The doctor is NOT IN

Queenscliff pier. Photo taken by the author just before eating fish and chips.

Queenscliff pier.
Photo taken by the author just before eating fish and chips.

I love being a doctor. I love the variety, the capacity to touch lives. But most of all, I love the holidays.

The very best bit of my job is not doing it, and instead doing the crossword on the beach.

I won’t name my favourite holiday town for fear of spoiling it: quite frankly, I don’t need you there. Instead, I’ll code it anagrammatically.

Your presence would be superfluous, because sQueencliff already overflows with relaxed doctors: many so relaxed they’ve retired or died. I know these things because for six years I was these retired doctors’ doctor, and I also lived opposite the cemetery. Probably should have split that sentence into its two unrelated halves, actually.

It’s more fun being a relaxed doctor than looking after one. Whenever I holiday in a small town I always envy the local GPs, but of course in my imagination I’m sandy footed and solving cryptic crosswords between appointments.

“Do your urine sample at the surf club just past that jetty, Mr Jones, while I complete 6-down: ‘sQueencliff, idyllic village’. No rush.”

In reality, holidays are the toughest season for the local healers. All their elderly patients are too fragile to leave town, but everyone else’s complex patients seem to have been prescribed a fortnight’s sea air. Inevitably, the briny breeze is poor substitute for their forgotten heart pills and, predictable as the tides, day four involves a breathless visit for their white tablets. You know, the round ones, maybe yellowish. It’ll be on your computer.

Even idyllic villages evolve. These holidays, my wife convinced me to upgrade from our usual eatery with merely two menu items, fish and something-or-other (chips, I think it was), to one of the newer establishments with twenty-word meal descriptors involving essences of everything imaginable except, possibly, gluten.

Our young waiter was black (not racially, but in the Melbourne sense) and disinterested in bridging any generational divide. Low tide ebbed and flowed and still no food arrived – perhaps the chef was still coaxing milk out of our activated almonds.

I amused myself (certainly not my wife) with the menu, pondering aloud the plural of jus, and discovering agnolotti is an anagram of giant tool – my wife mumbled something about irony.

The food finally arrived in a tower so thin it may have been renting the plate per square-inch. The bill indicated the inch overlooked Manhattan’s Central Park.

The following night, as the crisp breeze blew sand over the sea wall and onto my battered fish, I turned with relaxed satisfaction to my beloved. ‘I reckon we should move back here.’

We didn’t, of course. Would have entailed looking after too many relaxed doctors.

This article was first published in Medical Observer, Jan 2015

About Dr Justin Coleman

Justin is a GP in Brisbane and Director of Education for GPs in the NT. He edits a medical journal and two medical textbooks, and is a medical writer and educator. Further details at
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4 Responses to The doctor is NOT IN

  1. Thank you Justin, The description of your recent gustatory experience made me laugh heartily – the first good laugh I’d had in quite a long time.


    • Glad to be of service, Genevieve.
      So tell me – you’re a professional writer – what IS the plural of jus? I have a particular interest, as over the years some people have used that word as my name (pronouncing the ‘s’), and I need to know what will happen if there are more than one of me.


      • Tough one. My two cents worth….
        Depends on which ‘jus’ you which to pluralise:
        The ‘jus’ on overpriced restaurant menus – no pleural form – menu writers have enough trouble already making their descriptions grammatically correct let alone intelligible.
        The Latin ‘jus’ – body of law/ a legal principle or right – plural is ‘jura’ – there is never a shortage of lawyers and judges wanting to show off their nuanced grasp of Latin grammar (whether they get it correct or not is another matter entirely).
        The diminutive of Justin, ‘Jus’ – hmmm…. While ‘Juses’ (rhyming with ‘buses’) seems logical, I think I’d prefer to put on a fake French accent and refuse to mark you with a plual-indicating grammatical morpheme. One Jus, two Jus, three Jus, too many Jus.
        Alternatively, I might call the congregation of Justins either Justies or Jussy-babes. 


  2. Worth both of your two cents, thanks G.
    I believe you have hit upon the correct word. Or, as the French (approximately) say, the mot jus.


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