I got a Christmas present from a patient today. As I’m writing this, it’s still November, but this isn’t even the first present, it’s the fifth. Rather a good one actually; a smelly candle of a brand that you will probably have heard of, and I rather like it. It’s now burning on the desk in front of me as I write, and it smells of warm vanilla.
It’s from Anxious Angie (that’s not her real name, and neither are the other names that she has appeared under in this column. I think this is the fourth time I have had cause to mention her. She’s an unusual lass, is Anxious Angie). She had made a special trip to give me this candle today. She didn’t even have an appointment; she buttonholed me in the car park on my way in to work, gave me the candle, then got the bus back home.
That sort of behaviour gives me pause for thought normally – but her thoughtfulness overwhelms me.
Anxious Angie had been to my house during a brief period when she worked for an interior design company, which coincided with the brief period when Dr/Mrs Pev felt able to indulge in interior design. She spent some time in my front room, and she told me, this morning, that she was sorry for me because I had such an ugly radio.
The ugly radio is my Bose Acoustic Wave CD player, my favourite object in the whole world, and something that cost about 20 weeks of her current income of Jobseeker’s Allowance.
And she thought that a nice candle would make it up for me for having such an ugly radio. Her logic is not always easy to follow, but if Anxious Angie’s generosity of soul was somehow converted into hard currency, then she’d be a lot richer than me. Some people are just so bloody nice.
Maybe it’s because I’ve gone part time recently; I’ve been ill and possibly that has made me more reflective, but I seem to have more of an appreciation for the sporadically wonderfully kind things that some of my patients say and do.
How about this fruit basket from the parents of one of my Down’s syndrome patients? It just arrived at the front desk with a lovely note. No special reason. Or the hug and the kiss from an old lady whose arthritis I have never done much for, except listen to her woes?
I was lying gasping on a bench in the gym changing room yesterday, reduced to quivering jelly by my personal trainer, when I felt a kind hand on my shoulder.
‘Keep at it doc,’ said another one of my patients, an old gent whose name I couldn’t place. ‘You’ll not know yourself in six months.’ And with a smile he handed me a cup of water from the drinking fountain. I could have wept, seriously.
Because I live in the middle of my patch I meet my patients all the time, in shops and in the street and delivering my milk and, on one occasion, stopping me for speeding. I’m always moaning about them in this column in one way or another, but today I want to redress the balance.
There are so many lovely people out there. In nearly 20 years in this practice, not one of them (excluding the acutely mentally ill) has ever had a go at me, challenged me, been aggressive or even impolite while I’ve been living the other bit of my life when I’m not at work.
And given that my practice is statistically one of the most economically deprived in one of the most economically deprived cities in the UK, I think this is a cause for celebration. For this week anyway.
God love you, patients of The Old Forge. You’re not a bad bunch at all. And that candle is still smelling wonderful.
Dr Phil Peverley is a GP in Sunderland