Seven ages of nursing By Mark Radcliffe NT Books 122 pages £6.50

In the introduction to Seven ages of nursing, Mark Radcliffe says: 'This is a book for nurses who hang out and play and laugh.

'It's the voice of the pub or the coffee room or the bus ride home.'

If nurses want something to leaf through quickly in the coffee or smoking room, if they want a laugh, they will probably enjoy Mark Radcliffe's characters and the events that befall them.

The author sets out to describe humorously the characteristics of the student nurse, grades D, E, F and G, the academic or nurse teacher, politicians and managers.

We are all familiar with Mark Radcliffe's student nurses: the Victorias, Ritas and the poor, forgotten Kathys.

Equally, newly-qualified

D-grades will recognise Keith, the student placement, whose mum, Mrs Keith, wants you to make sure he doesn't catch anything like mumps or schizophrenia, and can he come home early when it's dark, please?

To vary things, the F-grade chapter is written in the style of Bridget Jones's Diary, with the writer, Nancy, experiencing eating disorders, a desire for Wagon Wheels, and mishaps in her love life, but Mark Radcliffe is not as funny as Helen Fielding.

Interspersed between all these caricatures (which are not at all bad), and around them, are zany, meandering passages, whose point is difficult to fathom.

Take the 'ponies', for example, or the description of nursing as 'the new rock and roll' spun out in the

G-grade chapter into a tale of nursing as the 'king of rock and roll' in a Hollywood action movie.

In the D-grade chapter, he recounts the tale of Fluffy, who, in keeping with the creative nature of good nursing, kidnaps the Royal College of Nursing headquarters and takes it to a small bungalow near Hastings. The joke is supposed to be that nobody notices.

If you do not get the joke, Mark Radcliffe's writing can often seem bizarre, or maybe that is actually the point of it?

Then there are repeated digs at the RCN, which

he describes as 'that auspicious if largely

pointless organisation'.

For example, describing going into management positions as 'a problem of collaboration', the author goes on to say: 'On the upside'- and I'm sure the RCN is thrilled with this - 'it raises expectations for nurses, and gives the impression of more able nurses.'

If you like Mark Radcliffe's column in Nursing Times, you will probably enjoy this book, too.

However, it reads like end-to-end Mark Radcliffe columns, and if you do not enjoy his relentlessly wacky style this is not the book for you.

Josie Irwin

RCN national officer.