BMJ 10 March 2005 Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:607
When I woke in the morning she’d be lying there beside me, golden hair cascading on the pillow, white founts falling in the courts of the sun, eyes as blue as cornflowers, her pearl-pale hand in mine. We were children of the 1960s, Woodstock, Janis Joplin, Country Joe and the Fish, the summer of peace, love, and rock’n’roll. She was my elf-child, my Lady of Shallot
We had to be discreet, of course, but, in those days we were a united profession and we had plenty of opportunities to be together. The British Medical Association meetings were a regular forum for family doctors and hospital consultants to meet and get to know and understand each other, to exchange views, to network.
I used to visit the hospital every week, to see how my patients were getting on, and to snatch a moment of privacy and perhaps a soft but eager kiss in her office.
Best of all, I’d often request a domiciliary consultation, and we’d spend a golden afternoon driving through the countryside and kicking through the leaves; we’d put Harry Chapin and Marvin Gaye on the stereo and picnic out in Lincoln Park.
We weren’t abusing the system; the domiciliary consultation was the only opportunity in the NHS for family doctors and consultants to jointly examine a patient and jointly decide on the most appropriate management. The specialist and the generalist, slender yang to my sturdy yin, the perfect couple, the perfect combination of skills and disciplines; who could have possibly have suspected that we had a thing going on?
But times change, as feelings do. Family doctors and consultants slowly became more remote, our opportunities to meet grew more limited, and as our jobs grew apart so did we. The BMA meetings became less congenial. More consultants came to work in her hospital, she had to share an office. My practice got bigger, I had no more time for hospital rounds. She became a sub-specialist, I a managing partner. She knew more and more about less and less, I knew less and less about more and more, and our last cold goodbye was between strangers.
But there is still love left in the world, and when she rang me this morning I felt my heart go pippity-pop at the sound of her voice, just like the old days, still crazy after all these years.
“I’ve been invited to go on Jerry Springer,” she said “and I’d like you to come along; and bring your dog.”