Time to trial ‘Biggles therapy'

My memories of being sick as a child are quite pleasant; eating ice-cream, drinking lemonade, reading comics and books. I particularly remember one non-specific viral illness (a retrospective self-diagnosis) when I was introduced to Biggles, Biggles Goes to War, Biggles of 266 and Biggles of the Camel Squadron.

I always got better, so now whenever I see a kid with a URTI I feel he deserves a good dose of Algy and Ginger and dog fights in the sky and Archie (archie meant anti-aircraft fire; the boys would laugh at this) and tracer slashing through the canvas and Baron von Richthofen screaming down out of the clouds like vengeance incarnate in his blood-red Fokker.

Like homoeopathy and iridology, Biggles therapy is supported by anecdotal evidence only, but it seems to have worked for me, so maybe all it needs is a proper trial.

Our family doctor back then was a tall austere figure of great authority and standing in the local community. A home visit from him was an occasion of the gravest consequence, and my mother would begin tidying the house as soon as the visit was organised. The bedroom would be turned upside down, and the patient laid out, whether he liked it or not, on new sheets.

Relatives and neighbours would be summoned, and once this small army had been commissioned, an orgy of dusting, hovering, scrubbing and dish-washing would commence, which would build to a frenzy as the visit became imminent.

These may sound like rather extreme measures, but they were considered absolutely necessary.

There was always the possibility, however remote, that after ministering to the sick, the doctor might inspect the pantry, peer under the armchairs and check that the dishes were spotless.

Our doctor obviously made a profound impression on me because I think that I’ve unconsciously modelled myself on him, and I think I’ve managed pretty well, apart from the great authority and standing in the community bit (I am by now slightly lower in the pecking order than a dead dog).

In our part of the world there were no titled people (they’d all been burned out, an ancient Irish tradition). Consequently our doctor was all we had in terms of gentry and my family held him in huge esteem. When I started medical school I remember telling my Auntie Mamie that I was going away for six years and after that I’d be a doctor and all. I thought she might miss me.

‘And can you become a doctor just like that?’ she enquired suspiciously.

- Dr Farrell is a GP from County Armagh.

Email him at GPcolumnists@haymarket.com  

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