Sensitive handling uncovers the plane truth

'I'm very depressed,' she said. She was usually just averagely depressed, so her wording implied more than the usual menu of trivial discomfitures exaggerated out of all proportion.

'Isn't that too bad,' I said, my sarcasm as subtle as ever. 'Why are you very depressed?'

'I hate the sun; I come out in an awful rash,' she said. 'It's too hot.'

I was tempted to quote Spike Milligan and say 'Well you shouldn't touch it,' but I reckoned this would be gratuitous; sometimes I think I care too much.

'You're right there,' I admitted. 'But all those thermonuclear explosions, millions of miles up in space, there's not much we can do about them, is there?'

'And the foreign food,' she continued, 'all those spices and sauces - even the smell of it makes me want to retch.'

'Those foreigners, you just can't trust them,' I said, supportive as ever.

'And getting on a plane: everything's so cramped and stuffy; there's no room - I just feel I can't breathe,' she complained.

'And don't forget the terrorist threat,' I said reassuringly.

'Gosh, I hadn't thought of that,' she said.

'Even a little bomb 30,000 feet up and it's kaboom.' I made an exploding gesture with my hands.

'And I can't sleep at night - I sweat too much.'

'Because of the heat?' I ventured.

'Yeah, the heat,' she hissed, with such intensity in her voice I had a vision of a sun-blasted, tumbleweed-strewn town square, deserted but for a mongrel dog wandering about listlessly with its tongue lolling out.

I looked outside at the Irish rain teeming down and our current first team squad of village idiots flopping about in the mud.

'Let me deduce; you're going on holiday.'

'Next week,' she said.

'Where to?'

'Spain.'

'Ah,' I said consolingly.

There was a long silence; my clinical instincts are always alert, and I knew there was a deeper hurt waiting to be expressed.

'There's something more, isn't there?' I said, patting her on the knee (I do know a bit about counselling). 'You can tell me; it's better to get these things out in the open.'

Her face dissolved in anguish.

'We're flying Ryanair,' she sobbed.

Dr Farrell is a GP from County Armagh. Email him at GPcolumnists@haymarket.com.

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