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Doctor in Love

BOOK: Doctor in Love
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Doctor in Love


First published in 1957

© Richard Gordon; House of Stratus 1957-2012


All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior permission of the publisher. Any person who does any unauthorised act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages.


The right of Richard Gordon to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted.


This edition published in 2012 by House of Stratus, an imprint of

Stratus Books Ltd., Lisandra House, Fore Street, Looe,

Cornwall, PL13 1AD, UK.


Typeset by House of Stratus.


A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library and the Library of Congress.




This is a fictional work and all characters are drawn from the author’s imagination.

Any resemblance or similarities to persons either living or dead are entirely coincidental.

About the Author


Richard Gordon
, real name Dr. Gordon Stanley Ostlere, was born in England on 15 September 1921. He is best-known for his hilarious ‘Doctor’ books. Himself a qualified doctor, he worked as an anaesthetist at the famous St. Bartholomew’s Hospital (where he was also a medical student) and later as a ship’s surgeon, before leaving medical practice in 1952 to take up writing full time. Many of his books are based on his own true experiences in the medical profession and are all told with the wry wit and candid humour that have become his hallmark.

In all, there are eighteen titles in the
Series, with further comic writings in another seven volumes, including
‘Great Medical Disasters’
‘Great Medical Mysteries’
, plus more serious works concerning the lives of medical practitioners.

He has also published several technical books under his own name, mainly concerned with anaesthetics for both students and patients. Additionally, he has written on gardening, fishing and cricket and was also a regular contributor to
magazine. His
‘Private Lives’
series, taking in
Dr. Crippen, Jack the Ripper
Florence Nightingale
, has been widely acclaimed.

The enormous success of
Doctor in the House
, first published in the 1950’s, startled its author. It was written whilst he was a surgeon aboard a cargo ship, prior to a spell as an academic anaesthetist at Oxford. His only previous literary experience had been confined to work as an assistant editor of the
British Medical Journal
. There was, perhaps, a foretaste of things to come whilst working on the
as the then editor, finding Gordon somewhat jokey, put him in charge of the obituaries!

The film of
Doctor in the House
uniquely recovered its production costs whilst still showing at the cinema in London’s West End where it had been premiered. This endeared him to the powerful Rank Organisation who made eight films altogether of his works, which were followed by a then record-breaking TV series, and further stage productions.

Richard Gordon’s books have been translated into twenty languages.

He married a doctor and they had four children, two of whom became house surgeons. He now lives in London.








It is a fact well known to the medical profession that doctors marry either nurses, other doctors, or barmaids. During the most marriageable years these are the only women they meet. Indeed, at the age when other young men’s fancies first lightly turn to thoughts of matrimony they are unable to marry at all, being still supported by an allowance from home. It is small consolation to reflect that the further you ascend the evolutionary scale the longer you find the young depend on the parent, which makes medical students the highest form of animal life known to science.

Although my classmates at St Swithin’s Hospital included a couple of harassed young men who arrived at lectures with notebooks dutifully sharing string bags with sprouts and soap-flakes, a married medical student is almost as much an impossibility as a married Boy Scout. Then the magic touch of a diploma changes his emotional life as violently as his economic one. As an unqualified scallywag he has the alternative of dishonourable intentions or no intentions at all; but after the examination results engagement rings sparkle round the nurses’ home as gaily as summer stars, and if the Royal Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons knew how many unions were first solemnized by their examiners they would be much alarmed.

The first of my companions to wed was Tony Benskin, who married a night nurse. This was reasonable, as he had once offered matrimony to all of them on duty one night to invalidate an over-enthusiastic proposal to one earlier in the evening. It was almost two years until I saw him again, for medical students at the end of their course, like ships’ passengers at the end of their voyage, exchange addresses with more enthusiasm than earnestness. I ran into him one summer evening in the corridors of St Swithin’s, where I was still working on the junior resident staff.

“Tony!” I cried. I stared at him in alarm. His face was pale and unshaven, his eye wild and bloodshot, his hair and his tie awry. “Tony! What on earth’s the matter?”

“Hello, Richard,” he said absently. “I brought Molly into the hospital last night.”

“Oh, my dear fellow! Was it an accident?”

“Of course it wasn’t an accident! We planned it.”

“You mean… Oh, I see. She’s having a baby?”

“What, you mean you didn’t know?” His tone indicated an affair of universal importance.

“No, I’m afraid the news didn’t reach me. So she’s in the tender care of the midder department? There’s nothing to worry about.”

“Nothing to worry about! What do you understand about it? You’ve never had a baby.”

“But it was a normal pregnancy, I hope?”

“Oh, yes, her pregnancy was normal enough, down to the last molecule of haemoglobin. But just think of the things which might go wrong now! Why, at the best it may be a breech. It could be a persistent occipito-postenor or a transverse lie, or a placenta praevia or a prolapsed cord. She might have a PPH or a Caesar or anything… Do you remember all those frightful pictures in the midder books?” He thrust his hands disconsolately into his trouser pockets. “It’s alarming, isn’t it?”

Seeing that his clinical detachment was as disarranged as his appearance, I laid a hand consolingly on his shoulder.

“Remember all the women who’re having babies every minute of the day. Why, at this very moment Molly will be lying there pleasantly doped with pethidine, listening to old Sister Studholme telling her to bear down nicely, dear, and try and save your pains.”

“But that’s the ruddy trouble!” Tony looked more anxious than ever. “I rushed her in all the way from Hampstead in the middle of the night, and not a thing’s happened since.”

“She’s just gone off the boil, as they say in the midwifery trade.”

“But think what it
be! She could have uterine inertia, deep transverse arrest, contracted pelvis…”

“Look,” I decided. “What you need is a drink.”

He paused. “You know, Richard, I believe you’re absolutely right.”

He calmed a little under the effect of three large whiskies in the King George opposite the Hospital.

“I’m afraid I’m not quite myself,” he apologized.

“But that’s understandable in the circumstances. Traditional, in fact.”

“I’m sorry, Richard. I ought to have slapped you on the back and asked you how you were and talked about the good old days, and so on. But it’s upsetting all this – bringing new life into the world, and so on.”

I laughed. “I’m not sure they shouldn’t have stuck you in the labour ward instead of Molly.”

“It may look funny to you, but it’s a shattering prospect for the first time. Just wait till it’s your turn.”

“Not me! I’m going to stay a bachelor. Changing imperceptibly from gay young to dirty old.”

“Bet you fifty quid you don’t!”

I considered the proposition. “I’ll take you on. It’s a good bet, because I’m determined to get my FRCS before I even think of marrying.” I still wanted to specialize in surgery, and the Fellowship of the Royal College was as essential as a flying licence to a prospective pilot. “And at the present rate I can’t see much chance of passing the exam before I get prostatic hypertrophy and the male menopause.”

“But you’ll
to get married, old man. Take it from me, a doctor’s got to. The patients don’t like you messing about with their wives unless they know you’ve got one of your own at home. Then you must have someone to answer the telephone and open the door and keep all the NHS cards straight and cook the dinner and do the laundry.”

“I could get a housekeeper.”

“The only housekeeper you could possibly employ would have to be so ugly and respectable she wouldn’t bear living with. No, Richard. You’ll have to settle for the pipe and armchair and the slippers and taking the dog for a walk at closing time.”

I took a mouthful of beer thoughtfully.

“But even allowing you’re right, Tony – where do I find the right girl? Supposing I picked the wrong one?”

“Sheer defeatism! Anyway, what’s the matter with one of the matron’s little charges? They’re all healthy girls, they know how to cook and make the beds, and they’re trained to put up with any amount of irritation from crotchety old men. You couldn’t ask for more. It has long been my contention that the most useful function of any nursing school in the country is turning out a supply of fully trained doctors’ wives. Though,” he added reflectively, “they tend to worry a lot about the regularity of your bowels.” Suddenly I noticed his jaw drop. “It’s just occurred to me,” he muttered. “Supposing the poor little thing’s got mixed-up guts or no feet or two heads, or any of those hundreds of congenital defects we had to learn about in embryology?”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Tony! Despite the fact that it has you for a father, it will turn out a perfectly healthy and normal baby. The very worst you can worry about is twins.”

He shook his head. “At least it can’t be that – I sent Molly down to the X-ray department long ago. Do you want to see baby’s first photo? I’ve got it in the back of the car.”

The next afternoon I was surprised to see Molly Benskin sitting in the sunshine that pierced the dusty plane trees in the hospital courtyard, still looking like an overripe poppy-head.

“Hello!” I said. “I thought you’d be otherwise engaged.”

She wrinkled her snub nose. “It’s all Tony’s fault. Instead of acting in a perfectly calm and professional manner as he would if I was his patient instead of his wife–”

“He’s been behaving like any other expectant father?”

“Oh, much worse! Do you know, for the last month he’s been trying to take my blood pressure pretty well hourly? And every time I had a backache he got the car out. In the end I couldn’t stop him rushing me here at four in the morning as though I was on fire. I think he was scared stiff he’d have to deliver it himself.”

“As far as I remember, Tony was never very accurate at midder,” I told her sympathetically. “When I was a student with him we always seemed to arrive either three hours too early or five minutes too late.”

“Now I’ve got to stay in the ward, I haven’t got any of my things, my hair’s terrible, I look most unglamorous, the food’s uneatable, sister’s a bitch, and I’m fed up.” She pouted. “On top of that, I feel that I’m never going to have the poor little thing at all.”

“Don’t you worry, Molly. So do all expectant mothers. It’s never been known to fail yet.”

Two days afterwards she was delivered of an eight-pound baby boy, which Tony Benskin later carried through the main gate of the hospital with the expression of one who had discovered and patented the process himself. Helping them into the car, I was surprised to find that even I experienced strong avuncular feelings. Marriage, I had always felt, was some sort of disease which creeps up on everyone with age, like hardening of the arteries. For the first time I began to wonder how long my immunity would last.

BOOK: Doctor in Love
8.63Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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