The bush is as noisy as the surgery

The African bush is noisy, especially in the morning, when the chatter of primates, arguing scavengers and rutting impala rises like a symphony on the air.

First light brings out their worst, but the leopard slinks back to his dusty tree, not wanting to be bothered with such nonsense.

There is a diurnal rhythm to life out here, and as I lie in bed at dawn, trying to persuade myself that getting out of bed would not be worse than Japanese water torture, the cacophony reminds me of the telephones at the surgery on a Monday morning. Everyone is trying to get through at once.

We get Miss Careless, who’s been rutting again and forgotten to take the hormones, Mrs Baboon who says her son Monkey must have ADHD because he’s been answering back again, and an indescribably noisy pack of hyenas who just won’t come out in the daytime because they don’t feel like it, and the doctor is perfectly capable of visiting.

But we don’t see everyone. Mr and Mrs Giraffe, despite their terrible neck problems, are too proud to ask. Mr Leopard was on the early train to London, and it is beneath his dignity to discuss his testicular problem with his doctor anyway.

In the stately home across the way, the Pride family never call, because they can only talk to people they regard as equals. Only a consultant will do.

Africa may be where life began, but our behaviour in cooler climes reflects it so well. The chattering monkeys, the incautious grunts of the prey species, the howling of hyenas which seem to have no purpose beyond  making a fuss: we know them all.

But I forgot the crocodiles. Watchful of their chance, they don’t kill their prey but roll it until it’s tender enough to chew, then hold it until it drowns. Occasionally they attempt a wide grin and we are fooled into seeing cooperation. I wonder which organisation in primary care they represent?

Dr Selby is a GP in Suffolk. You can write to her at

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