A little more pride and prejudice

I'm old school and, to me, ampicillin was always the Boxer (Animal Farm not Simon and Garfunkel) of the antibiotic world. Cheap, broad spectrum, what more could you want? When I was young, amoxicillin, the new kid on the block, was for wimps, the latte antibiotic, no benefit except it was more expensive and had a touch of new-fangled glamour; being Irish, I never lost this prejudice.

So it's difficult to come to terms with recent advice from our pharmaceutical adviser. Ampicillin, she said, her tone cold and unsentimental, is history and should no longer be prescribed. Amoxicillin is just as cheap and more effective.

There should have been thunder, lightning, bells tolling, horns blaring, but the room was quiet, the setting mundane, completely inappropriate for the sound of the executioner's axe swishing through the air as a bit of what we are disappeared forever.

I looked round at my colleagues in mute appeal. We've lost coproxamol, I was screaming inside, now ampicillin; what's next, bendrofluazide, trimethoprim, quinine sulphate... Paracetamol?

Next thing is, they'll be telling us not to order any more ESRs; just think how those words roll off the tongue. FBC, U&E, ESR, they belong together, you can't have one without the other. Athos and Porthos without Aramis, Caspar and Melchior without Balthazar, Sven and Nancy without Ulrika (and Faria) - is nothing sacred?

We Irish hold our prejudices dearly. I was seven for the 1966 World Cup and I remember supporting England. However, four years later, in Mexico 1970, I supported every team except England. So sometime, somehow, in those four years I developed an anti-English prejudice. This was probably due to things like the Great Irish Famine of 1845, for which you chaps were largely responsible. Two million of my people died and two million emigrated, halving our population. But that was a long time ago and I've kinda gotten over it by now. I've matured and I'm now very fond of England.

But just as having a prejudice confounded is very disturbing, so having one confirmed is deeply satisfying. The last vestige of bigotry survives and come Germany 2006, I'll be rooting for anybody else.

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