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Synopsis

Most of the antipodean beachcombers were heavy drinkers. It was a way of life with them. An Australian trader consulted me one day because of a serious drink problem he had.
‘I only had ten cans yesterday, doc,’ he said. ‘And today I haven’t had any. I just don’t feel like it. Today’s the first day in ten years I haven’t had a drink.’
I looked at him. He was yellow; he had hepatitis.
‘Well,’ I said, ‘you’ve got hepatitis. That’s why you don’t want to drink. What’s more, you mustn’t drink for at least three months.’
‘Oh!’ he said.
‘And I see from looking at your hospital records that sometimes you vomit blood in the morning.’
‘Yeah, that’s right.’
‘It’s not a terribly good sign, you know.’
‘Oh, isn’t it?’ he said. ‘I thought everyone did it.’
He returned three months later. To my surprise he had not touched a drop.
‘Hey doc!’ he said. ‘I feel terrific, I haven’t felt this good in years. Why’s that then?’
‘Why do you think?’ I asked.
‘I don’t know. You’re the doc, you should know.’
‘Well, for the first time in ten years you haven’t got a hangover.’
‘Oh.’
A look of deep cogitation passed over his face like the shadow of a cloud over a field on a summer’s day.
‘Does that mean I can go back on the beer?’


In Fool or Physician, his second and most personal book, Theodore Dalrymple writes under his real name Anthony Daniels about his early career as a doctor – giving his fans some insight into his past.
It details his reluctant entry into medical school (‘I specialised in doing and knowing the least necessary to pass the examinations’), his earliest ventures in medicine in a small Midlands town and his subsequent work overseas when, bored almost to tears by life in the NHS, he travels first to the then-Rhodesia and apartheid South Africa and later to the Gilbert Islands, a pacific paradise brimming with drunken expatriates, eccentrics and lunatics.
As ever, doctoring was the key to a door, on the other side of which was a different, more interesting life.

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