Sunday, 29 November 2009

The giftie

O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
For some time I've suspected that I look older than I am. Patients are always confusing me with my partner who is over ten years my senior and approaching retirement. At first I put this down to the period of time that usually elapses between seeing the two of us. But on one memorable occasion recently I was buttonholed in the corridor by a patient who wished to continue the conversation he had been having with my partner just a few minutes earlier. Then the other day a patient asked me whether I intend to retire soon. He must have been the sixth person to enquire about that recently, so I asked him why. He looked a bit flustered and said “I didn't know how old you were”. I told him my age (early fifties) and he replied “oh well, in that case you've got years to go yet!”

So I'm looking old. Then there's the question of my weight. When I got married I was trim with a BMI of 21. When I applied for some insurance nine years ago my BMI had risen to 25. Now it is pushing 28. So, like the geese before Christmas, I am getting fat. But things get even better.

The other day I saw a patient with an unusual personality. He is dis-inhibited, talks a lot and is reluctant to have his views challenged. I was feeling uncomfortable because in the past he has become unhappy when his requests for medication were refused. Suddenly he caught sight of a photograph of my children. “Are they yours?” he asked. I admitted that they were, and he looked more closely at the photograph. “Is your wife Black?” he asked. I agreed that she might be. He was suddenly wreathed in smiles. “I'm so pleased!” he said. “I'm so pleased you're not racist. I mean, you look like someone who might be racist. Don't take it the wrong way.” I agreed that I wouldn't.

But if your GP looks like an old fat racist, it's probably me!

I tell this tale with tongue in cheek because I know that a number of charming people think well of me, including my wife. I'm fond of them too, and so the world goes around.

Contrasting speech

This job brings me into contact with all sorts of different people and I have to adapt accordingly. A few days ago I saw a teenager who lives in a single mothers' hostel. Her background is so different from mine that it took a major effort to see things from her point of view. Abandonded by her mother and with little support from the rest of her family, her main concern is to find a boyfriend who will stick with her. Other considerations such as looking after her baby or keeping her room tidy seem secondary. Teenagers from her section of society have their own argot (think of "Vicky Pollard" from the comedy sketch programme "Little Britain") and I couldn't always understand what she was saying. At one point her key worker told her that a social worker would call on her at 9am next day. "I'll have a right bag on at nine o'clock!" she replied. But at the same time she was clearly having difficult understanding me. I don't often use medical jargon when talking to patients, but I do use a wide variety of vocabulary and phrases. On this occasion I found I had to make my sentences very simple so that she could understand me, as though I was talking to someone who was still learning English. In a way I suppose she is.

On the other hand, I recently saw a man of my own age who works for an arbitration service. I made a jocular remark about knocking people's heads together, but I then feared he might think I was making light of his professional skills. So I added "there are some of my patients whose heads I'd like to knock together but I'm not allowed to, so I have to stay calm". "Ah yes" he replied sagely, "it can be very stressful staying calm all day".

It's comments like that which keep me going.


Oh dear, I'm really sorry about all this spam on the blog. I've been busy with other things for the past few months which have led me to neglect it.

I hope you have all the Japanese pornography you need because all comments will be moderated from now on.

My apologies.