Liam Farrell: What happened to those 'friendly' appraisals?

'Let's get this straight at the start, so that we understand each other,' he said. 'I hate your guts, you disgusting little toad; you make me sick, and I'd like to jump over this desk right now and rip your stinking liver out.'

I was a bit taken aback by this degree of aggression; things sure have changed on Walton's Mountain, I thought, wistfully remembering a kinder gentler time, when appraisal was more chummy and congenial, something to look forward to, a comfortable fireside chat between colleagues, a friendly exchange of views over tea and freshly-baked scones.

And if my appraiser was a child of the 60s, we'd reminisce fondly of Woodstock and 'sticking it to the man' and sex and drugs and rock'n'roll and how we were going to change the world and 'give peace a chance', maybe even get our old kaftans out, get naked for a while, light up a joss stick or two, check out the vibe, hold hands, wear flowers in our hair and sing a few verses of Kumbaya, until eventually the receptionist would interrupt and be only mildly surprised to find us frothing at the mouth.

I considered my response; common sense might have dictated a soothing tone at this point, but we GPs are a maverick, feisty bunch, and we don't kowtow lightly to authority, nor react kindly to coercion.

The French have a phrase - la trahison des clercs; ie, the treachery of the intellectuals, for those who are aware of abuses but fail to confront them.

Perhaps this was the moment to make a stand, to rage against the machine, to demand that appraisal be reckoned a constructive rather than a punitive process.

I chose the soothing tone; a cop-out, you might think, but don't shoot me, after all these years in general practice apathy is the only emotion I keep handy.

'Hey,' I said, in the soothing (and patronising) tone I use for counselling, which I also know to be particularly annoying. 'Why so hostile? You're OK, I'm OK.'

In a fury, he flung my PDP at me and stormed out. A single page tore loose and floated slowly to the floor, like a little teardrop, I mused. As Williams Yeats observed: 'The best lack all conviction while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity.'

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