One of my occasional locum sessions in the twilight of my career.
A man who I see is the same age as I am comes with the most exquisite little red-headed child in tow.
Uh oh, I think to myself. One of those. Now why is he bringing his grand-daughter along with him?
He explains immediately, and apologises. Today he is child minding. He seems a nice bloke and I warm to him. The reason for coming is straightforward, easily dealt with and not in any way "inappropriate" in the context of the presence of a child. And after 4 decades in practice I am like a gimlet when it comes to hidden agendas and cues. I have something of a sixth sense for them, and I know how to extract them. Here - there was nothing.
We address the matter in hand, and when that is done we engage in some grandfatherly chat, as we old fogueys do. The little one sits quietly next to him, looking at a picture book. How old is she? Three and a bit. And her name? Esme. I remark that I had two grand-daughters aged three and a bit as well. More chat about the joys and tribulations of grandparenthood.
Here was a man who had achieved contentment at the threshold of old age if ever I saw one.
He gets up to go. I remark to Esme "Well, you've been such a good girl today" For the first time, a smile as she takes her grandfathers hand as they get ready to leave.
"Oh, she has been good, hasn't she!"
"Well, will you tell Esme's mummy from me how pleased the doctor was?"
Esme grins. Grandpa says "of course I will!"
"And tell her from me" says old Dr Grumpy "that she deserves a treat!"
And little Esme skips out of the room with her lovely red curls, laughing.