Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Of Mice and Ambulancemen

Like all whose occupations necessitate regular intercourse with the general public, the ambulanceman inevitably comes to despise in a broad and sweeping way all members of the human constituency, transferring his affections and respect instead to the furred, feathered and scaled creatures of land, sea and air; often, in fact, to the flora as well, preferring the company of his cat, his carp, his cockatoo and his chrysanthemums to that of his compatriots.

And for those of us burdened by an enquiring and curious nature and who wish to advance our scientific knowledge of our surroundings through experimentation, this fondness for dumb creatures steers us inexorably away from using the traditional and inexpensive laboratory mouse and the legendary but overrated guinea pig and leads us instead to the far more acceptable proposition of employing as the subjects of our dubious work members of our own ill-regarded species.

And who is better placed than the ambulanceman to conduct his own experiments, unseen within the hidden confines of his discreet mobile laboratory, upon a constant and apparently inexhaustable supply of human subjects of every age, sex, condition and persuasion?

Ambulance work, you see, by its very nature, has engendered a new breed of mad scientist and provided him with the desire, the tools, the opportunity and the raw materials to carry out his lunatic research, and upon the very people he is being paid to assist.

At least, it has given the world Albert Harness, the Josef Mengele of contemporary healthcare.

During these long and glorious summer afternoons, as the sun slants across the pond on the common to cast its sleepy shadows on the messroom wall, Albert often regales us with stories of his scientific work and the conclusions to which it has led him. As Bert Klaxon puts a Swan Vesta to his old brown pipe and Stan Tablets cracks walnuts between thumb and forefinger, we sip our tea and listen with rapt fascination to tales of cruel and criminal procedures undertaken in the name of medicine by our resident insane genius upon the seemingly superfluous citizens of South West Four.

For instance, Albert has attempted recently, he claims in all good faith, to find a cure for Alzheimer's Disease using a combination of nebulized diesel fuel and electronic feedback; so far, alas, without success, though his work on Down's Syndrome, he assures me, is almost complete.

Bill Bones at the St. Bernard's mortuary complains with tongue in cheek that his refrigerators are currently overflowing with Albert's failures, but the great man remains admirably undeterred and steadfast in his efforts to expand the boundaries of human knowledge. One day, he insists, he will be recognised for what he is, and that view certainly encounters no dissent from the men of the Clapham Ambulance.