One of the plus points of being a GP was working with children. Having three (now in their 40s) of my own and five grandchildren, I rather like them – but that is an understatement, of course. In children, it might be said, is the healing of all the sorrow in the world. I love the sound of them laughing and I love the sound of them singing. But it’s purely fortuitous – and it had better be – that the house where we’ve retired to is next door to a children’s nursery. Without making a big thing of it, my wife and I slightly raised the fence between us, not because we wanted to stop them looking in, but because of a need to respect their space: it certainly wouldn’t do for a 68 year old man to be gazing in at them, now would it? But at least I can hear them when I am pottering in my garden. I know all their names, and their tricks ...
But the young patients were great fun. Most were bright as buttons and eager to ask questions and try out my stethoscope. ‘Don’t be a nuisance!’ said the anxious mums and dads. But I wasn’t having any of that. I was happy to hand over to their little hands anything that wasn’t a potential hazard, and to answer their questions as best I could. I like to think it stilled any fear they might have, and that they might even look forward to a return visit. And then I’d ask them about their friends, school, games or whatever, or ask them to show me a book that they’d brought with them in case they were kept waiting.
So today I was up on a ladder at the back of the house, cleaning the windows. The weather’s been lovely and the kiddies were all outside. I kept my eyes firmly on my work. Well, I wouldn’t want to fall off the ladder, now, would I? But I knew they were curious: ‘What’s that man doing?’ I heard one asking one of the nursery nurses. It was pretty obvious, so I let her answer the question, pretended that I hadn't heard, and just got on with the job.
Pity, isn’t it, though. I’m great at children’s stories as my grandchildren will attest. ‘You’re full of old lies, Grandpa,’ said Jimi, the youngest, on a recent visit. That was when I told him that the toy shop in town, that he likes to visit (with my money) had burned down in the night. No fooling him. But I daren’t so much as look at a child out in the park. I have my CRB clearance of course, which I needed as a GP, so I am deemed harmless (apart from the fibs). But what mum or dad is going to be impressed by that?
But I had a lovely experience just recently: my wife and I had been to the pharmacy next to our GP surgery to pick up some prescriptions, I being a patient now and no longer a doctor. A mum and her little girl were there. Mum got into conversation with my wife, who is a retired nurse, about the child’s infected finger. My wife gave some sensible advice. Then it came out that I’d been a doctor and off we went. I got chatting to the lass about her school, her cats and guinea pig and the sort of stories she liked. And didn’t we all enjoy ourselves!