1.        Kidderminster via Lahore - Chris Gait
2.       Girl Power Strides Forth - Mike Ward
3.       2004 Annual Dinner - Paul Thompson
4.        Marathon Diary - Nigel Cockrell
5.        Jogger's Diary - Tim Campion

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Kidderminster    via   Lahore

Just before being appointed to my Consultant position here in 1982, I was invited to become a visiting consultant to a group of practices in Pakistan . This would involve initially twice yearly trips between Karachi , Lahore and Islamabad . At that time I was very green, in the inexperienced sense, with the thought of such a trip quite daunting. However nothing ventured etc as I sat on the plane in my consultoid three piece suit ready for the challenge ahead. Unfortunately the flight was delayed by 12 hours as several of the toilets were not functioning. The very eloquent pilot explained that he would happily fly with one engine missing, but not a toilet down – we all preferred both if possible.

After the delay and length of flight this fairly smart individual looked like a wet rag on arrival in Karachi . The first impression was the searing heat and smell when the cabin doors opened which knocked one back. Then into the airport with a swarming mass of people which extended everywhere in Karachi . The roads inevitably teaming with overladen  buses, scooters, rickshaws, oxen etc, all making the most incredible noise.

However my colleagues were most welcoming and had arranged a party to greet me with many local dignitaries present. Unfortunately with the delayed flight I was whisked straight to the function, rather than having the whole day to recover. As you can imagine I must have looked like a dishevelled zombie, hardly able to keep my eyes open – what a great first impression.

The work was quite hard and intense in each of the three centres, mainly due to the volume of patients and also with intense heat and rather poor functioning air conditioning. In Islamabad , Pakistans capital city, many of the patients were the children of diplomats. At that time neighboring Afghanistan was not only the main heroine production area feeding the USA, but Russia was about to take over to have an all weather port, for its warships in the Arabian Sea. Hence huge numbers of diplomats came from all over the world, and in order to induce the best a healthcare package had to be available to families. Good orthodontic care was an essential part of this package to entice diplomats to the area. We were hoping to have a spin-off of a cleft lip and palate service on the back of this, but unfortunately this was not possible with the beaurocracy involved. 

To the Hills

The fun part of each trip was the 3 or 4 days tagged onto the end for sightseeing either in Pakistan or on the way home. My favourite journey was twice going up to the mountains in the north taking the rather precarious flight to Gilgit. At that time the aircraft were ancient Fokker Friendships with a maximum cruising height of 15,000ft. Sadly most of the mountains of the area were over 20,000ft which meant flying in valleys with the wings seemingly touching the mountain sides – quite unnerving! The plane was a commuter one laden with people, string tied boxes and on one occasion a sheep!. Being the only European on board, I was invited into the cockpit for a better view and sat between the two pilots. On coming into Gilgit  they asked me to spot the runway, which I could not make out at all. They both took great delight in watching my jaw drop ,as we came from the mountaintops to this indecipherable air strip amongst the rocks.

From Gilgit at 8000ft I was able to hire a jeep and driver to take me up the Karakorum Highway up to the Chinese border at the Khunjurab Pass at over 12,000 ft. This road is considered to be the 8th wonder of the world as it was so difficult to build high up on the sides of the Indus valley. Thirteen hundred lives were also lost in its construction. The Hunza valley was particularly stunning as here the three great mountain ranges of the Hindu Khush, Karakorum and Himalayas meet. A wonderful fertile area with masses of apricot trees in blossom. You run out of superlatives here as there are more peaks around this valley of over 20,000ft than there of over 10,000ft in the entire Alps .

The tourist accommodation at that time was very basic. At the lodge you were given some firewood and a set of interlocking metal tubes to make a chimney – it was absolutely freezing at night. Mein host brought a couple of live chickens under his arms for us to choose our evening meal. Being novices at this game we picked the wrong one, and ended up with the toughest rooster imaginable. However surviving the night allowed me to watch the sun come up over the mountains and made it all worthwhile. Onwards up the highway you could see remnants of the old Silk route from China high up on the valley sides. Vast glaciers, the Battura being the most memorable, swept down majestically from the peaks. The road was quite treacherous, often sections being swept away or huge house-size boulders dropping onto it.

Eventually on returning to Gilgit I found all flights had been cancelled due to bad weather, with little hope of it clearing for days. So I and a business man from Karachi hired a jeep and driver to take us back down the Indus , as we had other flights to catch. This was a 16 hour drive along this hairy road and we had seen remnants of buses and cars which had gone over the side. After about 10 minutes we realized the driver was as high as a kite and had already done the upward journey that day. We both had to stay awake all night to keep an eye on the driver, and reduce the chance of becoming a statistic. The only way we could do this was to tell jokes to eachother for hours, which we managed with such high stakes at hand.

  On another trip my wife Steph came out to join me a week later while I was in Rawlpindi. On arriving at Karachi airport alone she telephoned in a slight panic thinking there had been a recent massacre and blobs of blood on the pavement. Had the military regime brutally put down an uprising, and suppressed any reporting? No it was the habit of paan chewing and spitting out bright red saliva making it look as though there had been a blood bath. However recovering from this we eventually went on a tour of the North West Province through the Khyber Pass to the Afghan border. In this area everybody carries guns and refugees flood over the border in their millions to United Nations camps near Peshawer. The police had jurisdiction on the roads but not the surrounding area. Therefore you would see streams of smugglers carrying TVs, videos etc on their heads, just walking along the side of the road by the border totally unchallenged. The terrain of the whole area was amazing hostile with the Khyber Pass the easiest route(!) through. We were fortunate enough to be invited for lunch in the Officers Mess of the Khyber Rifles HQ, who cover the area. This is a very old and proud regiment who have patrolled one of the major routes between east and west for centuries, with many tales to tell.

  During my 10 years of visiting Pakistan there were many other excursions and I was able to gather some of the countries culture, but sadly little of the language except “open wide” and “bite together”. My hosts were very friendly and generous and I was able to  repay them with teaching and advice. My alimentary system generally survived the potentially hostile bacterial onslaught, mainly by avoiding drinking the water and staying in 5 star hotels! However there was one notable exception in 1982 when I heard that the Faulklands had been invaded. With a patriotic group we toasted the downfall of the Argentinians with a glass of Karachi water, there being no alcohol available for the purpose. I don’t think this touched the sides at all, making the flight home the next day most unpleasant. Perhaps a case of Galtieries revenge.

  My last visit concluded with a night crab fishing trip in Karachi harbour by Dow, the traditional boat. We had a wonderful evening and great fun in this group, but did not catch anything. With another colleague, we were presented with teashirts emblazoned with DID NOT CATCH CRABS IN KARACHI.

  Sadly towards the end of my stint I could sense a gradual change in the country towards foreigners, particularly westerners, which made me start to feel unsafe. Although my hosts looked after me extremely well, going around alone in more remote areaswas potentially hazardous. I would love to return, particularly to cycle the Karakorum Highway , but in the present climate probably would be unwise. Although arduous and challenging, I would advise any one to take up such a post, should the opportunity arise.

 Chris Gait

  PS The dentist, Dr Niazi, who invited me was a personal friend and dentist to Ali Bhutto Pakistans Prime Minister. After the military take over led by General Zia, Mr Bhutto was executed. As`Dr Niazi was very outspoken against this action, he eventually had to flee the country on foot before reaching sanctuary in the UK . Therefore most of my contacts in Pakistan were Bhutto supporters, making each visit of interest to the military police. In our trip to the NW Frontier, unknown to us, we were followed  for a week by two plainclothed policemen.

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Girl Power Strides Forth

Five years after they braved brutally cold weather and scant visibility in their winter ascent of Cader Idris in Snowdownia, the same female members of Kidderminster Medical Society have reached fresh heights of fitness.

In continuing to set an example to their patients, the hardy quintet of Rachel Ward, Angie Miller, Jane Perry, Judith Hardwick and Fiona McDougal have swapped mountain-climbing for the new challenge of racing against the clock in official triathlons, half-marathons and distance running.

Rachel made a successful debut on the multi-eventing circuit which ended its seasonal run in the Black Country this autumn. Expecting to do no more than hold her own in the women's veteran age-group at the Halesowen Triathlon, Rachel surprised herself by conquering the entire female field in a time of 1hr,35mins.

Further south, the trio of Rachel, Angie and Jane joined a massive field of 2,500 athletes -including three 2004 Olympians from the 2004 Games in Athens -­competing in the Stroud Half Marathon. It was a credit to our Society girls that in a race where large numbers of runners stumbled to a halt at various stages, all three completed the race without once slowing to a walk.

Fiona found that training on the roads and tracks and in the steeply rolling hills of rural Worcestershire stood her in good stead when she competed with husband Gary Parsons on the flat in her first half-marathon at Lake Vyrnwy in September.

A different challenge altogether facing Rachel, Angie and Judith was the Suicide Six at Baggeridge Park near Wolverhampton in late November. Thinking that the daunting six-mile race was so-called because of the risk of self-inflicted death by exhaustion, the girls had reckoned without the danger of drowning or dying of hypothermia! The runners were required to negotiate a freezing stream along the way. But happily, the water was no more than waist-high and our trio survived the event at a canter.

Not forgetting that the Society includes any number of male medics who like to look after their own health, Steve Perry, Alastair Miller, Chris Catchpole and Paul Thompson have similarly been pushing themselves through the pain barrier to maintain their high standards of fitness. Steve and Alastair both rose to the Halesowen Triathlon challenge, while Alastair, Chris and Paul joined our girls for the Suicide Six.

And they all live to tell the tale!

Mike Ward

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 Annual Dinner
1st October 2004

  This years annual shindig came around as quick as the last, just in time to remind me that there were only 85 shopping days to Christmas!

A brightly lit Safari- Park with various rides on the go made me wonder initially how Paul Williams had managed to get hold of the funds for such a venture. Fortunately for some, the option to hurl themselves thru the night sky wasn’t available as an alternative to coffee and mints.

We were met at the door by the ever youthful David and Liz and a furtive Hilary Boyle looking for an unsuspecting candidate to pen an article for the next edition of Tattler, or that’s what I thought she said.

The usual approach to the bar was as treacherous as ever and I seemed to move further back with every step. I look forward to the day when I have the gravitas to get there before the meal starts. I must ask John Wilner how he does it. He seemed to create an aura around him that the bar staff couldn’t resist.

The starter, main and dessert arrived as usual as did the Presidents speech. Dave managed to keep it punchy and to the point. The most pertinent part being his toast and word of thanks to the recently retired, or to be retired, table . Said with more than just a touch of yearning, I felt.

The main billed event of the night was the Port tasting, this seemed to go down well with the non driving portion of the audience. I fully agreed that the last sample was inferior to the two preceding and couldn’t work out why, if he knew that, he was palming it off on us!  What do I know?  We’re more than happy with lambrusco in our house.

Perhaps next year we can have a cheese specialist in and then we’ll be complete.

As a final note, thanks to Paul for burdening the stress of organisation and getting everyone together. As the PCC ends there will be less occasions to meet and talk unless we make the most of the Medical Society

Paul Thompson

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Marathon diary

Having bitten the bullet and entered the London Marathon Hilary has now told me that training to run 26 miles and raising sponsorship isn’t enough, she wants regular articles on the agony and ecstasy of the long distance runner.

WHY RUNNING? Having played hockey for the last 20 years I recently gave up the struggle against a hamstring which ripped if I looked at a ball never mind run after it and opposition half my age, twice as fast and ten times as skilful. Rather than slip down the teams and end up playing against players who thought they were lumberjacks rather than hockey players and myopic umpires who missed the ‘clubs’ flying around at head height I decided to find another athletic pursuit. I joined a gym but soon found I it only fed my insecurities to be surrounded by such beautiful people. Then a friend suggested a cheaper alternative, join the Worcester Joggers (a bit of a misnomer as some ‘joggers’ seem to go exceedingly fast). Runners are not the most aesthetically gifted people and a bald, fortyish, bespectacled asthmatic with a slight potbelly and a disproportionately large bum fits right in. So since summer 2004 I’ve become an athlete!

WHY THE MARATHON ?  As with all things blame my wife and my mother. Unfortunately my mum has ovarian cancer and as I was now running the suggestion was that I run a race to raise money for Cancer Research. So I ran a 10km race around Blenheim Palace . All well and good but things have just escalated and here I am …….So, how does a novice (oldish) runner go in four months from never running a race longer than 6 miles to running 26, read the next episode…

Nigel Cockrell


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Jogger’s Diary
December 2004

Having very kindly allowed me to announce my intention to run in The London Marathon in April 2005, and to attempt to “blag” some sponsorship outof my colleagues, in the last edition of the newsletter, Hilary has not unreasonably asked me to write a few words about my training to date.

However,  since emerging from my occasional “stumble-around-the-block” to slightly more regular running, I have come to realise that I have tapped into a rich seam of Wyre Forest running culture,  such as the Wards, Millers, Newricks, Thompsons, Catchpoles, Hardwicks and Perrys of this parish,  to name only a few.

I’m gradually cranking up to longer runs (19 today, Ombersley and back ) , and at the beginning of December, Rachel Ward talked me into, and Alastair and Angie Miller took me along to,  the Mortimer Forest Hill Race,  just outside Ludlow. This was my first outing in public, “playing with the big boys.” It was very hilly,  10 miles of mud,  streams,  hills,  forest tracks- (did I mention hills?) . Exhilarating, but a step up from the plodding I had been used to, and a foretaste of what I will be up against on “the big day.”

The river bank in Bewdley, Trimpley reservoir, and the canal banks between Stourport and Kinver are all becoming more familiar, and thanks are due to the forbearance of the anglers as I come lumbering through the undergrowth, disturbing their reverie, and to the bargees for providing encouraging shouts, and welcome glasses of water in my usually gaspingly speechless and rather desperate state!

I’ve been hugely motivated by all the encouragement I’ve had with my “little adventure”,  not least by various, oh yes,  frightfully amusing remarks about my ever more comfortable trousers. I’ve discovered pains in places I didn’t know I had places, and have encountered the dreaded “jogger’s nipple”!

None of this has put me off, and I am extremely grateful to all those who have sponsored me, and look forward to hearing from those who may have forgotten who to make the cheque payable to! (“WellChild” – they’re a paediatric charity who have given me a “golden bond” place to run what is the 25th anniversary London marathon)

It would of course be churlish not to mention also that Chris Catchpole is running for the Multiple Sclerosis Resource centre, and Nigel Cockrell for Cancer Research.

Tim Campion

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