One foot in and one foot out in home visit hell

'Her innate truculence had morphed with age into outright aggression. The request for a house call, inevitably, came from yet another brow-beaten home help who just couldn't take it any more and who felt it only fair that the GP should share in the invective; it's one of our unwritten roles.

'Who are you?' she demanded.

'I am your doctor,' I said grandly.

'Who sent you?' she said, visibly unimpressed.

'Your home help asked us to call, she was worried about you.'

'What do you want?'

'How are you keeping?' an open-ended and non-hostile question, I reckoned.

'None of your business,' she snapped, 'Now get out, or I'll set the dogs on you'.

I'm an easy-going fellow, I don't take offence easily.

She followed me to the front door, zimmer frame clacking threateningly.

'Where are you going?' she said.

'You asked me to leave,' I pointed out.

Her demeanour suddenly changed.

'Arrah, sure don't be listening to me, I'm only a poor old woman, Doctor, I'm not feeling well, come back inside'.

Fascinated, I returned to the living room.

'Why don't we check your blood pressure,' I said, usually a safe bet, people love having their BP taken. But her demeanour abruptly changed again.

'Get out,' she said shortly, 'Before I ...'

'I know, I know, the dogs,' I replied, hypothesising a strong territorial instinct focused chiefly on the living room and her picture of the Pope slotting a penalty past Stalin.

Again she followed me.

'Where are you going?'

'You asked me to leave.'

'Arrah, I'm only a poor old woman ...'

We continued this game for a while, in and out, to and fro, a weird little pas-de-deux, a medical hokey-cokey; as a student of the human condition, I was quite enjoying it. By now all the neighbours had turned out to watch, there being nothing good on TV. I waved gaily to the spectators, but when a photographer from the local paper turned up, I reckoned the fun was over and the dignity of the profession was at stake.

I had one last vindictive idea.

'Call to the surgery any time you need to see us,' I sniggered, 'My partner always speaks very fondly of you.'

Dr Farrell is a GP from County Armagh. Email him at 

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