It had been a long clinic. It was already six o’clock and I wanted to go home when the nurse came in and said she was sorry but I had one more patient to see. I thought I’d seen the last one, I complained, my heart sinking. I’m sorry she said again, but this one’s a bit special.
In truth, he didn’t look well. He shuffled in, a elderly man, dressed in a fur coat, red in the face, wheezing and grossly overweight He deposited his bag on the floor, sat down, leaned on the desk and stared at me with watery eyes.
Please help me, he said. This is the busiest time of the year for me and I can’t cope any more. I asked him to explain. It turned out he was in the logistics business and there was always a rush before Christmas. Not only did he have to prepare all his packages to individual specifications, but they all needed to be delivered on Christmas eve. It was true that he had air transport, but all those houses, all those expectant children; how on earth could he cope? And now the National Elf Service has decided to work to rule. He was exhausted and his guts were all over the place.
I settled down for a long appointment. I asked about his diet; it was clear that he liked his food. Fruit pudding, mince pies, poultry, gravy, sprouts, parsnips – the lot. I told him about the effects of fat and FODMAPs, but I might as well have been speaking double Dutch. We discussed his life style. Shift work was always associated with IBS, and flying at altitude in an unpressurised vehicle was bound to cause expansion of the gas in his colon, causing symptoms of bloating. He was trying to do too much. Surely at his age, he shouldn’t be climbing down chimneys. And then there was the stress of deadlines, the fear of letting people down. It was little wonder that his guts were all twisted up in knots.
Why do you do it? I asked him. You must know you are too old and unfit to carry on like this any more. All that food coupled with your stressful life style are bound to play havoc with your insides and, I took in his red cheeks and nose, I bet you like a drink or two.
He nodded. Then he added, ‘I just can’t let them down. You see, I never had anything when I was young’.
‘But that was then’, I added. ‘You can’t spend your life making up for what happened in the dark ages. It’s all changed now. The children that you give all those wooden toys to; they don’t want them any more. They want iPads they can play their games on and mobile phones to Facebook their friends. Besides, they don’t believe in you anymore. They think it’s all their parents’.
He looked at me like I was deranged. ‘What is a face book?’
‘You need to change’, I told him. ‘Get into the 21st century. You shouldn’t be rushing around like this at your age. It’s a complete waste of your energy and time. Get the elves onto it. Set up a website for mail order. Make some videos. Market the make believe. That’s all the kids want these days and you can do all of that in Lapland sitting in your favourite arm chair in front of your wood burning stove.’