Writing (No Pictures)
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India 2010
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India 2009
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Occasional Stuff
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Travel 2008-2009
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Doctor, doctor....

Doctor, Doctor…….

Most of this narrative is entirely true, and because I liked, and eventually respected, the key character, I am going to change the names. And brush over any footprints that might have laid a trail.

Many years ago, I moved into a smallish south midlands village. I bought a very tiny, and very old cottage right bang in the centre, and virtually opposite the only public house in the village.

In those days, the ‘local’, in a village context, meant social hub. There was a darts team, and a dominoes team, and a pool team, and a skittles team, and a crib team. Oh, and a quiz team, and probably three or four other teams that I was never fully aware of. These were the days when the ‘pub’ was not murky in the public consciousness. The word ‘pub’ was not mentally synonymous, as now, with say ‘massage parlour’ or ‘betting shop’.

One of the first things that you do when you move, is to register yourself with a doctor. And where better to ask around for recommendations than your local pub? It turned out that the local medical care was delivered by a practice headed up by Doctors Stewart and Smith. Take your pick..and oh, by the way, Dr Stewart will be in later, why don’t you come back about half past nine, and meet him. He only lives just up the road from you, and it makes a lot of sense to register with him.

I duly went back at nine thirty. The pub was fairly quiet, a low hum of conversation among the regulars, and I think there was a crib table going. On a corner stool was the obligatory pub drunk, muttering to himself in a thick Scots accent, and spilling his loose change all around as if to mark out his own personal space. The drunk was not abusive, and was obviously popular. Most of the locals seemed to offer to buy him a drink whenever they bought a round. ‘How’s it going, Alistair?’ they would ask. ‘Ah’m all reeeeeet’, he replied, ‘An ah’m no wuurkin the noo, say ahll hey a wee wun wi ye’.

You will have seen this coming, but I can’t help it, because it’s true. The drunk turned out to be Dr Alistair Stewart, and I was introduced. ‘Pleashed te meet ye, call me Alishhhh-stair’.

Well, at the time, I rather fancied myself as a rising executive. Somewhat past my prime, possibly, but rather full of myself nevertheless. Despite everyone’s assurances that Alistair was a marvellous doctor, I couldn’t come to terms with the fact that most evenings he ended up completely, erm, pissed. I am sorry, there is not really another word to adequately describe his slurring and weaving. So, I registered with the anonymous Dr Smith, instead.

People told me that I was wrong. I kept hearing tales about just how good Dr Alistair Stewart was at his job. Old Mrs So-and-so, had collapsed at home and Alistair had been there in ‘seconds’ and had given her heart massage, and had saved her life. And young Connell, driving like a lunatic again, had crashed his car into a tree, and Dr Stewart had stemmed the bleeding, and kept him alive until the ambulance arrived. Alistair knew everyone, and everyone knew Alistair, and liked him, and trusted him, and depended upon him. No-one even mentioned the drinking.

After I had lived there for about three months, the local hunt (it was still in the days of hunting) gathered nearby. Anyone that has ever lived in a hunting area will know that there is considerable support for the hunt and that 95% of the support is genuinely local, and genuinely ‘ordinary’, for want of a better word. There is the occasional ‘tit’ that will attach itself, but these are the exception rather than the rule.

On this particular day, I was having lunch in the pub, when a state of the art Range Rover pulled up outside, and four ‘tits’ whinnied and brayed their way into the pub. They then proceeded to be totally obnoxious. Being condescending about the décor, finding nothing ‘edible’ on the menu, and loudly accusing the landlord of watering down the Glenmorangie. The locals kept their heads down as this concentrated boorishness continued for about 20 minutes. Then, they clattered back to the Range Rover and weaved off up the hill, in search of a ‘decent’ pub. Conversation restarted. ‘Who, and what the hell, was that all about?’ I asked. ‘Oh, that was Dr Smith and his mates’  I was told, ‘He’s an arsehole on hunt days, well actually, he’s an arsehole most days…..’

So that is how I ended up having Dr Alistair Stewart as my doctor. I got to know him very well in the end, played golf with him, and he would be my crib partner. Obviously he wasn’t sozzled all of the time, he would pace himself throughout the day. He didn’t like doing the daily surgery, and would exchange his stint for doing the home visits for all the other doctors. And if there weren’t any home visits scheduled, he would schedule his own, visiting the elderly, and the long term sick. And the pub, between visits. He had all the landlords trained to perfection. If you saw him, you would offer him a drink. He would reply ‘Nay laddie, I canna hae a drink, I’m wuurkin. I’ll hae a wee coke, frie the other bar please landlord’. It took me years to work out that ‘frie the other bar’ meant ‘Go and stick a vodka in it, out of sight of everyone else’.

Alistair had occasional period of total abstinence. He forswore drink totally, sometimes for a month. And the apparent health of the neighbourhood would improve dramatically. Of course the actual health deteriorated quite markedly, but no-one was going to see Alistair during one of his ‘drys’. He became a tyrant of almost biblical proportions, checking weights and blood pressures, and making everyone suffer. And eventually, he would miss the pub, and miss his patients, and he would fall off the wagon, and the status quo would be restored.

In the 10 years, or so, that I lived in that village, I never heard a bad word about Alistair. Well, ok, the occasional  ‘Don’t be ill this month’, if it was a teetotal period, but otherwise, nothing but praise. ‘Dr Stewart sorted this out’, ‘Dr Stewart did that’, ‘Out of the blue, Alistair came to see me, how did he know…’

This was only 20 years, or so, ago. It couldn’t happen now. Alistair would be hounded out of practice. But we now live in sterile times. Or apparently sterile times. Whatever lies underneath, the surface must always be squeaky clean. Nowadays you will get your seven minutes with your doctor, who without notes, won’t know where you live, what your Christian name is, if you are gay or straight, or bat for both sides, if you work, if you have got family, or money worries. Alistair would have known about all of this, and more, the debris that we all trail along behind us, was his stock in trade. He could read it, understand it, and react positively to it. A proper Doctor, the like of which we will never see again. Unfortunately.

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