The eye clinic of Lincoln County Hospital has meagre, perfunctory, Christmas decorations. And amongst the laminated A4 notices about glaucoma and blindness, are laminated A4 Santa Claus and Christmas tree clip-art pictures.
There’s a pretty receptionist with a lovely blonde bob, in a black roll neck sweater, who looks like she’d be right at home on the reception of a swanky hotel in New York were it not for her ever-present smile and chirpy, sibilant, Lincolnshire accent.
She takes people’s details and directs them to sit on one of the large waiting room’s wipe-clean chairs. “Good morning,” says the marker pen on the white board behind Jeremy Kyle on the TV, “we have 4 doctors in clinic this morning with a total of 60+ patients to be seen. We thank you for your patience.”
A cannonball-shaped nurse barks names in a hurried, bored manner, the final syllables of the names drifting off into nothing. A procession of British names that remind me once again that I’m not in Berlin any more: Frederick Staines, Leonard Newell, Richard Durham, John Mitchell, Jack Pennant. And female names like Joyce and Phyllis that only seem to go with grey or white hair, names that – I imagine – girls aren’t given these days. And the youngest patient in the waiting room, the only one younger than me; a boy of around eleven or twelve called Liam, his parents probably Oasis fans.
There are lots of copies of the Sun and Daily Mail being read, lots of walking sticks, hearing aids, and whispered conversations. There’s a ginger-haired teenage girl already as hard-faced as her mum, her little brother incessantly banging the bell on his plastic toy, much to the obvious annoyance of, well, everyone apart from his parents, who, after about ten minutes of the banging, finally ask him to stop, which provokes a big mardy sulk on the floor.
After two and a half hours, the cannonball calls my name, and I go and see the doctor, who is far more thorough than any German doctor has been. Yes, my iritis is back, she confirms. She gives me a prescription and wishes me a Merry Christmas.