I’m feeling a bit Lee Marvin today. How are you?
In many of life’s rich experiences it is clear that language – that means by which we attempt to fumble towards a degree of empathy with one another – just isn’t up to the task. Not only is it not up to the task, in certain instances, it is revealed to be an absolute herring omlette. One such episode took place a couple of weeks ago when I fell over inside a van and bruised my chest. We were travelling slowly on the M6 when it happened but as there was no hard shoulder we couldn’t pull over. That and the fact I was supposed to be driving the van at the time would have made pulling over difficult. I couldn’t even reach the steering wheel for Christsake! Not from the back of a transit van you nutter! What do you take me for? Stretch Armstrong?
Anyway to cut a long story short, it hurt. A lot. And naturally I told everyone I knew about it. At length. And some people I don’t know also. But when on the odd occasion the person I was telling summoned up enough interest to enquire about the nature of the pain I had, I struggled to explain it. The trouble is, I realised, is that we just don’t have the vocabulary for it. Beyond the solitary outliers of ‘dull’ or ‘sharp’, I might as well be whistling like Roger Whittaker or performing a contemporary dance routine.
It plainly isn’t good enough. Which is why I’ve come up with an ingenious solution to the problem. Here at last is a means to communicate the full spectrum of sensory pain using our common knowledge of cinematic baddies from the Hollywood Golden Age. Instead of casting around for words that don’t show up, cast some actors instead!
As an example case, on twisting my ankle in a ditch I can describe the feeling of slight nausea and panic as “a bit Richard Widmark in The Bedford Incident”. A searing, immobilising spasm in your back would be “I can’t come in to work today, I’m being held hostage by Lee Marvin in Bad Day at Black Rock”. From the same film (which contains a thrilling array of evil swines) you could choose from an Ernest Borgine cricked neck or a Robert Ryan burst appendix. Excellent stuff.
The beauty of the scheme is that it allows one to scale up the intensity (from a snide and snivelling Peter Lorre up to the full grinning horror of a Jack Palance) should the medication not be forthcoming.
Now as brilliant as this all this I can already hear all those critics who enjoy nothing more than shooting pregnant ideas-geese out of the sky. It won’t work they will say because other people – especially NHS staff – don’t have the time to familarise themselves with lots of old films from the 40’s and 50’s. Doctors and nurses, they will say, already have to study years to acquire the essential knowledge that enables them to diagnose and address a multitude of symptoms and ailments. The last thing they need is to add another two years on to their training for Film Studies with particular weighting given to the Film Noir sub genre.
Well if it’s too much trouble for doctors and nurses to really understand what their patients are going through, if they aren’t sufficiently bothered to recognise a discolouration on someone’s arse as resembling Robert Mitchum in Night of the Hunter, then its a very Burt Lancaster (in The Killers) state of affairs so it is. The medical profession needs to take a long hard look at itself in my opinion and hope it doesn’t see James Mason looking back out of the mirror.
I have to stop now as I’m getting a bit of Barbara Stanwyck wrist cramp. Ouch.