Monday, 4 February 2008


You may need to click on this to see it properly, but, believe me, it's worth it. It comes from a revealing article by Robert Hudson in today's Guardian, called Medical Confessions. I particularly like TEETH (Tried Everything Else, Try Homoeopathy).

It reminds me of the case notes that used to be kept at the Stoke on Trent Labour Exchange, where I spent six months of what would now be called a gap year signing people on, instead of being signed on myself. The interviewers didn't use acronyms, so it's lucky the notes never fell into the wrong hands (steer clear, Casetti!). Among the milder comments were 'smells like sick' and 'unfuckable, even with bag on head'. I remember being shocked and irresistibly drawn to the things, rectangles of cardboard with yellow paper and a ragged cover, held together by one of those elasticated ribbons with the metal tag. I didn't interview people myself, but I wonder if peer pressure would have worked its terrible way on me. Would I have been as cruel?

My job was to prepare the claim and collect the signatures every Thursday, standing at the desk all day as people queued. Those days it was cash; I'd give them a chit and they'd take it to the pay-out window. My worst client, though we didn't call them clients or, even more indefensibly, job-seekers, was a Mr Ignazio, possibly of distant Asian origin, rumoured to be a karate black belt and dangerously, unpredictably irascible. My colleagues used to hide his claim and watch me root through the metal tray for it, increasingly panicked, while Mr Ignazio stroked the cutting edge of his hand.

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