Mustn’t let the legend die

Peter Warland and his skull, and all they did together.

Peter Warland

In spite of my feeble efforts at humour, the doctors and staff at East Kootenay Regional Hospital ’emergency’ were efficient and pleasant. Thank you.

It is difficult to find out if it might still work, even if it ever worked at all. In fact, several of the medical professionals that I have consulted on the topic have either poo-poohed the idea, laughed out loud or sent me off for psychiatric assessment.

But, as a child, I was brought up by kindly parents who, having no Dr Spock to consult, apparently, sometimes referred to nursery rhymes or ‘old wyves’ tales’ when dealing with my or my sister’s various wounds or ailments. My dear mother, I swear, told me that, when I fell over and cut my head in a paddling pool at Herne Bay, a sea-side resort, she would patch me up the way Jack did when he and his sister Jill fell down that hill with that fabled bucket of water. ‘He went to bed’, I recall, ‘to mend his head with vinegar and brown paper.’

I have no recollection of my mother soaking brown paper in vinegar and wrapping my infant head in it, she must have resorted to something else.

However, just recently, when my son dropped a longish two-by-six accidentally — he claimed — on my balding ‘bonce’ and then hauled me, protesting loudly, off to ’emergency’, I just had to ask.

But firstly, with the blood oozing into my baseball cap, I was forced to answer some sort of quiz about myself, including the one: are you of aboriginal stock? Brightly, wiping the blood from my ear, I told the young lady in reception that I was ipso facto an English aboriginal. This was stretching the truth a tad because, about a thousand years ago, my forebears invaded from Denmark and bullied the local Anglo-Saxons (who themselves were not what you’d label aboriginal folk) a bit.

Anyway, after being passed from pillar to post, being sat down with boring magazines and having a chat with a fellow who insisted on telling me all about his various hunting injuries, I was interviewed by a diminutive and very pretty medical student called — No! I’d better not. She too had not yet heard about the vinegar and brown paper treatment, but she did have a few more years training to endure.

After consulting with an older (but wiser, I hope) female doctor, who incidentally tried to fool me with trick questions, to see, I guess, if the wound had sent me ‘bonkers’, then went away herself confused, it was decided that my hideous wound was to be stapled.

Now, I’ve done a fair amount of stapling myself, paper-work in school, wood-work when building sets for plays, and into my own hand on one memorable occasion, so I was ready for the pounding and the pain. Stoic, that’s me.

At one time the medical student shoved a monstrous great needle into my arm and injected something to cure tetanus or, more probably, to shut me up. I regaled her with the tale of my lining up bare-chested in a snow-storm with a few dozen Royal Air Force enlistees in order to be inoculated, and watching the left-handed ones march in backwards.

My son, the potential murderer, meanwhile hung around the place and, when the medics had finished with me, or had enough of my nonsense, he wandered in, took a photograph of my wound, then drove me, bloodied but unbowed, back in order to finish the job we’d been doing.

When, at last at alone, I wrote to my daughter to tell her about the incident. She replied immediately that she’d seen the ghastly wound on Facebook and that the photographer had wittily written, ‘We mustn’t let the legend die’.

She then added that I and her brother should stop fooling around or she’d come up from The Coast and straighten us up; that was one terrible threat.