1.        Another January newsletter - Hilary Boyle
2.        John Parker in Retirement
3.        Chez Batty
4.        Annual Dinner 2002

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Another January newsletter

Happy New Year! Predictably, my resolutions have already dissolved, with the exception of my absolute determination to continue with constructionism. This does not refer to the erection of the new teaching suite extension to Stanmore House surgery - & many thanks to those of you who have sympathised with our suffering during this prolonged agony - nor indeed to the building works we presume are happening behind the wonderful new fencing around E block, at the KGH site. It does not mean the giant Meccano sets that comprise the Weaver’s Wharf development of Kidderminster’s town centre - has anyone else remarked on Balfour Beatty’s curious “considerate constructors” notices? Nor indeed should readers confuse it with constructivism, the geometric abstract art movement in Russia between 1917 and the early 20’s. It is in fact a behaviour therapy tool. I was first introduced to it in my days in Community Paediatrics, and continue to find it very useful. Doubtless most doctors do, though not necessarily recognising it that they are using a psychological technique with its own name.  I wasn’t even consciously aware that I had applied it to myself until my return from a six week jaunt around the world, possible now I’ve finally made part time status.

The undoubted highlight was the achievement of a scuba diving qualification – a huge challenge (not least because everyone else was younger than my sons!) with proportionate satisfaction at its accomplishment, and the pleasures to which it gave me access. After that, the world was my oyster & in quick succession followed horse riding, backpacking in Tasmania and climbing Sydney Harbour Bridge . My geology course starts next week, and my GP appraisal will be grist to the mill for February. Perhaps it is simply confidence gained from conquering fears and realising long held ambitions, as the theorists would have it. Maybe it’s just the spin off from a long break and reduced hours! Is there a dose for everyone…?

And finally, congratulations to Barrie Davies, Dick Herbert and David Malcomson for being awarded the Queen’s Jubilee medal. The medal is a thank you for services to the community, and is awarded to members of the statutory and voluntary emergency services. It is even more significant to the flying docs after 20 years of voluntary green light work. Perhaps we can persuade one of them to put together an article covering the history and activities of the Flying Doctor Service in the Wyre Forest .

Hilary Boyle


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JOHN PARKER in retirement

Vic Schrieber and I arrived in Kidderminster in September 1977 as part of a new cohort of enthusiastic GP's. Chris Smith was already at Aylmer Lodge, John Wilner at Church Street and James McLachlan and Bob Marriott were at Bewdley as far as I can remember but otherwise we watched a whole new generation of folk arrive, not a few of whom had come via the local training scheme which became highly popular and which we both became involved in. He beat me by two weeks but I was older so became senior and as Northumberland House was always a very democratic practice it didn't seem to matter and we remained good friends (although he once told me that, come the revolution, I was at the top of his list 'for special treatment', - I replied that I had a similar list and his name had a high rating) At my retirement party he gave me a bottle of wine with the enchanting title of 'old Git' which probably sums up our feelings about each other.

Dick Herbert was the executive partner (then a new idea) and introduced me to John Ball who was the senior as 'the next chairman of the GMSC'  (now the GPC). I was rather naive in those days and hadn't heard of the GMSC but looked suitably impressed. John was less so later when he discovered that I wasn't even a member of the BMA.... He did indeed go on to several distinguished years in the post (amongst other things) and we all benefited from the spin-off.

I hadn't originally intended to look at Northumberland House, - two practices advertised in the BMJ that week. The other, which shall remain nameless had a much more impressive advert but we thought we might as well look at NHS (while we were there) and it won by a short head. When I arrived, plans for a mega hospital at Packwood had recently been successfully ditched and Kidderminster was in the ascendant. The close working relationship and seamless care (before the word was invented) was an absolute dream after Islington where I had 20+ hospital telephone numbers in my diary. This was one of the major attractions of the area and it got better and better as time went by. Sessions in A and E soon followed plus an orthopaedic list at Hill Top in Bromsgrove with Olaf da Costa which was fun until the unit closed. Initially I took over from John Wilner as a GP tutor for the area and saw the job expand from a titular appointment to the rather more substantial job it is today. We became a training practice again in 1979 and have had trainees/registrars ever since. Vic joined me as a trainer after 8-9 years and from then on we did alternate years, - watching the emergence of new entrants to the profession and keeping in touch over the years has been one of the more satisfying aspect of professional life.

Another satisfying aspect has been the Vasectomy service. Pam Ball was doing them when I arrived and having done a fair bit of cutting, I thought I might as well join in. Come fundholding it all took off and I think the total must be approaching the 2000 mark now. Although it is hardly major surgery, it has given me the opportunity to talk to some fascinating people and I have learned a wealth of useful information over the years. No one showed any signs of wanting to take it on so I shall continue to appear on Friday mornings. That and the occasional locum should keep me in touch with reality. 

Retirement is highly recommended. The practice gave me a wood lathe as a farewell present, - I learned elementary turning at school and am planning on doing a course. The family have promised me a piano keyboard, - I have a long term ambition to learn - and my gliding has improved considerably. People keep offering me locums in third world countries but our first grandchild is due at Christmas so I am not making any plans of that sort until the new year. 

I used to tell people that Kidderminster was one of the few areas where the NHS really worked, quite apart from the first class medical  community. Thanks everybody for the latter but I fear the former is under increasing threat. Good luck to you all as you face an increasing host of vicissitudes in the years to come.

John Parker

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If someone had said to me 5 years ago that I'd be living permanently in France in 2002 I should have laughed out loud, but during the last 3-4 years Ingrid and I have re-evaluated our lives and we now know our decision to leave, not just medicine nor Wyre Forest, but England itself has been completely correct.

We researched this area of France, the Lot , and loved the countryside and the people who are very approachable even to those with limited language skills like me! So when we decided to leave UK giving 6 months notice we knew where we wanted to be but had no place to go. Fate has played a major part in both our. lives and it certainly did so when we fell across this. house called Caufaur. We had a set of criteria that had to be met for us to buy in France . The most important one being to sell our house in Stourport – a good start here as it went within 4 days of erecting a 'For Sale' sign. The next criteria were exceeded as we were really expecting to renovate at least part of any property. We ideally wanted two gites and a house. To find two excellent gites, well equipped and with hopefully some income for us, and a house with some land, but not too much, was an added bonus even though the house lacks perhaps the third bedroom we had envisaged.

We were given a warm reception by the outgoing owners and new neighbours and had 4 invitations to meals out in the first week af being here. A cocker spaniel, Prunelle, a daft name but suits her personality as she's totally potty (like her new owners ), came with the house (!?),  who is around 5-6 yrs old and has been allowed to roam around her 'estate' - thats our land and the immediate neighbour's, about 5 hectares in all. She has been quite protective of her territory and has already had a serious altercation with a visiting poodle from Belgium and a Jack Russell also from Belgium . (Is she racist?)  We are gradually teaching her some social skills in return for her showing us the pretty walks around here!

Statistics show that the annual rainfall in the Lot equals that of Worcestershire. It certainly has rained in the last 6 weeks, presumably to keep the stats favourable and gear up for a hot, dry summer. I have an irrigation system installed in the garden because of the poor rainfall the rest of the year and all this water comes from a water source some 100 meters into a neighbour's land - this is free water. We do not have a septic tank but a reed bed system (Interestingly similar to those used extensively by Severn Trent in W Midlands ).

The pace of life here is just so much more to our liking. My sleeping, traditionally 4-5 hours per night if I'm lucky, has increased to 7-10 hours for the first time in 31 years The shops are closed mostly on Sundays and Mondays and always from 12 noon - 2 or 3pm every working day for lunch. The latter takes a bit of getting used to. A hooter sounds in Montcuq (our local village) at 12 noon to announce the shutdown and literally everything and everyone disappears! I spend a lot of time in the IocaI DIY shop ~ yes they do have them and they are as good, if not better than Wigleys. In case you think the Battys are merely sitting on their derrieres sampling the 'vin noir', there are ongoing works like shutter making, painting and maintenance for 3 houses, gardening, chain sawing, brush cutting and projects for hens (Ingrid's idea), koi carp rearing (my idea) and alpacas (both.!).

Being typically English (so we're told) we wanted to get all the major admin stuff sorted early on and had attempted to acquire a 'carte de sejour', health cover, LHD vehicle., house and contents insurance etc and only succeeded with a LHD car (Peugeot 306 estate). The first two we are told can't be done for three months and takes many weeks after that (some newcomers wait two years) and the latter completed properly 2-3 weeks ago. We have done essential things like meeting the Mayor (very influential and controls planning permission) and the Iocal senior citizen in our community - a lovely gentleman. The Lot Tourist Board has inspected our gites and were very complimentary and we heard this week we have been awarded 'etoiles' for each gite. Bookings so far have been regular until mid November with clients from Australia , France , Belgium and England . We're fully booked for Christmas including one family from New Zealand ! Our son and daughter have both visited - it was essential our daughter came as she needed convincing we weren’t on an extended holiday. Seeing our furniture installed finally convinced her. They are both even more supportive of our move now they’ve been here.

My French neighbour asked me this week if I had any regrets about moving - neither of us have regretted a second and I have not missed the service that is National Health at all. If anyone is interested in where we are - please access our website www.caufour.com. If you have problems with the site please remember it's been designed by a batty doctor

Kind regards and best wishes to all in Wyre Forest .


Peter Batty

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Friday September 13th saw members of the society gather once again at Spring Grove House for the Annual dinner. This year there was another venture away from the traditional after dinner speaker. As usual the President (Richard Davies) greeted everyone on arrival and there was the usual sociable meeting around the bar. Once everyone had arrived we were gently ushered into an ante-room where we were handed a good sized glass of champagne. This was the start of a special wine tasting, where all the wines were Champagnes from the Family House of Pol Roger, renown as Winston Churchill's favourite tipple. Not surprisingly we had started with the basic non-vintage white foil champagne. Nick James from Pol Roger was present to guide us through the tasting. Pol Roger we were told have the deepest and therefore coolest cellars in Champagne and so their wine ferments more slowly apparently leading to smaller bubbles, but I didn't see many of the medical society admiring these! This fast acting lubricant certainly proved effective as the noise volume grew, members taking the opportunity to move around and meet up with other members of the medical fraternity. The initial white foil was followed by a Vintage Chardonnay champagne (1993) and we then progressed to Reserve Pol Roger (Vintage 1993) and Vintage Rose (1993). We culminated in a tasting of Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill, a speciality of the house sourced only in good years from top vineyards in production when Churchill was alive. I must say that as one of those serving it was shocking to see the lengths Society members would go in trying to wheedle extra tastings of the champagne, particularly the Winston Churchill. It is perhaps not surprising however, as a bottle retails for around £80 and so is clearly not normally for those who work for the NHS.

Following the tasting we moved through for Dinner, this was up to the usual Spring Grove standards and the conversation did dip somewhat as we were fed, resuming in full force between courses. As the meal drew to a close Richard Davies offered a vote of thanks to members of the society involved with events held throughout his year as President, with especial thanks to David Malcomson.


David Starkie

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