Liam Farrell: Oh, the joys of 20/20 hindsight

I am a jinx on computers; when something goes wrong and I call in the experts, they'll say: 'No problem,' fiddle with it for a bit, look puzzled, then stare at me accusingly and say: 'You must have done something to it.'

Some time ago the hard drive on my laptop crashed and of course I'd forgotten to back up, losing a vast number of irreplaceable documents.

It's probably a sign of advancing age - not that I'm old or anything, but age is always advancing and I'm fairly sure it's up to no good.

I bemoaned my situation to a friend. 'Did you not have a back-up?' he said helpfully. 'You should always back up, great things, back-ups.'

As WB Yeats so aptly observed: 'Think where man's glory most begins and ends, and say my glory was I had such friends.'

'I cannot help but notice,' I said, 'your frequent and rather gloating use of the term back-up.'

'Back-ups,' he said. 'Thanks for nothing, Captain Hindsight,' I said, dripping so much sarcasm that there was a mess on the floor and I was going to need a mop.

The latest Student BMJ has an article in which 'senior' doctors admit their mistakes. Curiously, none of the 'senior' doctors is a GP, perhaps because they believe we don't make mistakes.

But I learned an important lesson from my 'back-up' mistake - the unholy joy of hindsight, and how to respond to others' misfortunes with a sad shake of the head and the words: 'You should never...' or 'You should always...'

'... carry a spare set of car keys.'

'... sell the best goal-scorer in the Premiership to your main rivals.'

'... add extra layers of bureaucracy to the NHS and expect it to get better.'

A colleague was lamenting a confrontation with an NHS bureaucrat. 'The usual lazy jobsworth protecting his tail,' he said. 'But maybe I shouldn't have called him a bonehead.' Captain Hindsight rose to the occasion. 'You should have called him an incompetent bonehead,' I said.

  • Dr Farrell is a GP from County Armagh. Follow him on Twitter @drlfarrell

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