''Oh hello. Yes, I'm calling to book myself in for an influenza vaccination.'' Doris sipped on her redbush tea with manuka honey and popped an echinachea tablet in her mouth while she waited for the receptionist to find her record on the surgery computer.
''Hello? Are you there? It's spelled R.O.M.A.I.N.E. Like the lettuce. You haven't heard of it? Oh yes, it's very nice. Quite crisp, and very good for you. Full of antioxidants. Good. Well, can I book an appointment?'' She held the receiver between her shoulder and ear while she opened her bottle of multivitamins and shook one into her palm.
''Yes, I know it's summer, but I didn't want to wait until winter to have my innoculation. Simply everyone will be having them then, and what happens if the supply runs out?''
She listened impatiently while receptionist started to spout some rubbish about the surgery having only limited supplies of flu vaccine during the summer months, and that it was normally reserved for the vulnerable.
''My dear, I am vulnerable!'' she whined into the receiver. ''I am at the mercy of every stray virus which happens to wander into my system, You just ask Doctor Morrison. He'll tell you how I pick up any infection going. He'll be very annoyed when I tell him how unhelpful his reception staff are.''
The woman on the other end of the phone suggested that Doris make an appointment to see Dr Morrison, and then she could discuss with him whether she was in need of the vaccination before the winter came.
''Yes, I'll do that, but it'll be on your conscience if I succumb, before then.'' She jotted down her appointment date and time on the kitchen calendar, and put the phone down, sighing heavily.
She rubbed her temples. A headache was starting. And she felt slightly sick. Or was it just a headache? Surely it was a migraine... or worse. What if it was the warning sign for a subarachnoid haemorrhage? One of her ex work colleagues had dropped dead on the spot from one of those. In the checkout queue at Tesco's, she'd been at the time. And she had been a year younger than Doris. Her headache was worsening by the second. What if it was a tumour?
She thought of phoning the surgery again. Maybe she should see if she could arrange a brain scan. No, she'd better go straight to the Accident and Emergency department. But she really oughtn't to go on the bus in this state. She'd better call the ambulance. No, she'd wait and see if it went off. Better take some ibuprofen - it could be just a headache, after all. She surveyed the array of bottles and boxes in her kitchen cupboard. What a good idea it had been to bring them down here, rather than keep them in the medicine cabinet upstairs. It was too small anyway; why did they make them so small?
She found the ibuprofen and read the data sheet inside the box. Can cause gastric bleeding, it said. Oh dear, better not, then. She didn't want to die of internal haemorrhaging while she waited for the ambulance. Paracetamol would be better. No, she'd seen that news report last week about how some people had died of liver failure because they'd unwittingly overdosed on the things. All right, you weren't supposed to exceed eight tablets in 24 hours, and she hadn't taken any since yesterday, but you had to be careful about these things.
I'll forget the pills and just have a lie down, she thought. She settled herself on the settee,adjusted her blanket, and picked up the well-thumbed medical encyclopedia, bookmarked between diarrhoea and dysentery. As she started reading, she forgot the headache. She wasn't ready to die just yet, thank you. Her life was too full, too enjoyable.