Liam Farrell: Put a beggar on horseback and he'll ride to hell

I was called recently to a patient who had collapsed in the car park after church. I can recommend this as a good place to collapse, implying as it does a previous life of probity and devotion.

For a start, the bystanders are likely to be helpful; if you collapse outside a bar late at night, by contrast, you are unlikely to get a lift home from a friendly drug dealer.

Let's face it, a better class of people attend church, although they may be more fastidious about mouth-to-mouth which is perhaps not a bad thing. The doctor also feels more obliged to attend; there is something deserving about a church car park. This collapse, we infer, is unrelated to debauchery and a hedonistic lifestyle.

By the time I arrived some do-gooder had already taken the patient to the surgery. And, returning to the surgery, I found, with a certain fatal satisfaction, that the entourage, finding the surgery unmanned, had returned to the church.

Eventually, a few laps later, I hounded the patient to earth. Invigorated by the chase, she was at first unwilling to accept cardiac pulmonary resuscitation, but a crowd had gathered and, as Pierre said in War and Peace, the common good is the only kind there is.

Pleasing the mob always comes first, and saying all was fine would have been inconsiderately detumescent; doing nothing was too hard a proposition, the power was intoxicating, put a beggar on horseback and he'll ride to hell.

So, instead a symphony; excited 'oohs' as I whip out the shock blanket like a magician's rabbit; somebody shouting, 'Don't move her!' (because the conventions must be observed); the triumphant clash of the defib paddles as I flourish them theatrically on high; the patient's futile protests, 'I'm fine, no really I am, really'; the crowd moaning and crooning and swaying with pleasure until the ambulance arrives, rabbits transfixed by the weasel's dance.

I accepted the plaudits modestly, mindful of La Rochefoucauld's maxim: 'To refuse praise is to be praised twice.' And as I led her up the steps into the ambulance, its interior lambent like a little piece of heaven, a ghostly Roman slave appeared at my elbow, whispering, 'Remember thou art mortal, remember... '

And I said, 'Who the hell are you?'

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