Liam Farrell: A tale of two Irish Mammies

In a referendum in Ireland last year, amid much rejoicing, same-sex marriage was approved, and Ireland moved another step away from its post-colonial Victorian prudery; we were previously a bawdy folk.

But as usual, there were unforeseen consequences, especially for doctors; one Irish Mammy is formidable enough, but some lucky boys and girls now have two Irish Mammies.

‘Little Johnny’s temperature was up at eight o’clock,’ said Irish Mammy(1).

‘We got it down by giving him Calpol, then it came up again, so at 22 hundred hours we ducked him in a bath of crushed ice and dead otters,’ said Irish Mammy(2).

‘Still it wouldn’t come down, so we force-fed him some cold pureed hyena,’ said Irish Mammy(1).

Little Johnny looked full of beans and had managed to get his head stuck in the sharps box, the Venus Fly-Trap bright colours of which were probably designed specially to attract young children to their doom. He was screaming, but this was, I reckoned, an appropriate response to his situation and a sign of general wellbeing.

‘I have here,’ I said, ‘the very latest research from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. They are clever chaps, and their guidelines clearly state that fever is not necessarily a bad thing; indeed, experts say it may even help children fight infections.’

‘The British people are tired…’ began Irish Mammy(1).

‘I know, I know,’ I said, ‘...of listening to experts.’

The two Irish Mammies looked at each other, brows darkening at my heresy; I could see in their eyes a fanatical gleam, shadows of a burning stake and a lynch mob, and I noticed Irish Mammy(2) was wearing a sweatshirt with a tasteful swastika logo.

But I was so steeped in gore that to go back were as bloody as to go o’er, and we doctors must step deftly along tangled paths.

I made my decision, I made my stand. Galileo and the Vatican, Salman Rushdie and the Ayatollah - I was just another small soldier in the eternal struggle against intolerance and bigotry and unreason. Unknown, perhaps, and unrenowned, but no less valorous and worthy of honour.

‘They further state,’ I continued steadfastly, ‘that antipyretic treatments, such as paracetamol and ibuprofen, are not recommended.’

Irish Mammy(1) gave a little gasp, her temples crashing down in ruin all around her.

‘Also,’ I said, aware that I was challenging a whole belief system, ‘physical measures, such as ice baths and tepid sponging, are not recommended.’

Irish Mammy(1) appeared quelled, but my victory was but a fleeting jade, as Irish Mammy(2) rose in triumph from the wreckage of her fallen idols.

‘We’ll just have an antibiotic then,’ she said.

  • Dr Farrell is a GP from County Armagh. Follow him on Twitter @drlfarrell

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