Thursday, 16 August 2012
Guerrier’s unreliable recollections, the ramblings of a fast dementing old goat
Frank Law had a stately chauffeur driven pre-war Rolls Royce of the upright Queen May design. One afternoon Lolly Forman was standing with the crowds on the corner of St Thomas’s St and London Bridge Approach; Mr Law swept by, sitting in the back of his car; an office girl standing by Dr Forman turned to her companion and exclaimed “There goes a proper toff!” Lolly told me that was exactly how he would have liked to have been seen himself. Lolly could never have been a toff, although he was a very good physician. Most of the business of the Dermatology Department in those days was transacted in the Miller: Guerrier HP, Nils Jensen registrar, Tony Bowyer, Snr registrar, Dr Forman & Dr Moynahan Consultants. We drank beer and ate pork pies cut into segments and dipped in mustard. Bowyer smoked cigarillos. On the day he retired, non-smoker Lolly demanded and smoked one of Bowyer’s cigarillos. We marked Ed Moynahan’s retirement with a slap up dinner at the Café Royal. Years before, when the vertically challenged Lolly was an HP, walking behind his consultant and registrar across the park, some wag is said to have remarked “There they go, owner, trainer and jockey”.
Ed Moynahan had a Saturday morning OP: about 11.30 he would say to me as junior member and teaboy – “Ring up the George and book us a table”. Outpatients finished, we would all troop over to the Miller for an apéritif, then about 2.30, well oiled, the department would repair to the George just in time for lunch. Several bottles of claret would be consumed and the afternoon would drift away. Sometimes Pat Montgomery, former Snr registrar and recently appointed to Winchester, would join us for these sessions. After being ejected from the George, my job would be to bundle Ed into a taxi at London Bridge and send him off to the London Library or the Athenaeum to sleep off his lunch. On one occasion Pat Montgomery came up in his nice smart Bentley and after the session in the George insisted on taking Ed back to his home in Gerrards Cross. He and Bowyer got Ed to his house, propped him up against the porch and rang the bell: Mrs Moynahan answered, told them that Ed was not welcome home in that condition and that they were to take him back to London, which they did.
The old College was squalid. The new East Wing had a very elegant and spacious residents’ bar. Dr Moynahan soon discovered this. After midweek morning OP he would frequently say “Let’s go up to the residents’ bar” . He would then proceed to drink a bottle of the best Fino which needless to say would be credited to my account. Hockey and I used to compete for the honour of having the largest monthly bar bills. I kept closely in touch with Bowyer until he died (Ca. Bronchus). We would meet at the RSM and various regional meetings and chew the fat over a few glasses. My wife, Jill, inherited Tony’s consultant post in Torquay. Sometimes in London we would meet Bob Paul (Bumble), by then a multimillionaire, having founded, with Mike Bishop, Asian Van Lines. I had worked for Bumble as a student, delivering cars from the docks. Who remembers the story of Eddie Fisher’s 300SL? You must remember “The Major”, a disreputable retired pipe major from a Scots regiment who used to give bagpipe lessons in the old Miller. The Major worked in a factory in Croydon where he received information on doped dogs at Catford track.
He passed this information to Tony Bowyer who normally backed only horses. After he had put on a few winning bets on bent dogs his bookmaker in Borough High Street took him aside. “Dr Bowyer you normally back horses, you are obviously getting information, I don’t mind you backing these dogs but please tell me beforehand.”
Alan Hudson’s father had a beautiful villa on a rocky promontory at Rocquebrune, just a mile or so away from Monaco. We used to go down there as a party twice a year, May for the Grand prix and September for the last of the sun. There was John Hughes, Niel Baker, sometimes Dick Loveday, Hudson, myself and others on occasions. We stayed in the rather primitive gardener’s cottage to the villa, no electricity, a cold tap and an erratic shower. We lived on spaghetti and Cote de Provence. We eventually got to know a number of useful people in Monaco including Prince Rainier’s children’s nanny, and Louis Chiron, who ran the Grand Prix. This got us into all sorts of parties etc to which we most certainly would not have been invited; one evening after a particularly jolly John Hughes, in smart white dinner jacket, was arrested and spent the night in Monte Carlo jail. He was released next morning without charge, but certainly did not look very smart by then. A very good bit of advice; when in the Hotel de Paris or the Casino, only drink Brasserie de Monaco as the price is fixed throughout the principality.
I see Hudson regularly, he lives with his wife on a yacht on the Rhône at Condrieu, opposite the Côte Rotie. Old Addenbrookes in Trumpington Street which must be the nicest place in the land to work was saddled with me as HS. I knew absolutely no medicine. I think I passed finals by dint of good handwriting. As it happened, waiting for me in Cambridge was my old friend Memo Spathis (we had been in hospital together a year or so before, Mike Kier had been our HP). Memo showed me the way. My boss Mr Ghye was a fellow Huguenot, saintly in his patience. I learned about ox-bile enemas for ileus, lotio plumbi for paraphimosis and other gems of Fenland folklore. Would you use a calf bile enema in a paediatric patient? I met up with Memo recently at the funeral of one of my cousins. He is very well, perhaps a little shorter, living in London with his delightful wife. Mike Kier keeps turning up, he was my registrar with the General and gradually metamorphosed into a Dermatologist in Kent and then in London.
One morning in the College, the house was enjoying a leisurely breakfast on the dais supreme, probably a weekend, and Hunter-Craig, then resident path, was being unusually solicitous, constantly offering the pepper to put on one’s eggs and bacon. It was only later that he told us that that pepper pot had just been removed in the front surgery from the privities of one of the Borough ladies. Our generation, I always tell people, was just about the last in the “Doctor in the House” tradition. There was little or no compulsion about attending lectures; by guile one could contrive to make being a dental/medical student almost a life’s pursuit. Quite a lot of us had been in the services before coming to Guys. The Korean War had just finished, the Suez operation happened in our first year, the Malayan Emergency was still going on; I had been training soldiers in jungle warfare before I came to Guys (I knew nothing about it and relied on NCOs who had fought in Burma in WW2). And there was the Mao-Mao problem; John Gritton two years ahead of us fought in Kenya.
The car parks sometimes looked like a meeting of the vintage sports car club, Rollses. Bentleys, I even remember one Hispano Suiza. The best car I had was a 1937 3 1/2 litre Alvis aluminium sports saloon in two tone grey, a bit unreliable and very expensive to run. I also had a Jowett Jupiter, very fast, won 1 ½ litre Class at le Mans; also two front wheel drive BSA cars by the Daimler Company, very unreliable indeed. For a year or so I had a very sedate Austin Doctor’s Coupé with a dickey seat, Michael O’Brian once said he would like to buy it!
Another Hudson story. He had a cream Triumph TR2, he took it to Steve Haynes’ wedding; there he stole a bottle of champagne, putting it in the boot. The champagne was forgotten. By the time it was remembered the bottle had broken and the contents had rotted a large hole through the floor of the boot. What might it do to your insides? There used to be a little grocer’s shop on the corner opposite the Evelina run by a Welshman, Dai. I used to go there to buy tinned crab, Kamchatka crab, to make curry. One day I went there and Dai was gone, gone to prison, I was told. Apparently I had been making curry with stolen goods, the tinned crab was coming off Russian ships in London Docks. Anybody who worked at the Evelina would remember the night cook who used to come into the residents’ sitting room in the evening with all sorts of tempting offers: shirts, cameras, transistor radios etc., I am sure all stolen in the docks. I made some of my crab curry for the take-in one Sunday night, I remember Simon Nurick saying that he had never heard of crab curry and was very reluctant to try it. Perhaps he knew it was stolen. Simon had a party trick: If he sucked a Polo he could put himself into AF.
There were innumerable stories about the eccentricities of Willy Mann. He specialised in very discrete sigmoidoscopies, covering both the patient and himself in green towels, so many that he had great difficulty seeing what he was doing. On one occasion he had passed the instrument through the patient’s legs and out of the towels on the other side, when asked what he could see he replied “the trees in the park”. All patients with tattoos had their WR done, eccentric then but probably quite sensible now. Rex Lawrie drove a very smart dark blue Daimler, you will remember he always wore a dark blue suit. One day in the stationary traffic at the Oval a chauffeur leaned over to him and said “Don’t your guvnor make you wear a cap?” True, Rex Lawrie told me himself.
Michael Pagliero has mentioned the piano and the last days of the College; he did not tell you about the evening we put the piano on a trolley and wheeled him playing around the hospital. I think that may have been what upset Charles Baker. We also used to go swimming after dinner in the pool under the nurses’ home where we would be joined by the naughtier nurses. There is a story about the nurses stealing somebody’s clothes, putting them in the locked tennis court and turning on the flood lighting when he went, naked, to retrieve them. I think it may have been Bob Smith. Somebody will know. Just around the corner of St Thomas’s St., in Borough High Street there was a club, I think called “ the Bamboo” patronised by hop merchants and a generally better class of Borough gentleman. Chris Rankin’s father-in-law was one of these: Chris, John Hughes, Bob, Hudson and I spent many a jolly afternoon in there drinking Oranjeboom instead of attending whatever we should have been doing, it seemed to have no closing hours.
And then there was “The Harrow” in Borough Market, the landlord’s wife May, was a Roman Catholic and used to give the priests from St George’s Cathedral free drinks, I recollect that we used to hit it off very well with the alcoholic clergy. We had Philip Haworth’s Stag party there, Philip ended up in a cold bath, his wife to be, trying to sober him up before meeting her parents: ( Father–in-law-to–be Captain, RN.) Philip was in the Honourable Artillery Company and was sent to Pentonville for a few months for borrowing an army truck without permission and while anaebriated. He was made prison librarian and shared a cell with one Torpedo Jackson, a hit man for the Krays. Remarkably Philip was allowed to rejoin the Dental School on release. I have a vague recollection of Wakes Miller having a similar party at the Harrow, I am sure he would elucidate if asked. He did not go to Pentonville.
We ran a sort of paediatric open door at the Evelina. One evening a father brought his son in, he told me that a local GP had said the boy had mumps. Had he? He had. And I had not long afterwards. Pam Zinkin, then registrar, sent me home to Dorset on systemic steroids to rusticate for three weeks. No lasting damage was done. Who remembers Veronica Hodges? I was very fond of her; she was not very fond of me. We shared a body in the dissecting room. I must have upset her in some way as one day she threw a plate of dissected parts at me. She left after 2nd MB; I found her working in an Antiques shop in Notting Hill near the Windsor Castle. I used to go in to see her from time to time as I was working part-time in a carpet shop in Church Street. That year I learned more about Persian carpets and Isnik pottery than I did about medicine. We gave a party one evening in a castle in Surrey, the castle contained a collection of Asiatic antiquities including some three metre Tibetan alpenhorns. Pagliero and other talented musicians took said horns onto the castle terrace: the inhabitants of a village about two miles distant called the police and our party was forcibly curtailed. What goes down well in the Himalayas is not quite so good for Leith Hill.
I have not mentioned Guys and Dolls, Tim Spencer’s old Riley, Philip French, The Grapes, The Dive, The Cannon, goings on at the Examination Halls, George Scott’s Class, the May birthday meetings and many other things. Perhaps we can deal with those at lunch. Gerry Guerrier
ps One of Lolly’s favourite jokes : Two old gentleman sitting on a park bench.
G’man 1 : Do you remember the way we used to chase the girls?
G'man 2 ; Yes. What we do that for?