SOME have the gift of knowing the answer to every one of your troubles, whether it be health, financial or something technical, like car trouble. My friend Fred is one of those.

“Fred” is short for Frederick – possibly Frederick the Great – an Austrian engineer who used to install lifts in gold mines. But tell him you have phlegm and a sore throat and he says: “Sage. Make a tea out of sage, and within a day you’ll feel better.”

So I did and I was. No double-blind test, and purely anecdotal, yet it seems to work. But then GPs admit that about 70 percent of what you see them about is “self-limiting”, meaning it will go away on its own. Bad for business, letting that one out. Medicine gets the credit for what nature does.

Fred is a member of our almost Dickensian gentleman’s lunch club, which meets on Tuesdays, when there is a discount on beer. Known as the “Site Meeting”, it frees us from all work intrusion or the disapproving mutters of women.

Trouble with your circulation or leg nerves? He has a machine that sends out electrical impulses to help. Spinal operation? These are the exercises you do. Receiver of Revenue? No sweat. Traffic fines? Easy. A sticking needle valve? First dismantle…

But most important of all: drink good beer.