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The ghost of practice past

He hadn’t set foot in the place for over 20 years and was surprised by how much things had changed.

The old high street had been swallowed up and the brewery had been pulled down, the streets were wider and the traffic was quicker. There used to be fields, but they’d been covered over with an out-of-town shopping centre and the once open sky had become crowded with office buildings and telephone masts. He saw them as the stains of progress.

He recognised some of the shops and imagined things as they used to be. In his mind’s eye he could see a narrow road cutting through the side of a building and he saw the branches of long-dead trees wafting over the high street. He walked like this for a while, half-imagining, half-dreaming, with a heavy feeling in his stomach because he knew he didn’t belong there anymore. It was then that his hand touched against the railings.

He’d stumbled on the practice he first worked at all those years before. The building had once been a private house, wintry knots of grass now grew out of the guttering and the brickwork was stained black with rain water. The practice had expanded and like the streets round about him the push for modernity had alienated the familiar. He nudged open the gate and made his way over to one of the windows at the side of the building. This was where he used to work, day after day, consulting his patients. He ran his hand over the lintel, it was rough with yellow-green lichen and he peered in.

The room was just as he’d left it. He could make out his old desk and the leather chair, which he hadn’t seen in years. A doctor who reminded him of his younger self sat talking to a patient, and he heard their voices and felt the soft green swell of his own memories. Despite the lust for change, it was all veneer. The timeless could never be changed. 

Dr Kevin Hinkley is a GP in Aberdeen