Article Text


A gentle reminder

Statistics from

THERE are some good things about reaching a certain age: free local bus travel, a senior railcard, •200 winter fuel allowance – and the freedom that comes with retirement.

Last year, I finally hung up the wellies and stethoscope and, with my wife, escaped to Australia as those dark winter days closed in.

Before we left, there had even been time to get the garden into tip-top shape. This included ‘sending away’ for some special lawn tonic. (‘These days we call it ‘‘buying online" Dad’, my son had gently reminded me). Whatever. This stuff was guaranteed to get rid of all the moss, and the grass would be a foot deep when we returned home the following March.

Three months of wall-to-wall sunshine, cold beer and endless languid hours in the warm sea (‘Down here we call it "the ocean" mate’, my brother-in-law had gently reminded me) came and went, and before we knew it we were reluctantly heading back to England.

But, on our arrival home, there was a magnificent lawn waiting for us. It was indeed almost a foot tall, lush and verdant. I set about endorsing the lawn tonic to all and sundry. Until, that is, I discovered some interesting technical details that got me thinking not only about the efficacy of the product but of a memorable case, many years ago.

A lovely old Welsh lady had brought in her ancient cat, Rhodri, with a hard, irregular lump under his jaw. I had to break the bad news that this was very likely a tumour and should be investigated under general anaesthetic. My client, understandably, didn’t want to take the risk. There being a remote possibility it might be an old abscess, I injected a long-acting antibiotic; we’d wait and see.

A couple of weeks later there was no improvement whatsoever and Rhodri’s owner asked if I’d mind if she gave him some homeopathic tablets, obtained from her old vet in Cardiff. Not wishing to appear unkind or cynical, I resisted the urge to suggest she might care to try one of our range of extra-strong placebos instead. I simply replied that as Rhodri wasn’t suffering and the tablets would do no harm she may as well give them a go.

Rhodri eventually came back in for his overdue annual vaccinations – and the lump had completely disappeared. I was delighted for the old cat, but, in truth, my heart sank. Then it lifted, soared even, as Rhodri’s owner said, ‘I never actually got round to giving him those homeopathic tablets’.

And that lawn tonic? Well, I’d later discovered the complete unopened drum sitting on a shelf in the garden shed. Only then did I remember I’d forgotten to apply it. Cognitive decline; just one of the less good things about getting older. (‘You’ve been ripping too many pages off the calendar mate’, my brother-in-law had gently reminded me).

It had been unseasonably warm and dry while we were away – and everyone’s lawn was looking as healthy as mine.

Anecdotes, whether horticultural or veterinary, are only anecdotes – not statistically significant evidence. Just a gentle reminder.

If you would like to contribute to ‘A practitioner ponders’, please e-mail for further information. We pay a small honorarium for contributions that are published.

View Abstract

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.