The Yorkshire Vet, Julian Norton takes a trip down memory lane and decides some things have improved

I came into the conversation half way through, as I emerged from my consultation room in search of the next patient.

Julian decides vet waiting rooms have improved over the years.
Julian decides vet waiting rooms have improved over the years.

I couldn’t imagine how it had started.

“Yes, it is just like Mr Benn,” was receptionist Bev’s reply to the question I’d missed. My ears pricked up and I joined in.

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“Mr Benn, as in the children’s programme from the 1970s?” I asked, sensing an opportunity to reminisce over pleasures past. It turned out it was that Mr Benn and we talked about the classic TV cartoon. Everyone in the waiting room within earshot agreed the show was excellent and that they didn’t make television like that anymore.

Someone mentioned Bod. Nobody within the discussion could remember exactly where and why Alexander Frog fitted in. (Answers on a postcard please).

“My favourite was Magic Roundabout,” somebody else added. “Oh, yes. With Florence and Dougal. And Zebedee! Now that was very special!”

By now, more staff had appeared – all younger and blissfully unaware of this TV gold from a prehistoric era – who were oblivious to everything under discussion.

“What on earth are you talking about?” asked nurse Lucy. “And can you check this prescription and have a look at an X-ray?”

I gave my apologies and left to get on with my veterinary work, peering at the grey, white and black shades of the X-ray.

Lucy headed to a computer, to Google Dougal. Minutes later, she had a smile on her face, confirming that it looked good, adding: “But you didn’t really watch that? It looks so old!”

Back in the waiting room, happy dogs left, trotting on leads held by happy owners. Pleased mainly because of a cure or sensible plan for the patient, but maybe also because of a pleasant time outside of the consulting room.

The waiting room experience is an important one and, in my opinion, every bit as crucial as what goes on during the examination or in the operating theatre.

I have to say, controversially, that in my opinion the best times were (again from antiquity) when practices held ‘open surgeries’.

This haphazard and often chaotic system could bring a long wait but always led to an interesting conversation with the person (or animal) sitting next to you. Even on a busy day, in a full waiting room, I’d try and get a glimpse of the conver-sations. It offered a window into the animal owners’ world. There was usually an affable atmosphere.

“What are you here for? Chemotherapy? Crikey! He doesn’t look poorly at all!” or “What a huge bandage! There must be something really bad going on under there!” would be overheard chats.

And regular patients and owners would often meet in passing, if check-up visits coincided, so new friends could follow the progress of recovering pets together.

But the waiting room was not always a friendly place. In my early days as a vet, when established clients only wanted to see the senior partner, and not the fresh-faced, recently qualified newcomer, a full waiting room meant a sea of averted eyes, whose gaze was swiftly shifted towards the floor whenever I’d call: “Who’s next please?”

Eventually, through expediency or empathy, a client would usually stand up and reluctantly make their way to see me. I’m glad to say, a combination of increasing experience and the now-normal appointment-based system has obliterated this problem.

Even though children’s television doesn’t necessarily get better with time, other things definitely do.