Life's a gas for a feisty high-flyer

WILLIAM DONALDSON'S week

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I'd like to get some sort of Prozac debate going here - at least a discussion of its effectiveness over, say, laughing gas, which is what Michelle happens to be taking at the moment. My initial trials with the stuff suggest that it's excellent for depression, but I have been unable to discover whether it would be any use if you were depressed already.

This is where you can help. I'd be grateful if you could let me know whether your experience of Prozac is the same as mine: that it's quite subtle in its operation, having no effect at all for several days and then scything you down with a depression which sends you whimpering back to bed. Equally, I'd be grateful if you could let me know whether, like Michelle, you find laughing gas, generally speaking, to be of more assistance to you as you go about your normal business.

I do realise that this isn't the health page, and I should apologise, perhaps, for burdening you with research I could, at a pinch, conduct myself. I could seek the advice of a doctor, I suppose, but I've never got round to having one of them - the consequence, I think, of never having felt quite up to it. You have to be pretty much in the pink, I imagine, to handle a visit to the doctor.

If I feel like experimenting with something on prescription, I consult my friend Honest John, who, some years ago, had the foresight to have some letterheads printed in the name of "Dr Honest John - Consultant Psychiatrist". He then wrote to all the top pharmaceutical companies, asking them to supply him with their latest stuff. They obliged, the upshot being that Honest John was compelled to rent a warehouse in the Great West Road, such was the volume of clever new drugs which arrived by every post. Further, and in an emergency - not that there's been one - I consult my nephew Tom, who trained to be a vet. No, he didn't. Having an interest in sheep, he studied for some time at Cirencester College. He's in showbusiness now, but he could still patch me up in an emergency, I think.

Meanwhile, the coffee table's gone for six again. I'd been about my single- parent duties in the kitchen (and here's a useful tip: it's always a false economy to skimp on the price of pasta; equally, when boiling it (no oil), never cover the saucepan - it'll boil over and leave your cooker in a frightful state) and had just returned to the front room, when Michelle told me to stand where I was.

"Don't move," she said.

Then she went into a very weird routine, first fisting the air and making funny little grunting noises like a Maori prop trying to intimidate an Irishman. Then she put all her weight on to her left leg and extended her right leg in front of her in small, speculative, circular movements, as if it were a mine detector. Then, lunging suddenly in my direction, she swung herself through 180 degrees and landed on her arse.

I wasn't particularly surprised. Women, I've found, have quite an appetite for violence but little natural aptitude. Unless you let her get behind you, a woman can be boxed off pretty easily, I've always found. If she gets behind you, you can have a fight on your hands. I once let Mrs Mouse get behind me and she flattened me with a salad bowl.

"What was that?" I asked Michelle.

"Jujitsu," she said. "It's a bit old-fashioned."

"I can see that," I said. "Where did you learn it?"

"Bournemouth," she said. "The gourmet blue cook next door belonged to the Bournemouth Ladies Jujitsu Club. She took me along. It doesn't hurt. We've been taught how to fall."

An unnecessary precaution in Michelle's case. As I say, Michelle these days is usually on the laughing gas - the upshot of her discovery that nitrous oxide (laughing gas) is used in industrial whipping machines supplied to ice-cream parlours. If it wasn't for laughing gas, your knickerbocker glory would be as flat as a pancake. Every evening, Michelle hops along to Covent Garden, where she nicks tomorrow's delivery of laughing gas from outside an ice-cream parlour. Then she does stuff with balloons and so forth and the next thing you know she's on the ceiling. Of course she wouldn't hurt herself flying through 180 degrees and landing on her back. Michelle on laughing gas could be bounced off all four walls of a squash court and she wouldn't feel a thing.

It came as no surprise, therefore, when she picked herself up and said she'd like another go.

"Stand there," she said.

The same thing happened again - the mistake being, I think, that they hadn't told her at the Bournemouth Ladies Jujitsu Club that she should remain standing on at least one leg when swinging at her opponent with the other. Up went the little fists, a short sequence of Maori grunts, and she flew through 180 degrees again, landing this time on the coffee table, which she smashed to bits.

Normally, and without Prozac, I'd have laughed like hell. Without Prozac, and as I now told Michelle, this would have been the best laugh I'd had since Nights at the Comedy in 1964, when a 28-stone black-belt Buddhist monk from Streatham challenged anyone in the audience to knock him off his feet.

"I'm as agile as a cat!" he cried.

An utterly harmless-looking chap in a dinner jacket climbed on to the stage and had a go.

"What happened?" said Michelle.

"Nothing at all," I said. "The chap in the dinner jacket couldn't budge the fat Buddhist in the least."

"That's a completely pointless story," said Michelle.

And so it was, of course - but that's the trouble with Prozac. On Prozac, everything seems pointless - which is why I'd be grateful if you'd pass on your experience of the stuff. I could stop taking it, I suppose, but that strikes me as being the easy way out. I'd rather beat the little buggers at their own game. Otherwise, it's the laughing gas, and we've seen where that leads.

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