I joked with a friend before running the London Marathon last week that I didn’t mind where I  came as long as I wasn’t beaten by a banana. Foolish words. I passed someone dressed as a giant testicle at five miles running for a cancer charity, a beer bottle at ten miles and was out-sprinted by Super Mario Brothers in the home stretch. Oh, I forgot the old bloke running in a Mankini.


My aim was low and vague when applying for Olympic tickets going for sports unlikely to garner much interest beyond desperados like me including Greco-Roman wrestling.

And so it is my fate that I will be going to the greatest show on earth to watch some Turkish midget power lift the weight of a car above his head in the powerlifting competition.

I’ll have to bone up on all the jargon about snatch and lifts, clean jerks and like.

A friend also snaggled some fencing tickets so its real crème de la crème stuff come summer 2012.


‘First time in human’ (FTIH) drug trials are an easy way to make some cash if you don’t mind being used as a guinea pig to test pipeline pharmaceuticals.

In David Cameron’s Britain you have to hustle to make a living which is why I found myself at a screening appointment to be a potential lab rat for SRT 3025.

I was cheered to read that SRT 3025 has been successfully tested on dogs and rats with side effects that could include abdominal hair loss, mucoid stools, red urine and weight loss.

All sounds bearable enough if you ignore the caveat a few lines down which says that ‘we cannot rule out the possibility that an unknown side-effect may be life threatening.’

SRT 3025 is an experimental drug for tackling diabetes which is poetically described as a: randomised, placebo controlled, single bind, dose-escalation, first-time-in human study to assess the safety and pharmacokenetics of single and repeat doses of SRT3025 in normal health volunteers.

Righto. Strap me, in dose me up and I’ll pick my cheque on the return trip from Alpha Centuri.

Not so quick, sonny. We don’t test on any old blood polluters.

First, you have to get through a rigorous four-hour screening which includes numerous forms to fill in, body measurements, blood tests, an ECG, urine sample, insufferable amounts of waiting, more form filling and a watery cup of cordial and digestive biscuit at the end of it.

So, here I am with a group of other sheepish ‘cohorts’ signing on the dotted line in a secure unit on the top floor of a hospital.

The NHS has yet to master the subtleties of central heating meaning you alternately freeze or swelter depending on where you are in the building. Then there’s the squeaky linoleum floor, sound of distant coughing and all pervading smell of over-cooked food that feels like its seeping into your bones. If you aren’t sick when you go in, there is a good change you will be when you get out.

The unit’s seventh floor windows quiver and rattle under a grey June sky as I lie topless and shivering hooked up to a heart monitor while answering the ministrations of some dour Eastern Bloc nurse.

Have you taken any recreational drugs recently? How much alcohol do you drink in a week? Do you smoke? How much do you exercise? And, my favourite, are you Spanish? Yo soy Ingles y yo no hablo espanol.

Eight of us are going through the motions in a line of cubicles. It’s the usual suspects. Students, the unemployed, the unemployable and some old pro who tells me this is eighth outing. It doesn’t look like it’s done him any harm although I note he hasn’t got any hair.

Cohorts who take part in FTIH studies – you can forget being referred to as a person once you enter the machine – are blind dosed with increasing amounts of a trial drug to see its effects on the body and how it is metabolised and excreted over several days or weeks.

Neither patient or doctor know who has been dosed or the amount they receive including a couple of patients who receive placebos.

I find out next week whether I’ve been successful in taking part in the trial. They have some dinky restrictions if you do get the green light including no consumption of Seville oranges or exotic citrus seven days prior to dosing along with no poppy seeds, alcohol, strenuous exercise or nicotine.

I could do with a drink just thinking about it.


John Thomson is on a mission to turn the gym industry on its head by using the appliance of science to help people lose weight and tone up.

He says the majority of gym users have a misguided approach to weight loss and – instead of burning fat – are simply burning blood sugar, stored glucose and even muscle.

“One of the great myths surrounding exercise is that you burn fat effectively by exercising. In reality, you are largely using up the body’s sugar or glucose supply,” says the .49 year-old who runs a popular gym in Ilford Lane, east London.

“If you want to lose weight and be healthy, one of the worst choices you can make is running or aerobic exercise because it’s a high impact glucose burning activity that can lead to long-term joint problems.”

Instead, he prescribes heart healthy eating habits coupled with a maximum of 2-3 one hour weight training and resistance sessions a week to lose fat and create a toned body

John estimates that he has personally overseen an extraordinary 65,000 personal training sessions during his 25 years in the industry and says people should ignore the ‘pills, potions and fad diets.’

The framed testimonials lining the walls certainly bear witness to his approach and his belief that you should be judged by results.

John added: “I feel passionately about this because we have a growing problem with obesity. A lot of it is down to a lack of education about how the body works and that is something that could be easily addressed.

“People are mistakenly over-training thinking they will get better results as well as using cardio-vascular equipment like treadmills assuming it’s the best way to lose weight.

“What I want to see is some honesty about the facts regarding diet and exercise. It’s a multi-billion pound industry and people have a vested industry in not challenging the status quo.

“My priority is helping people get the point where they are happy with their body and a lot of time and energy is wasted by gym users who think the longer and harder you train, the leaner and strong you become. That simply isn’t the case.”

John admits it has been long journey and still meets widespread resistance.

He added: “It’s been a long journey. I took the gym over more than 25 years ago when it was a failing business and have slowly turned it around, becoming the world’s busiest personal trainer.

“I still do training but my focus is increasingly on consultancy work and retraining personal trainers so that they start getting their clients the right results. I’m passionate about health and giving people the facts so they can get the best out of their bodies.

John’s top five tips for losing weight and toning you body are:

  • Prioritise your nutrition if you want to lose body fat, and be healthy
  • Do not perform exercise, to lose weight, it will generally have no effect.
  • Only choose exercise to tone and strengthen muscles and improve posture
  • Never exercise over 45 mins per session.
  • Do no impact exercise or excessive cardio if you are overweight, it can very possibly make you lose muscle tone and cause joint damage.

GPs are one of the few professions who enjoy an almost untouched position of trust in the community as long as you take Harold Shipman out of the equation.

However, GP Jonathan Munday scored a spectacular own goal when journalists discovered his self styled family crest reads Non Angelus sed Anglus – No Angel but at least I’m English.

The crest quickly disappeared from his website after reporters looked more closely at the man who heads a powerful group of GPs who wrote into a national paper earlier this week supporting Government plans to give doctors control of an annual budget of more than £70 billion.



You have to laugh at some of the current terminology used by the National Health Service in describing job cuts.

Downsizing, staff rationalisation, ratio reduction, cost saving efficiencies, market lean workforce and effective staff redeployment (to the dole office) are just a few examples of management speak which allow the masters of the universe to think of us all as jelly beans and  potato chips. Where is ‘V’ when we need him?


I finally read Fight Club 14 years after everyone else and was amused by anti-hero Tyler Durden’s passion for service industry terrorism, including relieving himself in the house soup, sneezing on artfully displayed cutlets and farting on the creme brulee because it ‘holds the fragrance.’

However, fact is often stranger than fiction. Oh, to have been a fly on the wall in MacDonalds press office when the newspapers rang up about this one.


I visit Tony once a week as part of a befriending service for people with dementia. Tony is 70 and has lived in a care home for several years since suffering a major stroke.

He’s in the early stages of dementia but keeps it at bay with an encyclopaedic memory of bad jokes and on-going disputes with his fellow residents who, he declares, are either mad or have given up on life.

I say he must see a lot of people come and go.

“ Yes. And all of them feet first under a blanket,” he replies with a cackle.

The communal TV room is lined with high wing backed chairs whose occupants sit listless and glassy eyed staring at place I can’t see. Loneliness and depression seem to erode their minds as much as dementia

It can’t be much fun seeing people around you in advanced stages of dementia knowing that is what you will be like.

I ask Tony if he has been outside since I saw him the previous week. He says no. We slip out of the security doors and walk round the adjacent green.

It’s just rough triangle of grass hemmed in on three sides by rush hour traffic and he tells me about his father who served on the North West Frontier in 1920s, his love of carpentry and how he first meet his wife.

“It was nice to be free for a while,” he says as we head back to the care home.

“Do you want to make a run for it?”

“Nah. Maybe next week.”


Smiling health minister Andrew Lansley puts the knife in the National Health Service. Who needs the Grim Reaper when you’ve got this snowy haired rider of the apocalypse riding roughshod over a national institution. 

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