There is a scene in The Lord of the Rings where all the wizards and warriors have gathered to decide how to get rid of the Ring, which can be only destroyed in the fire of Mount Doom after a dangerous, probably suicidal journey.
Each of the obvious candidates has a plausible excuse why they cannot take on this dangerous task themselves, and there is much nervous shuffling of the feet before Frodo volunteers. Immediately everyone brightens up. 'You da man,' they say, but 'problem solved', is what they are thinking.
And boy, could I sing a few bars of that. I remember being called out to an individual who was being rather violent. In the days of the Troubles, calling the police was not an option and they wouldn't come anyway in case some of our local freedom fighters were around; GPs were the easy option. Just a hint of suggestion of a bit of chest pain and we have to visit, patients know these things.
When I arrived, welcomed by the cherry sound of smashing crockery, broken furniture lay everywhere, although the TV and video remained miraculously untouched.
Knowing a sucker when they see one, the relatives disappeared, leaving me alone with an apparently deranged psychopath. I knew immediately, of course, that he was no psychotic (undamaged TV and video, remember?), so I was able to talk him down (aided by a soupcon of physical intimidation), and persuade him to take a sedative until the ambulance arrived.
Needing a glass of water for the sedative, I went into the kitchen, where I found all the decamped relatives enjoying a nice cup of tea, with egg sandwiches and freshly baked scones, and talking about football.
The Problem Had Been Solved, the buck had been passed and the whole atmosphere was quite convivial, but when I entered the conversation ceased. Shouldn't I be back out in the war-zone, the unspoken innuendo.
'I'll be going now,' I said. A frisson of alarm ran through the crowd; was I leaving, and was it their problem again? But patients are resourceful. 'Doctor, I've an awful pain in my chest,' said one.
- Dr Farrell is a GP from County Armagh. Email him at GPcolumnists@haymarket.com