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Wednesday, 2 March 2011


Concrete Piles
Gentle reader, I do not refer in the title of this post to the metal, wood or concrete posts sunk into the ground which support many NZ houses (or not, in many instances in Christchurch) but to the painful, embarrassing but seldom fatal condition, properly called haemorrhoids (or hemorrhoids to our orthographically challenged Amercian friends).

Not Concrete Piles
I first encountered piles at school. 
No, this is not a tale of rampant sodomy in an English boarding school (which is actually quite common, so I've been told). 

Firstly I'm Scottish, and would rather die the death of a thousand cuts (quite like Scotland playing football on the International stage) rather than have to actually live in England.

Secondly I attended Hillhead High School in Glasgow.  Non-boarding but selective.  The only criteria for entry (in the 1960s, when catering for the intellectually elite was still OK) was passing the entry exam and having parents who could afford the £3.10s fees per term, plus buying school books and uniforms.

The Old School
 I should point out that school uniforms were not exactly de rigueur in schools in Glasgow at that time, and it did rather make us stand out from the crowd, especially as I had to travel across half of Glasgow on a bus to get to school.(Number 11 or 11A from Barmulloch to Hillhead on Great Western Road.  Goodness, the things that stay in your memory after all of these years)  Funnily enough, there was no great resentment to the Hillhead pupils, where it was recognised throughout all levels of society that we were not snobs, but just ordinary bright kids.  We had Doctor's sons, dustman's sons, a Rabbi's daughter and even the offspring of a couple of Polis. (Me; my Dad was a policeman, polis being the Glasgow vernacular for a cop).

It was at Hillhead High School that I first encountered Piles, or Mr. Haemorrhoid as we (very quietly called him)  This unfortunately named gentleman had the dubious privilege of being my French teacher.  He was supposed to be a good French teacher, but I had the grumpy nose-picking bastard for 5 years, and I never even passed "O" Level French (Standard Grade nowadays). 

I can still picture him, standing by the window in his room, flicking the ash from his last cigarette out the window.  He was a conscientious and professional teacher of the 60s, and never, ever smoked when he was actually teaching.  But he needed (especially when he knew my class was coming in) a quick fag between classes. 
In a quick aside, I also remember one poor bastard, a kindly giant from the Western Isles (much further West and North than I think Ali X abides) who spoke with a lovely lilting Gaelic sibilancy, (which was a pity, as he was my German teacher, and guttural accents of the Vaterland don't sound right when pronounced with a decided heedrum-hodrum bias, and years later when I tried to use what rusty Deutsch I could recall, to order some beer (the real reason for learning to speak foreign) the native Germans took me for some native rustic idiot from Bavaria.) and who we reduced to a swearing, rage-gibbering alcoholic ogre within 18 months. 

Unfortunately, these drunken Scots look nothing like my alcoholic German teacher. Pretty though.
I can still view in my mind's eye the image of him standing forlornly behind the lectern/desk that all our teachers had, gazing mournfully over our faces as we trooped/charged/fought our way into the classroom. I can still hear (my mind's ear doesn't quite have the right ring to it) the squeak of the hinges as he lifted his high desk lid and disappeared from our view.  Well not quite.  He was a very tall chap, and we could just make out the top of his head over the edge of the desk lid as he tilted his head back. We could just hear the quiet glug-glug as he took as swig of his precious whisky, preparing himself for the fray.

I can still remember the last words he said to us, before stamping out to his endless days in the sanitarium; "You little bastards can all go to hell", just because one of our kid couldn't remember the basic German for "I am" (ich bin) .  Don't forget that this was after 2 years of attempting to teach us German.  The first words we actually learned were ich bin,so I suppose it does explain to a certain extent the poor old Gael's reaction. I still think it was a bit excessive though, and I never did pass my "O" Level German either.
Look, I'm a scientist, not  bloody linguist.

I'm a Scientist
But back to piles in the medical sense.
My Mum always used to lecture me on the dangers of sitting on the toilet, or on cold concrete or stone floors, as both these behaviours would end up with the curse of the piles.  I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about. 
What were piles?
Were they fatal?
Was it catching?
Was it painful?

Nobody would tell me, just that you would get them by sitting on the toilet for too long.

Alas, I was an avid book reader from an early age, and had developed the habit of reading entire novels whilst sitting on the "throne of reflection".  The situation got considerably worse when I reached adolescence.and discovered underwear catalogues.

 You must remember that this was in the 60s, pornography was completely illegal, Fanny Hill was still banned (biggest disappointment of my literary life when the ban was lifted and I could get my grubby little hands on it.  Complete crap. Full of euphemisms and archaic speech. I don't know why they banned the bloody book in the first place). Underwear catalogues, showing corsets, suspenders and small areas of pasty white flesh was all the erotic entertainment we had available, unless you could convince the newsagent that you were over 18 and could buy a copy of "Health and Efficiency"

This little magazine (about A5 size) was produced on low quality paper, and used monochrome photoreproduction.  But it had naked girls.  Slightly plump, not too pretty, quite innocent in many ways (unlike the brazen strumpets available to all now on the InterWebThingy) but NOT WEARING ANY CLOTHES.

Admittedly they often were carrying strategically positioned Beach Balls, or stood behind curiously opaque badminton or volley ball nets.  For some unknown reason, the powers-that-be had ordained that such "natural" and "healthy" images were not corrosive to the nation's ethical core and could be sold to those of mature years. (I still think that the old fascist bastards (The Judges) were strongly influenced by the black and white films originating from Nazi Germany in the 30s, showing ranks of buxom, flaxen haired m├Ądchen throwing beach balls about, combined with the deleterious English boarding school regime of cold showers and buggery)

German Girls in the 30s, exercising. 
(Please note what looks like The Curmudgeon squeezing in between the last two rows)
The bathroom was the only place in the house that had a lockable door, and so I could peruse the images at my secure leisure.  Until my Dad began to thump on the door after a couple of hours, demanding "Have you died in there?".  Such was the life of a post-pubescent youth in the 60s.

Maybe my Mum was right, and sitting on the throne for such extended periods caused the dreaded affliction, but personally, I think the fact that both my Mum, and especially my Dad, had varicose veins and piles, showing a genetic inclination to vascular problems which I probably inherited.

Anyway, in my late teens they struck..It wasn't too bad.  The occasional application of the toothpaste haemorrhoid cream, the odd suppository (absolutely no details, OK)
but no real problem.
Until I was in the Army.

We were half way through a live firing exercise (some real ammunition was used to give a sense of realism) and I was leading my Section up a hill towards our next objective (the occasional bullet snapping overhead)when my Sergeant suddenly grabbed me and flung me to the ground.
My first thought was "Shit, the troops are mutinying"
My second thought was (look I am not responsible for my id or subconscious or unconscious or whatever) "Shit, the ugly bastard fancies me and I'm going to be buggered"
My third thought was rudely interrupted when he shouted at me "For F*ck's sake Sir, you've been shot"
My alternative third though was "Shit, I've been shot"
Closely followed by, "Odd, it doesn't seem to hurt"
Then I saw that my Sergeant was trying to rip off my trousers , and my thoughts instantly regressed to thought the second.
"Your trousers are all covered in blood Sir" he shouted, and I could now see that the grass I was sitting on was becoming saturated with blood.
"Christ" I thought, " I've been shot in the arse.".........  My last thought before consciousness departed was "For God's sake, don't use a tourniquet"

The next morning in the base hospital the surgeon was telling me that it was the worst case of an acute haemorrhoid rupture he'd sen in his Army career, but that I wasn't to worry because he'd done a really good job of cauterising the "obscenely swollen bunch of arse grapes" (his words, not mine) and that I shouldn't worry to much being called "Bloody Arse" by the soldiery, and that I was bloody fortunate getting a nickname as a lowly Second Lieutenant anyway, and the nickname wasn't as bad as some, and did I know the Colonel's old nickname as a subaltern was "Broomstick" because the troops thought he always had one jammed up his arse, which brought us back to my prognosis.

Good; may relapse in the far future.

He was right.


  1. Can I just tell you that the photo of the gorgeous birds in the corsets does NOT reflect the true demeanor of the flower of Scottish womanhood. But your photo of German girls in the 1930s does.

    Applying pile cream to one's toothbrush whilst listening to the insane ranting of Colonel Gadaffi on Radio 2 was an easy mistake to make.

    But not one I shall be making twice.


    Was it not sore then when they.....*closes eyes and struggles to control a dry retch*...burst?


  2. AX: Strange, I can remember ladies of a similar demeanour as displayed in the corseted girls in Sauchihall Street many time during the 60s and 70s.
    But not after I got married. Married men never notice young scantily clad damsels after the bonding ceremony.
    Well not if they want to live that is.

    As regards your other delicate enquiry; not as I remember. Perhaps I was just full of adrenalin. Soldiers in action (simulated in this case) carry a lot of minor/major injuries and are quite often in a lot of pain. In those days we popped a lot of aspirin (which probably exacerbated the haemorrhage) to keep the background pain down, and that might have blocked the sensation of the bursting grapes. I've been told that troops these days keep a large stock of Ibuprofen in their packs for the same purpose.

  3. I kinda stopped reading when I discovered you were not talking about the concrete piles under a house - I get very squeamish about other sorts of piles.

  4. Your piles are a curse from my dad because you lust after young women too much. If only you'd been in Sodom! Fflur, go back to church and stay away from this sinner.

  5. How do gay guys get on when they get piles? Hey, I'm a thinking kind of guy.

  6. Well, this post certainly has has piles of comments!


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