Magazine article The Spectator

Second Opinion

Magazine article The Spectator

Second Opinion

Article excerpt

I MADE a momentous discovery outside the prison last week: I discovered what God created bushes for. The illumination came to me as I was passing a little piece of waste ground. Bushes were created by God for the English to throw their crisp packets, polystyrene hamburger-containers, tabloid newspapers, used condoms, discarded chewing gum, beer cans, tins of soft drink, chocolate wrappers and empty plastic carrier bags into.

Not, of course, that empty carrier bags always find their way into the bushes. No; they are sometimes put to other uses. For example, last week in the ward there was a body-packer who swallowed L10,000 worth of cocaine in a packet wrapped in part of a Sainsbury's carrier bag. He claimed that he swallowed it accidentally when his girlfriend poked him in the ribs; he just happened to have the wrapped cocaine in his mouth at the time. The imminent arrival of the boys in blue had nothing to do with it.

'Can I go home now?' he asked.

'No,' I replied.

'Why not?'

'Because if the packet inside you bursts, well, you would be very unwell.'

I meant dead, of course. He needed an operation.

But let us return to the prison. On the day of my religious enlightenment, I examined a patient with some scars on his chest.

'What are those?' I asked.

'Gunshot wounds,' he

'How did you get them?'

'It's the way I live.'

'No doubt,' I said. `Nevertheless, someone must have pulled the trigger.'

'No,' he insisted. `When you live like me, this is what happens.'

My last patient of the day was a young drug addict, aged 21, who looked younger still. …

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