18 december 2019






school photos







           All original writing



2014, 2015, 2016,

2017, 2018, 2019

Ian McLauchlin


It was a bright dry warm and sunny March day, in my head, as I arrived for my last radiotherapy appointment. Thirty six daily sessions down, just one to go. And that was only the microenemas.

Daughter, bless her, didn't want to miss the cheering, bunting and signs saying "Don't ever darken our Oncology again, with your brightly coloured shirts, your flip flops for ease of removal and your unusual and appreciative manner", so she drove me in. It was surreal. I was retracing steps that I'd traced most days for the last aeon. And a Number 57 bus wasn't even involved. Good job, as the bus pass had disintegrated.

Handed over the ragged remains of the appointment sheet. "Ah, judging by the state of this, it's your last day. Congratulations." A part of me wondered if she meant 'your last day on earth'. The way I'd been feeling, it could have been. Next to her, the jobsworth was getting ready to tell me that I couldn't take any photographs. Luckily I got mine in before he did:

Note the water fountain far right, where many a bladder was filled to bursting many a day, just half an hour before treatment time, which may be delayed just long enough to amuse the radiotherapists . . .  but not the cleaners.

"Last day today, Ian!" They were all at it. I must've made them all want to retire.

"You're in A again."

Not sure, but this could possibly be it:

"Yes, it's very strange. What am I going to do all day, now?"

"Well, you could practice taking your trousers off a lot more quickly. And, for the last time, could you tell us your date of birth?"

"3-2-44. I've told them and I've told them. They must have a very poor memory."

"You know the drill by now. Lie down here, shuffle your bottom up. And a bit to your right. No your other right. Ah, that's an interesting tattoo."

The lights came on, the radiotherapists ran away scared, arms of the machine whirred, came out and positioned themselves. For the last time. Some beeps, signifying that electromagnetic waves with very short wave lengths were escaping from cracks in the equipment. Other beeps at 90 degrees to the first lot. The table made some fine positional adjustments and the main zapper swung into place. 360 degrees one way then 360 degrees the other. ("Actually Ian", Alex once said, "it's 359 degrees allowing for the cable thickness." A girl after my own heart.)

There was a cross on the ceiling. It contained green positioning lasers. If you concentrated hard on this, you were only vaguely aware of the slowly rotating, insistently beeping massive arms. And wondered about the weird cultural myths like virgin births, crucifixions and back from the dead.

Then the room was full of people again. I was back from the dead and the bladder was strangely intact. Quick dash to the loo while it remained that way.

"Ah, Stuart. Thanks for all the care, friendliness and kindness of the staff here. I made this card for you all."

"I didn't know you had artistic leanings."

"When you see it you'll find out I haven't."

"Ha ha ha."

And, after checking that they get so many chocolates from grateful patients they never want to see an orange fondant ever again, we got them these:


Note the cat scrutinising the acceptability of the items on the right. She eventually gave them the all clear, after being promised first refusal.

Well, that's that then. I know, just to annoy the jobsworth I'll take some more photos, just to preserve the memories.

This might be mistaken for the way in. But believe me, it's the way out.

And, just in case anyone thinks that there aren't enough Therapeutic External Beam Radiotherapy machines, they've found a convenient location nearby with 1 metre thick concrete walls, just crying out to house another one or two. Isn't that the most amazing coincidence?

"As a treat" said Cate, "I'll run you home."

"As a treat" said an elated but utterly knackered Dad "I'll accept."

As a treat, she stopped at Dart's Farm where I could renew my acquaintance with the two dark alpacas who were so pleased to see me they decided, together, to ignore me - a common ploy often adopted to make people even more interested.

To show I hadn't taken the bait, I turned my back and photographed a children's play structure instead.

The alpacas pretended not to notice, but are eating their hearts out now. Serves them right.

Cate needed some reassurance that this hadn't all been a bad dream so I got Dart's Farm to pose behind her.

Inside, we marvelled at the produce, the delicatessen counter and the "Sorry we're closed for coffee - if you want coffee you have to trail over to the cafe and buy a takeaway one, oh and pay for the lot, not here, but way over there because we distrust the staff so much we only have one remote till". Amazing what you can cram onto a very small blackboard.

And a giraffe that you mustn't climb on because they'd had prior notice that I was visiting and hurriedly hung an appropriate notice round its neck.

And for those wanting reassurance, scary music and Papa Lazarou, we were told that 'This is a local shop for local people'.

So that's it. What will I do now? Probably write this up. Or should I write it down. Decisions decisions. Then there's a trombone winking at me . . .  

But first, I have to appear in court charged with taking illicit photographs of Oncology. That's rich when Oncology's taken so many photographs, some illicit, of me.

"Name?" Ian McLauchlin.

"D.O.B.?" Oh god no . . . . 3-2-44.