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Sunday April 14, 2013

Just what the doctor ordered

When it comes to visiting hospitals and doctors’ surgeries I’m a complete coward. My aversion stems partly from the gloomy aspect of my companions, lambs to the slaughter, in the waiting room and also from the strange clinical odour that seems to permeate the very fabric of these most inhospitable of buildings.

And then there is the filling of forms in front of white coated bureaucrats, the ever-so serious looking nurses wielding clipboards and the wail of crying babies and suddenly I feel a terrible sense of doom. What prognosis might the doctor give when he eventually ushers me into his bleak and sterile unit and will I find myself wishing that I’d never visited in the first place?

But all that changed when I moved to Majorca. In my rural town there is the general health centre which is a bright and brisk affair with good doctors and friendly, chatty staff but beyond doubt Dr C has the upper hand. For years Dr C has operated from modest and perfunctory rooms situated on a cobbled alley running off the main town plaça. He’s too wily to display opening and closing times on his front door because he requires the flexibility to arrive and depart as he sees fit. Sometimes he’ll pop out for a coffee and sit in the open air chatting to locals and although normally he’ll arrive at his rooms at eight in the morning, there are days when he pitches up much later. All of this is totally acceptable to the clients of the beloved Dr C who well aware of his eccentricities demonstrate good humour and patience in equal measures until he makes an appearance.

You see a visit to Dr C is, ironically, a very jolly experience and if one’s feeling sick it’s the place that is most likely to lift the spirits. Take last week. I popped by to seek advice from Dr C about a stomach disorder. In the tiny waiting room, untainted by receptionists or staff of any kind, I was greeted by various locals one of whom was our famed priest whose delicious flower honey is sold beyond the valley. In his late eighties he walks miles every day to tend his bees in the mountains and eats huge amounts of the nectar which he tells me is the reason for his unfailingly good health. On the other side of the room was Marga, the owner of the local grocery store and her young daughter, Bel who pulled a sad face when she confided in me about her terrible earache. All the same, she admitted, being unwell meant missing school and Dr C would give her a Chupa Chupa lolly for her troubles, so not all bad.

After ten minutes of chatter in the waiting room, Dr C beckoned me into his lair. As is his custom, he bent forward, kissed my hand, told me how radiant I was looking, and ushered me to a chair. We talked about the latest tomes on the Spanish Civil War which led us on to an animated discussion about the role of Churchill during that time and his relationship with Franco. Dr C then pulled a massive manuscript from his in-tray and handed it to me together with a National Geographic cutting that had inspired his latest foray into fiction. Despite his homely and comfortable girth and rosy cheeks that hint at good living and a settled life in the Soller Valley, the good Dr C is an intrepid traveller visiting off the map destinations and Middle Eastern countries every year, quite alone. On his return to Majorca he draws from his many experiences to indulge one of his favourite pastimes, writing stories.

Fifteen minutes into my visit, Dr C gave a heavy sigh and told me how troubling history could be. Yes indeed. After a pause, he fixed his chocolate eyes on me and offered a winning smile. ‘So, señora, what was it you wanted to see me about today?’

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