This is not the kind of thing I like. "What's what?" I retort crossly, and look down. I nearly faint. There, on the back of my left hand is suddenly a large, hard lump, the size of a marble. I am appalled and aghast and lots of other words beginning with "A". I instantly swear myself into a new Mission: to rid myself of this deformity.
And lo - a cure, it seems, is immediately at hand. "It's called a ganglion," Dan asserts, rummaging about in my bookshelves. "All you have to do is hit it with a family Bible."
I must be in deep shock because I neither question nor absorb this bizarre information. Dan is what anthropologists would call a mesomorph: he has more muscle in his ankle than I have in the whole of my body. But this fails to make any impression on my mind as I watch him raise a dictionary (used in the atheistic absence of any religious books) and slam it down on my hand.
Several things happen simultaneously: I leap three feet in the air as if electrocuted, I become aware of a terrible keening noise, arrows of pure pain dart through every bone in my body. I realise that the keening is me.
"Jesus Christ!" I shriek when I can at last speak again. I find that I am writhing around on the floor: "I can't believe I let you do that!" Dan is wracked with guilt. I make him look up - and read aloud - the entry under "sadism" in the dictionary. Then I get up and we examine my hand. No change. The lump's still there, nestling under my skin like a malevolent mini Millennium Dome.
I show my lump around: several people recoil in disgust; some laugh. My sister, a taciturn vet with the human bedside manner of Goebbels, explains that a ganglion is "a fluid-filled sack caused by tendon damage". She tells me to massage it, adding, comfortingly, "it's probably not cancer."
I am at my GP's having immunisations and I mention The Lump. He gives it a cursory glance and pronounces it to be a ganglion. "Do you know what?" he sniggers. "In the old days people used to bash them with a Bible. Ha, ha, ha." I manage a thin smile. "A Bible!" he snorts. "Can you imagine?" "Yes, yes, yes," I snap, "but what can we do about it now?" My doctor recovers from his hysteria, but he is still giggling when he says: "You'll have to have an operation. They'll slice open your wrist and gouge out the lump."
I leave in a sour temper. I have no intention of going under the knife. When I get home I discover that my mother has sent me a rank-smelling liquid in a murky brown bottle with an Alice In Wonderland-esque label: "Rub this into your horny lump". Ring her to explain the 20th-century meaning of "horny", then try out the liquid. Have violent allergic reaction which removes most of the skin from my hand.
In despair, I blow an astonishing amount of money on an appointment with an osteopath. She gets me to strip to my underwear and then measures both my arms, presses my hipbones, bends my legs. And all the while, she intones, "Hmm" and "ah" and "oh". She finally gets round to my wrist. "Hmmhmm," she says excitedly, waggling my hand about. Then: "It's not a ganglion. It's displaced bone from typing cramp. It's not going to go away I'm afraid. One thing you must be careful of is not to bash it or bang it with anything. OK?"Reuse content