BMJ 20 January 2005 Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:203
“It’s The Tit,” said my receptionist, “Merry Christmas.”
The Tit’s party piece was to collapse theatrically at every local festivity. His nickname, I emphasise, referred to the tiny moustache affected by all male members of his clan. In a delightful etymological quirk, these moustaches are known colloquially as tits, ergo the Tit Magees. My patient had become head of the clan by outliving the rest, ergo The Tit. Titles are rare in this republican heartland; instead of Lords and Ladies, we have Tits (and Doctors).
When I arrived, The Tit was lying in the rain, a vast muddy heap, the traditional crowd clustered enjoyably around him. I asked him if he could stand up. He smiled beatifically and belched helpfully in my face; The Tit had a simple way of expressing himself, never using two words where one eruption of bodily gases would do.
“Take him into my house,” said a woman, indicating her front door, only yards away.
“No,” said another bystander, “I’m his sister and I live in the next house,” and I thought, hey, if it’s just the next house…
So I assembled a squad of volunteers, six strong men and me at the head (somebody has to delegate, I wasn’t shirking the physical aspect of family practice). I still seemed to be bearing most of the weight; The Tit had a huge head.
We reached the next house and his sister said, “No, I meant the next house.” So we staggered past the next house, and the next…
At last, the sister directed us up to a front door, which, I noted with fatal satisfaction, was too narrow. Halfway through we got and no further, ending up with The Tit wedged in the doorway, while the crowd, which had followed us like a pack of wild dogs, watched in goggle-eyed fascination to see what I would do next.
I closed my eyes to give the impression I was deep in thought. And I was: “How the f… did I get myself into this?”
Eventually frustration lent me strength, and I grabbed The Tit by two of the many folds in his neck, wrestled him into the front room and levered him on to the couch with a passing forklift.
His sister came in.
“Ah, would you just look at him,” she said fondly, “Isn’t it a lovely time of year.”
My cynicism was disarmed, The Tit belched again, and a cheesy, yet curiously Christmassy aroma graced the air.