1981

Botham’s Ashes. The third test against the Australians at Headingley is the one that is remembered. Mike Brearley had just taken over as captain, letting Botham off the leash. 6 for 95 in their first innings, 50 and 149 following on for us with the bat, leaving Australia 130 to win. Willis had other ideas, took 8 for 43 and they were all out 111. I missed the lot. Trying to research the relationship between pills for epilepsy and bone disease. Two of us spent the whole weekend taking blood from men and women in a residence for epileptics and trying to make sure they kept badges on and visible in order to measure their exposure to sunlight. Then back to base to spin and store the samples. Took us hours. I don’t remember sleeping much. We got a couple of publications out of it and a trip to Belgium.

Played evening league cricket for Manchester RI

Botham’s Ashes. The third test against the Australians at Headingley is the one that is remembered. Mike Brearley had just taken over as captain, letting Botham off the leash. 6 for 95 in their first innings, 50 and 149 following on for us with the bat, leaving Australia 130 to win. Willis had other ideas, took 8 for 43 and they were all out 111.

We’d moved north in 1978. I thought I’d never adapt to being a welshman and I’d met these two Manchester guys at a conference and after several beers they seemed okay. People tend to be. They ran the metabolic unit at Manchester Royal Infirmary, so when a post became vacant, I applied. I didn’t hear John Henry almost say don’t go. One of the Manchester guys was normal, the other was a pillock, but I didn’t know that then and I didn’t listen anyway.

I missed the lot. Trying to research the relationship between pills for epilepsy and bone disease. Two of us spent the whole weekend taking blood from men and women in a residence for epileptics and trying to make sure they kept badges on and visible in order to measure their exposure to sunlight. Then back to base to spin and store the samples. Took us hours. I don’t remember sleeping much. We got a couple of publications out of it and a trip to Belgium.

Played evening league cricket for Manchester RI

And we had our first child, Louise.

When we’d moved to Delph, I took Stuart 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. He stayed after he left his wife, poor communications, strangely not himself.

Back in the eighties I worked as the resident medical officer in a reputable teaching hospital. A position in the dim and distant which was an automatic stepping stone to consultant, but which in the eighties was a repository for stuff that nobody else wanted, as well as supervising the admission of genuine medical emergencies. I was woken at 2 am once, ‘Yes?’ ‘There’s a bath in the middle of Cambridge Road.’ Cambridge Road was a main road into the city, normally throng. The image of an eccentric aristo taking a bath in the fast lane came into my mind. ‘Move it onto the central reservation,’ I said and put the phone down. The mess was short of washing facilities for a week or so and commuters were treated to what they thought was impromptu outdoor art. Pneumothorax playing with hypodermic syringes as guns. High jinks were just still part of a junior doctor’s life – we lived in and messed. Part of the old order.

I was called to a casualty who was unfortunately dead with a knife in his chest. We did the Xrays and the resuscitation. Left side of his chest was white. Police had to do some formal processes, making sure the body didn’t go missing or something. ‘What happened?’ I asked. ‘Argument down the Oak,’ a pub right next door to A+E. ‘Have you arrested anybody?’ ‘Yes, we’ve ordered a fleet of buses, we’ve arrested the whole pub.’

An unknown body, found on waste ground. Took bloods for drugs and alcohol and called the police. A couple of months later I’d to attend the coroner’s court. A beautiful wood paneled room down in the centre of Manchester. Got paid too. Coroner couldn’t understand what ethanol was. Why do they always come across as grumpy?

I was resident on-call into my thirties.

This was the time when general medical admissions began to rise and nobody could understand why and there was nowhere to put them all. We overflowed onto surgery, the private wing, anywhere. Except where the beds were always full, protected by canny admission and discharge policies. There was no strategy from the senior medical staff committee, so each firm had to scrap it out, night after night. We had the fewest general medical beds in the hospital and so were up against it the most. It was a corporal’s war, with casualty as the front line. We had to make it a clearing house as we rarely had beds of our own to admit to. We began to say no. We began to alienate people. Little old ladies with social problems who we knew would occupy our beds for weeks on end. Remote requests from remote bed bureaux. Then the gp’s in the next health district – just over Cambridge Road. Then the gp’s that trained in the institution alongside the current consultants. ‘We’ve always admitted there.’ ‘She was only in there last year. I’ll give old so-and-so a ring.’ And they did and fair do’s, we were backed up. The point was the hospital was a special place with a special reputation in certain areas, a wealth of household names, medical households anyway, in gold letters as you walk through the large front door. A Victorian redbrick institution hemmed in by the late twentieth century. But these gp’s from the leafy suburbs were trying to send their patients to us and passing three other large hospitals in the process.

The sarcasm and verbal abuse we had to take from our surgical counterparts when they arrived the following morning to find their elective admissions blocked. Those who didn’t keep their beds automatically full. Some of my best friends have been surgeons over the years – these weren’t amongst them. Whilst we were fighting in the trenches, the bosses were impotent, left to trade insults in the committee rooms. My boss invited me to the senior committee to describe the problem. I told my story and was asked to leave. Following day, the neurologist with whom we shared a ward, looked me up and down as if a horse had just passed by and left something behind. He didn’t do emergencies, had twice as many beds as us, but kept them full all the time, headaches mostly. This was the old school. Hanging on to what you had despite the obvious which literally kept knocking on the door.

Every doctor of my generation who trained in these places will have similar stories. I understand the pressures are still there. How do they cope today?

The boss may have been a pillock, but he gave me every Friday to write up my MD from the genetics research. Peter Harper kept asking me to go down to Cardiff so he could plaster red ink all over the draft. I had to stop after a while, he was getting on my nerves. Best help I got was from Liverpool prof,              He reviewed it and got the point immediately, told me the way forward, and I did it. I had a little office opposite the Whitworth art gallery. I don’t know what it looks like on the inside. Had to go to Liverpool to present, once I was awarded the degree, to the medical unit. Miserable lot and kept a copy. Peter Harper expected a copy but I could only afford so many. Found a private typist somewhere in Manchester. A printer down in the city. Didn’t proof read after the print run – didn’t know I had to. One page upside down

After the MD back to metabolic bone disease, did some bench work, but broke one of the ovens so called it a day. Carried on with patient orientated research. Knokke Burnham Woods, chapters and papers. Surely enough for the CV.

Early 1980’s and the university ran a works league in Manchester, so The Royal Infirmary played everyone from Geography to Engineering. We were, to put it mildly, crap, playing on crap public recreation pitches as well as the university playing fields. We looked crap too, turning out in an assortment of surgical scrubs, T-shirts and jeans. We lived in Delph at the time. One of the Saddleworth villages, over the hill from Marsden, so I got the odd Sunday invitation game, one of which, strange but true, was against Oldham Dog Track. I got a ringer or two from the rugby league club I played for and I am ashamed to say we were too good. It was set up by a neighbour, Brian Lawrence, a policeman between jobs, who was thick with a guy called Pickervance, owner of St Helens RLFC and the dog track. I can’t remember where the cricket fitted in. I also played for Brian against Saddleworth league select XI’s from Delph and Dobcross and Friarmere and we entered the Delph six’s. Both these league grounds are beautifully situated. Delph in a natural bowl and Friamere on a hillside. They asked me to sign on for Friarmere, and I would have except they played every Saturday and Sunday.

I once saw Max Boyce play for Delph. His agent lived nearby. He was a pace bowler of sorts and Delph had their league points from the game deducted.

We used to drink in two pubs in Delph. One was run by Johnnie Noon, ex-Oldham RL centre threequarter, and the other was The White Lion where the landlord was Sonny Rhamadin. He did play with Delph, but during my time there I think he was in the Bolton League. The university website records his appearances for Golcar in 1963. He took 27 wickets for 92 runs in four matches, including 9 for 19 in the cup to skittle Holmfirth for 54. He certainly moved around a bit – he also played for Liversedge.

And we had our first child, Louise.

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