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In the grip of Olympic fever

‘Well, what it is doctor, it’s me leg. I think I’ve got a bone in it...’ he begins.

Well, he doesn’t, not exactly. But suffice it to say, I’m in the middle of a routine consultation in a routine surgery on a routine Wednesday afternoon, when normal life comes to a sudden halt.

At 48 minutes past three on 1 August 2012, I turn to my patient and, in the middle of a monologue detailing his complaint, I raise a cautionary finger: ‘I’m going to ask you to shut up for a few seconds just now. I’ll get back to you in a minute.’

I twist the volume dial on the radio, and we hear this: ‘And it’s BRADLEY WIGGINS racing up the final straight, the greatest British Olympian of all time, winning gold for Team GB yet again!’

The Radio 5 commentary goes on for some time, and I savour a minute or two of rare national success.

We don’t get to hear it all that often, and more to the point, when was the last time we had the privilege of having a national icon with the heroic bushy sideburns of a Noddy Holder? To the best of my knowledge, it was when Lord Nodward of Holderford himself was our national icon, and that was a good four decades ago now.

I’m still grinning like an idiot when I eventually turn back to face my patient. There’s a pause, we stare at each other, and then we pick up the thread of his consultation. The routine resumes.

Olympic fever has gripped us like a vice, in our practice. We’ve never known anything like it. We can’t get enough of it.

As Hartlepool United’s highly valued club doctor, I am forced to watch more live football than practically any other doctor on the planet. This would be utterly unacceptable if I didn’t get paid to do it, and one side-effect
of this experience is that I will never voluntarily watch any other football match of any kind, ever.

And yet here I am, insanely cheering on the footballing women of Team GB. Even though they’re women, and rubbish. I have been the crowd doctor for a number of previous England women’s internationals, and witnessed their primary school skills at close hand.

This current enthusiasm of mine is illogical and like some sort of virus – I don’t know how to handle it.

We were sort of hoping for an Olympic hiatus in our practice – a bit of a break from the drudgery. Back in 1973 when Sunderland won the FA Cup, the surgeries in our city saw hardly a soul for a month, if legend is to be believed.

But times have changed. There are no enticing empty areas in our practice where we might beguile the hours away with the tennis on the flat-screen in our teaching suite.

The school holidays no longer involve a brief relaxation from the toil of dealing with alcoholics and ineffective parental skills and coughs and pathetic requests for benzodiazepines.

Our surgeries remain rammed with shite, so-called urgent extra after so-called urgent extra. Eight of them this afternoon, and that’s not unusual.

I don’t see any respite from this, in the present or in the future. That wonderful event, the British Olympics of 2012, remains something I might catch if I see the late highlights on the telly when I get home – if I’m not too tired.

And it’s not something that I am happy to miss.

My job, previously my vocation, is dominating my life. There’s no space for any fun any more. Something has got to change.

Dr Phil Peverley is a GP in Sunderland