Serious Burns Unit

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A newly qualified doctor arrives for his first day at a hospital, deep in the African interior. He is met by one of the sisters, who has been given the task of showing him around the hospital and introducing him to the staff and patients.


It is a large hospital and it takes the whole day to get round. By late afternoon they are working their way through the psychiatric block and as the time approaches for the evening meal they arrive at the last ward.


They follow the dinner trolley into the ward and wait while one of the nurses lifts the lid on the food tray. To the doctor’s surprise there is nothing but a single, albeit large, haggis on the tray to feed a whole ward.


One of the tallest, blackest patients moves towards the trolley in a purposeful manner addressing the haggis in a surprisingly accurate Edinburgh brogue,

“Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,

Great chieftain o the puddin’-race!

Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,

Painch, tripe, or thairm:

Weel are ye wordy of a grace

As lang’s my airm.”


Before he can reach the haggis another, very dark-skinned patient sprints forward, grabs the simple repast and dashes up the ward. He proudly holds the haggis aloft and cries out in a reasonable Glasgow accent,

“Some hae meat and cannae eat.

Some cannae eat that want it:

But we hae meat and we can eat,

Sae let the Lord be thankit.”


At this, a kilted dervish leaps from his bed, whips a skien dubh out of his sock and lunges at the haggis carrier. With a deft movement the haggis bearer fends off the flashing blade with the haggis. Although this prevents any injury it does result in the top of the haggis being hacked off. A small mouse obviously waiting upon this event dashes out from under a bed, grabs the morsel of haggis and scampers up the ward, running the gauntlet of slashing claymores and hurled dirks from various patients. At the end of the ward stands a bent and wizened old tribal warrior with a wild fire in his eyes, but a strangely Aberdeen twang to his voice. He screams at the mouse,

“Wee sleekit, cow’rin, tim’rous beastie,

O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!

Thou need na start awa sae hasty,

Wi bickering brattle!

I wad be laith to rin an chase thee,

Wi murdering pattle!”


And then dives upon the poor little mouse. With a left dummy and a right feint, the mouse dodges between the old man’s legs, through a hole in the skirting board and to safety with his prize.


The doctor turns to the sister and asks, “Why is this psychiatric ward in an African hospital so full of Scotsmen?”


“Oh no, doctor, these are not Scotsmen, they are genuine Zulu tribesmen born and bred”, she replies, “and, anyway, this isn’t a psychiatric ward. It’s the serious Burns unit”

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