Reluctantly, I decided I would have to throw away the MRI scan of my head.
I’ve hung on to it for years as potentially crucial evidence. But a New Year clear-out of my renovated house would mean nothing unless I made hard choices. Some randomly kept treasures needed to be culled now the house was almost finished.
The scan package was huge — 15 A3-size slides showing my brain from every possible angle. I had it done by a private clinic after I decided the pain in my ears was a tumour caused by mobile phone use.
This scare was very popular, you may remember, back when cell phones were a great source of anxiety to those who hadn’t the first clue how they actually worked.
In fact, a condition of the inner ear called Ménière’s was causing the pinging pain in my ears. But despite the consultant assuring me of this, I simply would not believe I hadn’t roasted my brains by being on the phone since 1994 when I became a roving reporter dictating news copy into a Nokia the size of a house brick to copytakers who always began by saying ‘Hello, lovey!’ and were often called Maureen.
‘Hello, lovey, where are you today?’ Maureen would say.
‘At a riot in Portadown,’ I would say. ‘That’s nice, lovey,’ Maureen would reply, in a tone as normal as if you had said you were at Sainsbury’s doing the weekly shop. And off you would go, phone clamped to your head, dictating copy for hours on end, ordering ‘send that page, please’ every time you got a few hundred words out.
The scan showed nothing awry. But I kept it just in case. This is what hoarding is about. You pick up a pot of elastic bands, a bag of mouldy wooden pegs, a quarter tin of magnolia paint, an old MRI of your head and you fully intend to throw it away, but as you walk to the bin with it in your hands you stop and think, ‘Oo, I may need this. It could come in handy if I have to tie a makeshift lid on to something/run out of the 300 plastic pegs in my peg store/need to paint half a cupboard door/date someone who can read an MRI scan…’
I suppose I fantasise that one day I will meet a groundbreaking psychiatrist in a social context, invite him back to mine for coffee and, with the prospect of romance hanging in the air, he will be delighted when I suggest he might like to come upstairs and, as I don’t have etchings, see my cranial scans.
He might be able to spot something that no therapist or doctor hitherto has, something which explains why I have an uncanny knack of attracting disaster, then failing to cope with it.
But something had to go. If not the scan of my head then boxes of reporter’s shorthand notebooks dating back 25 years, the lease of my first flat in Bermondsey, or an entire box full of computer wires I don’t understand and fear I may need one day to make something crucial work.
Or what about that bag of BlackBerry Bolds? I loved them so, even though they always broke. And maybe the BlackBerry Corporation will regroup one day and I’ll be able to revive a phone I can actually work because it has that most reassuring of all things, buttons.
Or folders of oddments collected by my dad loosely styled by him ‘Awards’, and containing yellowing invoices for my ‘pianoforte’ lessons dated 1985 — £10 for 40 lessons — and certificates from the Leamington Spa Competitive Music Festival 1984 — class 84, entry number 13, total 85/100 for playing Schumann’s ‘Eintritt’ from Woodland Scenes. I still play that today so, obviously,
I may need to read those comments.
Or a stack of old school magazines including one containing an essay written by me aged seven entitled ‘The Best Book I Have Read Is Jackie Won A Pony’:
‘Wouldn’t Mummy and Daddy be pleased if they knew I had won a pony?’ No, not really. I don’t change.
Old school reports dating back to kindergarten describing me as ‘talkative’ — they meant argumentative. Reports from secondary school where my total inability to understand anything remotely scientific proved resistant to all teaching methods. Mathematics: ‘Plodding along.’ Biology: ‘Struggling.’ Chemistry: ‘No room for complacency.’ Physics: ‘Melissa has shown little sense of urgency.’ Yes, that’s because Melissa doesn’t understand what the devil you are on about with your light bulb on a piece of board.
Also, a curious letter from the headmaster telling my parents that two fires had been started in the past week. I don’t remember that. Or do I? Crikey, I hope it wasn’t me with a wrongly wired circuit board…
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