Liam Farrell: When you're a GP, everyone is a patient

If you have only one day in Ireland, make sure you visit the Skelligs. Ten miles off the Atlantic coast, two jagged peaks rear from the ocean to claw at the sky. White sea-birds wheel along the cliffs, buffeted by the freshening breeze.

Dwarfed by the elements, our boat slipped through the maelstrom of wings, as the less hardy travellers chucked spectacularly over the side.

Here in their beehive huts, the monks endured more than 600 years of unbelievable hardship. Vegetation was sparse, tenacious grass and heather only, autumn fierce, winter a terror.

In the lee of frowning cliffs, an apologetic Irish rain drifted down. I closed my eyes, listening; the island has its own ancient voice, the crashing waves, the sea-bird cries, the capricious breeze whistling among the rocks. Gosh, I thought, relishing the tranquillity, I could murder a Big Mac.

Being Ireland, of course, there is a kicker; 670 steps lead steeply up to the huts. Fatalities aren't unknown, from falling over the edge and from the physical demands of the climb; they should install an escalator, even if it is a World Heritage Site.

So my pleasant reverie was all too brief. A crowd had gathered, as is traditional, around a large gentleman who was moaning in agony. I was on holiday, but what can you do? When you gotta go, you gotta go; once you become a doctor, everyone else automatically falls into the category 'patient', and anyway I live for the day I can perform an emergency tracheostomy with a blunt pen-knife. I've seen it done hundreds of times (on TV); it's spectacular and Meg Ryan will then sleep with you.

I introduced myself as a doctor, and everyone else immediately disappeared; problem solved, you could see them thinking. With a sense of disappointment I diagnosed a blister, me being an experienced doctor and all; Meg Ryan was clearly no longer on the menu.

Decapitation not being feasible, I improvised with a paper hankie and a poultice of puffin guano.

If you have only one day in Ireland, make sure you visit the Skelligs - and bring a first-aid kit.

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

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