Thursday, April 20, 2006


The best laid plans

Keeping with the theme of excrement, which for some reason most of the comments on my last post focused on to the exclusion of all the other fascinating aspects of my Brussels trip: when I was an overworked, underpaid, put-upon, abused, tortured and entirely unselfpitying house officer (US: intern) in my first hospital post, one of the jobs we all dreaded was faecal disimpaction. This needed to be done when a severely constipated patient, usually elderly, could not pass stool with the help of even the most powerful laxatives and enemas. (As an aside, there’s a product used to irrigate the colon in preparation for bowel surgery which has the name ‘Golightly’. Let’s have more of this kind of humour when naming medicinal products.) What you did in extreme cases was shove a pipe called a flatus tube up the patient’s anus. Bowel gas would then come exploding forth and the force of this would expel much of the solid contents with it. The rest of the stool could then be removed manually.

Understandably this was not the most sought-after task, and responsibility for it would ping-pong back and forth between the nurses and the doctors. As house officers, we were the lowest rung on the ladder and usually ended up with the job, since the nurses would get out of it by pointing out that it was technically an invasive procedure and therefore one they were not permitted to carry out. Bullshit, of course, but I couldn’t blame them. One evening I was called upon to rise to the occasion. My heart leapt, for that week I was blessed with the presence of a medical student. Most of the time med students were a pain in the arse as they got under your feet when you were trying to do things and they made constant demands to be taught, for crying out loud. But they were extremely useful when something unpleasant needed doing because you could pull rank on them.

Dan (not his real name) was an enthusiastic young chap into whom all my sterling efforts to knock some cynicism had failed. I handed him the tube and watched his face, expecting to see the first flickers of what would inevitably become the doctor’s permanent expression of sourness. If anything, he beamed even more broadly, grasped the tube like a baton in a relay race (which is quite a pertinent comparison now that I think of it) and strode off to the patient’s bedside.

The problem with the procedure is that no matter how painstakingly you position yourself out of the way of the tube, the expulsive force always, always results in at least some spattering of your clothes, your skin or your hair. I watched Dan ask the patient to turn on her stomach, then position the bucket behind her on the floor (a token effort if ever there was one). What he did next, I wasn’t expecting. He moved round to the patient’s head and reached down across the length of her body, sliding the tube in by pulling its end towards him. The flatus escaped with a Krakatoa-like detonation, the shit shot several yards to spray against the cubicle curtain, and nary a fleck besmirched Dan.

And the patient promptly vomited, great gouts of green and khaki spew drenching Dan’s legs and crotch. He was too self-controlled to cry out but I noticed with satisfaction that his grin twitched a little. I fled outside, and stood near the entrance doubled over, gales of laughter wracking me.

Dan earned himself the sobriquet Rainbow that day, and as far as I know they still call him that.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


Eater's Easter

If a latter-day Dick Whittington were to go looking for a city whose streets were paved not with gold but with dog shit, he’d be well advised to head for Brussels. The pavements are slathered with the stuff. Christ knows what they feed their dogs, but I suspect it might be the same praline spread you see on breakfast tables as the faeces are of the same colour and creamy consistency.

Vampirella and I spent two days there, and a terrific Easter weekend it was too. The beer is fabulous. I sampled some nine varieties but barely dipped into the pot as there are over 500 kinds. My favourite was ‘Judas’, an apparently innocuous brew which, true to its name, bites you on the figurative arse once you’ve had a bottle and suddenly can’t stand up. The food’s pretty good too, though I started to tire of mussels after the first meal. I mean, they’re all very well, but they do look like detached vulvas and they don’t really fill you up. Rabbit stewed in cherry beer was a better bet.

As with most continental European cities, the public transport system is excellent and cheap, and puts our own British travesty to shame. Brussels is not a beautiful city by any means, and while its cathedral and Grand Place square are mighty impressive, there’s an air of drab seediness hanging over the place, as though all the money there has gone into the trough feeding the hogs in the EU area which it probably has. That said, many of the buildings are decorated with enormous murals from comic strips, Belgium being one of the comic capitals of the world, and you can go on a walking tour of comic mural sites as we did.

There’s a weirdness about the place that I found fascinating and unsettling at the same time. Bizarre statues – of stooped old ladies, of busty cartoon rabbits riding bicycles, of dogs cocking their legs – appear all over the city free of any apparent context. Going back to my earlier remark about dog turds, there are places where an emblem of a squatting dog appears on the pavement, without a line through it, as though this is a designated canine toilet area. And, of course, the city’s most famous landmark is a pint-sized statue of a urinating little boy, which says a lot.

The night life is excellent. We wound up in a cheesy jazz bar and got to sit up on a balcony where we could watch the super-slick bartenders mixing drinks with dazzling speed and elan. At one point I was buying a round and the lounge singer was belting out Hey Big Spender, which was entirely apt considering that I was handing over a 20 Euro note for two drinks and getting a couple of coins as change.

Worth a visit, especially since there are very few Brits there. Those people are awful on holiday.
May they step in dog shit up to their waists.

Thursday, April 13, 2006


A user's guide to doctors

The medical profession. What’s it like? Grave but kindly Kildare types trudging through the gloaming? Dashing young bestubbled lads sprinting down corridors, ER-style, their jaws set grimly and their minds on nothing but the saving of lives?

Arse to all that. I might as well come clean here: I have inside knowledge of the profession, and a more fractious, faction-ridden collection of backbiters and fudge-tunnel-shafters (metaphorically speaking) I have yet to come across. There are of course several species of the genus doctor, to wit:

Surgeons. The most macho of the specialties, surgery’s proponents are arrogant sods to a man, and most of them are indeed men, as it’s the most macho of the specialties. Did I mention how macho it is? Laying waste the integrity of the flesh wherever they find it, this lot believe there is no human ill but that it cannot be banished through brute excision. The term ‘bedside manner’ has no meaning to them except in a sexual context, and they regard politeness to colleagues and, God forbid, patients as unspeakably gay. Any woman who breaks through into their holy ranks is automatically assumed to be of the Sapphic persuasion. A subspecies, orthopaedic surgeons, comprises palaeolithic throwbacks who lacked the qualifications to become car mechanics. A qualified surgeon in Britain revels in the title Mr rather than Dr, as a result of the specialty’s origins in carpentry in the Middle Ages. They hate physicians, radiologists, psychiatrists and anaesthetists, and are regarded with reciprocal contempt. Bastards.

Physicians. Known as internists in the US, these are the boffins of the profession. They think so, anyway. Essentially they deal with every part of the malfunctioning body that does not involve the genitalia and does not lend itself to removal with a knife. Masters of diagnosis, they often place this skill above all else, including the ability to heal, and have been known to spend so long arguing over the medical equivalent of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin that their patients have died of old age in the mean time. Their middle grade, the registrar, is the most overworked being on earth and is prone to screaming at you in the middle of the night. They hate anyone who refers patients to them, and have a particular loathing for psychiatrists and accident and emergency doctors. Swine.

Paediatricians. I don’t have much to say about them as they’re generally quite nice. They have an unfortunate tendency to have their homes vandalised by illiterate vigilantes, and are usually quite deaf by the age of 35 as a result of exposure to crying children all day. They don’t hate anybody. Likeable sorts.

Anaesthetists. Usually people with no social skills (but see pathologists below), these rather odd types prefer their patients unconscious. A smug crowd, really, they sit around in the operating theatre reading magazines while all hell is breaking loose, and never fail to sneer at their surgical colleagues’ errors. They love to cancel operations at a moment’s notice for the most trivial of reasons, such as a surgeon’s poor grammar in a patient’s case notes. They appear to hate surgeons but are probably really repressing homosexual urges. Smarmy slime.

Psychiatrists. These are the misfits of the profession, people who spent years at medical school paralysed by insecurity and self-doubt and don’t like to touch human flesh. They’re hilariously touchy about being confused with psychologists, and about being told that their discipline is not as scientific as others in medicine. They burn out fast, and have a high prevalence of substance abuse and sexual perversion. They hate surgeons, A&E doctors and psychologists. Freaks.

Pathologists. Closet necrophiliacs, especially their subspecies forensic pathologists, these whey-faced denizens of the crypt lack even the most basic human empathy and interpersonal skills, and practise a bizarre form of ‘horse-has-bolted’ medicine. They think they’re safe from being sued as most of their patients are already dead, but recently received a few kicks up the collective jacksie in this regard. They hate (and envy) any type of doctor who gains the trust of patients as they by definition are unable to do so. Weirdos.

Radiologists. These chaps and ladies are wannabe surgeons who are too squeamish actually to break the flesh in order to see what’s inside, and therefore view our internal workings through the cowardy-custard world of high technology. They are trained to refuse every request made of them as a matter of course, which makes them most unloved. They have a penchant for illicit sex with their radiographers in the darkroom. They hate everyone and are hated in turn by everyone except paediatricians, who hate nobody. Shits.

Obstetricians/gynaecologists. I mean, come on, really. Spending your working life wrist-deep in chuff? They hate themselves, and fear everyone else. Perverts.

General practitioners (family doctors in the US). No, I’ll have no Harold Shipman wisecracks here, thank you very much. GPs are a pretty mixed bunch, more reflective of outside society than the other specialties. Some are noble upholders of Hippocrates’s tradition, others are utter dross. They hate, love, laugh and weep as do the lumpenproletariat. Normal people.

So there you have it. Cut out and keep this helpful guide, and consult it next time you consider having that twinge investigated. You might think twice.

And no, I’m not telling you which of the above I am.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006



Hope everyone had a great Easter weekend. I did, though for some reason I got a few funny looks when I arrived back at work today.

The other day I went for a walk in the woods and took along my labrador, Fritz. He’s a gentle soul, as labradors are, and so when I left him by himself and wandered off to look at some ducks, I wasn’t surprised to see on my return that all manner of woodland folk had come up to make friends with him: squirrels, foxes and even a badger. I had to shoo them away, which I felt a bit sorry about, and Fritz himself seemed reluctant to part from his new acquaintances.

Imagine my surprise when a group of children and their mothers began to scream at the sight of him a few minutes later. I called after them that he wouldn’t bite but they didn’t seem to hear. Perhaps they were cat lovers?

That evening I told Vampirella about this curious episode. She sighed, put her hand on mine and said in that soft, touching way of hers: “Foot, it’s been six weeks now. Don’t you think it’s time to bury him?”

Blogosaurus entry: Wanker’s cramp – blogging block.

Saturday, April 08, 2006


Inspector Shrike investigates

(The story began here. Click on the link first if you want to make any sense of the following correspondence.)






Further to the unexplained disappearances of Roland Batter, Olive Fry, Anais Meeyal and Brian Eaton in the Edenglen Valley, the Chief Constable is giving this investigation Code One priority. As you are aware, Edenglen Valley is the constituency of the Secretary of State for Health, and the political dimension to this matter does not need to be pointed out. Leave is henceforth cancelled until further notice. I shall be meeting with all of you on Monday 10.04.06 to establish a task force dedicated to this investigation.


20 May 2006

Chief Superintendent F Strong
Hartwickshire Police
Willow Downs

Dear Fred

Just a quick note to ask how things are progressing with the Edenglen Valley business. It’s been six weeks now and the Home Secretary’s breathing down my neck, what with the local elections coming up. Have any of those leads you mentioned at the last briefing thrown anything up?

I have to tell you, Fred, I have a bad feeling about this, and the shit is going to hit the fan if we don’t produce some results soon.

How’s Joan and the kids?




21 May 2006

Chief Constable James Dredge
Hartwickshire Police

Dear Jim

I appreciate the pressure you’re under but could I ask that you not get on my back like this? I do understand the implications of fucking this one up. As it happens, one of our officers, DI Shrike, has come across something rather interesting which I’ve asked him to follow up. Please find attached a copy of his report.

Joan and the boys are fine. Thanks.




Today (18 May) I was visiting my mother in Acorn Park Nursing Home, Edenglen Valley. My mother mentioned that one of her fellow residents had become very agitated recently every time there was a report on the television news about the ‘disappearances’. I spoke to this resident, a man named Mr Harry Foot. Mr Foot, 45, is a Falklands War veteran and suffered a severe head injury during that conflict, hence his placement in a nursing home. He also lost his right leg. I found him extremely difficult to interview as he was incoherent at times and seldom answered questions directly. I showed him the pictures of the four missing persons and he began laughing and shouting: “They’ve been et [sic].” I subsequently asked who ‘et [sic]’ them, to which he replied: “He did, the one what [sic] et [sic] my leg.”

Further questioning of Mr Foot proved fruitless, but I made enquiries among the nursing staff and later Mr Foot’s general practitioner. Apparently he and the remains of his company were rescued during the war after having been cut off for several days and having sustained severe injuries. Mr Foot never regained his full mental faculties but he has maintained that his leg, far from having been blown off by enemy fire, was removed and eaten by one of his fellow soldiers. He has never identified the alleged perpetrator, and it has always been assumed that this story was a product of his unfortunate mental condition. Nonetheless, it is interesting that he should now allege that four missing persons have been eaten by the same man as the one he claims ate his leg, when he has never claimed anything like this for the last twenty years and more.

I request permission to interview Mr Foot further, and sequentially, to explore this avenue.


22 May 2006

Chief Superintendent F Strong
Hartwickshire Police

Dear Fred

What in Christ’s name is this shit? We’re in the middle of one of the biggest investigations this force has ever seen and you send me some report from a shitty little DI about raving loonies in nursing homes with cannibal fixations?

The Home Secretary is, as you know, close enough to the Health Secretary to be his arsehole buddy, and has warned me that the repercussions of a balls-up would be far-reaching. I’m sorry to say this, Fred, but I’m not carrying the can for this on my own. Get me some results. A fucking body would be a start.




23 May 2006

Chief Constable James Dredge
Hartwickshire Police


I wasn’t going to bring this up if I could help it, but you leave me no choice. Remember that New Year’s party, 2002? Not the one at the office, the other one, afterwards? Of course you don’t; you were too pissed. Too pissed to see me there with the new camera I’d got for Christmas.

Take a look at the enclosed photos, Jim, and then let me know if you’re going to back off or if I need to have a little word with that Times journalist I’ve got cosy with.

I will produce something. At the same time, I will allow DI Shrike to continue with his investigation. Every little helps.




Email 30.05.2006

Recipient: (CS Frederick Strong)
Sender: (Superintendent David Duffy)
Subject: d i shrike

DI Mike Shrike has vanished. he didnt report in this morning and no-ones seen hide nor hare of him since yesTERDAy. As you know sir he lives alone but his neybours havent seen him neither, he was lookin into this stuff about the war vetran geezer and left me a ansafone messege sayin the geezer told him the name of the bloke whot ate his leg and killed and ate the missgn persons. he didn’t say who it was tho but he said he couldn’t belive it. He said he was goin to look into it his self and let me no what he found. Sir I don’t no what to do.


17 June 2006


The Rt Honorable Christopher Stark, MP
Secretary of State for the Home Department
House of Commons

Dear Chris

I am genuinely sorry that your Detective Inspector Shrike is still missing. From the profiles I have read he appears to be a dedicated police officer and an example to us all. It is also unfortunate that he should disappear in the middle of such a crucial investigation, when all available manpower is so desperately required.

This brings me to my next point. The investigation into the disappearances in my constituency has not borne fruit, and while I fully accept that this is through no fault of your own, I am anxious to draw a line under the matter. It is in no-one’s interests, least of all the country’s, to be distracted by a police investigation while important elections are underway. Furthermore, with violent crime on the increase in our provincial towns as well as inner cities, it seems to me imprudent to divert already-stretched police resources away from where they are most needed.

I therefore respectfully ask if you would consider closing the investigation on the ‘Edenglen Valley Four’. I do not of course wish to stray into your territory but might I suggest that if a little smoke needs to be put out to satisfy the press, could we consider something along the lines of DI Shrike’s having stymied the investigation through his unnecessary pursuits up blind alleys? Regrettable though this might be, it is unlikely that it will affect DI Shrike adversely as he is, as we used to say in the Forces, Missing In Action.

Lucinda and I look forward to seeing you and Jenny next week.

Kind regards


The Rt Honorable Colin Fenby, MP
Secretary of State for Health

Thursday, April 06, 2006


To Bob

Though some say your music is naught
But a most frightful din,
I’d say, O Bob, to genius
It is far more akin.

Hungbunny calls you Bob ‘The Knob’
But that’s not really fair;
All I dislike, O Bob, ’bout you
’S your rancid facial hair.

Your voice, it’s true, has worn quite thin -
You sound like Eartha Kitt -
And Love And Theft, let’s face it, Bob,
Was pretty f*cking sh*t.

It’s memories, though, that keep the flame
Ablaze within my soul –
Of pillbox hats of leopard skin,
Isis, and stones that roll.

A hetero man am I, and
One who would never turn.
But if I were a girl, O Bob,
How you’d make my nub burn!

I wouldn’t even have to be
A lady with a f**ny;
I think I’d fancy you, dear Bob,
Were I a pre-op tr*nnie.

You’d beckon me with wicked grin,
And where you’d lead, I’d follow;
I’d **** your ****, you’d ***** my ****,
And at the end, I’d sw*l*ow.

Dazed with passion, limp with desire,
My head and heart sent swimming,
We’d **** and ***** and *** and *******
And then move on to ri*m*ng.

Then **** ** ***, and *** in ****,
And ******, and even worse;
O Bob, O Bob, O Bob, O Bob,
I’m running out of verse.

So ignore all the naysayers
And keep on keeping on –
Clapped out and wrinkly though you are,
I’ll miss you when you’re gone.

Monday, April 03, 2006


House of horror

I went to the dentist on Saturday for the first time in two years. “Why have you left it for two years?” asked Ali as he rammed cold jagged vibrating steel between my jaws. As if he gives a monkey’s: my self-neglect means there’s more for him to fix, and therefore more for him to spend on fripperies like that midlife crisis toy parked outside the surgery.

It’s a private facility and upstairs from a heart clinic, which is handy in the event of somebody suffering a cardiac arrest in the chair, or more likely when the receptionist gives him the bill afterwards. As a familiar if infrequent customer I’m entitled to a freebie with Monica four times a year. Monica is a buxom wench who wears some heady scent that would stir a man’s blood even if she was 70, elephantine and had a face like a yak, which she isn’t and doesn’t. She’s not a prostitute, by the way, as far as I know, but rather a dental hygienist, and on Saturday I emerged from her tender ministrations with all the relevant parts satisfyingly polished.

The session with the dentist was not as much fun. It got off to a bad start. I tried wrong-footing him by saying loudly and sheepishly as I sat down, “I know, I know, I should -” but he’d clearly rehearsed his lecture and wasn’t going to be denied. Phoebe, his nurse, who has a voice indistinguishable from one of his drills, chipped in with little acerbic bon mots. It was like being back at school and I was about to pull my trousers down and bend over for the inevitable when I got a grip on myself and remembered that I was the customer and they were my paid helpers. Curtly, I asked Ali to get the fuck on with it.*

So we moved on to X-rays, Ali gabbing away as dentists do about every bloody thing on God’s earth and engaging in playful flirtation with Phoebe, even going so far as to whack her bottom with my dental records at one point. I quite like Ali, really, and he’s a good dentist, but they’re all cut from the same cloth. He went out to get the X-rays and Phoebe tried to engage me in a conversation about football, without success as I know nothing about the game and care less. Ali came back in, shaking his head slightly and with the tip of his tongue squeezed into a thin white strip between his perfect front teeth.

“Oh my God,” he crowed in the grating cod-Indian voice he likes to put on for what he tragically believes is the amusement of his patients and staff. He’s second-generation British Asian and normally has a Kensington accent that could cut glass. “Wery bad, wery bad, Mr Eater.”

It turned out I needed three fillings and there was a wisdom tooth that was likely to impact some time soon. I felt sick and angry. I brush twice a day, floss more or less daily – well, three times a week anyway – and don’t really eat sweets. I kicked the fags five years ago so my gums should be in good shape (and to be fair, they were according to him). But if all that effort yields such slim pickings, what’s the point? He could do the two worst fillings now, and it would take about an hour.

“Don’t worry,” said Ali, mercifully back in his soothing normal voice, “we have a new entertainment system for you to use while I’m working.” And so they did. It was a pair of spectacles onto which was projected a DVD film. I had a choice of films and TV shows. There wasn’t much that appealed, and what I did like, I’d seen before, but in the end I picked an episode of Jam, the brilliant Channel Four programme from five or six years ago by the legendary satirist Chris Morris. It’s a nightmarish sketch series, comedy in only the broadest sense of the word and probably the most twisted thing that has ever appeared on television.

And the horror began. The footage playing on the glasses was also showing on a small screen visible to Ali and Phoebe, and what bothered me was that they were chortling away from the start. I find Jam hilarious but I’m unnerved when other people do, especially people with a responsible job taking care of my dental well-being. After the unutterable pain of the anaesthetic injections I focused on the programme, assuming the worst was over and that all I’d feel was a little gentle pressure. One of the milder sketches came on, involving a young man who goes for acupuncture with a terrifying woman who treats her clients by driving ten-inch nails through their arms and legs and pinning them to boards. (As she says, “The treatment’s very successful… I’ve never had a patient come back.”)

In an eerie instance of coincidence:

WHACK went the nail into the man’s hand -

CRRRRRRZZZZZZTTTT went the drill bit into my jaw, prying forth rotten tooth contents –



Fifty minutes later I staggered out of the building and ran to my car, a wad of bloodied swab crammed against my mouth. The journey home was quick, no doubt helped by the lightening of my wallet that had occurred, though the new metal in my mouth would have counterbalanced this somewhat.

Ali should be arrested forthwith, his assistants with him, and the police must dig up the foundations of that building because there are bodies buried under it, I swear to Christ. Dentists are evil and must be abolished. Children should be genetically tampered with so that they don’t grow teeth.

*Actually, what I said was, “I’m really sorry and I’ll take better care of my teeth in future,” but I’m not going to admit that to the likes of you. I maintain this blog so that I can present myself as something I’m not: a heroic figure.

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