Monitor is relieved to report that health minister John Denham escaped with his life from yesterday's topping-out ceremony at Wythenshawe Hospital's new acute block. But what can the poor man have made of the explanatory notes on topping out provided by builders and service operators South Manchester Healthcare Limited? In days gone by, the firm claims, it was usual to guarantee good fortune to those living and working in a building by offering the architect as a human sacrifice. 'This practice was considered to be uncivilised, and it became merely customary to put out their eyes.' And they say the private finance initiative has made things worse.

Heading north, the scene is the fifth meeting of the health committee of the Scottish Parliament, and our elected representatives are in fine form. To make things flow they are dividing into three groups covering poverty, access and smoking.

Convener: Richard is on access. Have I missed anybody?

Dorothy-Grace Elder: I want to be on poverty. Will the poverty group cover housing or will access cover housing?

Convener: Housing is more likely to come under poverty. Margaret is on access.

Mary Scanlon: Diet is called poverty and access seems to be housing.

Kay Ullrich: Would Dorothy not be better on access?

Convener: I would be better on a shot of whisky at this point. Have I missed anybody out?

Dorothy-Grace Elder: I definitely want to be on poverty.

Convener: Dorothy is on poverty.

Dorothy-Grace Elder: What is access now covering, Kay? What is this big pudding covering access?

Isn't the democratic process just grand?

And finally, what should a poor GP do with those fundholding savings? Why, invest them in a personal numberplate. Word arrives from DVLA of an auction next week featuring such enticing registrations as 31GP, PUL5E, P14SMA and even V14GRA. And it's not all for doctors. DVLA has just the retirement present for outgoing matron-in-chief Dame Yvonne Moores. If anyone wants to chip in to the collection, Monitor will happily nip down next week and bid for the much sought-after NUR5E.