Liam Farrell: I ain't no Hippocratic role model

When I was a medical student I joined the communist collective; it was quite cool and radical chic, we all wore Che hats and T-shirts - Che, after all, was a medical student.

It was a good way to meet chicks, and we would sit up late into the night in our dingy bedsits, planning how we were going to make the revolution happen and who would be the first to go - estate agents, solicitors, it was a tough call.

Unfortunately this was the 1970s; the era of convulsive student protests and peace, love, and rock'n'roll had passed us by and there were no great causes any more.

The best we could do was a protest march against an Irish rugby trip to South Africa, our Trotskyite mentor insisting that rugby was a post-colonial sport, another example of one fascist group supporting another in grinding down the proletariat.

'But Che played rugby,' someone pointed out.

'That was an attempt to infiltrate the bourgeois, brothers,' they explained.

We didn't change the world, but we had a lot of fun. I made a lot of useful contacts and every year I receive a few Cuban cigars in the post. As Kipling said: 'A woman is only a woman, but a good cigar is a smoke.'

One night I was in the smoking area of my local, enjoying a big cigar and observing the young people smerting (smerting = smoking outside and flirting; these are quite congenial places) when Joe accosted me, one horny hand grabbing my lapel.

'Look at you,' he accused. 'You're always giving off about smoking and telling people to give up, and now here you are, doing it yourself, showing a bad example to these young people. Have you no shame?'

'Listen pal,' I drawled, puffing out a smoke ring in the shape of the lower intestine, and quoting basketball's Charles Barkley, 'I ain't no role-model for your kids.'

'You're just a hypocrite,' was his parting shot before he drove off on his tractor.

This, I mused, while making a graceful gesture of farewell, was fair comment; I advise a Mediterranean diet but I love cream buns, I advocate exercise but I love my armchair in front of the fire. So I guessed he was right, but hey, being a hypocrite isn't so bad; there are far worse vices than hypocrisy.

Such as doubtful personal hygiene, I reckoned, looking down at the brownish stains on my lapels.

Dr Farrell is a GP from County Armagh. Email him at

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