Being a rural GP can be tough. We are far away from the comforting nipples of the general hospital, and it is a lonely and onerous duty; we must march or die, a bloody battle in a pasture of savage beasts.
But there are spiritual compensations.I was driving along a quiet country road this morning when I saw the first bluebell of the year, its delicate beauty a promise of spring; as Groucho Marx said: ‘Spring in the air? I can hardly stand up.’
I stopped and got out of the car (if the CPR was being performed correctly I had a few minutes to spare), and I wanted to enjoy the moment, to be, to live in the now; and to have a quick smoke.
Birdsong, the wind rustling through hedgerows, it was like music. I could almost hear the sap rising, the symphony of creation in my ears, it left me humbled and small in the face of the dishevelled dryad loveliness of the countryside.
Somewhere in the distance a cuckoo sang, or maybe it was a badger, I’m a bit lost when it comes to ornithology.
I felt at one with nature, and briefly considered ripping off all my clothes and running buck naked through the fields, letting the wild wind whistle through my many orifices, only that’s not a good idea when it’s chilly (I learned that the hard way at Woodstock), best to wait till summer. Also the fields were full of cow-dung, the Dark Side of rural chic. So choose a field without cows, sheep are preferable.
Then the Great God Pan appeared, which might have seemed surprising, but after 30 years in practice nothing surprises me anymore, except consultants actually returning a phone call.
‘Welcome, my child,’ he said. ‘You have achieved … excuse me a sec.’
He adjusted his loincloth, which was revealingly and impressively askew.
‘Sorry about that,’ he said, with a wink. ‘One of the wood nymphs just called around; know what I mean?’
He started again.
‘Welcome, my child, you have achieved a state of perfect serenity.
‘You understand that happiness comes not from the grand achievement nor from possessions; these are but fleeting charms.
‘Rather seek fulfilment through contemplation of peace and harmony and blue skies and sunlight and the eternal benevolence of the cosmos. We live on forever; the Universe remembers.’
‘And a big shiny car helps,’ I said.
‘And a big shiny car,’ he admitted.