The affectionate phrase, “the doctor will see you now” is under some pressure with doctors taking their services on-line to protect themselves from Covid and I expect with repercussions for many years to come. Because I am in good health and I see my doctor very rarely, this decision has not troubled me. However, I still reason it is better for doctors to be seen in person than on a screen and especially so, a television screen.
I refer here to the media medics. The ‘celebrity’ doctors, dispensing their advice from shiny TV studios instead of surgeries across the land. During the pandemic, a reason that too few people could see doctor was because they were all on blinking TV or radio.
I met a ‘celebrity’ doctor in a green room once and rather pointedly I asked if he still does any real doctoring. You know, like seeing actual ill people (as he has been expensively trained to do). His answer irked me.
“Yeah, occasionally. But I love doing telly. Telly is so much fun.”
Yes, but you’re a bloody doctor, I wanted to say, but didn’t.
Which brings me nicely to doctors who are also very successful comedians, writers, authors… of which there is a long line and in general practise, this irks me also. Firstly, because these doctors do tend to be funny and worthy of their stage time and success. But also, because their medical background plays so well as a press angle and easily attracts attention. Plus, being a doctor means they are clever and therefore funny because there is an odd correlation between comedy and IQ. There are no shortage of ‘genius’ comedians.
This might sound mean spirited and I say this with the caveat that two of the nicest and successful comedian friends of mine happen to be doctors: Harry Hill and Paul Sinha.
Recently I was asked for a favour by a doctor/comedian friend, Ed Patrick who was about to publish his first book.
I say friend. In fact I have never gigged with Ed and have only met him on three occasions – which brings me to an odd sense of fraternity I feel with anyone who is brave/stupid enough to attempt a career from being funny. I have great empathy with such dreamers; I know their hopes and pains and as such I feel inclined to help.
But hang on, Ed is a doctor already – that most vaunted and admired of all professions, so does he really need a leg-up from me? Maybe stick to doctoring, pal – and leave the funny book writing to people who have less options than you – people like me.
I can be precise in the number times that I’ve met Ed because each time has been at a comedian’s golf day – where we generate laughs we don’t want and for all the wrong reasons.
The first time was in Edinburgh, during the festival where we both had shows – and then more recently and during the pandemic, Ed and I paired were together, whereupon I learned to my delight that as well as his comedy life, Ed remains at the coal face of medicine, working throughout the pandemic as a hospital anaesthetist in what must be very trying circumstances. His comedy runs alongside his medical career and for this reason I like an already likeable man even more.
We all remember the clever kids at school. I admired them. The kids who could do things I couldn’t and we should be relieved that some of them eschew more lucrative careers in finance/law for the worthier objective of keeping people alive.
Ed is an easy guy to like. He has a disarming air about him. He looks a little lost and dishevelled. He has that just woken-up look. He is unkempt and borderline scruffy but not in a faux way that grates. His book is the same. A haphazard memoir of a put-upon doctor during the pandemic and how he found his calling in life. The book bounces around with a loose and fragile structure and is as warm and charming as the man himself.
Like me, Ed is not a good golfer. In the book he modestly references the skill and pin-point precision required to conduct epidurals and lumber punctures and yet this highly capable man can miss a putt from mere inches. A man who can miss a hole as wide as my forearm does not bode well for something as narrow as a vein. But I admire Ed Patrick and I can forgive him any bad shots because in his day job he genuinely carries the responsibility of another person’s life in his steady and reliable hands. Just another patient perhaps, but someone who will be a mum, or a dad, a wife, husband, sister, brother or best friend and who will mean the world to a whole bunch of people, all hoping Dr Ed and his colleagues will prevail. Ed is a hapless golfer who also happens to be a doctor. But not a doctor dialling in his services over zoom. No, Ed is actually in the room. Ed is a hero.
But his request for my help worried me. He didn’t ask me flat-out. He’s too classy for that. He just asked if I would read his book – his hopes and intentions, obvious. And I get this. He wants my endorsement but what if his book is not terribly good…
Do I recommend something that I don’t like – or tell a man who I like that I can’t help him. But I shouldn’t have worried. Ed is an easy man to like and so is his book.
It’s a lovely funny read that I can happily recommend.
Catch Your Breath by Ed Patrick – in order: a nice man, a doctor, a comedian and terrible golfer.
Speaking of books, I have a new novel pending and much else besides, the inside track of which you can get on to via my newsletter which you are welcome to join here.