The Government Locum

“You must be the Government Locum” said the receptionist, eyeing me suspiciously. It came as a bit of a shock, because for most of my life I’ve had a healthy mistrust of governments of all political flavours, and I didn’t consider that I would ever be one (or a small part of one). However, looking at myself in the mirror, with my business suit and my official Government laptop with my official Government email account, I had to admit that she was right: I must be the Government Locum.

Memories of my former private medical practice in Ontario, Canada are rapidly fading. My new job is go round all the GP practices (or “surgeries” as they are known here) in the Isle of Man – there are 12 altogether – covering for family doctors who are off sick, on maternity leave or doing continuing professional development. For that, I get paid a salary by the Isle of Man Government. It’s a great job, you get to meet the entire medical community on the island very quickly, but you see some weird stuff. It’s like a keyhole into the secret lives of doctors.

For example, in one surgery there was a pile of medical journals about two feet high on a chair, still in their plastic wrappers, never read. I wonder how up to date that doctor was. In another, there was a blood pressure monitor (sphygmomanometer) which didn’t appear to work. On closer inspection, it was missing its power supply. After a thorough search of the office I found the power supply at the back of a cupboard – it looked as though it hadn’t been used for years. I plugged it in and it worked perfectly. I wonder how that doctor took patients’ blood pressures? And in yet another office, I found a half eaten plate of food in the desk drawer. The doctor had obviously not finished his / her lunch, called the first patient in, hastily hidden the plate in the drawer intending to retrieve it later, and forgotten about it. Yuk.


One lunchtime I decided to go onto Douglas high street and buy myself a kipper sandwich. It was years since I had kippers (smoked herring) which are a Manx specialty. As I left the shop, sandwich in hand, the shopkeeper called after me “Watch out for the seagulls!” With a cheery wave and a wry smile at the Manx sense of humour, I headed to the promenade to enjoy the sea breeze and the views over Douglas Bay towards Onchan Head. Suddenly, someone (as I thought) crept up behind me, whacked me over the head with what felt like a bag of groceries and tried to snatch the kipper sandwich out of my hand. When I had recovered my balance, I looked around to see who my assailant was. There was nobody there. I looked up. There was a seagull the size of a vulture circling three feet above me and preparing to come in for a second attack. I hurried back to the safety of the high street. So much for the Manx sense of humour.


As I’m going to be here for a while – quite possibly permanently – I thought it would be a good idea to try to blend in with the locals. When the time comes for the Manx people to decide who gets to stay on the island and who gets kicked off (more about this in my next post) I don’t want to end up with a terrible fate like that off-island policeman in the 1973 movie “The Wicker Man”. So every Friday night I take my melodeon (button accordion to North American readers) down the local pub and join in the Manx music sessions. They play tunes with catchy titles like “Tra va mee aeg ayns Rumsaa”. F*** knows how you’re supposed to pronounce that, but I can play it. If anyone else is interested in having a go at this you can find the dots to this and other Manx session tunes here:

You may be wondering what has happened about Brexit?  The Manx people are going about their normal business as though nothing has happened, which is actually not far from the truth (see my last post). There is no rioting in the streets, people are not throwing themselves off the cliffs, and people are not selling their babies on street corners in order to buy food. Unless something of significance actually happens with Brexit, I shall speak of it no more.

In my next post, I intend to deal at some length with the subject you have (probably) all been waiting for: the pros and cons of the Isle of Man as a bug-out location in the event of economic collapse, peak oil, climate change, nuclear war and other looming man made disasters of the 21st century.

Slaynt vie, bea veayn, beeal fliugh as baase ayns Mannin

Douglas Promenade

Douglas promenade.  Watch out for the vulture-size, psychotic killer seagulls


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