Liam Farrell: Memo to registrars: always beware the Friend

'Can I bring a Friend in?' said Mrs Magee, a shy and self-effacing lady.

Liam Farrell
Liam Farrell

'Of course,' I said grandly, suspecting a 'woman's problem', but when the Friend entered the surgery I knew I had made a big mistake.

The Friend was a large lady with an unmistakeable air of menace. But hark! The cry is Hastur, I thought; the room seemed to immediately shrink and become uncomfortably warm. The Friend nodded to me and there was something in the gesture which implied it wasn't a million miles from a headbutt.

'I've been having trouble sleeping,' began Mrs Magee. 'It's been going on for some time now. I toss and turn all night and I'm exhausted in the morn... '

'She needs sleeping tablets,' interrupted the Friend.

'I see,' I said. 'Perhaps, Mrs Magee, you could tell me a little more. For example, do you have a nap during the day... '

'She needs sleeping tablets,' said the Friend, cracking her knuckles meaningfully.

'There are many methods of improving your sleeping pattern,' I said, all the time aware of the Friend's gimlet gaze, and desperately trying to maintain eye contact with Mrs Magee, who had by this stage relinquished all executive authority over her own person.

'It's important to take plenty of exercise, avoid naps during the day and coffee and tea late at...'

'She needs sleeping tablets,' said the Friend, implacable.

'Sleeping tablets are not to be prescribed lightly,' I said, trying to lighten the mood and give things that personal touch. 'And if you were my mother or,' here I gave the Friend what I hoped was a winning smile, 'a youthful auntie, and a doctor prescribed you sleeping tablets, I wouldn't be very happy.'

'So you wouldn't give your mother a prescription,' said the Friend coldly.

'Sleeping tablets have many unwanted effects,' I tried to explain, fingering the panic button...

'Listen,' said the Friend, her dog-like face only inches from mine. 'She ain't your mother and I sure ain't your auntie.'

'A short course of nitrazepan will help,' I agreed. A prescription has many fathers, and physical intimidation is yet another one.

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