Things can get a little tedious, I dare say, during those long Texan afternoons. The sun beats down, the tumbleweeds blow, hound-dogs howl. Inside an operating theatre downtown, a surgeon picks up a black felt-tip pen to indicate the position of the incision he is going to make on his patient's anaesthetised form. But something distracts him; some terminal ennui, some prairie Weltschmerz, overmasters his spirit. Filled with sorrow for the human race, he transfers his attention to the patient's groin...

No, it's hopeless. Nobody's going to buy this. Try as I might, I simply cannot come up with a plausible explanation for why Edward Baker, a junior surgeon of otherwise blameless repute, drew a happy smiling face on a patient's penis during an operation in a Houston hospital last week. It was presumably with mixed feelings that the patient discovered Mr Baker's droll handiwork, back in the recovery ward. The hospital authorities, however, saw no humour in it: Mr Baker was sacked. This seems unnecessarily tough treatment for a moment of levity, of a kind that is becoming common. Wherever you look, the world of medicine is forsaking its traditional gravity and becoming an adjunct of the entertainment world.

The other day, a convocation of cancer specialists in Toronto was told by a Wisconsin biotechnologist that the future of cancer treatment lay in "shooting" patients with a gun that fires microscopic golden bullets, containing genetic ammo, into their diseased cells. Forget that old chemotherapy nonsense; this is the Scaramanga Treatment, the Tarantino Cure, the OK-patient-make-my-day approach to illness.

In Rotterdam, meanwhile, a crazed inventor has come up with singing incontinence pants. Amazing but true - before the year is out, several mortified Dutch people, of toddler age and above, will be encased in nappy-like constructions which warble popular tunes when wet ("Here Comes the Rain Again"? "Drip Drip Drip, Little April Showers"?). It's only a matter of time before this initiative is more broadly adopted: soon, we shall all be walking around with personal health monitoring devices, which will break into prolonged yodelling at the first indications of gallstones or thrush.

But the new embodiment of Entertainment Medicine is Mr Dave Gooby, an east London hospital porter earning £4.72 an hour, who found himself, duly scrubbed up, assisting at a hip-replacement operation the other day because the hospital needed someone to manipulate the prosthesis. "The scrub nurse passed the surgeon an instrument," Mr Gooby told the Sun. "I think it's called a retractor. He inserted it in the leg and said to me, `Will you be all right to hold this?' I held the instrument in position for about two minutes. It was eight to ten inches long, thin with a spoon-shaped handle..."

Like you, I began to wonder, at about this stage, if Mr Gooby was the victim of an elaborate practical joke. The bogus retractor. The long-handled spoon. The old "hold this" routine... I'm surprised he wasn't invited to insert a bunch of gardenias and a pound of Porkinson's sausages into the wound...

Humour and medicine - it's getting worse, I tell you. Stand by for reports of Gregorian-chanting pacemakers and DIY lobotomies a week today. It is, after all, April Fools' Day.


Spring is here, and a young Weasel's fancy turns to thoughts of love. Good luck to him. For the rest of us, more mundane matters press in: remembering to put the clocks forward; the impending arrival of the tax return; the painting of the bathroom ceiling. Moving house...

In the Weasel's south London redoubt, moving becomes a more appealing thought with every passing week. The problems are many, but they've now been joined by an unexpected one: wildlife. I'm becoming overrun by the animal kingdom. If there is a more sleep-shattering sound than that made by the urban fox as it goes about its traditional round of bin-bag-ripping and pet-terrorising, I don't wish to hear it.

One escapes to the local parks, where nature is more benign: tranquil places full of ducks enjoying the duck equivalent of a good time. At least, they used to be. I spent last Sunday's spell of sunshine feeding the web- footed amphibians with one of the weaslets and got rather a shock.

Profferring the usual bite-size lump of Sainsbury's wholemeal to a couple of weedy, traditional British ducks, not dissimilar to those in his bath, the little mite was startled when a pair of Canada geese suddenly loomed over him and snatched it away like muggers. Back home I checked to see if they had form. According to my encyclopaedia, Branta canadensis is known for a "honking call and V-shaped pattern in flight", which is like saying the England rugby player Brian Moore is known for his taste in decor and elegant table-manners. The Canada goose is a brute and a bully, and deserves to be taught a lesson. (A child nearby had one solution: hurling pieces of sharp-edged Ryvita, frisbee-style, at them.)

On the other side of the lake is a special area for children. Perched there, on the fence, was what at first sight I took to be an eagle, or vulture. I blinked. Was I imagining it? It was an extremely nasty hawk of the kestrel variety, beady of eye and razor-sharp of bill. Near it trotted a young lad, wearing a leather glove to which the bird was tethered by a length of washing line. He was a study in nonchalance. And I suppose you can see the appeal: as playground boasts go, it certainly beats a pit-bull or a Rottweiler, and you get none of that nonsense about tagging or muzzles. The hawk looked at me with hatred; it shook with malevolence. It seemed like time to go, before the weaslet started introducing the remains of his wholemeal bread into the horrible bird's business end.

The next day, I called my local council. Birds of prey, they replied, are not covered by local by-laws, although they do discourage them. I think it's time to move house, before flocks of trained buzzards steal my car...


Years ago, Malcolm Muggeridge had a tele-vision programme called The Question Why?, in which he pressed his fingertips together thoughtfully and mused on some burning question of morality.

A programme like that today might usefully turn its attention to why people agree to appear on television when there's nothing in it for them and when they know they are only going to be ridiculed. Take Lord Bath, who turned up on Michael Barrymore's "real people" show last week. Apparently under the impression that he was appearing on a chat show, the noble lord launched into an account of his career as a painter and writer. "I've written a million-and-a-half-words of my autobiography," he said proudly, at which Barrymore snapped, "Are you short of something to do?" This tone of petulant rudeness continued while Lord Bath, a man whose grip on the real world seems at best tenuous, was invited to sing a nonsense, "Hey Nonny No" song with the thin humorist, and more indignities followed.

Both Barrymore's chippiness and Bath's extraordinary self-abasement before the Saturday masses (I wasn't really watching, you understand, I just had it on in the background while I was correcting the proofs of my translation of Thucydides) reminded me of David Mellor, MP. And true to form, Mr Mellor turned up again in Sunday's papers, berating the members of his own constituency association in the kind of knockabout terms rarely heard outside Stamford Bridge. Those who wanted him to step down were, he said, "cretins", a term at least as offensive as calling someone a "spastic".

One of them, said Mr Mellor, could only call himself a film producer because it was Red Nose Day. Another wasn't really a pilot because he was "too busy pushing his mother's supermarket trolley around Sainsbury's". The third "cretin" resembled Herbie Hide, the boxer recently knocked down eight times in a fight.

What a card. What a caution. I suggest that Mr Mellor, should he be keen to expand his media interests still further, might like to join Mr Barrymore in a new show devoted to flinging imaginative insults at undeserving people. They could call it Bastardmore.


Congratulations to Mr Pat Gray, a Northern Irish lecturer in political science, whose book The Political Map of the Heart won the idiotic World One-Day Novel Cup, held at London's Groucho Club. This foolish enterprise involved 50 or so entrants with nothing better to do on that weekend, scribbling furiously for two bursts of 12 hours and trying to produce something that could pass, at a hundred yards in dim light, for a novel.

My heart goes out to the losers, who by the end were suffering from rheumatism, eye- dazzle, brain-cudgelling and creative meltdown. But also for the organisers, with their sadly misguided fancy that writing a novel in a day is something new and clever. It's not, as anyone who has been to see the new cinematic version of Little Women can testify. Two-thirds of the way through, Jo March, having spent her time fruitlessly writing long tales about vampires, fairy princesses and the like, decides to write her own life story and - unless I nodded off or something - does so at a single sitting. Voices from her past occur in her brain. Autobiographical scenes self-resurrect before her eyes. And she pulls it off without sleep, sustenance or even a change of clothing. So, Groucho scribblers - keep at the old one-day routine and, sooner or later, you too might write Little Women. You may even get to marry a fat, clapped-out old German philosopher as a reward. The Weasel