Liam Farrell: Sometimes I fear I'm losing the battle

Morning surgeries are always a battle, and each day, as I gird my loins and oil my mighty thews...

(I usually do this myself, unless there's a complementary therapist about) I think back to my illustrious companions-in-arms Hector and Paris, returning to the plains of windy Troy after a brief and well-deserved dalliance with Helen and Andromache.

Homer, a writer like myself, and therefore prone to slight exaggeration, described it as follows; as a stallion breaks loose and gallops gloriously over the plain, his mane streaming, exulting in his strength, flying like the wind to the haunts of his mares - so forth went Paris from high Pergamus, and he laughed as he sped swiftly on his way, pausing only to nip back for his prescription pad.

The past has rended us, and we all have our scars, but a scar is not always a flaw; sometimes it may be redemption inscribed in flesh, a memorial to something endured, something forever lost but something intangible gained, maybe a layer of invisible armour. As Nietzsche (and Conan the Barbarian) observed, 'That which does not kill us makes us stronger'.

I've suffered many defeats and humiliations, but I'm still here, my armour accreted over the long bitter years, so the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune don't bother me, and this equanimity is a virtue for GPs, as no human concern is so trivial and bizarre that it can't be dumped on us.

But even Homer nods, and I was idly musing about GP heaven (interesting cases, grateful patients, no out of hours, long coffee breaks) when Mrs Magee came in. My defences were momentarily down, and like any predator, she could sense vulnerability.

'It's the hole in the ozone layer; in the Arctic, you know,' she began.

I sighed: 'Thinking of moving there?'

'I'm very worried about it,' she persisted.

'This is Ireland,' I said. 'It'll just mean more rain.'

'And then there's global warming, and flooding,' she continued, undaunted.

'You live halfway up a mountain,' I reminded her, my clinical instincts briefly resurfacing; reassurance is a therapeutic modality and sometimes it's all we've got.

'And oil, what'll we do when the oil runs out and all?'

'The Arctic's supposed to be really nice,' I urged.

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