To be taken in small doses as required
25: Miss G -, born while Queen Victoria was still alive,
standing proudly in the middle of her sitting room in front
of a blazing fire, big school-girl grin on her face: ‘It’s stom-
ach trouble! I’m a terror for stomach trouble.’
19: Not yet thirty, her bones full of metastatic breast cancer,
so painful she can’t bear to be touched, and her two year
old son can’t understand why his mother won’t let him hug
her any more.
29: ‘My husband is all crumbling up.’
30: ‘Thank you for listening, doctor. I likes to unravel a bit.’
1: ‘All blind inside my head if you take my meaning.’
4: Behind the Surgery car park, a blush of roses and on the
lawn, a milky way of daisies.
5: ‘Threw a coat at him as there wasn’t a saucepan handy.’
6: Hailstones in the sunshine, bouncing on the pavement
like pearls from a broken necklace.
15: ‘If you want my considered judgement: he’s pissed.’
1: ‘My head is full of little men with needles and I feel like
one hundred and nine.’
2: His tie stiff with grease and traces of food and pinned to
his shirt with a safety pin… asking for ‘something to make
me go, proper!’
12: Clouds like shreds of sheep wool stuck on a gorse bush,
blown and bleached by the sun and the rain… then dabbed
with scarlet and magenta.
14: In a little brown gnome hat, puffing and blowing, head
almost completely sunk between his shoulders, helped
along by a plum pudding wife… his mouth stretched in a
permanent grin, one tooth showing.
About this poem
Gael was a good listener and observer of detail – essential to both his writing and doctoring. His spur-of-the-moment decision to record something heard, seen or experienced every day for a year brings to life the resilience, humour, sorrow and strength of his patients and the small delights of the seasons.
This poem is included in the second edition of Tools of the Trade: Poems for new doctors (Scottish Poetry Library, 2016). The anthology was edited by Kate Hendry; Dr Lesley Morrison, GP; Dr John Gillies, GP and Chair, Royal College of GPs in Scotland (2010-2014); Revd Ali Newell, and Lilias Fraser. A copy of the first edition was given to all graduating doctors in Scotland in 2014 and 2015, and with support from RCGPS and the Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland, to all graduating doctors in 2016, 2017 and 2018. We are very grateful for the individual donations which funded the cost of this anthology, and to the Deans of the Scottish medical schools who made it possible to give the books to their graduating students.