Tuesday 31 January 2017

Britain is a country without sanctuary for an old American with dementia called Roger Curry

Roger, who is 76, was found in the car park of Hereford bus station on 7 November 2015 and was initially accompanied by two men who flagged down a passing ambulance. As paramedics assessed him, one of the men, described as having an American accent, left the scene, fuelling suspicion that he was a relative who was trying to abandon the frail old man.

After tests at the County Hospital showed that Roger was suffering from dementia, he was taken into a nursing home run by Herefordshire Council, where he gave his name as 'Roger Curry' and told staff and doctors that he was not from the area and had been “training” nearby, which led police to contact veterans’ organisations in case he was a former serviceman.

Sgt Sarah Bennett, from West Mercia police, was given the task of  finding out who the mystery man was. She initially assumed it would be a formality, since dementia patients regularly go missing and most are found in hours. But when she checked missing persons' reports locally, she couldn't find anybody listed matching his description and expanded her search nationwide.

Police spent months trying to work out who Roger was, but drew a blank, despite contacting local care homes, hospitals and local police. West Mercia Police spokesperson, Adam Vanner, said : “We ran his fingerprints through our database and put out a national broadcast to every force to see if he matched with any of their missing people.” In addition, he said : “Roger does not say much but speaks with either an American or Canadian accent, so we contacted both embassies. We notified the Missing Persons Bureau and our corporate communications put out an appeal through the local media. The man is described as being white, tall and of slim build with grey hair, blue eyes and grey stubble."

Meanwhile, in the Credenhill Court Rest Home, Roger was well looked after. Amanda Bow, the manager said that they'd learned nothing about Roger since he arrived there and "He's a blank canvas, completely blank," She also said tears would be shed if he was eventually identified and had to leave. "It'll be devastating, because he's our Roger. We've adopted him." 

A police breakthrough came when Debbie Cocker responded to a BBC Midlands Police Appeal, having found a old photograph on the internet from a 1958 Yearbook for 'Edmond High School', just north of Seattle in the northwest state of Washington, which appeared to show Roger in his younger days,

Roger's case was taken up in a BBC TV, 'Panorama' investigation, which found that court papers filed in LA stated that : 'In late 2015 Mr Curry was taken surreptitiously to England by his wife Mary Curry and his son Kevin Curry and abandoned there.'

Roger Curry had been tracked down by investigators to a a burnt-out house following a fire at his home in 2014 in an affluent suburb of Los Angeles. Neighbours identified the mystery man as Roger Curry, a former nurse married with two children.

Once he had been identified Roger was taken, whether he liked it or not, in July 2016, from the care home in Britain where he was clearly loved and was repatriated back to the United States and placed in the hands of the care authorities in Los Angeles.

What checks were made by the British authorities that Roger would be transferred from one caring environment to another and back to a country where his nearest relatives had dumped him 3,500 miles away in a foreign country ?
Clearly none because during the course of the Panorama programme, the reporter, Darragh MacIntyre, said : "A few weeks ago I flew back to Los Angeles. Roger was now living in a nursing home a few miles from his Los Angeles home. I walked straight in but nearly didn't recognise him. He appeared dishevelled - unwashed and thinner than I remembered. He also had what appeared to be a cut on the crown of his head. When I visited a second time he looked better. Shaven and washed. But again I had walked in - unchallenged - and there didn't seem to be anything to stop Roger wandering away."

In fact, the programme, entitled 'The Mystery of the Unknown Man', interesting though it was, was all about Darragh's efforts to locate and question Roger's son about his role in his Father's abandonment and Roger, who was clearly the most important figure in this sorry tale, was relegated to a minor role.

What Darragh's programme revealed was the background story of the gentle old man British authorities had put on a plane and sent back to the USA. If they had had the time, money and inclination they would have uncovered, before they sent him back, that he :

* once lived in an affluent suburb of Los Angeles where the movie 'Back To The Future' was filmed, where he was a nurse and married with two children. A neighbour, Jennifer Apon, said: "I'd see him come and go from work. He would wear white scrubs, so I knew he was a nurse. He just seemed like a very wonderful, kind family man and I just had a very good feeling around him."

 * developed dementia and his wife Mary Jo became unwell. Their son Kevin initially acted as their carer in recent but not so long ago he hadn't been welcome at the family home. In fact, Roger had taken out a restraining order on him 17 years ago.

* in 2014, he and his wife had a fire in their house which had to be abandoned and they ended up camping out in the yard.

* three months before he was abandoned in Britain, a neighbour
had found him and his wife locked behind the fence the local authority had erected around the house and had called the police. Apparently, Kevin had been bringing them food and was suspected of locking them in, but wasn't prosecuted. because his Mother told police it was her idea and they took no action. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EQ5A7lft2i8&t=14m32s

* was flown to Britain in November 2015 by Kevin and his mother and was abandoned there with the implication that this was an attempt to avoid the high cost of Roger's nursing care in the USA.

Roger's future is now being decided by US courts. The Los Angeles authorities have taken control of his care. That's being challenged by Kevin and his mother, but the legal papers show that the authorities accuse them of taking Roger to the UK and abandoning him there.

 Darragh MacIntyre said in the Panorama programme : "I did manage to find Kevin's sister, Jeanette, who I knew had been estranged from the family for some years. The 27-year-old was upset when I told her about her father. She knew nothing about him turning up in England but thought Kevin could have arranged it. Her biggest worry though was that he might be returned to LA. As far as she was concerned he was safe and well in Britain."

Britain, a country where an old man with dementia, was unable to live out his days 'safe and well' in a care home, where the staff had fallen in love with "this gentleman who enjoyed chocolate muffins and the odd sherry at night."

Panorama : http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b08d6txq/panorama-the-mystery-of-the-unknown-man

Saturday 28 January 2017

Britain is still a country for and says "Bravo" to an old flier, doctor and member of McIndoe's Guinea Pig Club called Sandy Saunders

When 94 year old Sandy took to the skies in a Second World War Tiger Moth last year, he knew that, because he is suffering from terminal cancer, it was likely to be his last flight.

Sandy was born Arthur Courtney Saunders in 1922 and was 17 years old when the Second World War broke out in 1939 and two years later was a Rover Scout volunteer in a Rescue Squad in Liverpool, when in May 1941, the city was devastated by 680 German bombers and 1746 civilians were killed. He recalled that he was "helping to dig out people in bombed houses when a scream of bombs made me throw myself flat on the ground, escaping with shrapnel wounds to my legs and buttocks. After two weeks in Ormskirk Hospital, during which I found myself giving thanks for surviving a near miss, I learned that I had been picked up only a short distance from the edge of a crater, one of a stick of five. The same night, my mother had coped alone with an incendiary bomb which had come through the roof."

At the age of 21, in 1943, he was enlisted to serve in the Army and, as he recalled, after two years with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical and Engineers as a young officer  "looking after gun-laying radar on anti-aircraft gun sites I was so impressed by the bravery of the troops at Arnhem and at Pegasus Bridge that I volunteered to transfer to The Glider Pilot Regiment."

It was after flying and battle training, when he was undertaking a conversion course to gliders, that disaster struck. As he recalled : "The 27th September was a very important day in my life. I hit the ground rather violently and this was my inferno. I was covered with aviation fuel and I was on fire. I got horrid burns on mt entire legs and my hands and my face."

Sandy still has nightmares about that day. He and a colleague were flying in a Tiger Moth over RAF Gaydon in Warwickshire, with him piloting and attempting to navigate a tricky crosswind to climb over a bank of trees, when the  plane stalled, then screamed down to earth. “Suddenly, there is this feeling of terror. It dawns on you that you have only a few seconds before you die.” On impact with the ground, Sandy was knocked unconscious and his navigator was killed. When he came to, he was on fire. “Survival instinct kicks in, and somehow I managed to unbuckle my harness and climb out of the plane. The next thing I remember I was in hospital.”

Sandy awoke swaddled from head to toe in bandages. Some 40% of his body had been burnt. His mouth, nose and eyelids had all turned to a crisp and he could only be fed through a tube. His injuries were so severe that he faced the prospect of a life with disfigurement in which he would be left to cope with the consequences. Sandy didn't see anything for a few months. His burnt eyelids were replaced with skin from his upper arm, but his legs had been burned from his thighs down to his ankles and "the skin was tight over my knees - I couldn't bend them."  After three months he recalled : "being taken to the bathroom for the first time and seeing my reflection in a mirror. I was amazed. I was horrified. It was a tremendous shock. Such disfigurement at the age of 21 was hard to bear" and he was "very depressed."

After a number of operations at Birmingham, he was sent back on duty as second in command of a prisoner of war camp near Derby, but his eyelid replacements shrank and he could not close his eyes. It was now that he had the good fortune to be given an appointment to go and see the revolutionary burns surgeon, Archibald McIndoe, at a Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead. He was now in the hands of a New Zealander who had moved to Britain before the outbreak of war and had gained a reputation for working miracles with burns victims and was seeking out the very worst cases from hospitals across Britain.

Sandy recalled that McIndoe looked at him, held his hands and said : "You need four new eyelids, your nose needs rebuilding and your eyebrows need to be done. Come in tomorrow and I will do your upper eyelids." He recalled : "His character was such that you felt immediate confidence in him. He gave recommendations in a firm voice that you automatically accepted as the right course." 

From that point forward Sandy had become a life member of the 'Guinea Pig Club' and to this day wears its small gold pin on his blazer which "shows I am a member of one of the most exclusive clubs in the world, because you have to have been nearly burnt to death to even apply.”

The brilliant McIndoe, whose staff referred to him as 'the Boss' or 'the Maestro', had devised a philosophy of his own making based as much on mental rehabilitation as physical repair which taught his patients to have no shame in their injuries. Inside Ward 3, he installed a barrel of beer, recruited the prettiest nurses and allowed his patients to wear their uniforms instead of the normal blue dress after he had insisted : "not in my hospitals. They'll wear the uniforms they were knocked out in", but not, apparently, until after he got clearance from Prime Minister Churchill himself.

At the end of a hard day's operating he'd come onto the ward and play the piano for an hour before going home and insisted his patients, who he called 'His Boys', face the world and regularly sent columns of men swaddled in bandages into East Grinstead to visit the pub, local cinema or music halls. It became known as 'The town that did not stare'. 

The Guinea Pig Club has its own song which made reference to French, Czechs, Poles, Yankees, Canadians and 'mad Australians'
and began with :
"We are McIndoe’s Army,
We are his Guinea Pigs.
With dermatomes and pedicles,
Glass eyes, false teeth and wigs.
And when we get our discharge
We’ll shout with all our might:
"Per ardua ad astra"
We’d rather drink than fight."

The 'dermatome' in queation was a surgical instrument used to produce thin slices of skin from a donor area, in order to use them for making skin grafts and the 'tubular pedicle', invented by Harold Gillies and developed by McIndoe, was where skin and soft tissue was used for a flap and shaped into a tube, for a new nose for example, which reduced the chance of infection before the use of antibiotics. The Latin "Per ardua ad astra" or "Through struggle to the stars", the motto of the Royal Air Force and other Commonwealth Air Forces.

Sandy's course of treatment lasted three years and involved 14 reconstructive operations. Many years later he reflected : "I did go through a phase of being horrified, ashamed and miserable that I looked so awful. Gradually that was overtaken by pride in being a Guinea Pig; one of the boys, with the marks of war. This face has taken me through life and I feel pretty normal."

After he was demobbed from the RAF at the age of 25 in 1947 he felt fir to face the world, but would carry another permanent scar with him into civilian life when he recalled that his navigator "must have been killed instantly and I have been grieving for him ever since."

Sandy's way forward was now clear :  inspired by watching McIndoe operate and seeing his work result in the restoration of so many burned airmen to a state of physical and psychological well being that would allow them to lead useful lives, he determined to follow a career in medicine and enrolled to study a medical degree at Liverpool University and qualified as a doctor in 1952. Then, after a series of house appointments at Liverpool Stanley Hospital, he became a general practitioner in Nottingham where he was to spend the rest of his professional career. Despite the magic of McIndoe's surgery, life wasn't easy for Sandy. He recalled that, in an anatomy class one of the students felt nauseous and had to leave the room. Twenty years later at a reunion dinner, she confessed the reason she did this was that "she felt physically sick and had to go to the ladies and vomit because she was so horrified by my appearance, And this was from a doctor."

In the second half of his career Sandy developed a special interest in psychiatry and obstetrics and in and undertook training in hypnosis and gained a 'Diploma in Hypnosis' at the University of Sheffield and became a member of the 'British and the International Societies of Hypnosis.'

As a member of the Nottingham Medico-Chirurgical Society he served as Secretary in the 1970s and prefaced the reading of the previous minutes with an amusing perspective summary of the previous meeting, not infrequently spiced with Latin and Greek, then elevated the reading of the previous minutes to an art form which was always followed by prolonged applause from the members. In his address to the Meeting when he became President in 1990 they were transported to a trekking expedition in the Himalayas.

After retirement from medical practice, Sandy served as doctor in a trek in 1990 in the Khumbu Region on the Nepalese side of Mount Everest, trekked, at the age of 76, in the Annapurna Sanctuary and in the Langtang is a region in the Himalayas of Nepal to the north of the Kathmandu Valley and bordering Tibet in 2000.

At sea, he was a crew member in a  a six-man boat for his 80th birthday, in the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers Las Palmas to Saint Lucia in 2002 and over the years, form time to time, has enjoyed skiing and golf.

Sandy has said of the Guinea Pig Club : "Initially the Club was intended to be a drinking club, which would disband at the end of the war. However it grew in strength from year to year and has remained as a club of group support throughout the members' lives, which has helped them to go on to lead normal, useful lives." He paid tribute to his fellow servicemen when he said : "I am thankful for the huge moral uplift I received from my fellow patients who I regard as the bravest of the brave. One of the benefits of surviving a serious threat to life is that one never again worries about trivialities."

Last year Sandy led a fund raising campaign to have a memorial installed at the National Memorial Arboretum, in Staffordshire to mark the 75th anniversary of the Club's founding It was was unveiled by the Duke of Edinburgh, the Club's President and it seems entirely appropriate, to the life and work of Sandy, that the memorial is inscribed with a motto he created :

'Out of the flames, came inspiration'.

Sandy once said :

"The human instinct is that good comes from something bad. That is what happened to me."

Saturday 21 January 2017

Britain is no longer a country for and says "Farewell" to an old tv film director called David Richards

David, who has died at the age of 68, had fallen ill not long after directing two episodes of the crime drama series 'Silent Witness', entitled 'Remembrance', the second of which was broadcast on BBC1 this week and featured a dedication to him in the end credits.
It seems fitting to celebrate the work of  a director whose work has reached and entertained millions in mainstream audiences over the last 30 years.

David was born 1948 in Hollinwood, an area of Oldham in Greater Manchester, the son of Hilda and David, who already had two daughters and had obviously postponed a third baby until the Second World War was over in 1945, As his elder sister Evelyn recalled : "When David was born I was nearly eight and my sister Emily was 15 so he was quite a surprise to us all. The fact he was a boy was even better." Brought up in a working class area, he attended Limeside Primary School built in 1931 and housed in a large traditional red brick building on the Limeside Estate.

David had suffered from pneumonia as a child and was unwell with a chest infection when, in 1958, he sat his eleven-plus examination and the family was overjoyed when he passed and started to attend the Hathershaw Technical High School in 1959. He developed a strong interest in painting and having passed his 'A' levels, attended the Coventry College of Art where he graduated with a BA in Fine Art in 1969, but not before, as his sister Evelyn said : "Painting was put on the back burner when he and some friends from College decided they wanted to make a film."  As a footnote : for his extra-curricular activity, in his late teens, he played for Oldham Rugby Union Club at Keb Lane.

As a Lancashire lad, it was entirely appropriate that, after graduation, he should begin his broadcasting career with Granada Television which had started in 1956 under the North of England weekday franchise and was marked by a distinctive northern identity and an arrow pointing north. Based at Granada Studios on Quay Street in Manchester, for the next fifteen years he worked as a young director on factual programmes :  news, current affairs, documentaries, music shows and arts programmes. It was a time in which he made films in Britain, the USA, the Far East, China and throughout Europe.

David made the transition to directing drama in 1986 when he made three episodes of 'The Practice', which ran for 47 episodes as a soap opera produced for ITV by Granada Television and aired for two series in 1985 and 1986. Set in a GP's surgery in the fictional Manchester suburb of Castlehulme as a twice-weekly medical drama, it was hoped it would become Granada's second regular networked soap along with Coronation Street, with the idea that its hard-hitting story lines would be a competitor with the BBC's EastEnders.

At the age of 41 in 1989, David directed the first of six episodes, over the next two years, of his next soap opera, 'Emmerdale', known as 'Emmerdale Farm' until that year, set in a fictional village in the Yorkshire Dales, which had first been broadcast on 1972 and was produced by ITV Yorkshire and filmed at their Leeds studio.

It was a the director of 57 episodes of 'Coronation Street' from 1990 to 1993 that David made his name, in what was the soap's thirty-first year and his first episode on the 26th February reached an audience of over 21 million viewers. This was the year that the programme's production base was moved out of the main Granada Studios complex and into Stage One, a refurbished warehouse next to the outdoor set which served as its own dedicated studio.

David directed this episode, which was number 3074, on the 25th May 1990 : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vuo-cusafaQ

Between 1993 and '94, he directed 13 episodes of the 20 episode series, 'September Song.' which starred Russ Abbot as Ted Fenwick who, when his wife died, joined his friend Billy Balsam in Blackpool, played by Michael Williams.

In 1997 he directed 4 of the 6 episodes of the tv mini-series, 'Reckless', in which the young doctor, Owen Springer, played by Robson Green, returned to Manchester to care for his ailing father and proceeded to fall in love with an older woman, played by Francesca Annis, who just happened to be married to his boss.

In the same year he directed Liam Cunningham in 'Police 2020' which was intended to serve as the pilot episode of a British police drama set in the near future, but didn't make it to fruition.

In 1998 he made four of the six episodes of  'Reckless : The Sequel', again in a Granada Television production for the ITV network and in the opinion of 'Variety' : ' 'Reckless, the Sequel,' though unimaginable without 'Reckless,' is in fact superior to its inspiration. At two hours, it’s a tauter, more polished product, rich in humour and filled with sharply etched, if not entirely well-rounded, characters. Tech credits are aces, as is David Richard’s crisp direction.'

In 2000 he directed Ross Kemp in his first role for ITV, in the tv movie, 'Hero of the Hour', in which he played a security guard who foiled an armed robbery and became a national hero, but whose new-found fame cannot appease his guilty conscience. Ross required hospital treatment after being shot in the face when a stunt went wrong.

In the same year he had, perhaps his greatest success with 'This Is Personal : The Hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper' and was given the Best Director Award at the New York Film and TV Festival and was nominated for the British Academy Television Award for 'Best Drama Serial.' It starred Alun Armstrong and was a dramatisation of the real-life investigation into the notorious Yorkshire Ripper murders of the late 1970s, showing the effect that it had on the health and career of Assistant Chief Constable George Oldfield who led the enquiry.

In 2001 he directed 'Red Cap' a tv movie drama about the Military Police's Special Investigation Branch stationed in Germany. The team, including new member Jo McDonagh, played by Tamzin Outhwaite, started an investigation when it is found that a British Corporal who attempted suicide was driving the car of Kirsten Railton-Ulmke - the missing wife of a British Army Captain. The success of his pilot led to the two 6 episode series in 2003-04, under the direction of Martin Huthchings.

In 2003 he directed the two episodes of 'Messiah 2: Vengeance Is Mine' in which Ken Stott reprised his role as DCI Red Metcalfe, a man totally dedicated to putting killers behind bars, but found, when his own estranged brother is found knifed in the hustle and bustle of Leadenhall Market, that the hunt for justice gets personal. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7mthuIK_tc

It was at this point in his career, at the age of 55, that David joined wife Judith and Burnley-born screenwriter Paul Abbott to form their own company AKA Pictures and together they produced the 2003 two-part drama Alibi :
It was a psychological thriller Alibi with Michael Kitchen as Greg Brentwood, who, as the story begins, threw a surprise party for his wife, Linda, Phyllis Logan and Marcey, Sophie Okonedo, a woman who worked for the catering outfit that supplied food for the party, went back to the house after the party had ended to discover Greg standing over a dead body.

In 2004 came the tv movie for BBC Two, 'In Denial of Murder' in which Stephen Downing, played by Jason Watkins, is in prison, classed as 'IDOM' and maintains his innocence for the murder of a young woman, Wendy Sewell, in the village of Bakewell in 1973 and Don Hale, played by Stephen Tomkinson, is the crusading journalist determined to prove his innocence.

The following year David made 'Perfect Day : The Wedding' as two-hour tv movie, initially broadcast on 'Five', it centred on a group of university friends who reunite five years later for the wedding of Tom, played by Tom Goodman-Hill and Amy, Claire Goose and tells the story of old loves rekindled, marriages falling apart and the problems of career women finding love. It was well received, both by viewers, drawing some of the channel's highest figures and by critics. So successful was it, that it spawned both a prequel and a sequel under other direction.

Also in 2005 he made 'The Taming of the Shrew Shakespeare Re-told', written by Sally Wainwright, in which a young harridan MP Shirley Henderson played by Kate Minola marries a title in order to advance towards her goal of becoming party leader. David himself said : " The original play is very big, quite bawdy in some places, comedy. It isn't a piece of naturalism and we took that same note for our adaption of it "
Rufus Sewell said of playing Petruchio : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B_4Jk48v928

In 2007 he directed the tv movie 'Empathy' in which Jimmy Collins is released after a nine-year jail term for manslaughter and back into the outside world, found that whenever he touched somebody he was able to get flashes of their deepest, darkest secrets.

'Little Devil' in the same year, ran for one season, and involved a ten year old boy who decided that if being a little angel couldn't save his parent's crumbling marriage he should perhaps try the opposite approach.

The following year he directed 'Albert's Memorial'  for ITV in which terminally ill Albert, played by Michael Jayston, summoned old war buddies Frank, David Warner and Harry, David Jason, to his hospital bed with a bizarre request : when he died, he wanted them to snatch his corpse from the hospital morgue and drive it, in Harry's taxi, to Germany, where they all met, for burial.

'Fast Freddie : The Widow and Me' was an ITV Christmas Special in 2011
which centred around Jonathan Donald, a wealthy,arrogant car salesman, charged with drink driving and sentenced to 60 hours community service at the Moonbeam Club for unruly kids where he befriended 'Fast' Freddie, so named for his skill at computer games, a teenager dying of a kidney disease,brought up in foster homes and for whom this will be his last Christmas.

In 2011, for Sky 1, he directed 'The Runaway', a six part adaptation set in London and New York during the 1960s, in which Cathy Connor played by Joanne Vanderham, is the daughter of a prostitute, Madge who everyone assumes that she will be following in her mother's footsteps. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hP0Vai1pIWk&t=0m42s

In addition to 'Silent Witness' and the programmes highlighted, David also directed episodes of 'The Bill', ' The Grafters', 'Wild at Heart'. 'Foyle's War'. 'Vera' and 'DCI Banks.'

                              David's last credit this week