A couple of hours later I was minding my own business sat in the waiting room of the local GP surgery. In the absence of a copy of ‘Milady’s Boudoir’ I occupied my time by flipping through the latest edition of ‘What Ho!’ magazine replete as it was with photographs of Stiffy Byng and Harold ‘Stinker’ Pinker’s recent nuptials. My reverie was disturbed however by a ruckus that was taking place at the reception desk where a young women was becoming increasing agitated with the staff.
‘Never mind your zero tolerance policy, I simply must see the doctor this morning regarding a matter of the utmost importance. I shall take a seat in the waiting room and won’t be leaving until I’ve been attended to.’ The women fixed her steely-eyed gaze upon the lead receptionist and added in a lower, more menacing tone, ‘Be warned, about my person I have a list of all my problems – and I’m not afraid to use it.’
Though heartened by the fact that the doctor seemed to have a loyal and enthusiastic following, my mood dipped when the aggrieved party took a seat next to me and I recognised her as Honoria Glossop, a woman to whom I once had the misfortune of being engaged.
‘Bertie Wooster, as I live and breath.’ She let out a shriek of what less enlightened souls may have mistaken for laughter, before adding in a conspiratorial tone, ‘I was hoping we might run into each other, I’ve been thinking about you recently…ever such a lot’
‘Have you H,Honoria?’, I stammered, far from flattered by the notion that I had been on her mind and not a little alarmed by the seductive wink with which she ended her sentence. ‘Why might that be?’
‘Oh Bertie, surely you must know. Of late a change has come upon me. I’m not the women I once was. No longer is Bingo Little the one for me. I need someone more virile, a real man. Somebody a lot like you, Bertie. I have feelings for you Bertie – surely you feel it too’.
It was not just her words that threatened the Wooster composure but also the manner in which they were spoken. More practiced in the art of breaking in horses than that of the seduction of menfolk, Honoria then made an ill advised attempt to appear coquettish. Undoubtedly the affect had more of the macabre about it than she had intended and the upshot was that, in my alarm, I all but fell off my chair.
If there is one thing a true gentleman knows it is to recognise when a quick exit is required. This was, without a doubt, a clear example of such an occasion. I was afforded my opportunity when a buzzing sound was heard and my name flashed up on a display panel indicating that the doctor was now ready to see me. I smiled awkwardly, proffered a hurried farewell and made my escape, I darted off in the direction of the consulting room with the sound of Honoria’s sonorous voice ringing in my ears, announcing to those patiently assembled how she wanted all the world to know that she longed that we would always be together.
Reaching the relative safety of the doctors room, I knocked on the door but entered without waiting for customary invitation to do so. Inside the Wooster nervous system was dealt another shock no less unexpected than the surprise experienced by many the year I won the school scripture knowledge prize. Sat at a desk, stethoscope around his neck, was none other than my old chum Gussie, his horn rimmed glasses and small chin confirming as true what I found hard to believe and making the matter unworthy of debate.
‘Good morning, it’s Mr Wooster isn’t it?’, he began, attempting to adopt a professional air.
‘Yes it is Gussie, And well you know it – but what the dickens are you doing passing yourself off as a family physician?’ Gussie tried to ignore what surely none could consider an unreasonable question.
‘If you don’t mind Mr Wooster, it’s Dr Augustus Fink-Nottle. The doctor-patient relationship works better that way. Now, if you would be so kind, please inform me of the number of units of alcohol you consume per week, whether or not you smoke, and the degree to which you exercise. Then I will measure your blood pressure and undertake a blood test to determine your cholesterol before asking you to complete a patient satisfaction survey as you leave. Would that be acceptable to you Mr Wooster?’
I was uneasy about answering the questions he had posed, suspecting he’d be less than impressed with my replies.
‘Aren’t you going to ask me why I’ve come to see you?’ I countered before adding, with what I liked to think carried an air of contemptuous disbelief, ‘Dr Fink-Nottle”
‘Oh, OK, if I must. Tell me, what is concerning you today?’
‘As it happens, a number of things’, I replied.
Gussie attempted to point out that he could deal with just one problem per consultation but I was having none of it.
‘Firstly I want to know how you find yourself working as a General Practitioner, and what’s all this I hear about you and Madeline Bassett breaking of your engagement and leaving me at risk of being paired with her myself on account of my disgruntled Aunt Agatha. Answer me these questions in a satisfactory manner and then I’ll thank you if you’d simply issue a prescription for said aunt’s HRT and show me to the back door through which I can leave and thereby escape Honoria Glossop who, even now, is sat outside waiting to devour me like some human form of preying mantis’
At these words, Gussie’s professional demeanour left him and was replaced by an appearance consistent with that of a small frightened child.
‘She’s not here again is she? She turns up repeatedly demanding more HRT. She believes they are the answer to her violent mood swings and comes here each day with implausible stories of how she needs additional supplies. Thus far her medication has allegedly been left on the bus, eaten by the dog and stolen by person or persons unknown. She’s clearly taking far too much. I try to refuse to issue her any more but you should see the menace in her eyes when she holds me up against the wall and threatens me with physical harm if I don’t give her what she wants. I’ve taken to stockpiling pills, patches and topical gels in order to ensure her demands are met.’
‘Well that my explain her alarming behaviour in the waiting room. A gentleman doesn’t like to cast aspersions on a ladies character, but her forwardness in the waiting room was unseemly to say the least’
‘I’m sorry Bertie, but you understand that I daren’t spare you any HRT for your Aunt Agatha, or indeed anyone else – my life simply wouldn’t be worth living if I were to deny Honoria”
“Your life wouldn’t be worth living?! What about mine? Doesn’t it bother you Aunt Agatha is lining up Madeline as my future wife.’
‘Alas, Bertie, having put myself through the new government programme which seeks to train fully qualified GPs in just six weeks, she won’t even talk to me. Turns out she regards being married to a GP as social suicide.’
‘Well give it all up then Gussie, return to your newts!’
‘I can’t Bertie. This is my new vocation. It turns out that my years of studying pond life was preparing me for this.’
‘I say, old thing, that’s a bit harsh’
‘I didn’t mean it like that Bertie. It’s just that my love of newts has been replaced by a love for my fellow man. But it’s all a lot harder than I’d imagined – I’m not sure six weeks training is really enough. People constantly come to me in trouble Bertie. All day long I see those who are ‘out of sorts’, those who are ‘all of a dither’, and even some who are ‘in a proper pickle’. There are these frightful NICE guidelines to tell me what to do, but they don’t cut the mustard Bertie and i never know whether I’m supposed to be applying a protocol or following an algorithm. Not even Jeeves would cope with what I have to deal with each day. It’s all so very difficult Bertie but, I have heard the call. I must continue as a GP even though I fear Madeline will never be able to bring herself to look at me again. Unless, of course, you had a plan of how I might win her back?’
It was then that the code of the Wooster’s crept up behind me, tapped me politely on the shoulder, and bid me ‘good day’. Gussie was a pal, and pals, no matter how trying, are never to be let down. I gave the matter some thought and, given the impossibility of the situation, applied my top drawer strategy – I tried to think what Jeeves would do.
‘We could try that scheme of Jeeves’s – the one where I push a small boy into a lake and we engineer things such that Madeline is watching on as you dive in to effect a rescue. Seeing you act so gallantly is sure to elevate you in her affections and so ensure the path of true love once again runs smooth.’
Gussie fell silent and adopted a countenance more serious than I had ever seen him adopt before.
‘Mr Wooster, that is a dreadful suggestion to have made. Small boys should on no account be pushed into water, no matter the seriousness of the situation. I’m afraid I will be forced to raise a safeguarding concern about you. Or at least I would but, given the dashed referral forms are so beastly complicated, I shall merely glare at you disapprovingly and insist that you promise never to speak of such things again.’
I gave him my word after which Gussie insisted that it was time for me to leave.
‘As ever Bertie, I’m running late and I’ve other patients to see. I’m afraid that, to avoid returning to the waiting room you’ll have to leave through the window. I’ve only been here a short time but I’ve already used it on the numerous occasions that the practice manager has been after me for not coding things properly for QoF purposes.’
Though he’d been of little help, I thanked Gussie anyway and made my undignified exit through the consulting room window and thence I made my way back to my rooms. There I found Jeeves packing as if for a weekend retreat. I asked him what the occasion might be.
‘I hope you don’t mind sir, but I took the liberty of accepting an invitation to Ditteridge Hall. Miss Glossop has been on the phone and has requested the pleasure of your company for the weekend. I felt sure you’d respond in the affirmative and assured the young lady that we would make our way there the moment you returned.’
That some consider Jeeves as the wisest of men is sometimes hard to swallow. Here he was, once more placing me in a situation that could not help but end in disaster. But a gentleman’s word is his bond and since Jeeves had promised I would travel to Ditteridge Hall, then to Ditteridge Hall I would have to travel.
I did however insist on one thing. My stipulation was simply this, that my new Stetson hat should accompany us on the jaunt to Hampshire. To his credit, Jeeves obliged, packing the headwear without so much as the raising of an eyebrow.