Liam Farrell: The most important lesson before finals

It was the last lecture before our finals and the rumour had spread round the student body like gonorrhoea (though without the initial sexual gratification).

There may be a few tips for the written paper, the rumour said; we should have known better, but hope springs eternal.So there was a full attendance, which was very unusual, as the quality of lecturing was generally shite.

Every consultant in the hospital was a professor of some sort – emeritus, drug company, whatever – not because of their academic brilliance, but because they felt inadequate without it. When we Irish got rid of the British and their lords, ladies and baronets, we felt the loss keenly and started creating our own aristocracy; we do love our titles, but a fancy title does not make a good teacher.

My buddy Joe and I had skipped every lecture for the year, because it was all in the books, but we turned up for this one, just in case.

Our professor of surgery was a small, bald, specky chap, who had obviously spent his whole life over-compensating for his physical disadvantages; Sigmund Freud would have had much to tell us about his motivation.

'This is very important,' he began, speaking in the clipped tones they adopt at surgical school when they lose their individuality and learn about the importance of driving a big shiny car.

He then took out a tube of K-Y Jelly and a paper towel. He squeezed some of the jelly on to his little hand and dabbed at it delicately with his finger.

'When performing a rectal examination, you can often leave a mess,' he said.

He then held up the paper towel. The student body leaned forward in fascination; was he going to perform a rectal examination on himself? That would be real commitment, we thought.

'So you must always ensure that you clean up properly afterwards,' he continued, demonstrating with a firm downward motion. He held up his hand.

'You see?' he said. 'Perfectly dry now.'

'For f***'s sake,' said Joe, a broth of a boy with no patience for these vanities. 'It's a few days before the finals and he's showing us how to wipe an arse.'

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