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Welcome to my world, son

This work experience teenager is scruffy and uncouth – so why do Phil‘s punters adore him?

This work experience teenager is scruffy and uncouth – so why do Phil‘s punters adore him?

We have a new presence in reception – an uncouth teenager is with us for a week on ‘work experience'. I am standing at the door regarding him critically. His hair is too long, his droopy jeans are a tad informal for a professional set-up such as ours, and his shirt is hanging out. I am concerned that he is giving my practice a poor image.

I approach the youth. ‘Tuck your shirt in, you scruffy young herbert,' I tell him. ‘Sorry Dad,' he says, adjusting his clothing.

‘And don't call me Dad when people might hear you,' I add. Several receptionists seem to be stifling giggles, for some reason.

This was not the plan. Several months ago, his school tasked my son with setting up his own work experience, presumably as a test of initiative. ‘Have you sorted it yet?' we would ask him, repeatedly. ‘Yeah, yeah, no worries. Sorted,' he would say, cranking up another tune on Wii Guitar Hero.

Somewhat predictably, his one single application to visit my sister-in-law's dental practice had been rejected over some health and safety nonsense, and he was faced with the choice of spending quality time with Sunderland's street vagrants, or burdening his father. Welcome to my world, son.

As an introduction to the harsh world of work, his week so far has been less than ideal. Normally, when you enter a workplace, the staff don't greet you with open arms, cakes, compliments and embarrassing stories about your Dad, but that's what my son has experienced.

My son has the unfortunate legacy of being a younger and better-looking version of me, and when he's standing behind the reception desk and logging patients in, this has not gone unnoticed by the punters.

‘Hello, I'm here to see Dr Peverley – oooooh you must be Martin! You look just like your Dad! I've seen your picture on his desk! Come here, ducks' – and then we see the surely rare phenomenon of a patient reaching over the reception desk and chucking the receptionist under the chin.

Martin takes all this in his stride. As far as he is concerned, being indulged by front-desk staff is what normally happens when you enter a new working environment, and having three consecutive coffee breaks and the run of the practice biscuits and chocolates is no more than his due.

At lunch, after a leisurely period of filing, paper-shredding or just hanging out with the girls, he will wander into my consulting room as I'm struggling with a mountain of paperwork and announce a pizza would be the next logical step. ‘It's only a few quid Dad and I've been working really hard!'

Today, he has been given the task of making coffee for all the doctors halfway through morning surgery. ‘Here you go, Pops,' he says, dumping a cup on my desk. It is a milestone, in a way, as it is literally the first cup of anything he has ever made for me in all of his 15 years. The cup is about half full and the coffee lukewarm. I suspect he has made it out of the hot tap.

‘How much am I going to get paid for this week?' he adds casually, as if in afterthought. I give a hollow laugh.

Dr Phil Peverley is a GP in Sunderland

Phil Peverley

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