Posted by Simon Parke, 16 October 2017, 6.51am
I don’t wish to limit my global reach, but there are reasons not to read any further.
To stop reading right now.
For instance, I suggest you don’t continue if you’re just tucking into a sandwich or sausage roll.
Or if you simply don’t like stuff about bodily functions, feeling there’s a place for such things… and ‘it’s the doctor’s surgery, thank you very much.’
Also, I can proceed no further without using slightly rude words.
And now, with a readership of three (an aspirational figure for me) I’d like to tell you about my bowel cancer test.
When you are sixty, a mystery DIY gift arrives in the post from the NHS.
But don’t imagine Christmas has come early.
Yes, it’s a DIY kit; but no, it isn’t a book case for the bedroom.
And the magic number is six.
There are six cardboard sticks along with a cardboard palate that a very small painter might use, with six little empty enclaves.
But these aren’t for paint; they’re for your shit; or, in this particular story, (let’s own this) my shit.
The NHS kindly wish to test me for bowel cancer, catch the signs early; and want three separate visits to the toilet recorded…for posterity.
So, how much to describe, and how much to leave to the imagination? Always an issue for the novelist.
But using two different cardboard sticks each time, you are to smear a little excrement into two of the available enclaves.
You then close the little tab, date it…and relax.
Warning for smart arses: Don’t think you can use the same shit for all six enclaves and be done with it, thank you and goodnight!
You will be found out and sent to the bottom of the class.
It has to be three different deposits…ah, how quickly I slip into euphemisms in order to avoid the terrible truth.
The NHS don’t make this easy, of course. But then no Game Show host should make it easy. There have to be rules to make it fun.
And in this particular show, (working title Bum Wrap) you can’t let the poo drop into the water, as this contaminates it and makes your crap invalid.
Instead, they suggest you catch it mid-flight/drop, either in a plastic container (probably not the kid’s sandwich box) or on toilet paper.
This may sound easy, but I have to say, it’s more challenging (and humiliating) than it appears.
But it does appear, rather self-consciously, and once it’s caught – pray for a firm stool - it is cardboard stick time.
Kneeling on the floor, or ‘whatever feels comfortable’, (hah!) you use the stick scrape to a little turd into the enclave.
You then repeat this with a fresh stick, seal the tab over the two filled enclaves, and leave the toilet… hoping that no one has been filming this.
It’s a time in your life when you are quite literally ‘caught between two stools’.
Anyway, I did this for three days, very much the responsible citizen, wishing to do my best, to impress in some way.
And what happens a week or so later?
They send me another letter, with another DIY kit – cardboard sticks, enclaves et al – because I hadn’t met their requirements.
I’d wanted to be their star pupil – ‘Simon, great discharge, great execution, well done! From all of us at the Cancer Screening Programme!’
But no…the judges said that I had sent ‘too much sample’.
Too much sample? Can you be too generous?
I’d simply wished to give them as much information as the little enclave allowed.
But apparently I had given them Too Much Information.
I’ve had many rejection letters; they’re never easy.
But with every faeces you learn, and I was rather more sparing the second time around, more ‘discharge reticent’, and, well – to cut a long story short – I passed.
And I was very pleased – deliriously happy - to discover that my brother had also failed first time.
His deposits were fantastic, of course; (he was always teacher’s pet)... but he hadn’t dated the final tab.
You do need to concentrate in there.
It’s a good cause, of course.
And life is full of things I really never thought I’d be doing.
And sometimes, let’s face it, it’s shit.
P.S. I could have attached a photo, but on this occasion, I have chosen not to.