Seeing the man and the orifice

'I'm not going back to him, I don't care what he says,' said Joe, stubbornness to the point of constipation being considered a virtue among Ireland's stout yeomanry.

I sighed.

'According to this letter, Joe', I said, 'your prostate is like a grapefruit, albeit without the beguiling citrus aroma. It further says that you will need an operation which may greatly relieve your unpleasant symptoms.'

'I don't care,' he declared, 'he wasn't nice.'

'It's not his job to be nice,' I explained, 'I'm stuck with that particular onerous duty. Anyway, how wasn't he nice?'

'He hardly spoke a word to me,' said Joe, as his voice took on a rather offended and embarrassed tone, 'And he was very... rough.'


'Rough,' said Joe, 'You were much... gentler.'

'Ah, indeed', I said, 'But then my sensitivity to the more delicate parts of the male anatomy is by now legendary; the peasants in the mountains sing a folk song about it.'

'I'm not going back.'

'Okay, I can't twist your arm, you can carry on dribbling like a dysfunctional mannequin pis de Bruxelles and getting up to pee more times each night than Ronaldo will dive in a season, it's your call.'

'He'll have to apologise first,' said Joe.

'There are two chances of that. Slim and none. Slim is in a private hospital in Grenada having a hernia repair on the cheap.'

I really wanted Joe to have the surgery, partly for his own well being and partly because I didn't want him torturing me about his nocturnal afflictions for the next cajillion years. It was time for a desperate gamble.

'The surgeon doesn't care whether you turn up or not,' I said. 'To him you are just another orifice, one among thousands he is compelled to inspect each week. But to me you are much more than that.' Here I paused for a long and theatrical moment. 'You are a patient and a... friend.'

Joe looked a bit surprised, our relationship had previously been rather adversarial, in a mutually satisfying way.

'Well, if you feel that way about it, I may as well go ahead,' he said.

'Great,' I said ostentatiously pressing the buzzer for the next patient.

My new friend turned at the door.

'Me and the lads are going fishing tonight, would you like to come along?' he asked, exploring the boundaries of this new chumminess.

'Fat chance,' I said.

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

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