I always stand by what I said

'I'm not feeling too good, doctor,' he said.

Because I am sometimes a good doctor, I was a veritable paragon of empathy, also there was nothing good on the telly and I'd just had a colossal and incredibly filling jam doughnut and even a nuclear explosion couldn't have extruded me from my chair.

'I can understand your situation perfectly, and I don't blame you one bit,' I said, yawning hugely - just to show how much I cared.

'It is quite obvious to everyone that your life is a mess; you are, shall we say, a tad overweight, you are barely five feet tall, which has the unfortunate effect of even further emphasising your excess body fat, your adolescent acne never quite cleared up, you drink too much, you have no hobbies or interests apart from watching telly, you smoke 40 cigarettes every day so your teeth are brown and your breath stinks, you consider a cardigan to be the ultimate male fashion statement, you are 43 years of age and yet you still live with your mother, who - apropos of nothing - is a mad as a hatter and maintains 50 incontinent cats, you are still a virgin and no sane woman would touch you with a barge pole.

'To be any way contented in your circumstances would be quite abnormal, and to be frank, I admire your stoicism. If I was you I can cheerfully admit I'd have blown my brains out long ago.'

He was silent for a long moment, probably overcome with gratitude for my understanding and support, I reckoned.

'Actually,' he said, 'I was just going to say, that I had a bit of a cold, but you've certainly given me a lot to think about.'

'Hey,' I said, backtracking skilfully, 'I was just kidding around. Look at you, a fine, full figure of a man, nothing wrong with that - nobody likes a skinny little runt; as Julius Caesar said, "let me have around me men that are fat". You have a lovely home and family, no airs or graces, you aren't obsessed with your image; "this is me!" you say proudly, "take me as I am". And anyway your mother, decent woman that she is, can't live forever and then you stand to inherit that fine property, just needs a bit of work, a coat of paint and an enthusiastic pest-control officer.

You're an unclaimed treasure, the women will be shooting themselves in the streets for your sake, you betcha!'

'Do you really think so?' he asked.

'Certainly,' I replied, with all the certainty of the experienced liar, 'I always stand by what I have said.'

Dr Farrell is a GP from County Armagh. Email him at GPcolumnists@haymarket.com .

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