Competition - Win a bottle of champagne

No 3663 Set by Margaret Rogers

A hymn to the January sales.

Report by Ms de Meaner

A huge postbag and so many new names! Several announced, almost proudly I felt, that they had never entered before (huh!), and a Ross Elliffe added the footnote that he was "probably ineligible", as he was e-mailing from New Zealand. This echoes another e-mail I had recently from "ragarver22" (my reply came back marked "undeliverable"), who asked if residents of "the former colonies" were eligible. Anyone can enter, my doves. Anyone. £20 to winners; the vouchers go to Dobson & Wilcox.

Each medieval wall sconce,

Each set of poker dice,

Each quilted car seat cover

Is going at half-price.

Chorus: All things bright and beautiful

All cheap tat great and small:

Bargains knocked down crazily

To get shot of them all.

Boxed games called Midlife Crisis,

Alarms to fend off rape,

Leftover print editions

By Sue Macartney-Snape. (Chorus)

The piles of football diaries

With forewords by Geoff Hurst,

The Belgian chocolate chess sets

(Consume by Feb the first). (Chorus)

The chefs hats with your name on,

Red leatherette settee,

Wild Woman fake fur bed throws

With five-year guarantees. (Chorus)

Anne Du Croz

Adeste fideles, latte triumphantes,

Venite, venditio in emporium!

Carpe diem! Tempus edax rerum.

Chorus: Venite, celebramus!

Venite, congregamus!

Venite, aggeramus, debitum!

Experto, credite! Simpliciter signate!

Transacta non verba factum est,

Si monumentum requiris, circumspice!


Ecce! novus homo in pavemento fumat.

Suaviter in modo, fortiter in re.

Frigidus sed avidus, fenestram contemplat. (Venite)

Pashmina lurida, textilis luxuriosum.

Ergo de coloribus non est disputandum.

Vide, praeemptor, sine invidia! (Venite)

Natura abhorret vacuum exorbitum.

Reductio ad absurdum sine qua non.

Caveat emptor! Errare est humanum.


Adulescens, languidus et morosus,

Audit identitem in HMV.

Vade in pace! Satuis sic ad nauseam.


Virgo intacta, tristis sine mobile,

(Res ipsa loquitur, semper irritans)

Omnia, perpetuo, CCTV observat.


Marian Leslie

Amazing Sales! How sweet the sound

That saved me 50p.

I once had cash, but now I've found

A really cheap TV.

'Twas Sales that taught me how to spend

And Sales my purse relieved

Of every pound my mum would lend.

Yes she - poor wretch - believed!

In Sales I got a dozen pairs

Of half-price tartan socks

And trousers too - pink Crimplene flares

And thirty lovely frocks.

Through special offers, two for one,

I got my tenth guitar

And with an advantageous loan

I bought my nineteenth car.

The Lord has promised Sales to me.

My purchase power won't fail

When once again in January

They let me out the jail.

Helena Nelson

Park! I hear the cash-tills ring:

Knock-down tags on everything.

Quick before the urge is spent -

All down ninety-five per cent.

Credit cards in fingers pressed,

Put assistants to the test;

Feel the heel and press the hem:

"Christ! I must have one of them!"

Chorus: Park! I hear the cash-tills ring:

Knock-down tags on everything.

Priced by lunatics in-store -

Bargain buys and deals galore,

Lo! these discounts can't be true!

Fucksake, I'm first in the queue.

Here since six, and now it's noon -

Run from Virgin to Monsoon.

Everything, they say, Must Go:

Jesus Christ! the price is low! (Chorus)

Will Bellenger

And did those feet in ancient time

Pound across Harrod's marble floors?

And did the Holy Lamb of God

Get stuck in Gap's revolving doors?

And did the Countenance Divine

Use Switch to pay His bargain bills?

And was Jerusalem purchased here

At Selfridge's new online tills?

Bring me my Card of plastic gold:

Bring me my in-store Credit buyer:

Bring me my Purse: O notes unfold!

Bring me my Shopping Cart of fire.

I will not cease to push and shove

Each time the queuing system fails

Till I have bought Jerusalem

In England's January sales.

Dick Dobson & Andrew Wilcox

No 3666 Set by John Crick

How do you imagine Heaven to be? An exclusive club? Something like Center Parks? Does the old place need a revamp now the Pope has declared it open to non-Catholics? Try selling the attractions of the new millennium Heaven to the masses. Max 200 words and in by 8 February.


This article first appeared in the 29 January 2001 issue of the New Statesman, The fall of Mandelson

Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
Show Hide image

Want to know how you really behave as a doctor? Watch yourself on video

There is nothing quite like watching oneself at work to spur development – and videos can help us understand patients, too.

One of the most useful tools I have as a GP trainer is my video camera. Periodically, and always with patients’ permission, I place it in the corner of my registrar’s room. We then look through their consultations together during a tutorial.

There is nothing quite like watching oneself at work to spur development. One of my trainees – a lovely guy called Nick – was appalled to find that he wheeled his chair closer and closer to the patient as he narrowed down the diagnosis with a series of questions. It was entirely unconscious, but somewhat intimidating, and he never repeated it once he’d seen the recording. Whether it’s spending half the consultation staring at the computer screen, or slipping into baffling technospeak, or parroting “OK” after every comment a patient makes, we all have unhelpful mannerisms of which we are blithely unaware.

Videos are a great way of understanding how patients communicate, too. Another registrar, Anthony, had spent several years as a rheumatologist before switching to general practice, so when consulted by Yvette he felt on familiar ground. She began by saying she thought she had carpal tunnel syndrome. Anthony confirmed the diagnosis with some clinical tests, then went on to establish the impact it was having on Yvette’s life. Her sleep was disturbed every night, and she was no longer able to pick up and carry her young children. Her desperation for a swift cure came across loud and clear.

The consultation then ran into difficulty. There are three things that can help CTS: wrist splints, steroid injections and surgery to release the nerve. Splints are usually the preferred first option because they carry no risk of complications, and are inexpensive to the NHS. We watched as Anthony tried to explain this. Yvette kept raising objections, and even though Anthony did his best to address her concerns, it was clear she remained unconvinced.

The problem for Anthony, as for many doctors, is that much medical training still reflects an era when patients relied heavily on professionals for health information. Today, most will have consulted with Dr Google before presenting to their GP. Sometimes this will have stoked unfounded fears – pretty much any symptom just might be an indication of cancer – and our task then is to put things in proper context. But frequently, as with Yvette, patients have not only worked out what is wrong, they also have firm ideas what to do about it.

We played the video through again, and I highlighted the numerous subtle cues that Yvette had offered. Like many patients, she was reticent about stating outright what she wanted, but the information was there in what she did and didn’t say, and in how she responded to Anthony’s suggestions. By the time we’d finished analysing their exchanges, Anthony could see that Yvette had already decided against splints as being too cumbersome and taking too long to work. For her, a steroid injection was the quickest and surest way to obtain relief.

Competing considerations must be weighed in any “shared” decision between a doctor and patient. Autonomy – the ability for a patient to determine their own care – is of prime importance, but it isn’t unrestricted. The balance between doing good and doing harm, of which doctors sometimes have a far clearer appreciation, has to be factored in. Then there are questions of equity and fairness: within a finite NHS budget, doctors have a duty to prioritise the most cost-effective treatments. For the NHS and for Yvette, going straight for surgery wouldn’t have been right – nor did she want it – but a steroid injection is both low-cost and low-risk, and Anthony could see he’d missed the chance to maximise her autonomy.

The lessons he learned from the video had a powerful impact on him, and from that day on he became much more adept at achieving truly shared decisions with his patients.

This article first appeared in the 01 October 2015 issue of the New Statesman, The Tory tide