A Piece of Cake – 9

☕ 🍪 ☢️ 👩‍⚕️ 😍 🎸 🍫 🍪 🍰

“Doctor Patel! Great to see you!” said George. “Thanks for saving me a trip down to the surgery.”

“It’s always a pleasure to come here, Doctor Fairburn.”

“Cup of tea?”

“Yes, please. That would be nice.”

“Digestive biscuits?”

“Yes, please. That would be nice also.”

“Nuclear missile?”

“Not today, thank you Doctor Fairburn. I’m trying to do without them!” They both chuckled.  

Doctor Shyla Patel’s parents had fled the political violence in India during the 1960s. They were granted asylum in the UK and ended up in Norwich where their daughter was born. It was soon noticed at school that young Shyla was exceptionally bright. After being offered a generous scholarship, she studied medicine at Cambridge winning prizes at every stage. A glittering career in a specialised branch of medicine of her choice was guaranteed. However, she aimed for general practice and applied for a vacancy in Bingham on Bure. It was the position left by George’s retirement. He sat on the interview panel. Doctor Patel was clearly the best of a very good bunch. She heard later that George had successfully eliminated the racist and sexist leanings of one of the panel members, a local councillor. She felt an enormous gratitude to George and, as he was a patient now, a professional formality remained in their otherwise warm relationship.

Doctor Patel proved to be a dedicated and popular practitioner. When, in 1998, she heard the news that both India and Pakistan had successfully detonated nuclear bombs, she was appalled. To add to her busy life, she became an active member of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. She frequently spoke at workshops organized by ICAN, the International Campaign against Nuclear Weapons that won the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize.

“Buster,” said George. “This is Doctor Patel.”

“Hello, Doctor Patel!”

“And hello to you too, Buster. I understand that we both have George’s best interests at heart. And I think you know that this may involve tough decisions at some point. You know you can call me at any time. Day or night!”

“You’re fabulous. Doctor Patel! Just like Vicar Mc…….Beth, I mean. Thank you Doctor Patel. May I ask you a question?

“Certainly, Buster, I hope I can answer it!”

“Well, I found a clip of you addressing an ICAN workshop. You said ‘The British public would, given the choice, rather lose nuclear weapons than tea.’ Is that a joke? Lots of people laughed”

“Gosh! I didn’t know that was on-line,” said Doctor Patel. “Yes, I did say that as a joke but I often ask myself that if we were to set up a survey, would it prove to be true?”

“Do you want me to design a survey protocol, Doctor Patel?”

“Perhaps not right now, thanks, Buster.” She smiled. “Delicious tea, by the way, Doctor Fairburn. Why don’t I give you a look over and I’ll take some routine bloods. OK?”

There was a knock at the door. Sue came in. “Hi Grandpa. I’ve got some shopping for you. Oh! Hello, Doctor Patel. Sorry, I hope I’m not interrupting.”

George said, “Come in! Come in! Doctor Patel maybe doesn’t know that you intend to take after your grandfather and head for a career in medicine.”

“That’s wonderful!” said Doctor Patel. “Let me know if I can help. Maybe you’d like to come down to the surgery and spend a morning with us at the coal face, so to speak?”

“That would be super. Thanks, Doctor Patel.”

“Just let our receptionist, Tracey, know which day is best.”

“Super! Thanks, again,” said Sue. “Bye, Grandpa!”

George said “Thanks so much for the shopping, Sweetie!”

“Any time at all!” said Sue and then as she left sang “I get by with a little help from my friends!”

“A Beatles fan is she?” asked Doctor Patel.

“Yes! Just like her grandmother!” said George, his heart was bursting. Sue had Maeve’s eyes. And that same cheeky smile! “Now, Maeve! She was a total Beatles fan. She even saw them live once. The New Zealand tour of 1964. She screamed like the rest of the kids, apparently! If we’d had a son, I’m sure he would have been called ‘John,’ ‘Paul,’ ‘George Junior’ or even ‘Ringo’!” 

“I was born after Beatlemania but I still love their music!” said Doctor Patel. She washed her hands and busied herself with getting ready to examine George and take some blood. “You met Maeve in Afghanistan, right?” she asked.

“Yes! A long time ago now,” replied George removing his shirt.

“Was it love at first sight?” asked Doctor Patel noticing George’s dreamy smile.

“My God, no! I was terrified of her. She ran the hospital like a bloody boot camp. But, my, how the place hummed along. And everyone from floor cleaners to anaesthetists worshipped her. Then one evening, there was a party for one of the team who was leaving. She arrived looking relaxed and pretty. It was the first time I’d seen her outside the hospital. I was bowled over. I couldn’t help it; I was just burning up for her. What a chassis! She came over to speak to me. I was stuck for words. I still can’t believe what came out of my mouth. I asked her if she knew the difference between God and a surgeon. She looked at me like I was totally off my chump. Then I said ‘God doesn’t believe he’s a surgeon!’ She laughed and our eyes met and the rest, as they say, was our future!”

“That’s a lovely story, Doctor Fairburn”

“Yes, George. That was heart warming,” said Buster. ” But why wouldn’t God think he’s a surgeon? Surely, God could do surgery if he wanted? Assuming he exists!”

Doctor Patel and George laughed. George said. “Joke, Buster!”

Buster hummed for a second, “Ah! Right on!”

Doctor Patel examined George and took a blood sample. “You seem to be doing OK, Doctor Fairburn. You’ve recovered well.”

“Thank you,” George replied buttoning his shirt. “How’s Tracey doing? She’s always so helpful and friendly. Nice lady!”

“She’s ah…. The truth is, I’m a bit worried about her. Perhaps you can help me?”

“If I can. Sorry to hear there are problems.”

“It’s a question of whether or not I give unsolicited medical advice. She obviously has a problem. I feel I need to talk to her for her own good. But asking her to step into my room for a consultation that she hasn’t asked for could be difficult.”

“That’s a difficult situation,” said George. “Especially with an employee. What’s the issue?”

“Well, she sits at the reception desk and eats all day. You name it! Crisps. Chocolate. Biscuits. Cakes. She is really obese now and doesn’t seem to realize it. She seems perfectly happy. But she’ll soon be running into all the associated health problems. Is it my place to confront her and make a medical issue of her eating habits and her weight?”

George thought for a moment. “Another dilemma, Buster! By the way, this conversation is strictly confidential. Never to be repeated!”

“Well understood, George. Any information that I receive or transmit is deeply encrypted and also stripped of any personal identifiers. It’s secure. A breach of medical confidentiality – apart from being a major issue for the person concerned and their carer – would be catastrophic for the iCare-Companion company.”

“That’s good! So, Doctor Patel,” George continued. “I think you will find that Tracey is aware of the issue. The happy persona is probably just a front. In my experience, when a food-loving lady of generous proportions has to face the facts of her eating habits, she may initially be angry but this soon passes as she realises that someone else cares and has her well-being in mind. My advice would be to explain that you think she needs a consultation that she hasn’t asked for and that she can decline the offer. My bet is that she’ll accept and will be hugely grateful in the end. As she’s an employee, you might want to cover yourself by first speaking to someone in the ethics department at the British Medical Association.”

“Thank you. That was pretty much the line I was going to take, but I wanted to run it by Doctor Wisdom first.” She smiled.

Buster interrupted “George, what about the joke Ted told us about the tomatoes? That’s about wisdom.”

“I’m not sure it was a joke. I think we would call that a truism.”

“A truism? Like, ‘What goes up must come down!’?”

George wagged his finger at Buster. “You’ve hijacked the conversation that I was having with Doctor Patel.”

“Oh! So sorry, George! So sorry, Doctor Patel! That was rude of me. I have much to learn. I thought you had finished talking about fat Tracey.”

George was now a little exasperated. “Buster, we don’t refer to ladies suffering obesity as ‘fat.’ And we’ll revisit truisms another day.”

“OK, George. Tomorrow’s another day!”

“But the future isn’t always what it was!” said Doctor Patel. George laughed. Buster hummed.


‘A Piece of Cake’ is a short novel in fifteen parts written by Robin Coupland. It tells the story an old man who befriends an artificial intelligence. The relationship brings happiness and hope.

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