Liam Farrell: Busy doing nothing to get to know my patients

Joe is always sullen in the surgery, and today was no exception, but every cloud has a silver lining; he always makes me feel good by comparison, bringing a sparkle to my day.

I looked outside, it was a fine spring day and you almost feel the sap rising and Mother Nature waking up. The birds were singing and the sun was shining brightly, some of the stout local yeomen were stoning a homosexual, the sky was blue as a lark's egg and those few clouds on the horizon had amusingly assumed the shape of a pair of rather Rubenesque buttocks.

All was right with the world, it seemed, and, on The General Principle of Being Annoyingly Happy, I started to whistle Busy Doing Nothing. But to my surprise, instead of becoming even more morose than usual, Joe began to smile.

'Ah yes,' he said fondly. 'One of the greats; it's from A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, loosely based, very loosely based, I might add, on the Mark Twain story, with music and lyrics by Van Heusen and Burke, and that particular number featuring the once-in-a-lifetime trio of Bing Crosby, Cedric Hardwicke and William Bendix. Up until then, Bendix had been type cast as a tough guy, you know, what a stroke of genius to cast him as the comic foil, and how delightfully he played it.'

I was astonished; it was like being on the road to Damascus while riding a bike for the first time and losing your virginity, all in one glorious blast; patients aren't one dimensional, I realised, they are real people with lives outside the surgery, with families, friends, lovers, jobs, passions. And Joe's passion was Hollywood comedies, pre-1950.

'Your proposition may be good ...' I ventured, Groucho Marx in Horse Feathers '... but let's have one thing understood'. He was right there with me; then, altogether: 'Whatever it is, I'm against it.'

We spent an agreeable few minutes sparring over the relative merits of Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby and Monty Woolley and Bette Davis in The Man Who Came To Dinner.

'By the way,' said Joe, 'I've an awful sore throat, can I have an antibiotic?'

I looked at him, a trifle disappointed; had this time together, this meeting of soul-brothers, meant nothing?

'Only kidding, Doc,' he said, deadpan.

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