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Tuesday 3 December 2019

Two ends of a spectrum

Michael Mosley, a doctor/scientist turned TV presenter, investigated the physiological aspects of pleasure (and its close relation – pain) last night. Highly entertaining, I was left wanting more. Cleverly he bracketed the programme - first contemplating a vast Swiss dam and saying, tremulously, he was hoping to share the pleasure bungee jumpers claim for jumping off it; then, finally, filming the sequel. Terrific stuff.

In previous series Mosley has used his body unsparingly and often painfully to illuminate how surgery and medicine may examine, measure and ameliorate human ailments. Last night he was at it again: entering a chilli-eating competition which some people find enjoyable (See pic; he flunked after three rounds) and having his legs depilated, observing that smooth calves are no compensation for the agonies of having all that hair ripped away.

Men and women were formed into teams to see who could better endure keeping their hands in a bucket of ice water; my lips are sealed as to the result. Vox. pop, interviews in Britain revealed that sex only comes second in a public listing of life’s greatest pleasures. A sense of family was first which, given our reputation for lack of emotion, surprised me.

The dark side was also explored. A young girl incapable of feeling pain was seen to be pitied rather than envied. And a calm yet detailed account by a farmer from one of the US southern states who recounted getting stuck in heavy machinery should have carried a health warning.

Attitudes towards pain vary. It is at its worst when – unsurprisingly - it is administered by someone who means to harm us. Also – a theory I’d arrived at independently – the anticipation of imminent pain is, in itself, a form of pain.

Tough if you didn’t see it and haven’t got Iplayer.


  1. Just watched (recorded, even though I do have iPlayer.)

    Michael M is always a must watch.

    Pleasure - for me: a hot bath after a long walk
    Pain - worst ever: A cortisone injection into the top joint of my thumb that went wrong. The medic assumed he was doing good and I can't imagine the pain having being worse if the intention had been malicious. I let out a howl of profane expletive but I suppose the attending nurse had seen and heard it all before.

  2. Sir Hugh: Sorry I didn't answer earlier. As you can see I was elsewhere. The point MM was trying to make was the way certain types of pleasure can (a) gradually morph into pain, and (b) some pleasures are only regarded as painful (or worse) by bystanders.

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