HERE on the graveyard shift we are prone to worry. We worry about affairs of state and the state of affairs. We worry for those who are under the illusion of going forward but are actually running to standstill. Most of all, though, we worry that we are all on the road to nowhere.

This week, another signpost appeared from over the horizon. It materialised in the form of news about cosmetic surgery which is all the rage. At the outset, we would like to put it on record that many of us on the shift could, at this stage of the game, do with a spot of cosmetic realignment. In fact, some of us would like to nip and tuck away at ourselves until the cows come home. But we've no money. Others apparently do.

This year, according to The Examiner, Irish people are due to spend 6.9m interfering with their bodies.

The country's biggest service provider performed over 2,000 operations last year, and the craze reaches all parts. In Dublin, an estimated 680 people spend up to 80,000 every month on botox injections and straightening out wrinkles.

Breast enlargements are the bee's knees in Killarney.

In Sligo, they're big into breast reductions. Penile enhancements turn them on in Wicklow. There are no figures for penile reductions, although we understand there is a thriving black market for the operation in the Cavan area.

A facelift will set you back 6,000 and Wexford people are mad for it. Liposuction costs 3,600 in Cork, while ear reshaping is something that can be done in Galway. And if you want to get twisted, you can step into the nearest hostelry and emerge seven hours later.

Here on the shift, we're worried sick about the whole thing. There was a time when cosmetic surgery was the preserve of accident victims and Hollywood fruitcakes. The former were engaged in repairing what the violent intervention of fate had damaged. The latter were actors for whom their face was their fortune. And they were fruitcakes.

Everybody else left their bodies alone. Some treated theirs with respect and were careful about food and exercise. Others paid no heed, regarded the body as an albatross while time worked its cruel way, and tried not to think about it too much. Most people were, and still are, somewhere in the middle, a little effort here, blind indifference there.

Danger stalked cosmetic surgery in those days, as if evolutionary forces were placing a heavy tax on the whole affair. Today, it's a walk in the park. Unless, of course, you're somebody like the actress Lesley Ash, who was left with a rubber hose for lips after her shot at perfection. Or unless you're compulsive facelifter Michael Jackson, who looks as if his face is about to pour down his neck any day now.

The increasing popularity of the business has coincided with this country's elevation to rich nation.

Some people now have lots of money. The pursuit of physical improvement, particularly in the battle against age, is to the fore.

You no longer have to accept what you were born with, or pull hard against the chain of years. Your desire for the perfect body need no longer be matched by iron discipline. The wrinkles are not inevitable.

Time won't have it all its own way from here on in.

All you need is a few bob and a smiling surgeon.

So what is the next step?

Last week, it emerged that a cloning scientist had used the DNA of dead children in his experiments. Bereaved parents had paid Dr Panos Zavos, who runs the Centre for Reproductive Medicine in Lexington, Kentucky, to use the DNA to create hybrid embryos.

The scientific community has expressed outrage. "It is grossly misleading to suggest that you can replicate a loved one, such as a child lost in a road accident, by producing a cloned person with the same genetic material, " said Professor Richard Gardner, chair of the Royal Society Working Group on Stem Cell Research.

Dolly touched down in 1997, seven short years ago.

Now the possibility that a human being can be cloned is being talked about in very real terms. The United Nations is expected to ban human cloning next month, but in today's world, such a ban, and widely held ethical considerations, will not be enough to stop it from happening.

What then for the pursuit of perfection? The day will inevitably come when cloning will be used for cosmetic purposes. And on it goes until cloning will be the ultimate lifestyle accessory. Today's plastic surgery will be tomorrow's cloning. From there, it's not too far to full human cloning.

The awful realisation is that little can be done to prevent this march. There will be finger-in-the-dyke stuff, but ultimately we will arrive at this place, the end of the road in the pursuit of perfection. Commercial interests help it along its merry way, but evolution is the driving force on this journey along the road to nowhere. Then maybe, at last, the graveyard shift will be able to afford that mother of all nip-and-tuck jobs.