It’s Better To Pay The Butcher Than The Doctor

The other day when I was pushing my trolley through the aisles of the big box supermarket where I shop for an 80 oz bag of Dunkin Donuts Original Blend ground coffee and a 12 pack of Grupo Modelo’s Victoria beer I wandered into the games section. I was gobsmacked; I stopped the trolley so quickly I nearly caused myself to somersault over it’s handle. Pimple Pete that must have, perfect for a fun night at home, pimple popping game was sitting on a shelf. This is how you play the game; Pete’s face is totally covered with pimples and he needs help in popping them so you spin a spinner which causes the arrow to land on either Pete’s pimple infested forehead, left cheek, right cheek, or chin. And then the fun begins; you choose a squishy pimple to pop, and carefully try to twist and wiggle it out of Pete’s face. If you pull it too hard you’ll cop a burst of pimple juice from the uber zit on Pete’s nose. You get points for each pimple you pop without exploding the mega-zit; highest score wins. If you get squirted you’re out of the game.

image source:jmcadam

I stood dumbstruck looking at Pimple Pete, and thought back to when dad had hepatitis; he was quarantined to the house and bed for a few weeks. Mum took my brother and I to our family doctor to be vaccinated. We all reacted to the vaccine; within a couple of days our necks, backs and armpits, were infested with weeping and suppurating, boils and carbuncles. I became convinced that doctors should be feared more than the disease; young boys often live in a confused world.

Dr Long is the first doctor I remember. I don’t recall him taking out my tonsils, but I remember him when I broke my arm. In the mid eighteen hundreds convicts did the heavy work of quarrying, cutting and breaking up bluestone rock in the quarries close to Williamstown. The rock was used as ballast for ships returning to London, and for buildings, lane ways, and roads in Melbourne and it’s suburbs. As a youngster I liked to think the bluestones in the lane connecting Effingham Road and Eliza Street were quarried by the infamous Australian bushranger Ned Kelly; details weren’t important to a fresh faced young lad.

image source:flickr

The lane was our short cut from Peel Street to nanna’s place; the bluestones were lopsided and disproportionate, and they formed an incredible cragged riding surface. Mum would always warn us about riding our bikes through the lane.

One day you’ll fall off those bikes and smash open your head on the bluestones; your brains will ooze out of your cracked head and you’ll have to scoop them up in your hands and try not to spill any of them as you ride your bike back home. And then we’ll have to take you to see Dr Long.

Mum’s warnings stopped us riding through the lane; but there came a time when I knew I had to ride the lane and conquer the bluestones. Unbeknown to mum I started to ride the bluestones; her warnings materialised. I went crashing onto the bluestones, my left wrist collapsing onto the edge of a raised stone; my wrist now had the same profile as the U shaped edge of the bluestone. I don’t remember having X-rays, or Dr Long setting my wrist and arm in plaster. I remember dad taking me to his Ferguson Street practice a couple of weeks after my arm was first put in plaster. I sat in a front room, looking out the window onto the street; if I turned my head just right I could see the Town Hall.

image source:jmcadam

Dr long came into the room. He was cold and distant, as doctors were back then, and he walked towards me with a suction cup mask in his outstretched hand. The mask was connected to a long tube. He put one hand behind my head. The mask grew larger as he moved it closer, and soon all I could see was the inside of the mask. I thrashed my head from side to side, and flailed my arms, and tore at the mask as it went over my mouth and nose. Dad tried to hold my arms, and Dr long tried a second and a third time with the mask. I still remember Dr Long’s saying to dad

we’re just going to have to take the plaster off and re-break the wrist without putting him to sleep.

I tried to be a brave little soldier and not cry; I sobbed and sniffled when the plaster, together with every hair on my arm, was ripped off. And I howled and wailed when Dr Long took my wrist in both hands and broke it, and then reset it. That’s when I first decided that a doctor should be feared more than the disease; young boys often live in a confused world.

image source:wikimedia

In the early seventies I wandered through Europe and into the Middle East along the unmapped hippie trail; the journey was by word of mouth, bulletin boards at eateries and budget hotels, and trial and error. It was a journey without ATM’s, SIM cards for international roaming, GPS, Skype for video chat, and Google Translate. It was a journey with only a World Health Organisation yellow card, passport, and a collection of American Express or Barclay’s Bank travellers cheques. The yellow card was a passport of vaccinations; different countries had different immunisation entry requirements. My yellow card was stamped with the dates and dosages of vaccinations for smallpox, tuberculous, yellow fever, cholera, typhoid, tetanus, and hepatitis. Before leaving Istanbul to drive across Turkey, and into Iran and beyond, I checked my passport for the needed visa’s, and yellow card to ensure all vaccinations were current and updated; a vaccination was out of date.

You could always find a friendly somebody around the Blue Mosque who’d volunteer to be your chaperone, guide, escort, and taxi driver; at a small cost and preferably in US dollars. I’m not sure how much English our soon to be guide and taxi driver understood, but we explained that my Aussie travel mate and I needed to visit a doctor to get a vaccination.


We showed him our yellow cards; he nodded and smiled, and gestured to his car and began to sing

Love, love, love
There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done
Nothing you can sing that can’t be sung
Nothing you can say, but you can learn how to play the game
It’s easy
All you need is love, all you need is love
All you need is love, love, love is all you need
Love, love, love

He stopped at a nondescript house somewhere in Istanbul, pointed to a door, and announced “health specialist”. My Aussie travel mate and I stood together in a small drab room. A man entered. I don’t know how much English the health specialist understood; we showed him our yellow cards. He took a syringe from the table draw, turned toward a wall mounted cabinet, and filled the syringe with a liquid from a vial in the cabinet.


As he turned from the wall he gestured to bare our arm, and then walked toward us. My Aussie travel mate raised his arm and announced he would take the needle first. The health specialist plunged the needle into my mate’s arm and released the serum. Before another word could be uttered, the specialist whipped the needle out of my mates arm, spun around, and plunged it into my arm; the serum left in the syringe started flowing into my arm. The health specialist stamped and dated, recorded the dosages, and signed our yellow cards.

All you need is love, all you need is love
All you need is love, love, love is all you need

I never understood why I thought a doctor should be feared more than the disease; young men searching for inspiration and idealism in the ordinary often live in a confused world.

image source:wikimedia

Before the toy train had World Heritage status very few tourists rode the little train to Darjeeling. The looping, double reversing, narrow gauge track was designed by British engineers to carry supplies up 7,000 vertical feet to the thriving tea estates of Darjeeling. In 1881 steam engines and carriages, half the size of normal trains, started hauling administrators, troops and materials to the Darjeeling hill station. Darjeeling soon became a playground, and a refuge, for the men and women of the Empire to avoid the sweltering summer heat, and crowded streets of Calcutta. We boarded the little toy train at Siliguri’s old railway station; it was soon chugging alongside roads and crossing narrow bridges, and slowly heaving and steaming through towns. Youngster in the mountain side towns took turns jumping on and off the slow moving train; inspiring us to leave our carriage and walk alongside, and ahead of the train to buy fruit and other foods at different shops. At times the train would stop in a town for an engine to be hitched onto the back of the carriages to give an extra push up, and around, the loop ahead. The more loops the toy train looped the colder it became.

I wandered the bustling interconnecting streets and lane ways of Darjeeling with my travel mate and his companion. We relaxed in the traditional tea rooms with a pot of tea and fluffy warm scones, butter, cream and strawberry jam, asked the locals to teach us how to fly a kite, and stopped at the market stalls and shops as we strolled the town squares; the majestic snow clad mountains were a constant dramatic backdrop.


My travel mate’s companion had need to visit a doctor. The three of us walked the hilly street to a commonplace Darjeeling building. I waited outside with my mate; smoking cigarettes. We aimlessly shifted our gaze from the street to the building roof line, and then to the ground. I think we both saw it together; below the window was a jumbled mess of bloodied gauze’s and bandages. We quickly shuffled around the corner and stopped to smoke another cigarette alongside a window; before long soiled bandages and other medical dressings came flying out of the window. I went back to thinking that a doctor should be feared more than the disease; young men searching for inspiration and idealism in the ordinary often live in a confused world.

I probably should stop at the Elwood Park golf course club house on my next morning walk to see if they accepts medicare cards. Just a precaution in case I stumble and fall, and break my wrist when I’m walking the uneven roadway that bisects and wanders through the course and need to see a doctor.


Passports, Visas and Yellow Cards

Melbourne’s Bluestone Laneways Get Sleek Makeover

A Short History of Anesthesia

4 thoughts on “It’s Better To Pay The Butcher Than The Doctor

  1. Oh mon dieu, your trip sounds incroyable. Thé same needle vaccine sounds terrifying but much better than getting the diseases the vaccine prevents. I really enjoyed this essay’s movement from pimple Pete to clotted cream scones. Lovely read!


  2. Mr. McA: This article helps explain your wandering about in your yard examining medicinal plants along with the energy vortexes that seems to emanate from the back garden. I believe that a full pallet of bricks delivered on a Tuesday morning would assist you with these issues. Take care when you cut the metal bands, they sometimes snap back at you.


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