Martin was annoyed at the knock on the door. He had been reviewing Jayne Mallard's records and realized that she hadn't gotten a flu vaccine in a number of years. Dr. Simm had made note of a bad reaction to the one she received in her first year of primary school and had decided against giving it again. Although Simm hadn't made the connection between flu vaccines and eggs, it pointed to an egg allergy and Martin felt her should have caught this. It would have saved her a lot of painful testing and him a great deal of embarrassment.
Morwenna poked her head around the door. "'nother one of the committee people here for an interview. Should I send him in?" Martin sighed and nodded.
Wonderful. His first interview with Dr. Spencer and Dr. Carson had not gone well. He had assumed that his credentials as a medical professional would play well with the other physicians on the panel. Unfortunately, both were also avid golfers, like Griggs. Once the stopped talking medicine, there were several dragged out silences before the two men made their apologies and left. How was he supposed to impress the lay members of the committee if he couldn't even convince the doctor's he was a better physician?
A few seconds later the door opened. A thin, reedy man with glasses and a badly shaved goatee entered. Martin had a momentary flashback to Louisa's obnoxious neighbours with the insufferable child that had ruined their second attempt at a date. He held out a hand as he walked towards Martin's desk.
"Dr. Ellingham, thank you for seeing me. Tim Carville, Deputy Director of Accountability for the Southwest." Martin nodded at him. "Please have a seat." Carville stood for a moment with his extended hand wavering. He dropped in slowly and sat. "Tea or water," offered Martin, remembering the advice Louisa had given him this morning. Carville looked surprised but nodded. "Tea would be lovely." Martin leaned back and yelled, "MORWENNA". Carville jumped and dropped the folder the was holding on his lap. After a moment the door opened and she poked her head in.
"Tea, one cup."
"Nevermind. Milk? Sugar?" Martin looked at the man bent over collecting some papers that had scattered, shoving them into a dark blue folder. He sat up and replied, "Milk, no sugar." Morwenna closed the door. Martin turned back to Carville and stared at him expectantly.
Carville continued to attempt to organize his papers. "Yes, right. Erm, Dr. Elling…ham. I wanted….to ask you some…questions about your…practice here in….erm…"
"Portwenn," Martin finished, trying not to roll his eyes. Louisa's voice rang in his ear. Be polite. You don't have to make friend, but treat them like they matter. They do. The door opened and Morwenna came in with a tray. In the center of the tray was a single cup of tea which she presented to Carville. He took in and mumbled, "thank you." "Your grace," she replied and turned walk out. She stopped at the door and started to ask if there was anything else when she saw the Doc glaring at her. She wisely decided to quit before he blew his stack and closed the door behind her.
Carville gave up organizing and settled back in his chair, sipping his tea. "So, Doctor… what made you decide to become a doctor." Martin tilted his head as he was being addressed in a foreign language. Carville continued, "When did you decide to become a physician. To be a healer?"
Martin was unsure of where this was going. "My great-grandfather taught medicine. My grandfather was a physician. My father was surgeon." Carville looked at him thoughtfully before replying, "So it's the family business so to speak." Martin stared back. "Yes."
Carville pressed on, "No other interests? No thoughts of becoming a drummer in rock band or winning the Cup for England?" Martin again tilted his head. What was this man going on about? Rock band? What cup?
"What I mean is, what other interests did you have? What other interests might have stolen your heart from medicine?" Martin continued to stare, completely unprepared for what answer was expected. "My education was in science, mathematics and languages. St. Philip's naturally expected us to participate in House sporting events, a requirement which I fulfilled."
"Let try a different route. Do you have any hobbies or outside interests?" Martin could feel his stomach harden. He replied flatly, "I repair clocks." Carville looked expectantly, waiting for him to elaborate. "When I can," finished Martin. Carville shook his head. Martin had had enough – he was clearly dealing with another person looking for a partner for golf or lawn darts or whatever turned his fancy. "Look, I don't understand what this has to do with…"
Carville leaned forward and interrupted. "Dr. Ellingham. I am well aware of your credentials and you have an impressive CV. What I am looking for is what else you contribute to the community. The GP is a cornerstone of any society, the foundation for the welfare of every villager. I want to know how you integrate within Portwenn as a whole. How do you relate to the villagers and how do they relate to you? How do you connect with your community?"
Martin looked down at his hands which were folded on this desk. He took a deep breath before responding. "Mr. Caville, I am doctor, first and always. What the people of this village need is a competent physician who is up-to-date on training and diagnostic care. To accomplish this to a standard I expect of any doctor takes every second I have. This week, I have attempted to have dinner with my family each evening. Three times I was late because my patient list took longer than my office hours. Twice I was called out to an emergency in the middle of the meal. The one night I made it through dinner, I was called out in the middle of the night to treat a sustained asthma attack which lasted four hours. I returned home in time to shower, have breakfast and see my first patient. If I am doing my job, I do not have time for extra-curricular activities. I am not here to be a pal to anyone. I have no intention of telling a patient to hold their medical problem until after my golf game."
As silence descended between them, Carville leaned back, eyeing Martin with a bemused expression. Finally, he frowned and placed his tea cup on Martin's desk. "Dr. Ellingham, I feel I have taken enough of your time. Thank you for seeing me." He quietly rose and headed for the door.
Martin watched him and realized he had done it again. Another disappointed committee member who would no doubt head straight to Chris Parsons and deliver his judgment. Martin leaped up and followed him into the waiting room. He felt like he should say something, do something. "Mr. Carville, I should have…" Carville turned back and replied, "No need, I assure you. Good afternoon." He wished Morwenna pleasant day and thanked her again for the tea before heading out the front door. She watched him leave and looked back at the Doc. "Guess that went well. More tea?"
Louisa stirred the rice and checked on the chicken breasts before calling out, "Dinner will be ready in five minutes." Martin came into the kitchen, walked over to the sink and placed a small step-stool beside it. A moment later, James ran up and climbed the stool, pushing up his sleeves. Martin placed a small drop of soap in his little hands before placing a slightly larger drop in his own. They began rubbing the soap into their hands and James counted to twenty. Louisa watched this nightly ritual with a smile – she loved that they looked like the same person, only two different sizes. "Twenty!" yelled James and Martin turned on the water. They rinsed their hands, dried them and James headed to his chair while Martin returned the stool to the corner.
As they ate dinner, Louisa waited for Martin to tell her how the interview that day had gone. Finally, she had to ask, "So, how was your meeting today with Mr…." "Carville," finished Martin. Louisa was surprised. Usually it took several meetings for Martin to remember a name.
"I went fine. I think. Maybe." Martin still hadn't made his mind up. Carville hadn't seemed pleased, but he had not left angry or sped out to door looking for a quick escape. "He wasn't angry, if that's what you are asking."
"No, Martin. I just want to know what you thought of the interview," Louisa sighed. She was hoping he listened to her advice and made it through one interview with a positive result.
"Like I said, he wasn't angry. But he didn't smile. He just sort of…left." Martin looked up at her and shrugged his shoulders. Louisa eyed him warily. Martin was incapable of lying or covering up the truth, so this was probably an accurate description. But was it good or bad? "So, what's next?"
"Thursday I am meeting with the Chairwoman at Chris's office. She has taken over his space for the remainder of this blasted drivel."
"BLASTED DRIVEL!" echoed James with a huge grin.