The first hurdle I had to clear while waiting for a routine heart procedure at a large south London hospital last month was a dementia test. No one had told me about this beforehand, so I just had to wing it. I sat on the edge of a trolley in my hospital pinny and answered questions from a young and very agreeable nurse. I can’t remember much about the test, except that it wasn’t very difficult and I passed.

The greatest challenge was having to count backwards from 20. The other things were easier. I was asked my name, my address and my telephone number, and got them all right. I was also able to name the Queen. The counting backwards was a little bit more difficult – I stumbled at five – but in the end I got it right.

All this happened at St George’s Hospital, Tooting. I was there to have a heart monitor implanted in my chest. The device records your heart’s mood swings for up to three years, and can help your cardiologist find out why (for example) you have dizzy spells and fall over in Oxford Street. The operation was performed under local anaesthetic, and was over in half an hour or so.

It was a wonderful experience. I loved it. The nurses and doctors – most of

them ethnically African or Asian – were courteous, quick, patient, kind and jolly. When two medical students – a Sikh and a very attractive woman of (perhaps) Chinese extraction – visited me after my op and asked whether they could interview me, I said they most certainly could. It helped, I suppose, that I was in an hysterically cheerful mood, even though, rather to my disappointment, I had not been given any mind-altering substances before they opened me up.

“It says here that you are allergic to garlic,” said the woman, reading from my notes.“Could you tell us a bit more about that?” “For sure,” I said. “Garlic gives me a full hangover for 24 hours at least. I feel liverish and depressed and just all-over ill.”

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