The Embarrassment Of Being Helpful

A while ago, in a fit of civic nobility, I signed up with Imperial College to take part in investigations that might help with medical advances. You probably know the sort of thing. A few months ago I received an email asking if I was interested in being assessed to see if I was suitable to take part in a large investigation into the causes of early dementia and possibly developing treatments. You didn’t have to have dementia or a history of it in your family (which I don’t – we do cancer bingo fairly well and have every type of heart issue somewhere in the gene pool, but not dementia) so I said yes.

Roll the calendar forward to this afternoon and I’m off to White City, famed as the home of the BBC for many years for my assessment.

The first doctor I met did the vital sign bits, measured me from various angles, calculated my BMI without wincing, quizzed me about blood pressure and my little AF and handed me onto to the psychologist.

I was quite looking forward to this, to see if I was as okay as I assumed. The psychologist – a young woman who looked twenty but was probably older – started with a book, with ten words on ten pages. I was to read out each word and when we’d finished, I was to try and recall the ten words. We did this three times. Second and third goes I got all ten – I’m not saying I didn’t struggle…. but I was feeling chipper.

We then had some images, some drawing (the face of a clock with all the numbers for instance), some number recall, some sentences, and the better known list of random words that I had to recall immediately and then later. Red, velvet, church, daisy, face, if you’re interested. I thought it was three – apple, table, penny – but we are in a time of rampant inflation…

You may get the feeling I was on a bit of roll. Yep, I did think things were going rather well.

‘Next,’ the psychologist picked up her phone and fiddled with it, ‘I will give you a minute to give me as many words – not proper nouns or names – beginning with the letter ‘f’. Is that okay?’

Readers of this blog will know I like words; I like their taste, the way they roll around my mouth and exercise my tongue. I nodded once: not good to be too enthusiastic.


And into my head popped ‘fuck’.

Oh god. I stared at the face willing me on. I immediately self censored that; maybe I could drop the f-bomb later?

Come on, brain.

‘Fanny,’ says my brain (my brain clearly had the British meaning in mind, not the American one, not that would have been much better in the circs). I looked at the professional opposite, female, getting younger with every passing, silent second and knew with bone deep certainty that starting with ‘fanny’ would have her turning round and opening the door, calling for help…

Come ON, brain…

I hate my subconscious. Flibbertigibbet was next, only in my now nervous state it came out as ‘flibberjubberyflubberyflapppppyy’ or something.

Stern words were passed between my errant synapses and me. Okay, calm down Geoffrey, you’ve got this.


Seriously? Whatever happened to family, or fish, or friend? Why emphasize the pretention, why don’t you?

I did okay. They chose me, though whether I’m in the halfwit section of the study, hasn’t been made clear.

And at least I didn’t default to ‘fart’….

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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51 Responses to The Embarrassment Of Being Helpful

  1. Oh boy, do I feel your pain

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sadje says:

    Haha! It’s hilarious too read but I’m sure you must’ve felt frustrated πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

    Liked by 1 person

  3. willowdot21 says:

    You make everything funny and I feel for you.
    Hubby has been part of stress and health investigation at UCL for the last 35 yes he says the cognitive parts are definitely getting harder so take heart.
    He usually has to go up to London but during the pandemic they came to him ..

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Norah says:

    Oh dear, Geoff. That was predicament. I think you saved yourself by refusing to let those ‘f’ words tumble out. I think it was a set-up though. If they didn’t expect those words, why would they have chosen that particular letter?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Fatuous flim flam! My favourite post today!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. M. L. Kappa says:


    Liked by 1 person

  7. ThingsHelenLoves says:

    So funny, I wonder how many F-bombs were heard that day. Assuming all had the same letter, though I guess any letter could be interesting!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. noelleg44 says:

    What a fun tale! At least you weren’t de-fenestrated. I’m sure you came through with flying colors and amazed them all. Hubs and I are participating in a clinical trial for a vaccine for RSV (respiratory syncytial virus)- which is becoming a real issue here in the US, particular for babies. .

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Mick Canning says:

    Yes, why ‘f’? Most of the interesting ones are ‘f’. I’d have just gone for it…

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Hahaha, that is the funniest thing I ever heard and to think you could have gone with funny.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I would think of that word first too. Who wouldn’t?!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Ruth says:

    OMG Geoff, that is hilarious! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Did they mention the stipend?

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Darlene says:

    You had me laughing in my tea!!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. JT Twissel says:

    Flabbergasted! I am quite certain I’d fail all their tests!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. tootlepedal says:

    Beautifully described. Fantastic.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. joylennick says:

    Oh tee hee, Geoff – very funny! Had a good giggle. Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I’d love to think that, in your shoes, I’d have been much more relaxed about the whole thing – but I suspect not. And it does always seem so much worse when you’re dealing with a woman who at the very least looks younger than your own daughter…

    Liked by 1 person

  19. V.M.Sang says:

    When you said she asked you for words beginning with F, I had exactly the same thought as you. Do you think that letter was deliberate?

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Jennie says:

    Geoff, this was so funny! I think ‘fart’ would have been okay.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Shankar Subramanian says:

    Furiously funny πŸ˜€


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