Published: 04/04/2002, Volume II2, No. 5799 Page 85

Absurdity is so difficult to define. After all, one person's absurdity is another's NHS plan target. Poland's Madurowicz Hospital, for example, has thought of an innovative approach to bed-blocking that could merit Europe-wide dissemination as an example of best practice. But strangely, its refusal to admit a patient 'unless he brought his own bed' was instead nominated for Absurdity of the Year in a contest staged by newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza and the presumably equally interesting Radio Eska. But poor Madurowicz failed to scoop the winner's coveted gold-painted toilet bowl, being judged to merit only a diploma. And Monitor applauds the distinction earned by Rzeszow high school for its public health initiative: closing all but one of the school toilets to stop its 1,000 pupils smoking during the break.

Time, now, for a final flurry of joyful music in our search for a Song for Alan - music to make not-very-merry Milburn smile. One diligent contributor suggests a plethora of titles - although readers may notice a theme among them.

Monitor was charmed by the jive-busting Alan's Got Rhythm and reached nearfever pitch over Alan's on Fire . Now, pop-pickers, for a moment rivalling the great Gareth Gates/Will Young play-off (ask your kids): is Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast by Pink Floyd worthy of topping our chart? Monitor understands it to be a lovely instrumental number, just like the waltzes of his youth. Except for a background lyric, which allegedly runs: 'Oh. . . uh. . . me flakes. . . scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages, toast, coffee, marmalade. . . I like marmalade. . . porridge. . . any cereal, I like all cereals. . . oh God . . .' What can it all mean? Perhaps the deserving winner is the self-explanatory Alan's Got an Axe to Grind by popular beat combo Rump.

But it seems the quest for Big Al's smile is over. Monitor was delighted to hear reports of not just a little grin but a full-scale laugh. Those policy meisters at the Confed do not miss much - and certainly not the key Milburn moments. 'I think I've seen him laugh, ' declares Nigel 'Confed' Edwards, bravely adding: 'Without any evidence that something unpleasant was happening to anyone.' And lo!

Monitor has seen the evidence for himself (see picture). Laugh and the NHS laughs with you, as Monitor's old gran used to say.