Kinder Sculpture

 

Jun 2005 Journal

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A visit to the doctor

I came to my foster parents as a mystery parcel, propelled out of Austria by desperate parents who weren't allowed to come with me. All that was known about me was my age - nine years - and my name. My foster mother soon set about examining the parcel. Advancing on my hair, she squeezed on it with a sticky substance called soft soap and began a vigorous scrubbing. Next, a toothcomb was used to scarify my scalp with an action like a plough harrowing a furrow. Bowels were of particular importance to her, and I soon learned it was politic to answer her daily question 'Did you have your bowels open?' in the affirmative. Otherwise, a battery of remedies ranging from the mild to the explosive would be applied along with the obligatory cod liver oil and malt.

While I was immersed in my foster mother's tin bath, she scrutinised me closely to see if I had the right number of whatever was needed. Though satisfied on the whole, she thought she detected a bone in my foot which was not pointing in the right direction and a gland in my neck bigger than it ought to be. So off we went to the doctor.

Dr Rose had a surgery on the main road in a converted shop. A skimpy curtain almost covered what had once been the shop window and a brass plate on the wall proclaimed the doctor's name and qualifications. As you stepped through the door you entered a short corridor. To the right of this was a small room devoid of all ornament where a huddle of patients of all ages sat on hard benches. Between this waiting room and the consulting room was a wooden partition. There were gaps in the planks which allowed not only light but voices to escape. 'When did you last?' or 'It's her chest playing up, doctor' could be clearly heard through the gap but no one seemed to mind this breach of privacy.

When it was our turn to see the doctor we entered a room no bigger than a ship's cabin. Most of the space was taken up by a large mahogany desk behind which sat Dr Rose, bald and bespectacled. As my foster mother explained the reason for our visit, he listened while from the corner of his mouth dangled a cigarette with so long a trail of ash it seemed to defy gravity. You hoped that when it did land, it wouldn't drop on you. Putting it down into a tray that was already well filled, the doctor examined my foot, banged my knee with a hammer and felt my neck. He then pronounced foot and neck to be within the range of the normal and my foster mother left, reassured, after pressing some coins into his palm. I was thankful that the prodding and tapping were over.
Martha Blend

previous article:My country
next article:Return to 'a land of refugees'