With the chancellor's billions still gladdening the hearts of NHS managers, it would be churlish not to raise a toast to the man of the moment and his friend, Prudence. For the Budget speech left no doubt about where Gordon's affections lie. Dear Prudence was mentioned no fewer than nine times - roughly once every five minutes, seasonally adjusted - while there was nary a mention of Sarah Macauley (and how sad not to see the traditional photo-call with Mr Brown and the woman the BBC persists in believing he may be secretly engaged to).
Prudence, however, is a hard mistress: three times the iron chancellor reminded us she was there 'for a purpose' - and it didn't sound like a racy one. This may be why managers' hearts beat in a different fashion. One chief executive, asked what he hoped Gordon would deliver, answered: 'Ulrika Jonsson'. Sorry, you can only have£2bn. Or a share of it. 'Wonderful, ' sighed the top bod. 'But I'd still rather have Ulrika Jonsson.'
All this talk of Prudence (with a purpose) brings us back to the issue of condoms in bird boxes , raised by Mon itor recent ly. So thanks to Paul and Bruce - 'the guys who stock the birdboxes for North and Mid Hants Gay Men's Health Projects' - who e-mailed to thank Monitor for trying 'to bring a little balance in this whole debate'. In answer to the otherwise puzzling question of how men cruising for sex know a bird box is more likely to hold a condom than a bird, Paul and Bruce say news was spread by 'a process of word of mouth and fresh discovery.' Oh and an advert on www. cruisingforsex. com - a site, Monitor might suggest, best surfed with gay abandon - but well away from the office.
Prudence (with a purpose), condoms and the sexual wonders of the worldwide web all bring us neatly to 'the condom page' of Lesley Hall, an archivist at the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine, with its fascinating facts and recipe for making a condom in 1824. Log on to http: //homepages. nildram. co. uk/~lesleyah and you'll find that back in the days when the ancestors of MP Michael Mates didn't have to put up with tedious double-entendres , condoms were made of sheepgut soaked in water, scraped out, 'exposed to the vapour of burning brimstone', blown up, dried, cut to length and tied with ribbon. Fascinating, if a tad painful. By 1891, it seems, things had hardly improved (see picture).
But why get embarrassed about people's 'private parts'. That way we'll end up back at poor Mr Brown's Budget speech, complete with an apparently unmentionable initiative to prove that this government is 'woman- friendly'. This was the chancellor's bold - yet prudent (for a purpose) - decision to slash the tax on sanitary products to just 5 per cent. Oddly, the chancellor could not be persuaded to trumpet the£35m giveaway from the dispatch box: the news filtered out in a press release.
Back to sex. In these days of evidence-based healthcare, it is vital to keep on top of the latest scientific research. So what about last week's hot news that absence from their sexual partners raises men's sperm counts - and frequent intercourse lowers them? Taken at face value, this seems to suggest that having sex is a contraceptive.
Speaking of academic endeavour, a number of newspapers - and the BBC - have brought us 'research' showing that 'smoking three cannabis cigarettes a day is as dangerous as having a whole packet of standard cigarettes'. What they didn't say was that this shocking news was derived from 'in-depth case studies' of four - yes, four - smokers and 'marijuana' users. Doubtless the subjects were carefully chosen.
But the researchers might as well have published the results of a night's joint smoking that left them feeling a bit rough in the morning. If this wasn't illegal, of course.
Mind you, Monitor is shocked to discover that even bastions of rigour and correctness like the BBC can be prone to error. Research on the corporation's website has thrown up at least three different spellings of Ulrika Jonssen, Johnson, or Jonsson.
And finally: how about this for coincidence? Health supremo Alan Milburn, his political sidekick Darren Murphy and policy wonk sidekick Simon Stephens were all born at the same hospital in Birmingham! Sadly, Monitor was underwhelmed before bothering to find out which hospital or whether it was still open, much less how wel l it cou ld do from the bi l l ions so k ind ly bestowed by Prudence (for a purpose). But hey, it makes you think, doesn't it?