And so I find myself in a new relationship and my philandering, undertaken purely in the interests of finding The One, coming back to haunt me in the guise of my beloved’s anxiety over my well-being in certain specific respects. I feel a mixture of indignation and approval at his suggestion that I get myself checked. What!? Am I a prize cow he won’t think about buying without a vet’s certificate? On the other hand, isn’t this the adult, considerate thing to do?
The yellow brick road beginning at a smear test for which I am due, I phone my GP’s surgery to see if I can have the blood and urine tests for STDs done at the same time as the nurse does the usual. Remarkably, I discover that the nurse is more difficult to speak to than my doctor, as the latter has telephone conversation slots but the former does not. I duly plead and phone-calls on two consecutive days yield a voice-mail from the nurse as I’m in the shower when my mobile sounds its clarion call. The recording hints at a lost cause and the ensuing conversation reveals that what I require is a gum clinic. Not, as you might imagine, a Department of Dentistry but a Genito Urinal Clinic, in my case either at the far-flung Royal Free in Hampstead or 20 minutes north in Barnet.
I dial the number she reads out to me and miraculously and impressively receive an appointment in an hour’s time. The receptionist kindly and calmingly explains the procedure and also delights me by preparing to offer me information on the under-21s clinic as I ‘sound so young’. The NHS continues to gain my esteem. I drive through the heat and dust of a June afternoon and finally land myself a parking space in the now free car park. Presenting myself at the Claire Simpson Clinic on the second floor, I am given two forms to complete as the basis of my notes. These require only name, address, telephone number, optional email, date of birth, relationship status, and reason for attendance. I tick ‘No symptoms but would like to be checked out’. The waiting room is accommodating an attractive young couple, he sporting a tattoo and she the fortunate possessor of an enviable cloud of dark chestnut curls; also present are two or three sensual ladies of indeterminate age and an elderly gentleman who has me speculating.
After a pleasant 45 minutes relaxing in the breeze from the open window and reading the fliers (my favourite being a sexy young woman striking a sassy pose beside the common condom objection: ‘It spoils the moment’, and quoted as replying: ‘Better than no moment at all’. You go girl-friend) I am called by one of the doctors. Truth to tell, her kameez and dignified though kindly demeanor render me somewhat inhibited as I feel this nice lady should be shielded from the seamy side of life which I was there to tackle. However, she is open and friendly, especially as I struggle with the complex mathematics of m/t. Or in longhand, number of men over time. I gain a commendation for having been, if not good, at least careful.
Mercifully no urine test of my marksmanship is required; only a swab and a blood test. The good doctor hands me a clear plastic envelope, marked with my clinic number (anonymity is respectfully preserved in that the laboratory processing the tests sees no names) and containing a long slim tube protecting what looks like an extra-long cotton bud. She shows me the location of the loo which is distinguished by the presence of a hatch. Once ensconced therein, and look away now if you’re inclined to the squeamish, I insert the glorified Q-tip to a depth of about 14cm, following the instructions above the hand basin, and roll it around for few seconds (not quite as much fun as it sounds, gentlemen), extract it and carefully upend into the tube. Packed back in the plastic envelope, and you can look again now, I make use of the hatch and return to the waiting room to be summoned within a few minutes by a nurse.
Now the last time I’d had a blood test my arm had ballooned alarmingly but fascinatingly around the needle and the phlebotomist had to hastily clamp it down with her hand. The resulting two-week bruise was both large and spectacularly colourful but as I am attending my first party as The Girlfriend in three days I am rather hoping to avoid a repetition of this experience. Sure enough the young nurse establishes the location of a helpful vein and (you may wish to avert your eyes once more at this point) expertly and gently inserts the needle and in seconds I am dabbed and plastered with nary a mark to show the brief incursion (all over now).
A reassurance from the receptionist that all will prove to be well and good luck wished for the success of my new relationship and I am on my way out reading a loving text message from my bf which more than mollifies any remaining irritation I may have been feeling. Job done, results in a week on the following Monday and I can have a print-out though if they don’t call you in two weeks you know you’re in the clear. But a week later I present myself to collect a hard-copy of the results and am invited into a cubby hole. Omg. The doctor shows me the print-out which showed a column of negatives. She is merely preserving my privacy and all is well. I leave with the piece of paper I had originally visualised flinging, with a Miss Piggy toss of the head and an air of injured virtue onto my man’s desk. Instead I offer it, three days later, as a little light reading. The experience had been simple and not at all unpleasant. From phone call enquiry to well-wishing, a mere 2 1/2 hours. A triumph for the NHS. And of virtue, of course.
Chartreuse is a freelance writer, editor, photographer and promotional videographer. She has written a feel-better film review column for Heath & Happiness Magazine, and is the owner of Heypressto. Chartreuse’ greatest inspiration is Abraham-Hicks. Her favourite quote is ‘You can be, do or have anything you want’.