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There's no cure yet for Allan Grey's age-acquired hypochondria

Rutlander Allan Grey writes his regular column

Throughout my career as an engineer I came to understand that there are two fundamental types of maintenance for any machine, any car, particularly aeroplanes, and pretty well anything that supports our mechanised and automated way of life.

Firstly there’s breakdown maintenance, which is thrust upon you when your machine unexpectedly breaks down. This is bad enough if it’s your car, and you’re left high and dry with just your mother-in-law for company on a “smart” section of the M1 waiting for a tow truck at 2am on a frosty January morning, but catastrophic if it’s an aircraft. Whatever it is, from your central heating system, to your lawn mower, to your treasured Sage SES 878 Barista Pro coffee machine, there will be a significant unplanned cost to bear and inconvenience to suffer while a repair is effected.

The Yeti plane, on which Allan took the ‘scariest flight he’d ever taken, needs ‘reliability centered maintenance’
The Yeti plane, on which Allan took the ‘scariest flight he’d ever taken, needs ‘reliability centered maintenance’

Then there is preventative maintenance where you keep your machine tuned, and serviced, and lubricated, you change the wear parts on a regular basis and generally give it loads of TLC before it breaks down, which if you get it right it never does.

This of course flies in the face of the old maxim, ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’, which sounds good in theory, but in practice doesn’t work for everything, especially not for the aviation industry.

This preventative approach, known in the trade as reliability centered maintenance, is the one I also choose to take with my health, which in our house sadly is also the generally accepted definition of hypochondria.

Now if you’re like me, do you ever wake in the morning, and think what the boffing whatsit? My back aches, my arms ache, my legs ache, my head aches, sometimes all four ache concurrently, this can’t be right, what’s going on? It could be an early warning of something serious, something terminal maybe, better book an appointment with my GP just to be on the safe side. This of course was back in the day when you could go and visit your GP, chew the fat and just keep on top of things, as I said, preventative stuff.

Allan Grey
Allan Grey

Ten minutes in the waiting room, remember that? Then over the tannoy: “Allan Grey”, and the nice doctor would come and escort you into his or her consulting room.

“Good morning Doc, how are you?” I’d ask.

“More to the point Allan, how are you, haven’t seen you for a while, what seems to be the problem this week?”

“Well Doc, my back aches, my arms ache, my legs ache, my head aches and I’ve got a pain in my glutes.”

“Your glutes, ah, those annoying pains in the backside you mean, yes we have an epidemic of them down here at the moment.”

“Right, let’s have a listen to the old ticker, yes 65, very good, still purring nicely, sounds just like my new Range Rover Evoque HSE, blood pressure, 110 over 70, yes that’s fine, how many fingers am I holding up, two, up yours, yep that’s fine, who’s the Prime Minister, scruffy blond haired geezer, yes that’s fine, touch your toes three times, yep, nothing much amiss there Allan.

“Now let’s just have a look at your records, ah it says here that your year of birth is 1949, is that right Allan?”

“Yes, is that a problem Doc?”

“No, not really, but it does mean we are officially allowed to tell you it’s your age and that there’s a lot of it about at the moment, especially in Rutland, too many old men who still see themselves as 30-something suffer from this debilitating condition, commonly known as OADS, old age denial syndrome, or as it’s better known medically, age acquired hypochondria.”

“That’s strange, that’s exactly what the lovely lady diagnosed even without having to scour cyberspace, great minds think alike.

“It’s common knowledge that she thinks I’m a fully paid up member of the ‘worried well’, as do the rest of my family and friends, is there any cure for this condition Doc?”

“No, no medical cure I’m afraid, but several folk have found joining Hypochondriacs Anonymous helpful, the only problem is that the first step is the hardest, you’ve got to admit that you haven’t got a problem.”

“So no prescription then? Shame, I guess I’ll have to fall back on my stockpile of medicines. I’ve got a cupboard full of paracetamol for general pain relief, I’ve got a gallon of cough mixture for those tickly winter coughs and sore throats, I’ve got a drawer full of Voltarol for those creaky joints, and as for ointments, well I’ve got piles; I’ve even got a stack of those little blue ones, even though they’re pretty hard to come by.

“By the way, is it true Doc that the worst time for a hypochondriac to have a heart attack is when they’re playing charades?”

“Don’t worry Allan, I was reading an authoritative study recently, hypochondriacs are often told they will worry themselves into an early grave, but there’s good news at last as scientists have found they have a lower risk of dying young, because they generally look after their health that much more, prevention is always better than a cure!”

“Good news after all then Doc, maybe I won’t end up having to borrow Spike Milligan’s famous headstone epitaph quite so soon, ‘I told you I was ill!’”

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