightly more black notes than was comfortable for someone who’d only done their grade 3 piano exam two months ago. Plus the opening saxophone solo didn’t work being bashed out on a keyboard instead of being breathed seductively down a horn.

I’d taken the sensible decision to forbid the rest of the family from coming anywhere near the living room while all of this nonsense was going on. I now took the equally sensible decision to wipe the results before anyone in the world, including me, could hear it again.

But that wasn’t the end of the day’s excitement. It continued into the evening when, according to my diary, the whole family gathered to “watch the title sequence of Antiques Roadshow”.

Friday 13 February 1987

My ear has still not got better.
But I did manage to swallow two of my tablets.
The other one was at breakfast when I had to chew it.
It was Class 2’s assembly today, all about saying “thank you”.
Most of the time you couldn’t hear them properly but if they had only
spoken louder it would have PROBABLY been a bit better…

Nitpicking even then. Tsk.

Later in the day my diary mentions that our class watched an episode of Middle English called The Juice Job. I’ve a faint memory of Michael Rosen rhyming and rapping about some sort of domestic difficulty. But this could equally apply to *any* episode of Middle English.

Trouble's a-Rosen

Thursday 12 February 1987

…When will my ear ever get better?
Will it ever return to its normal state?
I have tried taking my tablets inside in a banana but they all fall out
because I chew it too hard, leaving me with an anti-antibiotic banana.
At least I didn’t go to PE because of my ear and my cough.
I went out and watched them instead.
We had to sort out books for the library van because Mrs Kirkham
[the headteacher] had just received news that it was coming in an hour.
Then she announced the news that the library van had broken down.

Since my tempestuous doctor’s appointment on Saturday 7th, I’d twice returned to the surgery.

The first was to get my ears syringed, which emptied them of wax but not of pain. I still couldn’t hear properly, so back I went 24 hours later for yet another consultation, this time with a far nicer doctor than the one with whom my mum and I had crossed words on the 7th.

I was diagnosed with an infection in my right ear and a compressed ear drum in my left. Antibiotics were prescribed, to be taken three times a day for five days.

Up to this point in my life I had never swallowed a plastic capsule. I now discovered that I didn’t really like it. In fact, I positively and physically recoiled from it. Hence the need to “trick” me by “hiding” the pills within some mashed banana.

I know: how humiliating. It was like I was 11 months old, not 11 years. And STILL I couldn’t do it.

Yet there was no alternative. I simply could not swallow them raw, not even with a mouthful of water for assistance. My throat wouldn’t respond to my commands.

This bodily stand-off had proved especially distressing on the evening of Tuesday 10th, spoiling my choice of viewing – “Holiday 87, In At The Deep End and Food and Drink” – and leaving me “utterly mad with my ear”.

But thanks to Phil Norman I know now that this episode of In At The Deep End was the one where Paul Heiney upset Bananarama, so perhaps it was just as well I was otherwise occupied.

Saturday 7 February 1987

…My ear ache has gone from bad to worse.
It has completely ruined my birthday.
Went to see the doctor this morning [for an emergency appointment].
When we went in the doctor said straight away:
“It’s not exactly a Saturday morning emergency is it?”
“Well, I didn’t know if it was infected or not, did I,” Mum snapped back.
The doctor replied that it was NOT a Saturday morning emergency and to
carry on taking the ear drops which I have been for the last three days.
Basically, the doctor didn’t say anything useful.
So we just walked out.
Mum was nearly crying as we were driving home.
I wish I could somehow get that doctor.
When Mum was feeling better she went out and bought me a comic.
Later I put up my new thermometer on the fence in the garden, but
I dropped it and broke one of the parts.
I hate everything.
Nothing ever goes right for me…

A measure of how this experience affected me is the fact I quote verbatim from the appointment at the surgery.

I hardly ever did that in my early diaries.

My ear infection seemed like the biggest thing in the world at the time. As you can see, I found it hard to put it into a proper perspective. But then I literally couldn’t put life into proper perspective, seeing as my voice was resonating almost entirely inside my own head.

The next few days are a bit bleak, so I’ll pick up the blog again once the self-pity and the waterworks have subsided.