There’s one born every minute

We all have patients like Joe, I’m sure: horny-handed sons of the soil whose lack of formal schooling has proved no obstacle to them amassing a considerable fortune; degrees and diplomas are no match for native shrewdness and street cunning.

Joe had an ancient black Transit van which over the years was a regular sight on the back roads of the border country, selling cigarettes or videos or CD players or whatever commodity provided the most lucrative dealer’s turn.

He graduated to car sales and then to property investment and he now owns most of County Armagh.

Which made last week’s consultation even more surprising and depressing, yet at the same time enlightening.

‘I was thinking of going for reflexology,’ said Joe, ‘but the lady said I’d have to check with my doctor first.’

I had to admire the barefaced cheek of the whole thing. There were a number of inferences to be drawn.

First, that there was a professional arrangement between the GP and reflexologist. Second, that the GP recognised the reflexologist as a colleague and not as a cheap (if attractive) shyster. And third that reflexology was a potent and powerful treatment which required screening by a doctor to ensure you were fit for it.

All of which served to bolster the image of reflexology as a legitimate medical therapy, and not just some good-looking bird rubbing scented oils into your pinkies (not that this doesn’t sound rather pleasant).

The philosophy underpinning complementary medicine is quite transparent; never give a sucker an even break, because there are plenty of suckers out there; G K Chesterton observed that when a man stops believing in God, he doesn’t believe in nothing, he believes in anything.

The gullibility displayed by what might seem otherwise sensible and worldly wise people like Joe never fails to amaze me, but then they are being manipulated by highly skilled operators; if you can sell snake oil you can sell anything.

I’ve seen Joe’s feet, and he didn’t get where he is today by wasting money on fripperies like soap and cotton socks.

Joe possesses two splendid examples of the infamous White Feet, feet so drenched in ancient sweat that any grime is instantly dissolved, the skin acquiring deadly alabaster sheen reminiscent of Michelangelo’s David.

‘How much is she charging you?’ I asked, but Joe didn’t get where he is today by revealing details of his financial transactions.

‘A few quid, here and there,’ he said vaguely.

‘However much it is, it’s not enough,’ I said.

Dr Farrell is a GP from County Armagh. 

Email him at

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