It is hardly surprising that over the years Monitor has grown a pretty thick skin. It is essential protection when every waking hour brings accusations that this column is penned by a cynical has-been with no appreciation of the all-pervading shiny benefits that modernisation is bringing to our beauteous NHS.

Monitor would like to take this chance to issue a rebuttal to such claims and offer handon-heart reassurance that 'beacon' is his favourite word.

And so, news that the NHS Executive has scooped a prize takes pride of place on this week's page. Now that all those bitter CHCs are running around complaining just because they are being killed off (get a sense of perspective kids, it could be the making of you), they are being so much more lively than they used to be. Take Salford CHC (no, take it Alan, why do not you, and take the rest while you're at it, mutters Donna Covey darkly). Monitor was cheered when an e-mail whizzed through the air from the statutory body. And what's this?

The endangered CHC is not taking the death threats seriously at all. Instead, Salford is flagging up the fact that the NHS Exec has come first in a competition run by an outfit called Privacy International. That is right! The 2000 UK Big Brother Awards have voted the Exec 'most heinous government organisation'. Super news! The judges commend the Exec's 'long history of flouting data protection law' and attack its plans to centralise patient data. Good on ya, kids! The NHS was up against stiff competition too - runners-up were the Home Office and Department of Trade and Industry.

In fact Monitor's cyberworld has been buzzing with excitement as one e-mail poured in after the other. The other one - from Chris Harrison at Barnsley DGH (hi Chris and a big 'shout' out to everyone who knows you) suggested that our 'artist's impression' of Bouncer Milburn on the 30 November cover bore an uncanny resemblance to revered game show host Nicholas Parsons. Monitor is unsure which celeb is more likely to take offence at the suggestion.

When a third e-mail pushed its way through the clogged system, Monitor was beginning to fear cyber overload. Nonetheless, one deep breath later he was glad to be able to read and thus report the comments from Cessa Moore, Mrs Chairman of Herefordshire health authority. Mrs Chairman refers to a column two weeks ago in which Monitor told of an airline rewarding a team of doctors and nurses who sprang to attention when a middle-aged man keeled over during a flight. But Mrs Chairman is not a happy lady. She describes Monitor's plaudits for the airline - which gave the team booze and fags as a reward - as 'bizarre in the extreme'. 'To give the life-saving team a clinking 'thank you' bags of booze and fags, the two biggest suspects in cardiovascular disease, let alone with the added hazard of so-called economy-class syndrome, seems totally inappropriate, ' thunders the good lady of Herefordshire. 'Surely an immediate upgrade to first or business class, with a follow-up letter of thanks and an offer of an upgrade on the next trip with the airline, would have been far better. And this is a health service journal?'

In answer to Mrs Chairman's query - yes this is a health service journal (hence the title).

While Monitor can only agree that the airline should indeed have taken the chance to show its support for the CHD national service framework, he feels he should point out that had such action been taken, the story would have been quite dull.

And almost finally, proof indeed if proof were needed that the NHS Confed is safe in Stephen Thornton's hands. For Stephen is a man for whom the word sacrifice really means something. Rumours that Mr Thornton was broken-hearted when Crispy Nige bagged the top job were given added weight when HSJ's eagle-eyed picture desk spotted the latest publicity shot of the petite powerbomb (see left). And just look at him!

But a warning to any readers out there still sporting a beard: its removal may win you New Labour points, but if it leaves you looking about 19 and a half, you too may find yourselves getting stuck on the greasy pole.

And really finally, The Times has taken a few minutes out from nicking HSJ stories to offer this exclusive on the prime minister. 'Tony Blair has confirmed his reputation as a child of the Sixties and man of Islington by disclosing that he uses alternative health cures.'

Before you can say 'cannabis resin', however, The Times goes on: 'The PM said he was open-minded about alternative medicine, having visited an osteopath for backache and used arnica for his children's bruises.' Phew! You heard it here second.