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A real-life comic book hero



Phil’s patient brings back wistful memories of the comic book characters of his childhood and their unlikely misadventures

Children’s comics use certain recurring images designed for safe and comfortable humour. For example, a small boy sitting in a waiting room with his anxious mother and a saucepan wedged on his head. I can picture him now, with his petulant expression and crossed arms.

I would like to know if such a scenario has ever occurred. It’s hardly likely. Saucepans are cylindrical objects, they’re not conical. If you can get your head in, you can get your head out.

In Whizzer and Chips, there used to be a character called Shiner. By the end of every adventure, our hero would somehow end up with a black eye. Very inventive some of these stories were, and I enjoyed them as a lad, but the grim truth is that as a full-time medical practitioner I have seen fewer than five genuine black eyes in my whole career.

Then there’s the kid getting his head stuck between railings. I have actually seen this happen, once. It was at a Hartlepool United game. A little lad had stuck his head through the fence and his jug ears stopped him bringing it back. A liberal application of the physiotherapist’s wintergreen soon freed him. I’m only sorry I didn’t think to take a photograph.

But my next patient is the children’s comic strip comedy god. One day, several years ago, his (now ex) wife decided to burn the house down with him in it. Suffering from (mild) smoke inhalation, he elected to attend his GP rather than go to A&E as advised. He remains the only person I’ve ever seen in real life who had a face blackened with soot and hair all sticking up in every direction, like either Laurel or Hardy after something has exploded. For that, I’ll always be grateful.

Unfortunately, today’s consultation isn’t such comedy gold. The ex-wife is safely in prison, the new partner is installed, and my sooty-faced friend has, to my dismay, a degree of sexual dysfunction.

‘I dunno how it is doc, but I just get on the job and before you know it, it gans off pop!’ I appreciate most of you will not be from Sunderland, so suffice it to say you’ve just heard a description of premature ejaculation.

I don’t want to talk about this! GPs are generalists, by definition, but that doesn’t mean we like dealing with every single arcane aspect of human dysfunction. This wasn’t what I planned, when I day-dreamed as a teenager of adrenaline-fuelled shifts at the coal face of acute trauma. Who knew I’d be dealing with itchy teeth and blokes who gan off pop?

‘Did you try thinking about Bobby Charlton?’ I asked him, wearily. ‘Yep. Thought about Bobby Charlton, thought about Nobby Stiles, even tried thinking about Emlyn Hughes without his teeth in. Nothing seems to work. It just gans off like this!’ he said, and then performed a brief mime that, remarkably and uncomfortably, looked exactly like someone suffering from premature spaffage. I hadn’t previously imagined this was possible. You won’t be seeing it on Give Us A Clue any time soon.

I’m a GP trainer; I know how it’s supposed to go from here on in. We could talk about condoms, numbing analgesic creams, sexual technique. I could prescribe Viagra, so even if he does gan off pop, he could keep going until she gans off pop too. But he doesn’t qualify and I’m sure he doesn’t have a spare thirty quid for the private prescription. And basically, I just can’t face it.

‘How about thinking about Wayne Rooney?’ I suggest. He looks thoughtful, then nods briefly. ‘It’s worth a try,’ he says.

Dr Phil Peverley is a GP in Sunderland

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