It’s finally time for Steve to get his crusty growth checked out...

I went to hospital the other day.

Keep it quiet as I’ve not told my mum. She panics about these things. Last time I went to the GP, about a pain in my groin, she emailed to tell me – cheerily – it was almost certainly prostate cancer (‘I noticed the other night you went to the toilet twice in 45 minutes – that’s not normal at your age Steven’) and I should take out critical illness insurance cover asap.

This time I went about a tiny bit of skin on my nose that has, for the last three years, had a little life of its own. It’s a bit crusty and grows for a month or so, then drops off. It’s like having a little pal and I always feel a pang of sadness when he disappears, without so much as even saying goodbye.

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My mother – it’s always my mother – has been commenting on it regularly and telling me I should get it checked and so now, with Covid officially gone (copyright Boris Johnson), I booked an appointment and was referred to a dermatologist, a word I’ve always found strangely arousing for reasons I can’t put my finger on.

I’ve spent quite a lot of time in hospital dermatology departments on account of having a condition, in my younger days, called urticaria.

It was the most bizarre thing.

One morning, when I was 25, I woke to find my entire body covered in unsightly red weals and my face and lips so swollen my head resembled a hot air balloon. As mornings go, I’ve had better – although it was possibly more shocking for my girlfriend at the time, Nikita (lovely girl, went on to become a welder in Pontefract), who, on opening her eyes and viewing my deformed face, leapt out of bed and fled the scene, only returning three weeks later after an intense session of counselling.

For the next two years I tried everything to find a cure – including going to a local pharmacist (Mr Swinger, lovely chap, hopeless at medicine) who swore by herbal remedies, herbal remedies that were eye-wateringly expensive. In my desperation to rid myself of this hideous life-affecting condition, I spent enough money in his shop to not only fund his retirement to the South of France but buy him a top-of-the-range Winnebago to get him there too, before, belatedly, realising none of the tablets or lotions he gave me were making a blind bit of difference.

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Eventually a young doctor, who I think was using me as some kind of human guinea pig, solved it by using a weird and wonderful cocktail of drugs. Each time I’d go and see him, he’d add another set of tablets to the mix and in the end I was taking a bewildering array of medication designed to treat everything from stomach ulcers to athlete’s foot to enlarged testicles. I’m pretty sure that my urticaria finally just got fed-up and said, ‘ok, ok, I get the hint – I’ll leave you be’ – and, one day, just like that, disappeared as quickly as it had arrived.

I invited my friends and family around for a ‘Farewell Urticaria’ party and it was a lovely do (mum did quiche), though just a shame Nikita couldn’t make it as she’d suffered a relapse and had been admitted to a psychiatric asylum.

So, back to this skin thing on my nose – because I can tell you’re concerned and eager to know more.

I was offered an appointment at 8.45am, which I took on the basis it must be the first appointment of the day and I’d get seen straight away.

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The receptionist, who I’m pretty sure was having a bad morning because she greeted me with the charm of an SS officer who’s just opened a large electricity bill, ran through the usual questions - name, date of birth, things you look for in a sexual partner, that kind of thing – and told me to take a place in the waiting room.

There was a big sign saying ‘waiting room this way’ and an arrow. I started to follow it and she said something, so I backtracked a couple of steps to the window. ‘Waiting room is that way,’ she said, pointing exactly the same way as I’d been going. I wondered for a moment if she did this to everyone, just to keep herself amused.

“Thank you,” I muttered and set off again, silently vowing not to stop and offer to help if I ever saw her struggling with a heavy bag of shopping.

There were four other people already in the waiting room. I took a seat and, within seconds, a nurse walked in and said, ‘Mr Canavan?’

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As I stood, I could sense all four staring at me with pure loathing and one elderly lady openly and bitterly remarked, ‘we’ve been here 15 minutes and he (she spat this word out while waving dismissively in my direction) has just turned up’. If she’d had a hand grenade on her person I’m fairly sure she’d have taken out the pin and rolled it in my direction.

The doc greeted me with the words, ‘so, you’ve got a funny nose?’

“Well, he’s no Eric Morecambe but he tries his best,” I remarked.

He didn’t laugh, and instead pressed a very modern-looking device against my conk, made a few noises like, ‘hmmm’ and ‘ohhhh’, and then told me it was nothing to worry about and just a sign of growing old.

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Which is a relief in some ways, though in others depressing to know that as I further age I’ll get random bits of skin growing on my body then falling off.

On the upside, at least my mother now has nothing to nag about, for the time being at least.

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