The 57 club

BMJ 2004; 329 doi: (Published 16 September 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;329:691
  1. James Owen Drife, professor of obstetrics and gynaecology
  1. Leeds

    I rarely feel moved to turn my birthday into a public celebration. That might have been a problem if I had been Queen, but as things are it has been easy to let my 30th, 40th, and 50th birthdays sidle past with some bubbly and a family meal. Soon my 57th will do the same.

    Fifty-seven is a special age for male doctors. With statutory retirement at 65 we are into the last eight, in Olympic phraseology.

    It is a time when men behave unpredictably. Lifelong socialists, for example, quit their jobs and go into private health care.

    For obstetricians it is even more significant. Recently, 57 was our average age of retirement from the NHS. We baby boomers had our families earlier than they do today.

    With our kids gone, we are free agents. We have neither a war nor a gap year to look back on. It is time to have fun. To hell with the lump sum.

    But the NHS needs us. We cannot leave yet, not with all our colleagues on maternity leave. We must encourage one another to carry on.

    A bit of bonding and peer pressure should do it. Which is why I have formed the 57 Club. Here is the format for our annual party.

    Catering: With a name like “57,” the buffet has to be an enormous bowl of baked beans, with spaghetti shapes for non-bean-eaters. Then, as in Blazing Saddles, we sit around a camp-fire passing wind and swapping tales of our days as senior registrars.

    Cabaret: Fifty-seven year olds have a great sense of humour, but it takes a lot to make them laugh out loud. More effective than a conventional stand-up comedian is to invite someone from the human resources department to read excerpts from the European Working Time Directive.

    Guests: We love talking to trainees but we rarely get the chance. Be sure to invite them to the party. Don't worry about the expense. Only one will turn up, with a long explanation about the rota. Try to look interested.

    Music: By all means have Classic FM in the background, but we prefer to make our own music. We are word perfect with the LP of Bridge Over Troubled Water and we sing the tracks in the right order. But you try telling that to kids today.

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