A Baffling Case of Painful Ears - Please Help!

The Most Baffling Case of My Brilliant Career

<em>"Doctor! Can you help me? You see, I am 84 years old, and every time I play my fiddle, I get a painful ringing in my left ear. I have a very acute sense of hearing and can hear the bells of St. Clements tolling from five miles away! My other senses are working perfectly fine; although, I oftentimes can't seem to remember where I left my fiddle; and some days, I can't feel my legs when I am playing! Is this serious Doctor?"</em>

These were the desperate words of a genteel old man who presented himself to me at my small unregistered clinic at number 9 Westchester Lane several days ago, after I had just recovered from a severe case of whooping cough. I was strangely bewildered upon hearing this quaint , likable and admirably lucid character describe to me his symptoms; which naturally left me in a rather perplexing temper. Ringing in the left ear? Can hear the bells of St.Clements? Can't remember where he left his fiddle? Can't feel his legs when he is playing? Oh my! This most certainly DID call for a cup of tea!

So it is to you my dear fellow Doctor Cockman that I am referring this most bewildering and mysterious case, of which I ask your professional appraisal, and consider delivering your most highly and respected diagnosis; more so to the ringing in this gentleman's left ear whenever he plays his fiddle. Surely, in these ever so fast-moving days of 1907, there must be some sort of contraption or device that can be simply inserted into the ears of this chap to ease the discomfort he is experiencing!

I eagerly anticipate your most professional reply to my humble request.

Yours most favourably,

Dr. J. Oliver Barstow

Member of The Royal Institute of Un-registered Musical Practitioners.
Fully - paid member of The Royal Welsh Jiggers and Taxidermy Society.


  • Dear Dr. Barstow (Oliver),

    The man can detect the dulcet dongs of the bells of St. Clements at a distance in excess of ten thousand paces? Oranges and Lemons! Now that is a case of near vestibulocochlear perfection! Unfortunately, though my nerves may be in the finest of conditions, I fear that my years of standing in front of wailing amplifiers and screaming infants have irreversibly detached my malleus from my incus. As such, my fiddling beats neither loudly nor harshly against my temporal lobe, but rather resounds faintly and pleasantly like the distant cries of a sad kitten.

    The sensitive of ear, however, will not find peace until he is able to significantly dampen the ragged vibrations that the traverse the narrow bridge between the tortured strings and the cringing sound box. How does one accomplish this? The most inexpensive method entails clamping said bridge with a housemaid's clothespin. If this seems too crude or rudimentary, then by all means go for a more expensive store-bought model.

    <img src="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b9/Two_mutes.jpg" alt="muting the fiddle" />

    As for his other problems, however, I am sorry that I can give no advice. You see, I can feel my legs just fine. The problem is, they feel like sacks of potatoes. As for the frequent misplacement of his violin, I will leave you with this anecdote.

    Once I was in a fiddle jam that had lasted late into the night. My friend Bill was fiddling as well, but with a worried expression on his face. Then I noticed that he had a string tied to his finger.

    "Billy," I said, "What is the purpose of the string?"

    With a mournful expression, he replied "My wife tied it there this morning as a reminder to do something, but I have completely forgotten what it was! Now I don't dare go home because she will be very angry about my forgetfulness! Can't we please just keep making music?"

    So we continued to jam until about 2 AM, when at last I convinced my friend that he should at pack up his fiddle and return to his abode.

    I saw him again a few days later. "Well," I asked, "did you finally remember what that string was to remind you of?"

    With a pained expression, he replied, "Yes, my wife told me what the string was for all right--she certainly did!" There was a note of pain in his voice. "The string was to remind me to be sure to come home early!"
  • Anyone I know at a jam would be happy to forget what the string was for! I believe the most common phrase is "Just one more"
  • Hi John! Thank you for taking the time to offer your expertise to my colleague and good friend --- the good Doctor Barstow. I will forward your anecdote on to him, in the hope that he will be able to help his patient with said piece of string. I have also made special mention to him of the clothes peg to which you made reference; although, I don't think that sort of peg with the spring in it has yet been invented in his time (1907); so perhaps he should use a dolly peg instead. I think that will achieve the same outcome.

    I am sorry to hear of the separation between your malleus and incus. I hope one day they can have a happy reunion. I always find it rather sad when close friends stop communicating with each other! :)

    Best wishes, Scott

    <em>"Your love is the greatest gift you can give someone."</em>
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