Playing cards with my GP can be confusing at times. When he suddenly says, "You've only got one heart," I'm not sure whether he is startled by my bid of 4 no trump, or advising me to take it easy with the wine. Or perhaps both at the same time.
Hearts are tricky things, no bridge pun intended. Your heart is the part of you that doesn't stop working, even when the rest of you has retired. It may slow down during the night shift but it never nods off. "I believe that the heart does go on," warbled Celine Dion, sounding like a 1st-year medical student, yet ironically singing about the Titanic. But in general terms she knew what she was talking about. It was the boat that didn't go on, after all.
How jealous must your heart feel sometimes, when it sees your feet going to sleep in the middle of the day? Or your brain taking a nap after a partly-liquid lunch? (Hope you weren't driving.) Any time your ticker berates you for nodding off and leaving it to cope alone before bedtime, do what I do - attribute your drowsiness to some boring TV programme, there's enough of them around. How many times can one unemployed family afford to give their house a complete makeover?
You can always blame your age. I once saw a young Chinese colleague in Hong Kong pluck at the skin on the back of his hand and out of curiosity I did likewise to my hand. Cliff Kwan's skin snapped back, whereas mine descended at the pace of a tortoise carrying a snail on its back. As you get older, even your skin slows down, which is how I explain my poor performance at snakes and ladders or any game played with dice.
The heart, of course, is popularly considered to be the repository of all emotion, particularly love, although no matter how often young hearts are broken, they always seem to mend relatively quickly - it's the story of young skin's resilience all over again. Scots aren't born romantics - you may have heard - and when asked the easiest way to a Scotsman's heart, my doctor's straight-faced reply was, "Through his fourth and fifth ribs."
It is a daunting thought, during the wee small witching hours of the night, that starting with a slap from a midwife, our cardiac muscle has to keep pumping the red stuff ceaselessly throughout the rest of our body for the rest of our life.
Make sure you're sitting down now, before I remind you that one hundred thousand heartbeats send four thousand gallons through seventy-five thousand miles of blood vessels each day, even when we are lounging on a sunbed making our skin a little less elastic. It all seems like a terribly exhausting effort when I put it like that, and I'm not surprised you've sat down. Completely understandable, if some days our heart just isn't in it. But take heart, nonetheless, all of us are still here, beating the odds. The human heart is a lifelong optimist. I can almost hear the bookmakers laughing, but then I've never met a bookie with a heart.