1976

Clive Lloyd’s W. Indians. Beat us 3-0 at home and nobody ever accused them of being calypso cricketers again. Andy Roberts and Michael Holding backed by Wayne Daniel headed the bowling. Viv Richards, Roy Fredericks and Gordon Greenidge lead their batting. Greig was our skipper. Underwood, Willis, Selvey, Amiss, Steele, Edrich, Close were some of the players. Looks a bit like a veterans team and I remember it being an unsettled period for English cricket.

Richards scored millions of runs and Holding took bucketfuls of wickets. The last 80 minutes of Saturday at the Old Trafford test sparked controversy. 39-year-old John Edrich and 45-year-old Brian Close were subjected to an unrelenting barrage of intimidating fast bowling from Roberts, Holding and Daniel. Clive Lloyd’s tactics were questioned, not that Close and Edrich were bothered.

That long hot summer in Cardiff went on until September, the culmination of a 16-month dry spell. The longest recorded in England and Wales since 1727. Mum and dad came down for a two week holiday and never moved from our back garden, such as it was. Mum even got burnt through her shirt.

I passed the my specialist exams, and then you have to fatten up your CV; reputable jobs and research papers. The jobs side of it usually took you to The Hammersmith, London, or ‘been to America’ otherwise known as ‘The BTA’. As an awkward callow youth, I had no intention of doing either and Cardiff was a good spot to be a young man on his way in junior medical life. Some but not all the responsibility. No children. Working wife, who was also reluctant to do the accepted career route. So research. I hadn’t a clue. The consultant I worked for had an interest in metabolic bone disease, so you tag along. It was a long time before I even got a glimmer of understanding and its a daft thing to follow if you’re struggling. I cannot recall a good reason for doing it, other than you have to do research. Maybe four papers eventually that no one has ever read.

Two benefits did happen. First I was somehow allocated a genetics project by Peter Harper, an up and coming lad at the time. One day a week visiting families in the Industrial S. Wales valleys. From Newport up to Abergavenny in the east over to Llanelli and Neath in the west, staying within the heads of the valleys road. Villages I played rugby against on a Saturday for Llandaff Athletic. It was a huge interest and time commitment for six years, with an MD at the end. Lots of experience and lots of mistakes.

The other benefit was meeting Stuart Woodhead, a biochemist in Nick Hales department. I was a truly hopeless researcher at the laboratory bench, but we had a wonderful time. Drinking and talking bollocks mostly. He was from Lancashire I think, bright as a silver button and a fit squash player and runner. He liked his cricket. When we’d moved to Delph, I took him down to the Tinker Cup Final. Delph and Dobcross is a small village cricket team and the place was mobbed. Bit like the support for the Lancashire League games with all their W. Indian professionals. Mind it was a nice day. I’ve lost touch with him now, as you do.

Clive Lloyd’s W. Indians. Beat us 3-0 at home and nobody ever accused them of being calypso cricketers again. Andy Roberts and Michael Holding backed by Wayne Daniel headed the bowling. Viv Richards, Roy Fredericks and Gordon Greenidge lead their batting. Greig was our skipper. Underwood, Willis, Selvey, Amiss, Steele, Edrich, Close were some of the players. Looks a bit like a veterans team and I remember it being an unsettled period for English cricket.

Richards scored millions of runs and Holding took bucketfuls of wickets. The last 80 minutes of Saturday at the Old Trafford test sparked controversy. 39-year-old John Edrich and 45-year-old Brian Close were subjected to an unrelenting barrage of intimidating fast bowling from Roberts, Holding and Daniel. Clive Lloyd’s tactics were questioned, not that Close and Edrich were bothered.

That long hot summer in Cardiff went on until September, the culmination of a 16-month dry spell. The longest recorded in England and Wales since 1727. Mum and dad came down for a two week holiday and never moved from our back garden, such as it was. Mum even got burnt through her shirt.

Moved from Liverpool in 1972. Bought a town house in Roath Park. Ad at work by a junior dermatologist who was moving on. Two up two down, a terrace. £14000, a fortune. Huddersfield BS wouldn’t give us a mortgage so we got one off the council. When we moved back north, my insurance man with whom I had a small savings account had a fit, ‘Why didn’t you speak to me? You can have as much as you want.’

I passed my specialist exams, and then I had to fatten up the CV. Reputable jobs are essential, but not enough. House officer to Professor Sir Cyril Clarke, President of the Royal College of Physicians, was pretty cool, as a start. You also had to have research papers. The jobs side of it usually took you to The Hammersmith, London, or America, as in ‘The BTA’; otherwise known as ‘Been to America’. As an awkward callow youth, I had no intention of doing either and Cardiff was a good spot to be a young man on his way in junior medical life. Some but not all the responsibility. No children. Sheila, who worked, was also reluctant to do the accepted career route. So research. I hadn’t a clue. The consultant I worked for as a medical registrar, John Henry Jones, had an interest in metabolic bone disease, so I tagged along. One of the most complex subjects to choose and it was ages before I even got a glimmer of understanding. A daft thing to follow and I cannot recall a good reason for doing it, other than to do research. Maybe four papers eventually that no one has ever read.

Henry introduced me to Stuart Woodhead, a biochemist who was making his name measuring hormone levels with antibodies. The head of department was Nick Hales who started life as a medic and then described how to measure insulin. Brains the size of the planet and a bit of a playboy, he moved on to an Oxbridge professorship. I was a truly hopeless at the laboratory bench, but Stuart and I had a wonderful time. Drinking and talking bollocks mostly. He was from Lancashire I think, bright as a silver button and a fit squash player and runner. He liked his cricket. He wasn’t a rugby man, but he was down The Arms Park for the Barbarians game of 1972. Sadly he lost his way with one of the lab technicians. He’d a lovely wife, Bridgett, though I did hear they did get back together. During his dark hours, I was happy to listen, but that is all I should have done. It’s difficult when you don’t know how, to shut up and not offer advice. We drifted apart as you do, pity. He took me to a week at a Madrid Metabolic Bone Disease conference. I didn’t take in a word, but we visited The Prado Art Gallery, did a bus trip to Toledo, went to a bull fight and ate out every night. Vino tinto de la casa which always came out of the fridge. Cervesas which often came in champagne glasses. Bowls of chopped chorizo on the bar. Stuart had steak and chips every night whilst I tried my hand a little. Got a plateful of little birds with their feet sticking in the air one night. Later found out they were larks. Had to have the local delicacy, callos. Out came a steaming cauldron with slimy floating things, tripe. I stuck to pizzas then and very good they were too. The day before we were due to come home, a massive clean up took place followed by new road surface and pavements, grassy areas and potted palms. People had stalls advertising political parties, including the communists. We didn’t speak Spanish, but we assumed some sort of big wig was coming, not Franco obviously, as a prelude to elections. I later discovered that Franco died in November 1975. The bull fight was better than I expected, much as Heamingway described in Death in the Afternoon, or what I could remember from my general studies school reading list.

Sit in the shadow, no cushions, the three acts, one duff bull, one triumphant matador who got the ears or the tail or something.

If that had been my research it wouldn’t have counted for a lot. As luck would have it Peter Harper, a fairly new senior lecturer on the professorial unit, needed someone for a genetics project by Peter Harper. One day a week visiting families in the Industrial S. Wales valleys. From Newport up to Abergavenny in the east over to Llanelli and Neath in the west, staying within the heads of the valleys road. Villages I played rugby against on a Saturday for Llandaff Athletic. It was a huge interest and time commitment for six years, hopefully with an MD at the end. Lots of experience and lots of mistakes. Peter and I never hit it off, but he did enough to get me through it. There was always something else I had to do or research. He never covered it all first time we’d talk about it.

‘You never know. Some strange and useful stuff gets tucked away in journals.’ Yes, true but it’s a pain doing all that reading for not a lot. I once did his on-call when his registrar was on leave. Peter kept coming in and doing the work for me. He and his wife collected waifs and strays. He asked us to dinner and we ate off a long fold-up table with trestle seats either side alongside a couple of refugees. He trained in Liverpool and sang in the hospital choir. He was surprised when I wrote a very lucid chapter in the MD on genetic linkage.

At the end of the first year as a research fellow, I had to submit a report. It was crap and poorly supervised by Stuart. It was the genetics project that got me through. I had an interview with Archie Cochrane, quite a famous bloke in his day, who thankfully supported me, not that I really realised what was going on. Gave me a copy of his book Effectiveness and Efficiency. I was supposed to return it, but never did.

Peter Harper got me to go to a conference in Holland which was fun and helpful. A consultant neurologist had done and MD too. Suited, collar and tie, sat down, squared up his notes and aligned his pens and pencils in parallel. Ferry. Peter could be quite thoughtful, but boy could he smother the life out of you.

I played evening league works cricket in Cardiff and Manchester. The Heath Hospital, incorporating Cardiff Medical School, otherwise The Welsh National School of Medicine, was massive. The local bus service stopped three times in the grounds, so no surprise that it could sustain its own internal league. I played for Biochemistry, where I was a research fellow, against the likes of Radiology, Cardiology, Neurosciences and so on. We weren’t much at cricket, but if there was a competition for brain size, we would have won easily. The boss was Nick Hales, an unusually approachable boffin, famous for describing how to measure insulin. We played most of the games on Whitchurch Psychiatric Hospital’s beautifully kept grounds. Cardiology always won because they pinched the best players.

I also guested for my neighbour’s works team, once. The only time I’ve ever been a ringer. A office of architects against another office of architects. We played down Pontcanna Fields, not far from Sophia Gardens, the home of Glamorgan. Two overs per man and they batted first. During my two, the ringer’s, the fielders were up on their toes. One dropped behind, but precious few runs. I then opened our innings and one of my neighbour’s colleagues umpired. I could have been LBW but do you give your own side out, especially the ringer? I stood in vain, waiting for him to change his mind. Yet another plonker. I couldn’t speak to him after the game. Last I heard he’d paid for himself to join a crew sailing around the world. Money well spent. I turned out for them at soccer as well which was not in any way memorable.

Cardiff in the 1970’s was a great place to be, except on Saturdays during The Five Nations. Wales topped the championship four times between 1972 and 1977, beating England five times. If there’d been more than one division, England would’ve been relegated every year. I took dad to The Arms Park once, the Irish match. Standard craic. Several beers at a hospitality do and get in early for a spot near half-way down toward the front of the paddock. Dad anxious about his waterworks, not helped by the excitement and fluid intake. Gradually, we moved backwards to keep the toilets in sight. Afterwards, back to The Park Hotel for several more. They sent the next door neighbour to bail us out, only he got involved too. Lost count and I think we must have had a taxi. Dad talked about it forever.

One poignant moment as a junior medic at The Heath involved a coloured man in his seventies who was admitted from Whitchurch Hospital with his final illness. The senior registrar on the firm(Nalgo holiday camp), a rather stuffy London graduate, pulled me aside. ‘Take a peep at so-and-so side ward.’ I sidled by and a younger version of the seventy year old was sat at the bedside. Then it twigged. The surname was Boston.

Two benefits did happen.

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