The Human Body Bank . . . (episode 57)


January 21 1999

301B Concrete Shacks

Hello Auntie

Thank you for your letter recounting your car purchase adventures! Did that car really sink in the river like that?

I myself am now disporting my new activity tracker, furnished in a padded envelope, from the UK Body Bank. I was initially quite confused when I unpacked it; it looked like you had to strap on a long cardboard tube, at right angles to your wrist, which inevitably would have got in the way of practically every action a human being has to undertake! However, I did – eventually – realize that I had to extract the actual tracker from the tube . . . The Human Body Bank, by the way, is a national medical research project designed to study the relationship that participants’ lifestyles, e.g. diet and exercise, have on health and longevity. I think around 500,000 people signed up to be studied at the outset. We had to show up at Body Bank HQ to sign upon the dotted line . . . And I suspect that, like myself, we all had at least six test tubes full of blood extracted from our arms before being permitted to partake of a coffee and a biscuit!

I must admit that I gazed rather suspiciously at the – apparently sealed – tracker when it first arrived. Did it, for instance, conceal a hitherto unmentioned camera or microphone within its plastic blue interior? But, after quite some moments of close study, I decided that it did not. I then perused the instructions. Apparently this piece of equipment “records information about the duration, frequency and intensity of all kinds of activity . . . It does this by measuring speed of movement in three directions: up/down, forwards/backwards, and left/right.” This stymied me rather Auntie, for the first activity I was planning to undertake that morning was ‘having a bath.’ No problem for the tracker apparently; it is waterproof. However, there is a certain activity I commonly carry out in the bath, and it involves some quite rapid back-and-forth movements of the arm on which my tracker is situated . . . Do you think it is possible for the researchers to discern exactly what one is doing at any one time, simply from studying the data recorded? And, similarly, after my bath, I was planning on sitting in one of my armchairs and engaging in another activity involving the frequent movement of cylindrical metal objects from arm to mouth? Would they know that do you think?

I finally got so stressed by these conjectures, that I decided to walk down the 251 stairs leading to the building’s exit and visit the public library. This, at least, is an activity of which just about anyone would approve! And I did, indeed, get about 100 steps down these concrete descenders before, unfortunately, encountering the resident ‘Ferret.’ This Ferret person – a lady of evidently high standards when it comes to actually being in gainful employment, said, ‘And where are going young man? Isn’t it somewhat bright and early for you?’ Honestly Auntie. Isn’t it just about the limit. I’m afraid I waved my wrist at her and said, ‘My prison radio tracker is due for replacement today. Toodle pip!’

Meanwhile, I think Cedric – my resident fruit fly – has died. And I miss him. I spent many hours studying the way he smoothed his wings with his legs and, indeed, groomed each leg in turn. How anybody can say a lonely fruit fly is a ‘nasty, dirty, beast’ I don’t know. I think, in his final hours, that he was trying to tell me that he needed more, or different, food – because he flew at me, buzzing, several times – but I am not experienced in the feeding of fruit flies, and I didn’t know what he meant. At least Mandie didn’t finish him off. And speaking of Mandie, our relationship is currently in a state of hiatus. She kept on saying, ‘You do love me, don’t you Ralph?’ But, Auntie, I don’t, and I could hardly lie, could I?

Your loving nephew



One thought on “The Human Body Bank . . . (episode 57)

  1. Peter Wells aka Countingducks

    Another brilliant letter full of whimsical imaginings and observations. I have been reduced to having fruit flies enter into my circle of friends so I can imagine the sadness which gripped you when Cedric folded his wings for the last time. Do you think they could measure that emotion back at HQ. Only time will tell. You are so genuinely entertaining that I relish my visits here and cannot understand why you do not have more visitors and comments.


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