Liam Farrell: Fashions change, but some things stay the same

Soccer has become a sporting juggernaut, dwarfing all its competitors into insignificance. The wall-to-wall media coverage, the 24-hour hype, the colossal wages; Messi and Ronaldo earn enough each year to keep the average small dialysis unit going for, like, two minutes.

But a word of warning; sporting fashions come and go. I remember in the seventies show-jumping was big, the plummy tones of Raymond Brookes-Ward droning on about Mr Softee and Pennword Forge Mill and Annelly Drummond-Haye. Harvey Smith was infamous enough to have a rude gesture named after him.

We completed our final exams to a soundtrack of Syd Waddell eulogising the unforgettable Jocky Wilson as he sprinted to the World Darts championship. And where are they now? Darts and showjumping, relegated to Eurosport along with the synchronised swimming.

Snooker is also yesterday’s sport, but as Sir Andrew Aguecheek lamented, 'I too was once adored'. In the eighties, as a young doc, I was once called to a middle-aged chest pain. Gasping in an armchair, his pain was central, crushing and radiating to his left arm; if it had been any more classical, Beethoven would have composed a symphony about it.

'You’re having a heart attack,' I said. 'We need to get you to hospital as soon as possible.'

'I can’t,' he whispered, gazing at something over my shoulder. Only then did I notice that snooker was on TV, Julio the Whirlwind against The Cockney Geezer.

Perhaps it was more than just the Geezer snookering the Whirlwind behind the pink; perhaps timor mortis exultat me, the sudden intimation of mortality had revealed starkly the transience of life, and the importance of living in the now, of relishing every moment. As Achilles said, 'Everything is more beautiful because we are doomed'.

'I can’t,' he repeated. 'I have to watch the end of this match.’

It was a tricky situation; to let him die, or renege on my ethical obligations to truth and integrity. 

But there’s always a choice; the options might suck, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a choice, and dissimulation is a skill every family doctor learns to blithely apply (I never condone lying to patients, except when I do it, naturally).

'Don’t worry,' I said. 'They’ll have TVs in the coronary care unit.'

  • Dr Farrell is a GP from County Armagh. Follow him on Twitter @drlfarrell

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