online: 25 october 2003

21 october 2003 hobgoblin, elf and celt

10:58 At the clinic where I encountered Hobgoblin! (while reading of Edmund Spenser I suppose*)... Alerted by this memory I look to see if he has reappeared... I look at the people queueing before me I see a little man of elf-like appearance. He smiles as he talks affably with a tall and large man, perhaps a doctor, and he seems not a bit put out by his small size... And now he's vanished.

A thin woman who trembles is standing in his place. She looks intelligent and perhaps anxious but not unwell. Most of the patients look at least as well as do the people who work here. Only a few look ill.

When my turn comes I meet my usual doctor and this time there are two medical students watching. They are both women so I ask if most medical students are female nowadays. Yes they are, said the doctor, and very good ones!

By now I think of her as a friend. She has treated me for about 20 years and must have done about fifty minor operations on my skin - which have saved me from disfigurement, or worse... and all that was free of charge.

She looked back in my file and found that I first came to the clinic 25 years ago. At my first visit the consultant asked some students to come and look at what he described as 'typical Celtic skin' that has almost no resistance to solar radiation. How did it become so pale? Did the Celts, or their ancestors, live in caves - or was the northern atmosphere even cloudier than it is at present? Or is there another reason?

*Hobgoblin, perhaps my favourite character in the electric book, was inspired by the sight of a small and crazy-looking person I saw at this clinic about 15 years ago. The name I gave him came from Gabriel Harvey's description of Edmund Spenser's long poem The Faerie Queene as 'Hobgoblin runne away with the garland from Apollo'.

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