When I’m 65

When you’re a kid, there are various (usually medical) things which you observe that only old people use.

Last week, after sixty-five years, I had to buy corn plasters.  As a child, I was aware of aging relatives using them.  My question is, will I be using medical aids I’d witnessed in my Balham flat in the ‘60s?

Perhaps I’ll start dabbing myself with 4711 Eau de Cologne; I may start protecting my clothes with mothballs or begin sucking cloves for toothache (one of the few things not mentioned by the witches in Macbeth)?

I wonder if the bottles of Kaolin & Morphine; Milk of Magnesia and Friar’s Balsam I currently have in my loft are past their sell-by date?

Obviously, medicine has progressed over the past sixty-years, the doctor no longer visits with a black bag, but can give you a password for a Zoom call.

One thing is for certain, I won’t be creating my own laxatives.  I had a great aunt who lived in our flats.  Once she invited me into her bedroom as she was getting ready to go to work.  Aside from the overriding smell of peroxide, on her bedside table was a cup, full of brown water, in which floated several actual rotting senna pods.  The mere sight of these sent me rushing to her toilet.  I guess they worked.

Pass the smelling salts, please.

Sling and arrow

In 1972, in the 4th year of my Tooting grammar school, we had a term learning First Aid.

A few lessons of Latin and suddenly everyone thought they could be a doctor.

Sadly, we were so badly behaved in these eight-weeks, the only thing we learned what to do was make a sling. 

Broken leg; typhus; West Nile Fever?  We’d have been quite hopeless – unless any of these conditions could have been cured using an old Cub scarf.

These days, most homes will have sophisticated First Aid kits.  With the contents, you could carry out minor operations – although you’d have to keep your work surfaces clean – and clear.

Growing up in the ‘60s, if your ailment wasn’t treatable with Germolene, Friar’s Balsam or three miles of lint, you’d be put on the cart the moment it entered your street. 

If you broke a limb playing sport at school, the deranged PE master would tell you you’ve got another one.  The school First Aid kit consisted of a sponge; a bucket filled with water from the River Wandle and a junior hacksaw from the metalwork classroom should anyone have gangrene before the master put them on the 155 bus home.

To paraphrase Robert Duvall, “I love the smell of calamine lotion in the morning.”