Petrushka: Proceedings of a Conference on Severe Epidemic Phytonotic Syndrome (SEPS)

I’ve been following the work of Peter McCarey, the author of this book, since I reviewed his online project The Syllabary ( in 2006. The Syllabary is an attempt to produce a poem for every one-syllable word in the English/Scottish language, and Peter McCarey is best-known as a poet, but he’s also an experimental writer, and Petrushka is a work of experimental horror/science-fiction, somewhat in the tradition of John Wyndham. It purports to be a collection of papers from a conference about the alarming spread of a disease called SEPS, in which human beings find themselves sprouting leaves and thorns as they are taken over from within by plants. It’s a bit like Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids, but more documentary in style. This documentary approach does have its drawbacks, particularly in the second half of the book where one or two of the papers presented by ‘contributors’ other than McCarey himself – on subjects such as the impact of SEPS on social organisations, religion and art, its legal and ethical ramifications, and so on – get a little bit dry and theoretical. On the other hand there is a genuinely creepy conviction to the book: by the end of it you feel that this, or something like this, is actually very likely to happen as a result of our constant nibbling-away and tampering with the environment. There are a couple of very striking sections – one where an investigative journalist tracks down the first case of SEPS to a Russian villager who has started sprouting parsley, and another where an interview is presented, purportedly with someone from the future who has come back to set SEPS in motion as a means of stopping the human race in its tracks before it can entirely destroy the planet. The ideas are constantly interesting and provocative. There are moments where the combination of creepiness, intellectual excitement and elegant prose reminded me of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

Dr Hairy and the QCQ, part 7

The seventh in a new series of puppet-animations about the life and misadventures of an ordinary (but rather hirsute) GP.

Grabber’s mother goes through a bright door, Grabber comes into some property, and Dr Hairy’s outspoken email about the results of his QCQ inspection finds its way to the Department of Health – with hilarious results!

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Dr Hairy’s Research Summaries, September 2017

The Research Summaries and Quiz for September 2017 are now online. Subjects covered this time:

Identifying primary care quality indicators for people with serious mental illness: a systematic review

Br J Gen Pract 3 July 2017; bjgp17X691721. DOI:

Diagnosis and management of perinatal depression and anxiety in general practice: a meta-synthesis of qualitative studies

Br J Gen Pract 2017; 67 (661): e538-e546. DOI:

GPs’ mental wellbeing and psychological resources: a cross-sectional survey

Br J Gen Pract 2017; 67 (661): e547-e554. DOI:

Empathy, burnout, and antibiotic prescribing for acute respiratory infections: a cross-sectional primary care study in the US

Br J Gen Pract 17 July 2017; bjgp17X691901. DOI:

Helpful strategies for GPs seeing patients with medically unexplained physical symptoms: a focus group study

Br J Gen Pract 3 July 2017; bjgp17X691697. DOI:

Intrusive thoughts and images of intentional harm to infants in the context of maternal postnatal depression, anxiety, and OCD

Br J Gen Pract 2017; 67 (661): 376-377. DOI:

Harm caused by vaccines might vary between individuals

BMJ 2017;358:j3631

Should we allow overseas visitors free access to NHS services?

BMJ 2017;358:j3665

A growth reference for mid upper arm circumference for age among school age children and adolescents, and validation for mortality: growth curve construction and longitudinal cohort study

BMJ 2017;358:j3423

Disturbed grief: prolonged grief disorder and persistent complex bereavement disorder

BMJ 2017;357:j2016

Bad Medicine: The medical untouchables

Br J Gen Pract 2017; 67 (661): 363. DOI:

For more information about Dr Hairy’s Research Summaries, please visit

Treacle Pudding and Custard

Here’s something really peculiar – Treacle Pudding and Custard by Princess Indigo. It’s a series of comedy-videos about ‘a Commodore 64 who turns into an elephant and a ZX81 who thinks it’s a cat’. That’s a sufficiently offbeat concept in itself, but just to add to the strangeness the voices are produced by text-to-speech software, and the visuals consist mainly of a dreamy slow-motion shot of a pair of hands (with painted nails) playing across a computer keyboard. The entire project has a spaced-out, weightless feel, combining the funny and the banal with the tedious and just a touch of Samuel Beckett. And if you bother to look up the series creator, Princess Indigo, it turns out that (s)he’s some kind of transgender virtual persona (see If you’re into weird stuff, this just might be for you.

Dr Hairy and the QCQ, part 6

The sixth in a new series of puppet-animations about the life and misadventures of an ordinary (but rather hirsute) GP.

Dr Hairy strikes up an unlikely friendship with Jiminy Simmons, the QCQ inspector; Grabber visits his Mum in order to put red dots on all her stuff; and then Dr Hairy receives his QCQ inspection report – with hilarious results!

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Dr Hairy’s Research Summaries, August 2017

The research summaries and quiz for August 2017 are now online. Subjects covered this time:

Addiction to exercise
BMJ 2017;357:j1745
Reducing liver function tests for statin monitoring: an observational comparison of two clinical commissioning groups
Br J Gen Pract 30 January 2017; bjgp17X689365
NICE food allergy and anaphylaxis quality standards: a review of the 2016 quality standards
Br J Gen Pract 2017; 67 (656): 138-139 bjgp17X689833
Outcome prioritisation tool for medication review in older patients with multimorbidity: a pilot study in general practice
Br J Gen Pract 27 March 2017; bjgp17X690485. DOI:
Good enough is good enough!
Br J Gen Pract 2017; 67 (660): 311. DOI:

Characteristics of children who do not attend their hospital appointments, and GPs’ response: a mixed methods study in primary and secondary care
Br J Gen Pract 19 June 2017; bjgp17X691373. DOI:
Practical guidance on heart failure diagnosis and management in primary care: recent EPCCS recommendations
Br J Gen Pract 2017; 67 (660): 326-327. DOI:
Enuresis: practical guidelines for primary care
Br J Gen Pract 2017; 67 (660): 328-329. DOI:
Why worry about bisphosphonate-related osteonecrosis of the jaw? A guide to diagnosis, initial management, and referral of patients
Br J Gen Pract 2017; 67 (660): 330-331. DOI:
Lifestyle in progression from hypertensive disorders of pregnancy to chronic hypertension in Nurses’ Health Study II: observational cohort study
BMJ 2017;358:j3024

For more information about Dr Hairy’s Research Summaries, please visit

Modern Moral Fairy Tale, by Deena Larsen and MaJe Larsen

A man looks over a cliff.  Is it the reader? Or the writer? Or the grown boy?

I’ve only just come across this, although it was written some years ago. It’s well worth spending some time on. It starts with a story about a boy who lives by a clear-watered ravine with enormous salmon swimming in it, and who decides to make some money by inviting people to come and fish for the salmon, with predictably environmentally disastrous consequences. But it’s very cleverly structured, with other layers of meaning beyond this: you find yourself wandering into the thoughts of the salmon themselves, and they turn out to be zen-style philosophers. It looks fairly old-fashioned now – definitely designed to be seen on a computer-screen rather than a mobile phone; very much HTML and web-pages rather than anything to do with apps – but it made me remember what used to excite me about electronic literature.

Dr Hairy’s Research Summaries, July 2017

The Research Summaries and quiz for July 2017 are now online. Subjects covered this time:

Clinical relevance of thrombocytosis in primary care: a prospective cohort study of cancer incidence using English electronic medical records and cancer registry data


Prescribing tamoxifen in primary care for the prevention of breast cancer: a national online survey of GPs’ attitudes


Influences on GP coping and resilience: a qualitative study in primary care


Recognising paediatric obstructive sleep apnoea in primary care: diagnosis and management


Improving management of gout in primary care: a new UK management guideline


The role of the microbiome in human health and disease: an introduction for clinicians

BMJ 2017;356:j831

Management of mild hypertension in adults

BMJ 2016;355:i5719

Serum uric acid levels and multiple health outcomes: umbrella review of evidence from observational studies, randomised controlled trials, and Mendelian randomisation studies

BMJ 2017;357:j2376

Moderate alcohol consumption as risk factor for adverse brain outcomes and cognitive decline: longitudinal cohort study

BMJ 2017;357:j2353

Alcohol consumption and brain health

BMJ 2017;357:j2645

Antibiotic prescription strategies and adverse outcome for uncomplicated lower respiratory tract infections: prospective cough complication cohort (3C) study

BMJ 2017;357:j2148

For more information about Dr Hairy’s Research Summaries, please visit

Dr Hairy and the QCQ, part 5

The fifth in a new series of puppet-animations about the life and misadventures of an ordinary (but rather hirsute) GP.

The day of Dr Hairy’s QCQ inspection has come. Unfortunately, he’s been dragged away from the surgery on an emergency visit to his mother. While he’s out, Jiminy Simmons, the QCQ Inspector, interviews first Ruthie Bear and then Grabber’s sisters, Pongo and Krups; and when Dr Hairy gets back, he has to find a way quickly to get rid of a sample from his mother – with hilarious results!

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Dr Hairy’s Research Summaries, June 2017

The research summaries and quiz for June 2017 are now online. Subjects covered this time:

Efficacy and effectiveness of screen and treat policies in prevention of type 2 diabetes: systematic review and meta-analysis of screening tests and interventions

BMJ 2017;356:i6538

Screen and intervene to prevent diabetes?

BMJ 2017;356:i6800

Solanezumab and the amyloid hypothesis for Alzheimer’s disease

BMJ 2016;355:i6771

Challenges of managing chronic pain

BMJ 2017;356:j741

Prevention of falls in older people living in the community

BMJ 2016;353:i1419

An approach to hypopigmentation

BMJ 2017;356:i6534

New diagnosis of polycystic ovary syndrome

BMJ 2017;356:i6456

Risk of heart failure after community acquired pneumonia: prospective controlled study with 10 years of follow-up

BMJ 2017;356:j413

Effectiveness and safety of reduced dose non-vitamin K antagonist oral anticoagulants and warfarin in patients with atrial fibrillation: propensity weighted nationwide cohort study

BMJ 2017;356:j510

Is tonsillectomy recommended in adults with recurrent tonsillitis?

BMJ 2017;357:j1450

For more information about Dr Hairy’s Research Summaries, please visit