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Oscar Wilde said the only chances in life you regret are the ones you didn’t take. I don’t know if I’d go that far, but like the best of the Irish I enjoy the odd flutter.
It was your average quiet MSSVD evening at the Royal Society of Medicine in London. The young Irish doctor, Dr Concepta Merry, had just presented a paper outlining the complexities of anti-HIV therapy compliance among the Dublin drug addicts. Now, I had done some locums in Dublin in the early 1990s. (I have always found that doing a locum back in the old green sod is a perfect antidote to the misplaced nostalgia that can develop in Irish exiles.) So when she was explaining the difficulties, I could empathise fully. When the time came for questions, I just couldn’t resist sharing my experience of compliance in this group, with the assembled mass. I made the comment that in my Dublin experience, there were two patterns of compliance among the druggies. One pattern was where they did not take their drugs at all and the other pattern was where they didn’t take them at all, at all!
I then sat down wondering why on earth I constantly try and torpedo my career with comments made purely out of mischief. However, after the initial few seconds of bewilderment, the audience responded to the humour and the atmosphere lightened. This levity even continued through the next talk which was an excellent discourse on the acquisition by UK people of sexually transmitted infections while on holiday abroad.
Again at question time, the legendary Dr Robbie Morton drew himself up to his full height and, commenting on the sexual intermixing of different nationalities abroad, loudly proclaimed that in his experience, “the Dane in Spain was mainly on the Dane.” This comment now brought the house down and the mischief continued to make it one of the better evenings to be remembered at the RSM.
Oh yes, there are times when you wish you had stayed quiet and not made a fool of yourself. By and large, they are far outweighed by the humour and joy produced by well constructed comic delivery.
It is a sad fact though that the higher you ascend in the medical hierarchy, the less place there is for humour and those who appreciate it. I heard a marvellous statement once by a wry physician, wistfully comparing himself to a colleague who had attained hierarchical greatness. He said “as through his gravity he has ascended, so through my levity, I have descended”!
Come on lads, let’s keep in the humour—it’s a great antidote.
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