I looked a fright!–in a paperlight suit of Lincoln green (Robin of Sherwood!), a white mob cap and slippers–waiving a wan goodbye to Meredith over the back of the wheelchair as I and my two minders set off down the corridor that leads deeper into the clinic.
(Green is not my color as our friend Romaine was quick to point out when shown the photos.)
Vous-êtes américain? [You’re american?]
Non–anglais; ma femme est américaine.
Et vous? Vous etes d’ici?–this to the man holding my letters of transit.
Et vous?– this to the man pushing the wheelchair.
Moi? Je suis d’Andalucia.
Où se trouve les olives! [where the olives come from!]
Tout a fait! [absolutely]
We’d arrived at the operating theatre.
(I wished later I’d said où se trouve les oliviers (olive trees)–that’s the image I had in my head of olive trees in Andalucia stretching as far as the eye can see; but this was a nervous pre-operation conversation initiated by experienced carers to ease my passage to the place of operation!)
It looks like it does in the TV versions–full of baffling equipment with wires attached and silent figures dressed in the same green as me (we’re all in this together!) moving meaningfully about looking like they know what they’re doing and why they are there!
The welcome is friendly though–not too jocular.
I climb as bidden onto the operating table, happy at least it is about to happen and will be over soon.
I am having a small cancer removed from the left side of my nose.
Pas grandes choses–minor stuff.
I lay the back of my head in the cushioned groove at top of the table and the assistant puts a blanket over me.
Il faut–il fait un peut frais. [It’s wise–chilly in here.]
In a puff of smoke–at least that’s the impression–Dr Milonas, the plastic surgeon, materializes–his mask obscuring three-quarters of his deeply-tanned face, adding to sense that a magician has arrived!
Ca va? [OK?]
He explains to another (a junior, I assume) what he is about to do and as far as I understand him, discusses the alternative options.
He remembers that I am an actor and that I asked him at the consultation to be careful of my face!
He talks throughout–to me, to the junior, to the nurse assistants.
It’s a strong voice, an interested voice, a reassuring and reactive voice, not a domineering voice. It makes me feel confident.
He apologises that the administration of the local anaesthetic will hurt a little.
Several times I feel a sharp pricking around the target area which quickly goes numb.
For the next 20 minutes (though I can’t be sure how long it takes)–I am in limbo, distracted by our talking, not sure if he’s started–never quite sure at what stage he’s at….
We get onto the subject of face-lifts–le lifting!
Je n’aime pas ça [I’m not in favour of that]–I croak.
Moi non plus.
Not sure why but I feel reassured by this.
We agree it is sad to see some long-admired faces change for the worse.
Presque, he says, seeming to trim my eyebrows (!).
He writes a prescription and tells me to come back in ten days when he’ll take out the stitches.
Then he’s gone, vanished–in another puff of smoke!
You’re in good spirits! Meredith seems surprised.
I feel OK–he’s good.
Monsieur Milonas–master magician and illusionist, a kinder cutter it’d be hard to find!
Two days later and Michel our local G.P., seeing my face, thinks I’ve had a major fall then remembers he recommended I see a dermatologist for the little bump I had.
Bon. Tu l’a fait! [you had it done!]