From the brim to the dregs

Drinking the cup of degradation to its bitterest dregs is a favourite hobby of mine, and such vices are (usually) only available in the fleshpots of the city.

But my roots run deep, as visceral and atavistic as the peat; the savage heart beats for its native shore - you can take the doctor out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the doctor.

As I believe global warming may not be such a bad thing, and because I am conscious of my image, my wife has an SUV, and over Christmas I had to borrow it for a house call deep in the country.

I have little patience with nostalgia and tradition, and even less for house calls (set me down in my surgery chair and I'm there for the day, except for comfort breaks) but I must admit I rather enjoyed this one.

Chugging proudly down narrow country roads in my mighty steed, vast amounts of totally unnecessary horsepower throbbing between my legs, saluting horny handed farmers, winking encouragingly at cattle smugglers, pulling in magisterially to allow tractors past, waving generously at idiots sitting on fences, sympathising with bestialised sheep (a country doctor has a broad church), scaring rabbits and squashing hedgehogs, feeling like I was really a part of the whole countryside gig, the whole vernal gestalt thingummy; it was like all the freshness of an early world,  the piper at the gates of dawn, the great god Pan humping merrily in the woods, Ratty and Moley coming rampantly out of the closet, it was almost like being a young GP again (except of course that I no longer think about sex every 17 seconds).

Arriving at the farm, I stepped out, the Real Thing, the Genuine Article, the very stuff of general practice, and stomped across the farmyard, wading through flocks of hens and small children, preening myself like an excessively narcissistic cormorant; I was even wearing sheepskin coat and a pair of wellingtons (and not for theatrical purposes, you know).

I took a deep revivifying breath of fresh country air, gagging only slightly on the ammoniacal stench rising from the (traditional) slurry pit; we country people are hardy folk.

As is also traditional, the presenting complaint was unutterably trivial, so I prescribed some antibiotics just to show ‘how much I care' (that's what antibiotics are for, yet another way of saying ‘I love you').

And on the way home: ‘Eey-oop, vit'nary,' someone called in a faux Yorkshire accent, obviously convinced I was James Herriot.

How did they make such a mistake?

- Dr Farrell is a GP from County Armagh.

Email him at

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