Author's Den         2010



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You are never too old !!

Barrie Davies

January 2010

Married to a Medic – a Husband’s View

Mike Ward

January 2010

Douglas Davies - Sargeant Gunner 1942 - 1945

Barrie Davies

January 2010

Visit to Kalgoorlie-Boulder

Dick Herbert

February 2010

There's a Goat in the Paddock

Peter Batty

February 2010

What a Whopper !

Hilary Boyle

February 2010

The revenge of the Fig Tree

Barrie Davies

July 2010

Medical Society Dinner - September 2010

David Malcomson

October 2010

Kidderminster Medical Society 2010 Gary Parsons November 2010
The Dr John Wall Walk Alan Bennett July 2011
First Impressions Lucien Welwitwe-Gunaratne August 2011

Goats, Alpacas and ..... Elephants ..... ?

Peter Batty

August 2011



Goats, alpacas and ....elephants....?

Billy (you remember of the pygmy goat fame) now has a good mate - as in friend - called Boris.  In England it seems everyone has a pygmy goat according to the internet but finding a pal for Billy was a problem over here.  We had to go to Albi to find one (2½hrs away) and then had to bring his mother with him as he hadn't been weaned.  This was a surprise as he was the same size as the lonely Billy.  On arrival Dolores - yes that was Boris' mum's name - set about terrorising Billy, taking his food, butting him and keeping him out of their shelter.  I built him a separate one, 'semi-detached' to the shared original.  This lasted about 4 days until Dolores rammed herself into it to get Billy's food inside.  In addition she was making the most awful goaty noises almost of despair.  After a month, once Boris was weaned, we'd had enough as Billy wasn't thriving and took her back from whence she came.  The two have been great pals ever since even after they had the 'chop' since when they don't smell.  Ingrid has had to become an official goats 'herdsman' to satisfy the French 'herding' authority.

Our two allegedly pregnant alpacas only had one cria between them.  He was a great little chap called Santos and had been doing well but sadly, after 7 months, became unwell and died unexpectedly.  We think he may had had an intestinal developmental problem changing from milk to grass. The local vets were unhelpful.  Ingrid continues to spin their wool - you need 3 kms to make a sweater... We have them sheared once a year by a sheep shearer who we have semi-taught as you use a frame to steady the animal on the ground so only one person needs to shear.  The shearer thought you should have a man holding each leg - ooh no...

We celebrated our ruby wedding last year and had a wonderful experience in Botswana and Zambia.  We were able to live next to the wild life and were only 2 metres from lion and walked to within 10 metres of white rhino.  Walking with elephants was another highlight and the photo here shows why - this is a real wild elephant not a plastic blow-up!

We are now devising our next 'ten year plan' - like all emeritus fund holding GPs....

Peter & Ingrid Batty




Boris and Billy

The elephant's the one in the middle....



First Impressions

Here is a small article of my first impression of Kidderminster, and UK when I first arrived there. As the aeroplane came down to land at Heathrow, I had my first sighting of council houses below ...

Once we came out of the airport,  we arrived in Richmond, and I stayed with my mum and dad at a friend's home and then, (the following day), I went to the local shop to purchase a Sunday newspaper...Lo and Behold! I soon learnt the art of queuing.. Next, I munched my way through a box of Maltesers, whilst watching the horse races on a black and white television set.. (still at Richmond).
Although I cannot remember the exact date, my dad and mum and I went to ? King's Cross station? from Richmond and then on to  Euston Station to make our way to Birmingham.  A kind doctor picked us up, and drove his car all the way to Kidderminster, land of Axminster carpets .During the train ride from London to Birmingham,  I had a "fast Forward" view of the English countryside, and sheep. It wasthe thick of Winter.  The shepherd was not in sight
Once we arrived in Kidderminster, my father took us to the Doctors Quarters at Kidderminster General Hospital where he had an apartment. Since it was lunch time, we went to the Kidderminster General Hospital canteen.  Whilst having my lunch, I observed another person eating his meal at the table next to us, and to my amazement, I found he left a lot of potatoes on his plate when he finished eating... At this point you must remember that I did not realise that potatoes were a part of the staple diet in your country.   I thought to myself that he had discarded the food and I remembered how difficult it was  for people to buy good food back home.  (We had been taught not to throw good food when we were children)
I really liked the bread in the hospital canteen and thought it was really like cake, in comparison to what was available over here in Sri Lanka at the time.

Lucien Welwitwe - Gunaratne MBBS (Cey)   FRCS (Eng)         

( When I first arrived in Kidderminster in 1974, Lucien was senior registrar in A&E at Kidderminster General. He really was a superb surgeon and indeed beautifully spoken. I felt that it was a sad loss to Kidderminster, but a bonus to Sri Lanka, when he moved back there in 1985. The  reports below  appeared in the paper version of the Medical Society Journal some 10 years ago.   ED )

...............  I returned from the UK in 1985 and started a small specialised surgical practice in the private sector. I had to contend with the wrath of the consultants in the Government Health service in this, as well as other towns close by. Still, I was managing quite well until I developed a severe cataract in my right eye (quite rapidly). I had a lens implant at Kandy General Hospital (only 25 miles away) and I decided to retire from practice.

Fortunately, the National Health Service accepted my decision and I can live in comfort with the NHS pension in Sri Lanka. I refuse to charge for any medical or surgical opinions; that is the way to survive here. I devoted all my equipment, worth several thousand pounds, to Kandy General Hospital. In 1988, I started a society for the care of paraplegics and I was its president until Kandy took over the project and the concept is alive and kicking. Meanwhile I send you all my best wishes. Please give my affectionate regards to all in your society. 


...............  A few weeks ago. I received Newsletter No. 17 of the Kidderminster Medical Society. As on previous occasions, I enjoyed reading it: I must thank Dr Graeme Wilcox and his colleagues on the Editorial Staff Committee for sending me this newsletter since April 1995 in spite of my prolonged silence. The number of times I tried to write a short letter in response, but had to give up, is beyond belief!

Last week, I received several cuttings from The Kidderminster Shuttle of 9.11.97 through a friend: they showed Dr Taylor and pictures of a crowd near the Rowland Hill statue in Vicar Street. As a keen philatelist I used to nod at HIM each time I visited my Barclays Bank branch at Oxford Street. I am really sorry to hear of the trouble at the Kidderminster General Hospital; as far as I knew it. this hospital served the needs of the townsfolk and many others. I am glad to have been associated with it I hope and pray that your efforts at saving the hospital will be fruitful and that they will lead to complete success.

Now I shall try to give a brief description of the past 12 years, since I left Kidderminster in 1985. Having spent the greater part of my professional life in England and too little over here in Sri Lanka I intended to practice surgery in the private sector. in a small town, on a modest scale. Thus, we chose a nice spot by the shore of the lake at Kurunegala. This is a town in the 'midlands', 52 miles from Colombo and 22 miles from Kandy. the Second City of Sri Lanka. Kurunegala is a forgotten city but it is steeped in history and legend. This was once the seat of a king, late in the 13 Century. They speak of Marco Polo having visited the town around 1294 AD, on his way back to Venice from China; from the number of polo mints left around. I believe the story. In the vernacular Sinhala, "Kurune" = Elephant and "gala",: rock Our lake is bordered on the East by a huge granite rock, and its sloping side bare of any vegetation making it resemble a slumbering elephant closely As legend has it. one moon-lit night a princely suitor due to wed the daughter of the local king. was tempted to view the dowry lands from the temple grounds at the summit of the rock: his chair was pushed to the land on the rocks below, by supporters of a rival suitor They say you can meet the victim on moonlit nights. still riding his white horse!

Our dream house by the lake "Waters Reach" was completed after two years and we moved into it on 1 st May 1987 I carried on with my surgical practice at a well-equipped and adequately staffed nursing home. in the centre of the town: As the distance between home and place of work was less than half a kilo metre, I was able to vi9it my patients two to three times daily, run clinics and cope with emergencies at all hours. It was a nice set-up until fate stepped in. ' In 1989 I developed a severe cataract in the right eye: I had to undergo implant surgery at the Kandy General -Hospital. in September 1989. I decided to retire from active practice and applied for my NHS pension. Fortunately, not only did my pension come through but also 1 made a rapid recovery from the lens implant surgery. My numerous interests helped me during these difficult times. Frequently. I receive pleas for medical and surgical help from past patients as well as friends but I had deliberately lost touch with surgical progress, having given up reading the journals: thus I had to refuse these pleas. However, when The Armed Services of Sri Lanka appealed to me for help, I ran out of excuses. We are at war and they wanted my help. This explains how I worked for six weeks at the Front, in Jaffna, doing stretches of a week or two at a time. I was flown out from Colombo to the Army Base Hospital at Palaly, in Jaffna. in transport Antonov aircraft piloted and crewed by Russians. Each time they fly high over enemy territory to the sea around Jaffna, drop like a stone to ground level and come in fast to land at Palaly Airport- The crash of heavy shell firing, throughout the day takes some getting used to ! As one might imagine, emergency surgery under these circumstances is difficult, but the injured men were grateful. On 25.4-97 I was invited to a special cocktail party at the Army HQ in Colombo I was the oldest doctor among the list of 20 guests that evening. Each of us was presented with a heavy 18 ins. High brass shell case with our names engraved (individually) as a token of thanks for work done at the Front: the presentation was carried out by General Daluwatte, the Army Commander-in-Chief. I had met him several times at Palaly during the six weeks. Since May 1997 I had to decline all further appeals to help at the Front.

Life has been quieter since then. We listen to a lot of music ranging from modem, to early jazz and classical music. I have a good collection on cassette, of music recorded from Radio 3 during many years I spent in England. I have a dated, yet good Penguin CD Guide which helps me to select my purchases; one such is the Elgar Cello Concertol/Jacqueline du Pre/LSO/Barbarolli. I think this is superb. Having had lessons in the pianoforte, at weekly sessions with a kind lady teacher, I can claim to play my piano well (??) During the day I do a lot of DIY maintenance of the cars, house etc. I look forward to Thursdays for that is when the Waters Reach Contract Bridge Club meetS, regularly, for a bit of chatter and a lot of bridge. We can boast of being the only bridge club in town; we have existed for 5 years! As far as reading is concerned. we were members of the lending library at the British Council in Kandy until 2 years ago. Now, travel is tiresome and we had to give up. t have my own collection of books gathered lovingly from old bookshops in places such as Bewdley, Hay-on-Wye, Warwick, Victoria (London), Edinburgh etc. I have yet to complete reading all books by Nevil Shute. We subscribe to the (Manchester) Guardian Weekly coming to us by airmail. I have TV/video but I possess a small powerful radio set capable of picking up most stations on short waves. So, I listen to BBC, VOA. Australia, Holland, France, Norway, Sweden, Japan etc." especially at night. I love to sit on a deck-chair in the lake-side patio, situated on the East side of our house and admire the view of the lake and the rock, with all the changes in colour that occur from sunrise over the rock to the reds that cover the bare granite late in the evening before the sun slides way from the Western sky. We have a sundial and a bird-bath in our garden, the latter is so popular that birds queue up to have a dip. The range of birds to be heard and seen is remarkable; golden orioles, with their unmistakably rich warble, the incessant chatter of "seven sisters" the twittering of honey birds etc. it is almost too much!

Last but not to be forgotten is our own Nessie: yes. we have a huge, ugly black and yellow spotted monitor lizard, living in the depths of the lake. He is reputably harmless. if one can keep out of the way of the swishing tail! He has climbed over our wall twice, during the past 5 years, and applied for admission to the bridge club Both times he has been refused!



The Dr John Wall Walk  -  25th June 2011

Although advertised as a historical guided walk about the famous Dr John Wall, our host Chris Gait is a fountain of knowledge of all things historical, and we benefited in great measure from his grasp of the local detail and wider context.  It is fascinating when different strands involving politics, medicine, engineering, commerce, transport and heritage are brought together in one physical location.

Our tour began at the Worcester porcelain Museum and meandered through the old parts of the city via the tranquil cloisters of King’s School, the majestic Worcester Cathedral, the old commercial port, his innovative Silver Street and Castle Street hospitals and the town streets and houses, all of which shaped and were shaped by the life of the good doctor.  On our way Chris pointed out features usually unnoticed and unappreciated by the Saturday morning shoppers, and informed us with legend, fact and myth.   I certainly now look upon the city in a new light.

Born in Powick, John Wall (1708 – 1776) became one of very few local physicians in the country with a far ranging private practice, his consulting rounds taking in Stratford, Ludlow and Kidderminster.   He was instrumental in setting up the first charitable hospital in Worcester, and later, Castle Street hospital which was known a loved by many of us until very recently.  In addition he jointly founded and developed the porcelain factory into the leading manufacturer of its day, and found time to promote Malvern water cures, and to pursue his enthusiasm for painting, and much more besides.

The weather remained fair ( I will take credit for that, as I usually attract the sunshine!) and from the feedback on the day and since, we all enjoyed the tour.  Thank you, Chris, for sharing your hobby and enthusiasm with us - it was much appreciated.

Alan Bennett          




A band of happy walkers led by Chris Gait


Kidderminster Medical Society 2010

My year as president began at the AGM in November 2009. I had been considering my duties for 6 months prior to this – and this was probably the most challenging part of the year. The main task has been to choose social events and see them through to fruition with the help of Paul Williams, our social secretary. When considering the social events, I tried to get a balance of activities, which encouraged members from all generations of our membership to get involved. Looking back, I think we have had a reasonably successful year but I am sure that we can do better in involving younger members with more family friendly events in future.

I considered promoting the medical society as an important part of the year and suspect that some will be relieved that my year finishes in November! I felt the best way of engaging people was to talk to them as individuals and discuss the advantages of membership and getting involved in the events. Of course the original function of the medical society was one of education and communication – the Monday meetings were a great way to meet colleagues and keep up to date when I first came to Kidderminster.

I have not been very good at requesting that one of those attending each of the events might write a report. In the past this has been left to the editor of the newsletter – but as this no longer exists and Barrie (who maintains the website) lives in Cyprus, it has been left somewhat in limbo! In view of this I will report what has happened at events and I’m sure you will all excuse my biased view of the year!


Mr & Mrs John Robinson with Gary Parsons.
John Robinson  - KGH Post grad centre - 29th January 2010

The social events were organised at 2- 3 monthly intervals. The first was with John Robinson at the post grad centre on 29th January. John is a well known Wyre Forest personality. He has been a naturalist and photographer for the past 51y. Over the years he has worked in nature conservation for various government departments and finally for English Nature. He spent 21 years as warden of the Wyre Forest before retiring. He still lives in a cottage in the forest. As soon as I met John I warmed to him and I felt certain that he would be a very good speaker. At that time he asked if I wanted a reference – and almost immediately said ‘ I’m very good you know’ in a booming voice – and so he turned out to be! He tells me this was his 3rd time addressing the Medical Society but the first for many years and indeed the first time that I had heard him speak. John showed us a selection of his most famous photographs, told us of the way he took the photos, often amusing stories associated with them and much about the natural history of the Wyre Forest. He also told us a little of the great and the good he has met over the years in association with his work. The talk was of particular interest to Fiona and I as we live so close to the forest, and we see the Wyre Forest flora, fauna & wildlife on our regular walks every week.


Carmen Sat 20th March 2010

My musical taste has always been somewhat eclectic, and the choice for the 2nd event of the year lay between going to a rock concert or opera. A straw pole of friends revealed that the Australian Pink Floyd concert would not have been as well attended as this production of Carmen at the Birmingham Hippodrome. Roy Williams, one of my partners, encouraged me in this choice as he is a great opera fan and having qualified in Cardiff is an enthusiast for WNO. (It was a shame that he & Amanda missed the first act due to traffic). 50 of our number attended which we felt was a great turnout.  After a lot of negotiation with the Hippodrome management we were fortunate enough to benefit from an additional talk on the history of the Birmingham Hippodrome. This was delivered by Dave Heartland in our Suite adjoining the main auditorium. We also benefited from having our own bar although it would have been more efficient if we had pre-ordered our interval drinks. The Welsh National Opera production was stunning and even non-opera fans would have recognised many of the arias, such is the popularity of Carmen. We were indeed fortunate that the timing worked out so that we were able to arrange a great Saturday night out.


Society members enjoying the interval at ‘Carmen’.
Go Ape Sat 26th June 2010

For those who are unfamiliar with Go Ape it is described on their website as a ‘high-wire forest adventure’. Essentially, there is a network of wires up to 40 feet off the ground in the canopies of the Wyre Forest. With the aid of a safety briefing and comprehensive equipment, individuals progress around the course attached to the wires linking bridges, tunnels, nets and zip wires.  It is a giant obstacle course, which gets more difficult as you progress around it and gain in confidence.

Not surprisingly one or two members were slightly apprehensive about the activity especially as it started with the signing of disclaimers. I was pleased that several members came with their children because they were very useful in supervising the adults!

I think that everyone who came along felt it was an exhilarating experience and enormous fun. Those who were apprehensive at the start felt a great sense of achievement in completing the course. I gather that the majority of those who came along would go back for more, even the silverbacks amongst us! – quite a recommendation.

‘The briefing’ Fiona Starkey making a perfect landing.
Mum awaiting ‘launch’.
Di Spalding anticipating the ‘zip wire’.

Medical Society Dinner Saturday 25th September

I spent a long time thinking about the medical society dinner. I considered the ambience of previous venues, standards of cuisine & entertainments provided. Having consulted various members about my plans and it was with some slight doubt in my mind that I concluded that it was time to try a different formula.

I’m sure that all who attended will agree that Rock village hall was a great venue – of course I had the advantage of attending a successful ‘Burns night’ organised by the Medical Society at the hall, last year. Catering was excellent, with canapés and with choices for each course. There was some concern as to whether members would be organised enough to pre-order their choices – in fact it seemed to focus their minds so that many replied earlier than usual. Because the hall is not licensed members brought their own drinks – a policy, which appears to have been widely appreciated. The disco was very good with dramatic lighting effects on the beautiful hall ceiling. We had an excellent turnout with many younger members attending.  From the feedback received, I felt the evening went very well but the judgement of the evening lies with those who attended.

Preparing Rock Village Hall for the Annual Dinner.

To my mind the Medical Society remains a highly important institution in the Wyre Forest.  Contact through the society has always fostered good relationships between professionals – this has not only enriched our lives but I believe has also ultimately facilitated the enhancement of the quality of our medical practice. I was pleased to see so many people at the dinner and the social events during the year. Hopefully, they will continue to support events again next year, bring along their friends and encourage other members to attend.

Dr Gary Parsons. Nov 2010





Medical Society Dinner September 2010.


The Society’s Annual Dinner has been held in many places over the years; some good, some not so good, some indifferent, but this year wasn’t just good it was also very, very different. Our President, Gary Parsons, chose his local village hall as this year’s venue.

Rock Village Hall was opened in January 2007. Bob Marriott (yes, it is he, that well-known-retired Bewdley GP) had a major hand in the planning and building of the hall and apparently it is known locally as ‘the House that Bob built’. It is a fascinating building and was developed as a flagship building that demonstrates best practice in sustainable construction.

Recycling has been the name of the game not just in the construction materials, but also in the day-to-day running of the building. Some of the features include;

  • Ground Source Energy system for space heating and hot water supply.
  • Rainwater harvesting from the roof for use in the lavatories
  • Timber from Forestry Stewardship Council sources for boarding to external walls and shingles to roof covering, structural timber frame and other timber products.
  • Recycled plastics in underground drainage pipe work.
  • Recycled cellulose paper in external wall insulation.
  • Excavated material arising retained on site.


This all sounds good, but I would add what a lovely building it is, beautifully situated with an outside terrace and views across to the Abberley Hills.

Paul Williams’ organisation was as smooth and unfussed  as ever. His is not an easy job…believe me, I know! The meal was excellent and the service smooth.

Members were probably attracted not just by the venue but also by the ‘bring-your-own booze’ policy….no encouragement needed there.

The Society has been sponsoring a Graduate Entry Student at Birmingham with an annual bursary of £3000 per year for up to 3 years. Dr.Mike Gammage from the University brought to the dinner, Gemma Plant, who was able to thank Members personally for the help that she had received from us. This was a nice touch and gave us all a warm feeling.

The evening was well supported with nearly 90 members attending. There was a pleasing spread of ages from FY Doctors to the retireds..(and the semi-retireds…you know who we mean, Steve Booth!) There was ample space to talk and catch up with people as well as the opportunity to ‘bop’ to the disco music.

Long may the Society thrive and flourish with the dinner being the centrepiece to the Presidential Year!


David Malcomson Oct 2010              



The Revenge of the Fig Tree

Eleni was a 97 year old Cypriot neighbour of mine. She is just 4ft 1inch tall, walks a mile to the shop every day and lights candles outside her front door every night to guide the angels when they come to collect her ! She is a fiercely independent soul and only relies on us neighbours to do the heavy jobs that she can no longer manage.



Little Eleni 

And so it was with some concern,  a few weeks ago, that I heard a noise that sounded just like a tree being felled – and the noise seemed to come from Eleni’s back yard. A quick jog (well, fast walk really) round to her house, and the source of the noise was clear. A massive fig tree branch, heavily laden with fruit, had broken from the main trunk and crashed down, narrowly missing Eleni as she hung out her washing. Naturally she was very upset and frightened and it took a lot of soothing noises, and a promise from Peter (another neighbour) and I that we would cut down the whole tree the following morning to calm her down ( and a few extra candles that night).


Eleni's House

Chain saw, axe and bow saw were the tools of choice as we attacked the offending tree. In temperatures of nearly 100F, stripped to the waist and with sweat pouring off us it took just 3 hours to reduce the tree to a pile of wood stacked and drying, ready for the log fire next winter. A very satisfying morning and a very happy Eleni, but little were we aware of the revenge that was fermenting in the decimated fig tree.The following morning, Isobel my wife noisily scolded me for not using the factor 50 sun cream the day before when working out in the sun. And indeed it did feel sore on my back, front, arms and even my hands – in places where the sun rarely ventures. As the day wore on, so the soreness became more intense, despite layer upon layer of soothing creams, and a quick enquiry over the garden wall revealed that Peter was suffering the same symptoms. It was only that evening, while enjoying a meal at the taverna, that the cause of the rapidly worsening skin redness, soreness and blisters was explained.


The Vengeful Fig Tree


‘You did cover yourselves up when cutting Eleni’s fig tree didn’t you? ’ said Andree, the taverna owner. Well, to be fair, in temperatures approaching 100F nothing could have been further from our minds - could it. ‘ Never touch the leaves or wood of a fig tree after dawn, when the sap has risen ‘ were her words. And indeed they were the words of many other knowledgeable Cypriots who made sucking noises of reproach and sympathy but, the problem was, no-one had told us before we embarked on the destruction of the fig tree!!

There followed a whole week of the intense soreness, redness and skin destruction associated with a chemical burn. Blisters the size of teacups, painful splits at joints and skin folds and an extreme hypersensitivity to the extent that even the touch of clothing made the eyes water. Probably the most soothing sensation was just to stand in  the swimming pool !!!


A search on Google found the following comments.

*      Fig trees ooze a white latex sap from pruning cuts. This sap contains an irritant called ficin that can cause dermatitis. Wear gloves, a long-sleeved shirt, full-length pants, a hat, and full-coverage eye goggles (not just glasses) when pruning fig trees, then wash thoroughly afterward.

*      The latex from the fig tree contains a proteolytic enzyme, ficin which is extremely irritant to skin and to the conjunctiva.

*      Special cells in the plant produce a latex that contains ficin, a protein-decomposing enzyme similar to papain. Contact with skin causes dermatitis, making use of gloves advisable when working with or harvesting figs.


and it got worse !!!


It took weeks for the skin soreness and blisters to heal and Peter and I are left with an orange / brown pigmentation of the affected areas. We may well have done Eleni a favour by chopping down her fig tree but the vegengeful tree didn’t do us any favours. I am sure that my next contact with a fig will be the dried variety in a box at Christmas.


Barrie Davies June 2010


What a Whopper

A picture of the ex editor of the newsletter - Hilary Boyle - at the 2009 Kidderminster Horticultural Society Autumn Show  - president Richard Taylor. Needless to say, hers was the biggest marrow. (taken by Colin Hill at the  - & published on Kidd Shuttle webpages)




There's a Goat in the Paddock


At the turn of the year we were minding our own business as you do when Ingrid noticed a small creature walking up our meadow next to the alpaca paddocks.  On closer inspection it turned out to be a pygmy goat!  As a heavy (for us) snowfall was expected the next day (10cms or 4" for you anglophiles) we thought it best to make him a temporary tiny shelter of wire-supported tarpaulin in a 'resting' alpaca paddock.  After many enquiries over the next few days of neighbours, the mayor, animal lovers etc no one knew how he'd come here - must have been abandoned as an unloved Christmas present.  Naturally Ingrid now wanted a chum for him..... We have named him Billy - most original.

Well yes they are escape artists so we've heard but we were taken by surprise late yesterday afternoon when Billy was sighted in the alpaca paddock...  We kept him separate as we can't afford to 'pollute' the alpaca areas now two are pregnant - another story, another time...

I had worked off and on for two days erecting his new enclosure with a new multi-purpose luxury apartment within, with specially painted outer wood work in matching dark green from recycled pallets.  I admit it isn't quite finished as it needs a roof but obviously the intention is there for all to see (including Billy).  We hadn't moved him by this time - removal firms for pygmy goats are difficult to find at this time of year in the Lot.....

Ingrid had noticed all the alpacas having a 'meeting ' in the paddock around a small object - yes Billy.  So, inspite of very cold weather etc etc, we ventured out at grande vitesse to capture the little blighter. By this time the alpacas were in rather excitable mood and were threatening to trample him (he does smell bad...) and were pronking (yes you'll have to google it) so I gallantly entered the fray and chased him a few metres (err... yards) and caught him with many mutterings of an Anglo-Saxon nature after a despairing Worcesterian rugby tackle.  (They're struggling as usual this season - WRFC)

We discovered a very small breach on the inner fence where we think the scamp had escaped through.  This we sealed and checked there were no other great escape routes. After instructing him not to repeat this foolhardy act we left him at peace.

This morning we arose to find his body lying by the fence.  We looked with the binoculars and this seemed to confirm there was a body.  We exited the house at grande vitesse inspite of the even colder weather etc etc and as we approached he raised his head and told us he was just enjoying the sunshine!

We then discovered there had been an insurgence into his original paddock - there were large scuff marks on the ground and an area had been scraped away with a bed of dead grass around it.  On further inspection it became apparent that there was a breach of the outer fencing - not large at all but obviously an outlet possibility for Billy.  We still are uncertain as to what caused it but suspect a pine martin, small badger, fox or even a small wild boar.

Today we have moved him formally into his new paddock with mostly finished apartment but have put his temporary shelter inside this so he has a roof over his head.

We will await tomorrow morning for any further developments when we are due to go and find a chum for him.....


Peter Batty

February 2010


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Visit to Kalgoorlie-Boulder


During our annual visit to Perth Western Australia to visit daughter and family, we decided to have a look at Kalgoorlie which was the original place where the prospectors found gold. It is situated about 700 km east of Perth in the middle of nowhere.

We travelled on a superb train with reserved seats and entertainment which took a little over 6 hours to reach Kalgoorlie. The scenery was just scrub, eucalyptus trees and spinefex bushes.

The station is in the middle of the town and the hotel just across the square. There is one main street and a population of about 28000 in surrounding suburbs.

The mining used to be all underground with many fatalities but now there an open cast mine called ‘The Super Pit’ which is enormous. Looking down on the pit from the viewpoint, the dumper trucks which can carry about 250 tons look like small ants weaving their way slowly up to the top and back again. It is a very profitable business even though only a small amount of gold is retrieved from each load. There is a wonderful museum which shows the old methods of mining, a trip underground to the old shafts and a demonstration of gold pouring etc.

The town was famous for it’s brothels. There used to be about eighty but only three now remain. Tours are advertised which include visits to the brothels (not as a client!).

Kalgoorlie-Boulder has a flying doctor station. There is also a museum which has much of the old communication equipment on display. We were lucky in that there was plane at the station which we could have a look at and a short talk about how the service works.


Dick Herbert

February 2010


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Douglas Davies

Sergeant Gunner

RAF Bomber Command 1940 – 1945

My father was an electrician and was just 21 when he joined RAF Bomber Command in 1940. Until 1942 he worked  using his electrical expertise but then decided to retrain and ended up as a sergeant gunner on Lancaster and Wellington bombers. He soon was in the air, mainly as a tail gunner but frequently in the mid upper turret.

After being involved in 23 raids, he took part in a raid in late 1943 as a Lancaster tail gunner – he thought it was over Dresden but wasn’t sure. Whatever, his plane was badly damaged on the raid and limped back to Lincolnshire on two engines. One of the Luftwaffe tactics at the time was to send their night fighters to hang around our home aerodromes and wait for the bombers returning home. Naturally, after a long and dangerous mission, this would be the time when the bomber crews were tired, least vigilant and most susceptible to such tactics. And this is what happened to my father’s Lancaster as it tried to land on two engines. After being machine gunned, the plane nose dived and crashed short of the runway. As far as the fire crews at the scene were concerned, no-one could have survived the inferno. It was not until first light the following morning that the tail of the Lancaster was found lying in a field a half mile from the crash site. My father was still alive but deeply unconscious, and still strapped in his seat behind his machine guns.

He remained unconscious in hospital for some two weeks, slowly coming round, and was finally discharged three months after the crash. After a further three months recuperation he returned to his squadron but was deeply traumatised by his experience, so much so that he could go nowhere near an aircraft without breaking down.

He was examined by the squadron medical officer who referred him to a civilian psychiatrist. I still find the diagnosis that was made by that unempathetic psychiatrist deeply and disgustingly offensive – LMF – lack of moral fibre !!

Fortunately for my father, the squadron leader intervened immediately and quashed the psychiatrist’s diagnosis. As a flying man himself the squadron leader knew exactly what my father had been through and understood his predicament. Dad was retrained as a gunnery instructor and spent the rest of the war teaching youngsters the intricacies of aircraft guns.


Barrie Davies

January 2010



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Married to a Medic – a Husband’s View


My UK-born  father worked as a doctor in Africa for more than 50 years.  My Dad’s  father and grandfather were  GPs before him in the south of England.  Old fashioned family doctors they were , certainly,  but they were well qualified men who spent hours studying the BMJ,  dedicated their lives to patient care and always kept abreast of clinical advancement.

Patient notes were always painstakingly updated by hand, and all other paperwork was limited pretty much to prescriptions and the odd referral  letter to a specialist.

How times have changed in modern medicine .  GPs, along with the dedicated nurses and others  in vital roles,  are still widely regarded as standard bearers in the caring profession.  And if the term ‘family doctors’ instils a  sense of pride, it is because familes welcome them into their homes and regard them  as an integral part of their lives.  If only such a high regard for GPs among their patients could preclude the hassles they face today; the endless paperwork, targets,  directives,  guidelines,  frivolous initiatives and general government meddling.

It was this government, incidentally, that introduced the quality points system to reward GP practices for precisely that – good practices in patient care.  Now they have to produce endless paperwork and other evidence to justify their points and avoid any accusations of ‘cheating the system’.  As if GPs and their bureaucratically burdened practice managers would have the time or inclination to fiddle these figures.

Yes, and it was this same Labour government which radically improved GPs’ contracts, to the extent that some sections of the media have accused them of raking in a lot more money for working considerably less hours.  This is what makes them and this doctor’s husband seeth with indignation.

I may write as a layman on medical matters, but as a seasoned sports journalist I am well qualified to point out that any half-decent Premiership footballer in this country earns more money in one week than the vast majority of GPs toil for in a year.  I know full well that the average toil of a British professional footballer comprises a total of around 25 hours per week, mainly training sessions and including community work and midweek/weekend matches.  Twenty five hours a week?  A GP can only wish.

Our friend Patricia Hewitt may not have been the most distinguished of Health Secretaries, but weeks before she was removed from her post she at least had the guts to guest on BBC Radio Two’s Jeremy Vine show two years ago and offer a vociferous defence of GP’s remuneration, of  how the government valued them and why they deserved  their increased pay.

My wife starts work just before 8am, hurriedly eats a packed lunch during car journeys to do her visits and is lucky to leave the surgery before 6.30pm.  She spends long weekend hours in the surgery simply keeping up with her paperwork.    And then there are the extended hours.    At a very conservative estimate my dear wife is putting in around 70 hours a week, and I know I speak for all her colleagues and friends in the profession.  Compare that with the pampered, prima donna Premiership footballers who put in 25 hours a week maximum.

My wife never complains about stroppy patients because the vast majority in her practice are decent folk who appreciate what the doctor does for them.  But I know that pointlessly stroppy patients are part of the furniture in GP consulting rooms generally.  A medic friend of ours (we have very many of these, so this particular buddy can bask in complete anonymity)  told me how a troublesome patient and child had lodged an official complaint because the stressed GP called in the next patient  while the leaving patient and offspring were still exiting the door. So what?  How pathetic.  Factor in all the other  stressful distractions, and it is no wonder so many good GPs are retiring in their 50s.

As our GP friend in question told me: “I was under a lot of pressure at the time and in any case, this was no big deal.  But I shall still have to pacify this patient over  the phone, when I would rather be  seeing other patients or getting on with my paperwork.”

Yes, my dear wife regularly comes  home at night whinging about the absurdities, the constant pressures and the sheer workload of her job.  But she takes solace in the fact that she has a great team around her – from the practice manager and admin staff upstairs, to the receptionists, practice nurses and GP colleagues down below.

Oh yes,  my wife regularly comes home and says she hates the hassle.  But not once has she come home and said she hates the job.  She loves the essentials of seeing patients, looking after them and being a humble part of their lives. 

If only the assorted hassles could make her own life less complicated.


By Mike Ward

January 2010


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You are never too old to up-sticks and go !!


Isobel and I are not really sure why we chose to emigrate to the island of Cyprus but, having done it and now lived here for four years, we have no regrets whatsoever. Both of us have always had itchy feet – hence the last 10 years of our working lives as in-flight medical officer and nurse. But, between a growing family and then parents growing older and needing more and more of our time, we never really looked at living abroad as a viable option. Then, when the last of them departed to that nursing home in the sky we felt we were still young enough to give that long yearned idea a try ………………….

We had owned a holiday apartment in Cape Coral, Florida for many years – and memorable years they were indeed. But Florida was never looked at as a place to which to emigrate  because of the travelling time involved – 22 hours from door to door – and the fact that we still had children and grandchildren whom we are very close to. France – no, we have never been Francophiles, Italy – possibly, Spain – definitely not, Greece – hmmmm but Cyprus – that sounded attractive. I speak reasonable French and Italian but no Greek whatsoever so what brought us here. I’ll not try and list the reasons because there are many for, and just as many against – suffice it to ramble on about our experiences and let you form your own opinion.

Cyprus is just a small island some 200 miles long by 90 miles wide. Situated in the eastern Mediterranean some 40 miles from Turkey, 80 miles from the Lebanon, 120 miles from Israel and 300 miles from Egypt. Our house here in Anoyira (600 metres above sea level) is just 30 minutes from Paphos International Airport, 7 hours from Maidenhead where our daughter lives and just 9 hours from Kidderminster. The climate here is typically Mediterranean – sunshine some 10 months of the year and cold and wet for 2 months. Temperatures vary from a cold zero centigrade (with snow) in the winter to an almost oppressive 44 centigrade in June, July and August. Travelling around the island is an absolute dream when compared to the gridlocked system in the UK; Larnaca, Ayia Napa, Proteras, Paphos, Laatchi, Polis, the Troodos mountains and even Kyrenia in the Turkish occupied North are just day trips away. Tourists in general stick to the coastal resorts but the gems of Cyprus are to be found well off the beaten track where you can experience the real Cyprus.

Finance and prices here on the island are very much a juggling act. Cyprus is in the Euro zone and, in the early stages when £1 could buy €1.50, things were very comfortable. Now, since Gordon Brown sold off the family silver, the pound has fallen through the floor and we are now lucky if we get €1.10 to the pound – a drop of some 30% in hard cash. This would not be too bad but, since the switch to the Euro, the Cypriots have pushed up prices  with abandon and by doing so are cutting their own throats. Cyprus used to be a very popular tourist destination but with the poor exchange rates, increased flying costs and expensive food and drink the tourist trade has dropped by some 40%! And the Cypriot mentality in the face of this dramatic drop in income – they push the prices up to try and maintain their cash flow and as a result,  drive the tourists even further away. It is going to be a long time before Cyprus regains its tourist trade. Having said that, for us knowledgeable expats who steer clear of the tourist traps and who know what and where to buy, life is still very affordable.

Just to give some examples. At the time of writing the exchange rate is €1.12 to the £ which means a Euro is worth about 90 pence. A pint of beer varies between €2.20 (£1.98) here in the village to €4.50 (£4.05) in Paphos; a loaf of sliced bread is €2.95 (£2.66) in the supermarket whereas very tasty village bread is €1.20 (£1.08). In our local taverna a Mese with wine  (Typical 10+ course Cypriot meal) will set you back €16 (£14.40), but down on the front in Limassol it will set you back €35 (£31.50). So you may well ask what on earth is the point of living in such an expensive economy? If I tell you that the total cost of my local taxes (including water) is €250 (£225) a year, a litre of diesel will set me back 82 cents (74 pence) and my income tax is based on the first €4000 tax free and 5% on the rest – I think you will know what I mean !!!

So what do we do with our time here on the Island, and elsewhere. Well, for a start, because of the low tax rates and a very prudent wife we feel justified in flying back to the UK to meet up with children and grandchildren as often as we like. We usually plan in advance but there have been occasions when there is a call for help from Maidenhead or Liverpool and we are there within 16 hours (once for just €10 each way). Longer term and distance holidays are no problem – last year we spent a month driving from Miami to San Francisco! On the island itself we are both well into lawn bowling all the year round on all weather surfaces; there are 4 big bowling clubs on the island (with others planned) involving some 400+ very good bowlers. Over the winter months Saturday afternoons are tied up for me as medical officer to the local rugby team, the Paphos Tigers, who are involved in an excellent island wide league including many military teams. At home, Isobel has become an expert at mosaic design and creation and there are many homes on the island, in the UK and in the USA with examples of her work. And, as many of you may be aware, my home hobby is website design and maintenance – at the moment I look after some 9 websites with 2 more in the design stage (one of them a missionary website in Uganda). Putting it in simple terms, life is what you make of it and we certainly are making the most!!

As in the UK, medical facilities on the island exist on 2 levels – NHS and private. Isobel and I as pensioners are entitled to use the island’s NHS facilities but, having had first hand experience, one needs to be a little selective. The actual medical expertise is excellent but it is the shortage of cash, drug availability and an almost complete lack of computer facilities which makes an attendance at an out patient clinic on a par with a cattle market!  You are not referred to a specialist – you select your own, go on a very long waiting list and must then be prepared to hold your own against queue jumping Cypriots to share a consulting room with two or three other patients at the same time!!. Similarly, the more specialised your complaint (even as routine as chemo / radio therapy), the more likely you are to have to travel some 80 miles to Nicosia to be treated. On the other hand, private facilities are excellent, well appointed and staffed by very well qualified specialists. Once again, you choose your own speciality, which is OK having a medical background but for the ordinary man in the street can be somewhat hit or miss and accordingly, expensive. I have seen numerous incidents of patients with chest pain referring themselves to cardiologists, going through extensive and expensive investigations before being referred to a gastroenterologist with hiatus hernia and having to go through it all again!! Isobel and I have private medical insurance covering us world wide (Except USA and Canada) but for simple needs such as repeat prescriptions and blood investigations we avail ourselves of the local once a week GP.

No, we have never regretted emigrating in our twilight years. We enjoy the activities, the weather and the eight month 80 degree swimming pool in the back garden. We love picking our own garden produce which seems to grow with some sort of accelerant injected into it and, when bored with cooking, availing ourselves of the cuisine in the local taverna just 50 metres up the road. We love being able to be back in the Uk as often as we want and to be able to welcome and entertain family and friends here on the island. No doubt that if long term ill-health catches up with either of us then we will have to re-examine all the options available to us but, in the meantime, you can keep the cold and wet UK with its over-policed, over-taxed environment to yourselves – we are staying put!!

Barrie Davies

January 2010


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