Struck by some autumnal guilt

It is the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, and as I was driving to work this morning the roadside hawthorns were like silver ghosts, shrouded in spider webs, each of them glistening and sparkling with morning dew, calling to the pre-Raphaelite child that lives within us all. ‘I'm glad I'm not a fly,' I thought.

We can now look forward to what Mr Toad might have called, ‘the homely comforts of the season’, of warm fires and rich beds, of putting on the kettle and the toaster and the TV, while we draw the armchair a little closer to the hearth in company of Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky or maybe Playboy (there are lots of interesting articles about motor cars in there, believe me), while outside the frost coldly rimes the meadows, the branches creak in the bitter breeze and the raindrops spatter impotently on the window pane.  

Winter, as you may surmise, is my favourite season; it appeals to my good points, ie sloth and gluttony. But autumn, in contrast, can be a morbid and gloomy time; a time when, as our older colleagues often tell us, the elderly are particularly vulnerable, as if they look out and see the dark evenings returning, say ‘Blow this for a game of soldiers ’ and decide to sign out.  

And our senior colleagues were wise and thoughtful and probably a lot smarter then we are; there is no way they’d have signed up for the current contract, because to them a target was something you shot when there were no peasants convenient.  

‘Ah, the fall of the leaf, when the grave yawns ever wider,’ my senior partner whispers sagely, shaking his head sadly as yet another funeral passes by.  

The cortege forgets its grief for a few moments to stare accusingly over at the health centre, while I skulk down behind the window and quickly scan the notes to make sure it wasn’t my fault (I have a strong sense of guilt, it’s all due to my Catholic upbringing, thanks a lot mom).  

Despite the defence union’s relentless admonishments of ‘Don’t ever alter a patient’s chart; what are you, deaf?’ (that, presumably, is the kind of considered advice for which we are obligated to pay them four grand every year — nice work if you can get it), I’m sometimes tempted to stick in a little retrospective note. Perhaps ‘Patient warned he could die at any time’.  

This world is a dangerous place, none of us will leave it alive, and most of us will try to pin the blame on somebody; the local GP is usually the handiest scapegoat.  

Dr Farrell is a GP from County Armagh.  

Email him at GPcolumnists@haymarket.com 

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