Beware the power of nine-year-olds

Matilda had two spiders in her room — twins, she said. No child can be expected to sleep in a room with twin spiders. I found her at midnight asleep on the floor of my room and, despite moving her back to bed, some atavistic sense of the presence of arachnids sent her crawling back to her former spot, even though there are 10 spiders on the floor for every one on the wall.

The will power of nine-year-old girls, however, is legendary, and I was reminded of this when Serena Very Posh and her mother Victoria sashayed in through my door.

Such patients are not common in Suffolk, where the rich usually demonstrate their richness by wearing muddier Wellington boots than everyone else. The quality of the mud, you see, displays the level of wealth to another farmer and, since people who don’t understand mud don’t matter, social rank is perfectly maintained (GPs in Suffolk are trade. We use the back door).

Serena had bruised her toe and is requesting lifelong exclusion from cross-country. I peered at it and  explained that it was a bruise and would  get better soon.

Serena drew herself up to her full four feet six. ‘I’m sorry,’ she said in a voice like Joyce Grenfell, ‘I want an X-ray.’

I fell on the floor in surprise and Victoria looked troubled. ‘Can’t you send us to casualty?’ she asked.

I sigh. ‘No,’ I said, ‘nor can I sign her off sport. This is a normal foot.’

Several days later a report landed on my desk. Serena Very Posh had broken her toe. I was surprised at my own misjudgment. Serena had already bruised her toe, the report stated, when she groomed her pony, which stood upon her little toe and broke it. She had been advised to avoid sport for the next six weeks. Diagnosis, accidental injury. Remembering Matilda and the spiders, I wasn’t so sure.

- Dr Selby is a GP in Suffolk.

You can write to her at

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins


Already registered?

Sign in

Follow Us:

Just published

Woman holding face in pain

Should GPs treat patients presenting with dental problems?

The MDU's Dr Kathryn Leask considers what GPs should do if a patient presents with...

Conservative Party leadership candidate and foreign secretary Liz Truss

Liz Truss vows to resolve GP pension tax crisis if she becomes prime minister

Liz Truss has affirmed her commitment to resolving the GP pensions crisis but has...

Baby receiving a vaccine in their thigh

JCVI advises changes to routine childhood and HPV immunisation schedules

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has recommended a change...

GP consultation

General practice delivering 'up to double the appointments it is paid for'

General practice in England may be delivering as many as double the number of appointments...

Sign outside BMA House

GP suicide sparks calls for measures to protect doctors from spiralling workloads

The government and policymakers must do more to safeguard doctors and NHS staff from...

Talking General Practice logo

Podcast: Living with long COVID

In August we’re bringing you some of the best interviews from series one of the podcast....