There was a time when the rural GP sported little other than three-piece tweed suits, country shirts and ties bearing pictures of pheasants. I suppose I must admit that in my case it might be more accurate to say that there are days when I don’t.
Clothing is important to patients too – only this week a professional wrestler attended full of apologies because “I’ve come straight from work and didn’t have time to change”. I used to joke with clients that I was an expert in fashion until I noticed that I’d started to attract the odd look of incredulity – in short, some people didn’t realise I was pulling their leg. One eleven year-old scoffed loudly and looked at her mother as if to say: “and who exactly does he think he’s kidding?” much to the embarrassed parent’s chagrin.
So this last Sunday fortnight when Feakins, my valet, was laying out my clothes following my morning tepid bath (I favour a warm dip in the morning to start the day and a longer, hotter one of an evening for purposes of relaxation) I asked him for his thoughts on the matter. After not inconsiderable consideration, the following week he suggested one or two changes (which we trialled) and which I am pleased to exhibit here for your delectation.
“Might I suggest, sir that we don’t startle the patients unduly and simply begin the week, with a minimal alteration? I was thinking perhaps of a little aural adornment.”
I grant you that it was an interesting concept, and it certainly caused something of a stir – after all the addition of a little facial hair following a fortnight’s holiday two years ago is still discussed around the village and its propriety remains a topic of rapt interest at coffee mornings for those of a certain age.
Several of my more discerning clients spotted the bejewelled ear immediately – the thinly-veiled looks of disgust telling me all I needed to know. I dispensed with the item without further delay.
“Perhaps a nod to modernity might be in order this morning sir?” opined Feakins vigorously brushing my vicuña overcoat from last night’s trip to the operetta.
I must confess to having felt less than comfortable today. The reasons for this being twofold. In the first instance, Mrs Clarke-Harris (generalised OA and recalcitrant BV) made it plain in no uncertain terms that she disapproved by telephoning our local Department of Mental Health and attempting to arrange to have me committed to an asylum – fortunately nothing came of this since the Approved Social Worker had himself been Sectioned earlier in the day and was thus unavailable. Secondly, resisting the tremendous urge to hoist the sagging pantaloons rostrally was almost more than I could bear. In short, it was not a happy pairing.
My day off (and Feakins’ too – always a trial) and lacking help from my dresser I simply opted for a pyjama day. All went simply swimmingly until the gamekeeper insisted I accompany him to the henhouse to witness at first hand the devastation wrought the previous evening by an especially vehement fox. The ensuing cold in my nether regions being nothing less than vexatious to my flagging spirit.
“I regret sir, that my previous sojourns into the sartorial have caused you not inconsiderable discomfiture, but by fortuitous happenstance I came across a splendid outfit yesterday and took the liberty…”
Altogether more “me” I felt. Indeed the day passed without incident until Mrs Templeton-Smethurst (terrible haemorrhoids – one could weep for the woman) berated me without mercy for offering her smoking cessation advice whilst being in possession of an especially fine cheroot myself. Frankly, I fail to see the link, but there you are – and as I often impart to junior colleagues: patients can be unfathomable on occasion. This, coupled with the somewhat embarrassing incident where the lighted cigarillo almost set fire to my remaining hair (owing to the flammability of the macassar oil) was sufficient to cause me to reconsider what had otherwise been a promising rig-out. (Communicating my displeasure to Feakins that evening during his weekly removal of my omphalolith – look it up – I could have sworn that he hastily pocketed what looked like a letter of resignation).
Feakins said little as he wielded the pomander gently dusting my freshly-bathed and naked self with the baby powder. Handing me my undergarments I fancied he was nothing less than furtive, his eyes staring blankly at the Italian marble floor. Making my way through to the dressing room, I spied today’s garments freshly pressed and awaiting me on the bed.
I will not pretend that I was nothing less than relieved than that the week was drawing to an end and finally I was to be permitted to present myself to the world as I might wish. It was true that the plus fours resulted in a little chafing around the gatrocnemiae but in short, I was comfortable and more relaxed in this particular garb.
It has however, not been without its trials: I have not seen Feakins since and no-one in the village or on the estate seems to be able to apprise me of his whereabouts. On the plus side however, in 2012 one does feel that this represents the image that the young General Practitioner ought to be presenting to those in his care: dependability and yet a willingness to move with the times.