So I decided to see an eye specialist. I opted for an optometrist, rather than a optician, on the scientific principle that if you can't spell or pronounce it, it's probably a lot cleverer than you are.
At the private clinic, having been able to be make an immediate appointment, I am led across Turkish rugs and beechwood boards into a darkened room. There I am strapped into a series of hi-tech contraptions.
It turns out that I have a 'stigma' of some sort, but I can't see what that's got to do with wearing glasses.
'There may soon be an operation available to correct it,' the specialist says. I'm not holding out for it, though, as they've already got me on a direct debit.
'So what about the squiggles?' I ask.
'Your eyes are fine,' she concludes, 'but what's that terrible lump on your neck?'
I might have known - that's the most sickening thing about hypochondria - you're always proven right in the end.
My girlfriend drives me to the surgery. She does this because she's worried that if I did it alone I'd soon become the focus of a city-wide police hunt: 'Half-blind man with huge lump on neck last seen careering through South London dragging crossing attendant and half the population of local nursing home behind him.'
Sitting in the surgery waiting to be seen, my lump seems to be getting bigger and bigger. I can't believe I haven't noticed it before; it must have been the squiggles in front of my eyes. I feel a little like Richard E Grant in How To Get Ahead In Advertising, except that right now the only thing I want to get ahead of, having left the queueless world of private eye care, is the number of people in front of me. The last time I had an experience like this was when I was 12, waiting for returns to E T.
Forget trust status, forget fast tracking, if you really want to get to the front of the NHS queue all you have to do is present yourself with something nobody's seen before and they'll be the ones queueing up to see you. I've become so popular I'm thinking of setting up an office in Harley Street and charging consultancy fees. Having sat with my doctor for less than 20 minutes I've already been seen by two others, been spoken about at length on the telephone and, judging by the volume of notes he's taken, am rapidly becoming the principal subject of a new medical tome to rival Gray's Anatomy.
Two hours later and I'm in hospital. 'Is it black?' the nurse asks, and I stare at her with the same horror that Jeff Goldblum expressed when he realised he was turning into a fly.
'Not the last time I looked,' I stutter.
'BLICK,' I blurt. 'It's Blick.'
I'm led across cracked industrial linoleum into a darkened room where I wait to be seen by another pair of consultants. They appear unwilling to meet my eye. This is because they can't stop staring at my neck.
I am lying down in the ultra- sound unit. I have been harnessed to a bed, had a clear gel poured over my chest and I am about to have a sort of sonic staple gun run all over it. It's the sort of thing Cynthia Payne might have had installed for her more state-of-the- art clients.
'Well, it isn't cancer.' The consultant gives it to me straight; I wonder where I could plant a tree in his name. They still don't know what the lump is, however. But they expect it will just disgorge itself in its own time.
Disgorge itself? I head home, feeling a little like John Hurt in Alien, and decide not to take part in any communal eating for the time being.
Instead, we decide to take a break and go to stay with my girlfriend's parents in Wales. On the Sunday morning they all troop off to chapel leaving me locked in the west wing like some sort of mad relative. And it's as I'm wandering aimlessly through the rooms that I suddenly catch sight of myself in a mirror. There, as I stare at my neck through my new pair of glasses, I suddenly notice that my lump has totally disappeared. So, when my girlfriend's family returns from chapel and one of them tells me that I had been prayed for, I start to think that perhaps I should give more credit to the powers of Welsh Baptism.
Either that or there's a slimy, double-jawed extra-terrestrial scuttling around the west wing.
It turns out that they think I had a highly unusual varicose vein in my neck, the prescribed cure for which is to stop watching England Internationals and to chew gum while writing.
As I leave the hospital for the last time, I realise that despite the under-funding, the over-working, the cutting back, the closing down, the NHS is still alive - if only just. But it strikes me that if you want to be seen promptly, they probably have to believe you're in the same state. And that's enough to bring a lump to anyone's throat.
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