Friday, 24 August 2012


     Like Ann Coxon I am mildly surprised to find myself invited to the 1962 Guys qualifiers reunion.   I guess It is true that the Oxford exams were in late 62.   When we arrived  at Guys in 1960 having done Pathology  and Bacteriology, our soon to be contemporary Guys colleagues were still doing this part of the course.   I can remember being recruited to help in the Path and Bact teaching:  I hope I did not mislead too many people!   Thus I have no anecdotes to relate about Prof Warwick or Prof Hunt, although the latter did manage to get me to swallow Ryle's tubes.

    First impressions of London were daunting for an innocent Northern lad.   I found myself in a room in Tulse Hill - a place I had never heard of.   It was lonely, especially at weekends.   I moved from there to a room in Irving Street behind the National Gallery.   I used to meet Charlie Drake on the stairs - he had the flat below.   Lonely? Yes, probably more so. Life really took off in Sophie's Hostel.   To paraphrase The News of The World:   "All human life was there!"

An early memory of the clinical years is of meeting in the colonnade for our first ward round with Grant Massie.   I recall being told  by the acerbic Tony Child that  " this is not a  ......... art college!"    I can no longer remember  what I got wrong, perhaps the colour of my tie?   Student days passed quickly with a few highlights.   These include Maurice Lessof's  comment to Donald Calne when the latter had produced left atrial myxoma as a common cause of atrial fibrillation.   "Mr Calne, when you see a bird on a roof it is a sparrow and not a parakeet!"    Then there was the betting on how many cigarettes the lecturer at Hither Green Fever Hospital would throw out of an open window in the course of one hour, and the famous "piss in two bottles" at the Greenwich Hospital  for Seamen.   Also the blessed sight of steaming Jim Appleyard as the RO on a bicycle rescuing me on the District when a placenta refused to emerge.   Finally there is the Trafalgar Square memory.   After a firm dinner at a London Club my red mini with the grey roof went for a record.   How manyh drunken students can you fit in a mini.   Unfortunately we were stopped by a policeman in Trafalgar Square.   Mention of Guys must have helped because he merely commented   "This car smells like a brewery!  Drive home carefully"

The year on the house was painfully memorable for the Boxing Day rugby match, the House versus the
1st. fifteen.    Not having played rugby since the age of 14, and being a skinny six footer I foolishly offered to play prop.   Behind me was Terence English:  in front of me was a student built like a tank.   The lifting and twisting did something to my upper dorsal spine - I carry the scars to this day.   Later there was the residents play.   I was dressed up as Sister Casualty singing a song with Tony Thomas.   One line still stays with me:  My principle in my prime was keep them moving all the time."   The punch line was "Clear the Department"   How it came across I am not quite sure as I was feverish with laryngitis.   It was so bad the next day when meeting Ralph Kauntze for a business round that he said "my dear chap you look and sound awful.   Lets go round!"

On qualifying I became a Research Fellow looking at the immunology of aortic valve homografts.   For 18 months I was berated regularly by Tony Trafford for "wasting the country's money."    Perhaps he was right! My time was made interesting and eventful because of my contact with the cardio-thoracic team - particularly so when Brian Pickering fed me far too many light ales in the Kings Arms.    I was rescued in a poorly state by an angel of mercy who drove me home.   She seems to feature in several blogs.

My registrar years were spent at Kings and at Guys.   As junior registrar to Bob Knight as Senior our on take days were enlivened by evening visits to Sir John Conybeare's  where stiff cocktails were prepared by John Powell Jackson.   Evening ward rounds just slipped by!   I did a year as registrar to Drs McArdle and MacKenzie, the obsessional and the practical neurologists.    Great training ! Finally I became Clinical Tutor; a poor replica of George Scott.

Between 1974 and 2002 I worked at the Kent and Canterbury Hospital.   Having done some training at Barts in Hamilton Fairley's unit, I was pressed into service as a haemato-oncologist, eventually working with Yvonne Williams.    A daunting job given the ease with which which the drugs used could wipe out the bone marrow.   In Out-Patients I became the neurologist to the GPs because  the real neurologist would not accept referrals from them.   Mostly I was an old fashioned General Physician in the style of the Guy's Physicians who trained us.    The guiding mantra was "the answer lies in the history"; shades of the sadly missed Geroge Scott who trained us in the Pre-Clinical classroom.

      At the family level, Merryl and I ( she was a medical graduate of St Andrews) concentrated on following Peter Dawkins in streaming our genes to the next generation.
Grandpa's 70th birthday event
The photo taken at my 70th show the result.   The three adults standing by us are Adam,  (a Professor or English and Science Fiction Author), Sophie ( a child and adolescent Psychiatrist) and Julie ( a primary 
school teacher.   Then there are six grandchildren visible and one hidden from view.

Wiggo passing by our village in the tour de France

Finally I should mention our 24yr love affair
with France.   We have extended the original
small villa which is near St Quentin-la Poterie and added a swimming pool.  


Still on the booze outside our favorite cafe in nearby Uzes

          As I write the cycadas are in full song,
         The children are noisily swimming and
         we are all sweltering in 32 degrees  C.                  
                                           Ian Roberts

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