The Friary Newsletter: We mustn't cure too many, we need the money

For budgetary reasons, we've decided to turf out all the Y2K clients early on the morning of 1 January

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This week Sir Dominic Trench, acting Chairman of Friary Group plc, writes:

`These are the End Days. The hour of judgement is at hand. The sky has turned black, the moon as red as blood, and the seven bowls of God's wrath are soon to be poured upon the scorched and sulphurous earth."

Thus began my little speech at the Y2K block's Christmas party on Wednesday night. Anyone who knows me knows I'm a terrible practical joker, something which occasionally gets me into trouble. Unfortunately my prank coincided with an unscheduled fire drill and all hell broke loose. In retrospect this was not a suitable leg-pull for a roomful of Y2K nut-cases - sorry, clients! Still feeling my way, I'm afraid! - and it caused a good deal of wailing and gnashing of teeth. There was actually a tinned food fight, and one poor fellow tried to ascend into heaven via the cooker's ventilation hood.

But of course, these are the End Days for our Y2K Unit, both figuratively and literally. Since we opened the unit last year, it has taken in nearly 1,300 computer bug paranoiacs, apocalypse fantasists, Doomsday cult members, New World Order fanatics and X-Files addicts. The doctors warned us about letting them mix together, as some strains of millenniarism can be highly infectious, but splitting them up just didn't make financial sense. For similar budgetary reasons, we've decided to turf everybody out early on the morning of 1 January. So long, you're cured!

Since the Christmas party tensions remain high at Y2K Block. Obviously this is the week they've all been waiting for, and I'm told there were several cases of dicky tums at the Second Coming dress rehearsal. I gather the new therapy regime has been a great help. The nurses are keeping them all busy, setting bumper crossword puzzles and compiling lists of the century's best boy bands, the millennium's top 100 cake recipes, that sort of thing. Apparently some of the newspapers even picked up our 1,000 Rears of History, a list of the millennium's greatest bums put together by three patients from the Cult Rescue Sector. I'm proud to say the list includes Alexander the Great and Carol Smillie, both recent alumni of the Friary, although obviously not the real one in the case of the former. Or the latter, come to think of it. The big question for the future is what to do with the Y2K block once it's empty. We've had several ideas from doctors, and some great input from clients. The best I've heard so far is a plan to set up a Tory Disaffection Unit, a sort of halfway house between the Conservative Party and New Labour for MPs who are thinking of crossing the floor. As many of the staff know, Mr Shaun Woodward came to us several times, and was misdiagnosed as having Seasonal Affective Disorder. If we'd thought up Tory Disaffection Syndrome a bit sooner, we could have counselled him on the Third Way instead of sitting him naked in front of a bank of fluorescent lights. We were caught on the hop with this one, but that's no excuse. I think our new motto for the millennium should be Invent, Invite, Invoice. It encapsulates our mission statement perfectly, and it's much catchier than the old No Biscuits After Lights Out.

Another intriguing idea, from someone in the cafeteria, is a special residential programme for people who contributed to Neil Hamilton's fighting fund, on the grounds that they must all be both crazy and rich, and therefore well within our target demographic. Very amusing, I'm sure, although if we start curing the terminally unreal, we'll be out of business by March! Whoops! There I go again! Anyway, keep those ideas coming. We plan to announce the winner on New Year's Eve. First prize is a bottle of champagne and a box of chocolates, unless of course either is proscribed by your course of treatment.

The good news is that our Chairman has sorted out his tax trouble, and should return from Belize to take the helm in the New Year. This means I'll be going back to Railtrack sooner than expected. I've enjoyed my brief tenure as temporary chairman, and on behalf of the directors I would like to wish all those at Friary Group plc, including staff at our sister facilities, The Nunnery, The Dispensary, the Buttery and our budget drop- in clinic, the Workhouse, a Happy New Year. Let's hope we're all here this time next week! Just kidding!

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