And so, as it must, the pilgrimage to find a local GP surgery begins. This is a great British tradition, and I have been honoured in my lifetime to have taken part in many and varied official registerings at different NHS surgeries.
Having been ceremoniously relieved of my first GP in London, and invited to find another one because they had redrawn the boundaries, last year I was on the road again after they closed the second one down.
I found myself at a surgery on a sink estate where the first language — and indeed the second, third and fourth languages — appeared not to be British and where I was asked if I would like a female chaperone because of all the religious objections I was likely to have.
I never actually got an appointment there, although I did secure an emergency phone consultation with a doctor, after my prescription for strong antihistamine ran out. He sounded very weary, like he would rather tell me his problems than hear mine. When I asked about the pains in my feet he sighed and said: ‘Mine are the same.’
After moving to the country, I knew I would have to find another GP but I put it off. Needing advice about some more routine mechanical failures — bits really have started to fall off me in middle age like an old Ford Capri — I happened upon a private doctor, recommended by a reader, a few minutes’ walk from my home.
She told me there was very little wrong with me. However, she thought I would benefit from ‘mindfulness’. She wrote this word down in huge letters on a blank sheet of paper, as people always seem to.
I don’t know what mindfulness is, exactly, because no one does.