Saturday 27 May 2017

Britain is no longer a country for and says "Farewell" and "Thank You" to the unsung hero and Father of 'Infection Prevention Control', Professor Graham Ayliffe

Graham, who has died at the age of 91 will long be remembered for the 'Ayliffe Technique,' a six step hand-washing technique he helped to formulate in the 1960s to reduce the spread of infection, adopted by hospitals throughout Britain and endorsed by the World Health Organisation in 2009. Yet his death has passed without obituary in either the 'Times', 'Telegraph' or 'Guardian' newspapers.
It is impossible to verify how many lives have been saved as a result of its implementation, but it is probably safe to assume that that the figure runs into hundreds of thousands.

He was born the son of Winifred and Arthur in the small village of Hambrook in Gloucestershire in 1926 and between the age of 11 and 18 was educated at Queen Elizabeth's Hospital School. an independent school for boys in Clifton, Bristol. Founded in 1586 it was situated in the centre of town with a Charter granted by Queen Elizabeth I in 1590 when it was specifically charged with 'the education of poor children and orphans.
In fact, the school had nothing to do with medicine, with the term 'hospital' used to denote a charitable institution for the needy scholars who wore poor, blue coat uniforms.

After leaving school he joined the Royal Navy in 1945 and did a three year stint serving as a sick berth attendant and medical lab technician. It was his first taste of the world of medicine and was probably on board ship that his interest in the spread and prevention of infection was first ignited.

He took his initial step towards building a medical career when he graduated from Bristol University with a BSc degree in 1951 and then built his qualifications incrementally, with Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degrees in 1954. Armed with these he gained his first medical appointment as a Tutor in Clinical Pathology under Professor William Gillespie at Bristol Royal Infirmary Hospital where he worked for three years before moving to London.

Fifty years later, Graham would reflect on hospital practice in these years : "Initially, I was involved at Bristol in the mid-1950s with William Gillespie on the control of wound outbreaks and although isolation was well accepted at this stage, we were concerned with preventing infection in wards where no isolation was possible. Topical antiseptics and antibiotics, such as neomycin and chlorhexidine, were applied to noses and wounds, plus some environmental improvements, such as sterilization of blankets, etc. We found in those days that a single measure by itself was very unlikely to be successful; also if you removed an infected patient from the open ward, the outbreak tended to go away. But by 1960, although we had some measure of control, this was a period of disenchantment with antibiotics, and in those days only these highly toxic antibiotics (vancomycin and ristocetin) were available to treat these highly resistant strains. "

He indicated his 'disenchantment' when he recalled : "When I was a house surgeon in the mid-1950s, penicillin and streptomycin were widely given for surgical infections. I wonder whether this combination was really very effective, as it has been shown in recent years that Bacteroides is one of the main causative organisms of surgical infections and is usually resistant to both antibiotics."

Graham worked as a Research Assistant at the Postgraduate Medical School in London and under Professor Mary Barber in the Department of Bacteriology at Hammersmith Hospital for five years until 1964, having qualified as a Doctor of medicine in '63 and before his move to the Midlands, where he would do his influential work in infection. Working with Mary had a formative influence on him : "Superbugs have long been a cause of hospital infection. Hospital gangrene, pyaemia and erysipelas caused by haemolytic streptococci and Staph. aureus were responsible for many hospital outbreaks in the nineteenth century and had a high mortality. When penicillin came along we thought this was the end of staphylococcus as an important cause of hospital infection, but resistant strains soon appeared and Mary Barber described them at the Hammersmith Hospital, London, in the 1940s."

In 2006 he recalled : "In about 1957 Mary Barber was perhaps the first person in the country to introduce an antibiotic policy for most of the hospital. In this policy she reduced, or tried to eliminate, the use of penicillin apart from a few conditions such as endocarditis, to reduce the use of antibiotics as much as possible, and to give all antibiotics in combination. This was actually followed by a reduction in the numbers of penicillin-resistant strains of Staphylococcus aureus isolated. She mainly used erythromycin and novobiocin as a combination therapy, and resistance didn’t emerge for a while, but gradually, over the years, it did. When methicillin appeared this policy was no longer needed. But she still had a written policy which she enforced with a hand of 

Between the ages of 38 and 54 he worked as Consultant Microbiologist at the Hospital Infection Research Laboratory (HIRL) at the City Hospital, Birmingham in the team led by the extraordinary pathologist, clinician and poet, Professor Edward Lowbury. It was funded by the Medical Research Council and Regional Health Authority. He recalled that Lowbury "was working on burns patients in Birmingham. He found in the 1950s that resistance emerged rapidly to tetracycline, erythromycin and ovobiocin and there was really little else left at that time for treating staphylococcal infections. The use of combinations only delayed the onset of resistance."

Under Lowbury he contributed to one of the first large 'prevelance survey of hospital infection' involving 30 hospitals in the West Midlands, undertook a detailed assessment of an isolation ward in the prevention of the spread of staphylococal infection and explored the necessity of hand hygiene, the emergence of antibiotic resistance and surgical site infection. He also helped to report an extensive UK outbreak of severe eye infection traced to traditional, but wholly inadequate, guidelines for the preservation and management of opthalmic products,

Working with Babb and Quoraishi, pronounced as a 'C', he developed  the six step hand-washing technique, known as the 'Ayliffe Technique' which was soon adopted by hospitals throughout Britain. He said that it evolved when it became evident that parts of the hands were being missed, particularly the thumbs and fingernails. One of his students had long thumbs and it was proving difficult to clean effectively, which is why the Technique included the action to rub the thumbs separately. With self-deprecating modesty, Graham said it just happened his name began with 'A' and that he was just one of three practitioners, 'A', 'B' and 'C', who invented the technique.

With Lowbury, in 1975, he published 'Control of Hospital Infection : A Practical Handbook' and after Lowbury's retirement, he crowned his career as Director of HIRL and Professor of Medical Microbiology at Birmingham University's School of Medicine for eight years until 1989. He developed a practical course for medical students and focussed his own research interests on the control of MRSA, biological safety and endoscope decontamination.

In 1980 he became a founder member of the 'Hospital Infection Society', now 'Healthcare Infection Society' and chaired its Committee and edited its journal for its first four years and served as its President for six years until 1994.

In the last phase of his career, Graham worked as a consultant for the World Health Organisation until the age of 75 in 2001 and for the rest of his life was recognised Emeritus Professor in Medical Microbiology, University of Birmingham. In 2003, with Mary English, he published 'Hospital Infection: From Miasmas to MRSA', a wide-ranging survey of the long ­history of hospital-acquired infections and the battle against them which proved timely when the spread of "superbugs" was posing problems on a worldwide scale. Its contribution to the subject was recognised in 2004 when the Society of Authors and Royal Society of Medicine gave it the Award for the 'Best New Medical History Book.'

In 2004, Graham, a past winner of the Men's Epee at Birmingham Fencing Club, celebrated over 100 years of the Club and 70 years of the Tournament with the publication of a book detailing the history.

At the age of 87, he had the pleasure of seeing the 'Graham Ayliffe Training Fellowship' established in 2013. Its purpose is to enable trainees currently working in the field of infection prevention and control to take a one year paid leave of absence to pursue their specialist area by broadening their knowledge base and imparting that knowledge to the wider scientific community.

In life, wittingly or unwittingly, Graham had lived up to the motto of his old school, Queen Elizabeth's Hospital :

'dum tempus habemus operemur bonum'

'Whilst we have time, let us do good.'

Wednesday 17 May 2017

Britain is a country which still has a love affair with an old song called "Waterloo Sunset" and its old writer called Ray Davies

Page views : 1,590

On the BBC Radio 4 'Soul Music' today the focus was on 'Waterloo Sunset' which the 23 year old Ray Davies wrote 50 years ago this year. The programme was narrated by musicologist, Professor Allan Moore, the Professor of Popular Music in the School of Arts at the University of Surrey who "takes songs apart to work out how they work and put them back together again."

Independent from the programme, last year Ray revealed : "Waterloo is a part of London that has always had a lot of significance for me. When I was a kid, my father took me there to see the 1951 Festival of Britain. As we looked at the Skylon Tower, he said: “I think that’s meant to be the future." Then, when I was 13, I had a bad injury and my ward in St Thomas’ hospital overlooked the river and Parliament. It’s a very vivid memory. Also, as a student at Croydon College of Art, I used to change trains at Waterloo. There was a romantic element too : as a teenager, I used to walk along Waterloo Bridge with my girlfriend."

"Although I’m an observer in the song, in many ways it is about me. I’d had a breakdown and, though I wasn’t a gibbering wreck, I was feeling vulnerable. The river is depicted as a protective force. I didn’t show the lyrics to the band in case they sniggered. Instead, I played it to my niece Jackie and sister Rosie and, when I told them I didn’t want it to be released as a single, they seemed to understand."

"I carried these thoughts around in my head for years, then suddenly the song popped out. The tune and the lyrics came together very quickly, almost like the song was writing me, not the other way round. I come from a large family and my sisters’ generation – the one before mine – were expected to get married, work in factories or do menial work. They weren’t supposed to excel as individuals, so I wrote the song for them."

" Of course, everyone thought “Terry and Julie” was a reference to Terry Stamp and Julie Christie, since they were immensely famous because of Far from the Madding Crowd. But actually, the image I had in my mind was of my sister and her boyfriend walking into the future. I do have a nephew called Terry, but his nickhame is Todger and he emigrated to Australia."

In the programme Allan dissected the song's clever construction : "The melody starts with a very simple idea, which is then repeated lower and then repeated lower again and the harmonies that he puts too, are very simple. They're the bedrock of centuries of popular song. We hear that twice. Then we hear a contrasting idea that's very different in tone. It's much higher. It's much slower. The key about both those ideas is that they draw you in." "The emphasis in terms of the lyrics, is not in the beginning of the line, but somewhere towards the end. 'Dirty old river' is not sung as "Dirty old river", but "Dirty old River flowing in to the Night. People so Busy, make me feel Dizzy." The emphasis is, in terms of the lyrics, is always on the end of an idea. So you're being thrust forward into the song, rather than simply being allowed to take it or leave it. I think you'd probably take it."

Allan made the point that the song was the first song Ray had sole control over. It was his conception and "right the way through there are certain little things which would be due to him, mostly with the stereo. You would expect to hear the singer in the middle of the stereo. If you listen to this Ray Davis isn't in the centre, he's off to the right which is absolutely correct for he is not the central figure. He's positioned himself off to the right, so that he's merely narrating and I think that's a beautiful touch."

Allan has also said :
"It is quiet special in the history of popular music, certainly in history at that particular point because it does something that no other song at the time really manages to capture : it turns the most ordinary events into something quiet wonderful.... " As long as I gaze on Waterloo sunset I am in paradise." But he sings the word "paradise" which is normally set to a very bright tone or a very high end register, it's right at the bottom of his range where it gets a little bit rough. The way he sings "paradise" is symptomatic of the way the whole song works, that something that's very ordinary : a "dirty old river," "Waterloo Station," that low part of his voice, is made to seem magical. But it's so understated, it's almost typically English in that understatement and I think of it as a mixture between the mundane, which is what the song is all about : a very ordinary melody and the ecstatic."

Ray :
" The song is about how innocence will prevail over adversity. It starts out delicate, but by the end has become awesome in its power. Those triumphant chords come in – and the angels tell you everything is going to be OK."

Dirty old river, must you keep rolling
Flowing into the night
People so busy, makes me feel dizzy
Taxi light shines so bright
But I don't need no friends
As long as I gaze on Waterloo sunset
I am in paradise

Every day I look at the world from my window
But chilly, chilly is the evening time
Waterloo sunset's fine

Terry meets Julie, Waterloo Station
Every Friday night
But I am so lazy, don't want to wander
I stay at home at night
But I don't feel afraid
As long as I gaze on Waterloo sunset
I am in paradise

Every day I look at the world from my window
But chilly, chilly is the evening time
Waterloo sunset's fine

Millions of people swarming like flies 'round Waterloo underground
But Terry and Julie cross over the river
Where they feel safe and sound
And they don't need no friends
As long as they gaze on Waterloo sunset
They are in paradise

Waterloo sunset's fine

Monday 15 May 2017

Britain is a country which made but Australia is a continent which has lost, its scarce old, journalist giant and broadcaster, Mark Colvin

Mark, who was for many years in the front line of Australian journalism and broadcasting, has died at the age of 65. Based in Sydney, for the last 20 years of his life he was the presenter of 'PM', one of the flagship Australian radio current affairs programs on the ABC Radio Network. Confined to the studio, after having contracted a rare auto-immune disease covering the Rawandan Genocide in 1994 which blighted his life and led to years of subsequent illness, he was Australia's eyes on the outside world. Mark's life in Australia began when he was 23, in 1974, but before the leather-jacketed, motorbike-riding Gauloise-smoking Mark joined ABC as a cub reporter, the essential Mark had been made in Britain. He was the product of both a unique family life and traditional public school / Oxford University education, but was always much greater than the sum of his parts.

Mark was born in London in 1951, the son of Elizabeth, who came from the Western District of Victoria, Australia, who had escaped the “stifling and parochial atmosphere” of 1940s Melbourne and John, who had been brought up in leafy Hampshire in England. He later reflected that his Father 'was not at my mother’s bedside when I was born because he was working in espionage.' In fact, although he had officially joined MI6 in the the same year as Marks's birth, he had joined clandestinely two years before.

John probably told young Mark that he himself had been born in Tokyo the son of Admiral Sir Ragnar Colvin, the then British naval attache in Japan, and who later commanded the Royal Australian Navy during the early years of the Second World War and he himself had trained as a naval officer before the War. It is entirely possible that he didn't mention that he : had been on the battle cruiser Repulse when it was sunk by the Japanese off Singapore in 1942; was blown out of the crow's nest then picked up from the water by escorting destroyer; in 1945 led a small band of guerrillas behind enemy lines in what later became Vietnam and although only a 'lieutenant', received the swords of the Japanese commanders when they surrendered.

Although he didn't know it at the time, Mark later reflected that the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the USA - led West, 'dictated our movements as a family and defines the first half of my life, because my father was a warrior in its front line.'  It meant his Father was 'often wandering around doing things secretly. Even my Mum didn't know where he was and what he was doing a lot of the time, that's the nature of being a spy' and 'I remember him reading me stories when I was going to bed, but a lot of the time he just wasn't there.'

Mark found out later that, when he was 4 in 1956, his father 'was part of the delegation that went to America to try to persuade the CIA to bring America in with Britain in the invasion of the Suez Canal, which was a massive event in 1956 in which the French and British tried to get the Suez Canal back from Egypt and completely failed.'

On of his Mark's earliest memories were of Austria, where his Father worked at the Secret Intelligence Service station in Vienna and where as a three year-old, he was confined to standing in the back seat of the family car and contented himself by waving his fist at a passing trucks while repeating a naval expression picked up from his father : "Go to buggery."

He remembered, with affection, the time when he "was very happy when I was four and five and six." The family were living in Kuala Lumpur when his Father was running of hill-tribe forces as counter-insurgency troops during the Malayan Emergency. It was an idyllic childhood existence where they lived behind a high hedge next to the racecourse and where the trunk of mangosteen served as a cricket wicket. He recalled that in some ways it was his "Garden of Eden" with horse riding, swimming and snorkeling on reefs in the southern islands, butterfly hunting and visits to the villages set among the rubber tree plantations.

Then at the age of seven, he was flown back to England and 'Summer Fields', a boarding school for boys on the outskirts of Oxford, which he recalled, with understatement, as : "pretty horrible"  and where, in reality, he "was savagely, savagely beaten and physically, not sexually, abused by people who got some kind of sexual charge out of physical abuse of small children and I think the thing I'm left with from that is a really strong understanding and empathy for that whole subject of child abuse."
(8.57 into the clip )

He still returned to Malaysia : "I would still be coming home in the long holidays to Kuala Lumpur and my parents were still together, but when my parents split up, that was a very unhappy time."

He recalled ; "In the summer holidays of 1964, when I was twelve, I discovered the world of Sherlock Holmes and over the course of a few weeks, devoured it all." Many years later he wondered if his career as a journalist had a "Sherlockian tinge — bouts of frenzied activity followed by torpid meditation " and provided a useful insight into how he saw his craft : "I’ve been intrigued by the relationship between Sherlock and his older brother Mycroft. Sherlock is driven to experience the world for himself. He is a pair of eyes, sometimes aided by a magnifying glass or a microscope, but one who uses his capacious learning and fierce intellect to interpret what he sees. Mycroft, who rarely leaves the Diogenes Club, however, is almost like a disembodied mind, a brain that uses the eyes of others to see the world, then processes it."

This was the year he took up his place as a boarder at the prestigious public school for boys, Westminster School, located within the precincts of Westminster Abbey at a time when Andrew Lloyd Webber was in the sixth form. With origins before the 12th century, its alumni included Ben Jonson, John Dryden, Robert Hooke, Sir Christopher Wren, Louis Theroux, John Locke, Jeremy Bentham, Edward Gibbon, Henry Mayhew, A. A. Milne, Peter Ustinov, Tony Benn and seven Prime Ministers. It prided itself on an ethos based on liberal tradition reflected in the 1560, 'Charter of Westminster' which stated : ‘The youth which is growing to manhood, as tender shoots in the wood of our state, shall be liberally instructed in good books to the greater honour of the state.’

1964 was also the year his father took him to a smoky, basement Paris nightclub, which revealed : “something of the chameleon about him obviously, whether by nature or training: the spy’s ability to be at home in, or fade into the background of, wherever he was.”
Mark indicated his unhappiness in these years when he recalled that, as a teenager, he was “more shy and gawky than obstreperous. I probably seemed an excrescence”

Between the ages of 15-16, his father was posted as the British Consul in North Vietnam capital Hanoi from 1966-68, which coincided with the American bombing operation, 'Rolling Thunder,' where he wasn't permitted to build an air-raid shelter under his residence and, unknown to his family, observed proceedings over a cold drink from his balcony. Mark missed him badly : "He was there for two solid years and those were the two hardest years of my adolescence" and had "zero contact" with his father at a time when he "really sort of needed him in a way."

In addition, when his Father did return to Britain : "he married my Stepmother, which changed the relationship a lot. My Dad was a weird guy - he got married in secret" and without telling him and his sister Zoe, which was "like a complete and utter shock." They had, in fact, met the new wife when his father had contrived a 'chance' meeting in a train before he remarried. On the journey between Winchester to London they were "walking up the train, ostensibly looking for a nice compartment with three spare seats, But in fact, what happens is that we're halfway up the train and he says, "On look, there's somebody I know." So we go in and he introduces us to this young woman, Moranna Cazenove and that's how we met her. It was obvious in retrospect that it was totally pre-planned, but that was the only time we'd actually met her before they got married."

After successfully gaining a place at Oxford University at the age of 18 in 1969, he took a year out working as a photographer in Canberra where he had "parental support from my Mum." Then returning to Britain he embarked on his undergraduate study for 'Greats' and Christ Church College and was scarcely settled in when his father left Britain for a posting in Outer Mongolia, despite promising his mother, in Australia, that he would be around for Mark's undergraduate years. Mark recalled : "The whole decision that I would go to Oxford was taken on the basis that he would be there."

"the one place you couldn't ring him" and "when I eventually did go there, I had to fly to Hong Kong and take this six day train journey through China to get there."
As Her Majesty’s Ambassador in what was then Ulan Bator, capital of Outer Mongolia, his Father was there to run the signals intelligence station to monitor communications between China and the Soviet Union. It was

"I had the last two and a half years at University completely on my own without a parent to support me." He had no where to stay during vacations and "ended up with an uncle and aunt who were kind to put me up."

Towards the end of his studies he : 'took a walk in the Suffolk countryside with a friend of my father’s, a man who’d made a lot of money in the Mad Men era in New York working for the advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather. He asked me what I wanted to do. ‘Write, I think.’ ‘What do you want to write about?’ ‘I’m not sure. I’ve just spent three years studying the Greats, and that’s intimidating. And on top of that, I don’t feel I’ve done enough or seen enough to write a real novel.’ ‘Well,’ he said, ‘people who can write but don’t have a subject are generally advised to go into advertising or journalism.’ 

Mark's undergraduate course, known colloquially as 'Greats' would have involved him in the study of the classical writings of Greece and Rome with a strong emphasis on first hand study and critical reading of primary sources in the original Greek or Latin and ranging over History, Philosophy, Archaeology, and Linguistics. In Mark's case, the aim of the course : to give him the skill to 'effectively assess considerable amounts of material considerable amounts of material of diverse types and select, summarise and evaluate key aspect' and 'acquire the skill of clear and effective communication in written and oral discourse and the organisational talent needed to plan and meet demanding deadlines' were, in the light of his subsequent career, fulfilled.

There is no doubt that Mark's three years at Oxford had a formative influence on his young mind that partly explains why he would say years later, as a successful journalist and talking of his professional ethos : “My real interest, was, had always been, in the opinion and perspectives of others: in walking around a subject, as one walks around a building or a sculpture in a museum, trying to see it from every possible angle.”

Mark also drew comparisons between his own profession and that of his father : "The journalist’s classic questions — What makes you tick? Where’s the money? Who really runs this town? Cui bono? (Who benefits?) What lies behind what you’re telling me? How will this actually work in practice? Why are you lying to me? Who are you loyal to and who would you betray, and for what? — have become second nature, to the extent that the greatest temptation and danger is cynicism. They also, again, almost uncannily, mimic the mindset of the spy."

Having graduated from Oxford, Mark lacked direction : "I wasn’t totally indolent — I’d achieved a perfectly respectable ‘good second’ BA (Hons) in English at Oxford — but above all I didn’t know what I was fitted for."  He ruled out photography : "I’d worked for nine months in a photographic darkroom at the Australian National University in Canberra, and for a while as a photographer at a local newspaper in the West of England. But, although competent, I thought I didn’t have the ‘eye’ to be as good as my photographic heroes, and that I was better at writing the captions than taking the pictures."

In 1974 Australia beckoned him. His mother has remarried and settled in Canberra with her second husband. Shortly after arriving he literally walked into an ABC journalism cadetship in Sydney. "Somehow, Aunty, where the BBC voice was still pretty prevalent in those days, saw something in me and, stylish in a denim jacket with patch pockets and a pair of flared trousers." 

Within a year was reporting from the capital, the bush, the fires and the NSW Parliament 'bear pit' and was soon on the tiny reporting team at infant Sydney youth radio station 2JJ. He still 'had no long-standing vocation to be a reporter before I became one. Even halfway through 1974, my first year as a trainee I had real doubts about whether I would stick with the trade. I was one of those people who, at twenty-one, did not really know who they were, let alone who they wanted to be.'

Mark only found out the full truth of his father's work as a spy when he was 25. It led him to consider the similarities between himself and his father :

'The possibility that I stepped unconsciously into a field of work that I thought was the opposite of what my father did, but may have only been so in the way that the reverse sides of a coin are opposite to each other. Running in a great circle, only to realise you’re almost back to what you were running from. And there’s this : a spy and a journalist, if they’re doing their jobs properly, are both trying to find out the truth behind the lies and propaganda, even if they use radically different tools. So in some way, by trying to be as unlike my father as I could, I was perhaps not so different at all : for both of us, information gathering was our trade, and constant doubt and questioning the knives we wielded.'

and the differences :

'Yet there was a fault line between father and son, the believer and the doubter, the insider and the outsider, which came into sharp view years later. One night he asked his father about “the mirror-world of moral grey areas, dilemmas, paradoxes and complexities” explored in the novels of John le Carre. “What about you?” he asked his father : “Did you ever find any ambivalence or ambiguity about what you were doing?” To which he replied : “Never. Not once. Not for a single minute.”'

There is no doubt that Mark's early years endowed him with the intellectual curiosity and spiritual resilience which took him through the rest of his life. He said of his autobiography, published last year, 'Light and Shadow: Memoirs of a Spy's Son,' that he felt like 'the legendary lost dog on the poster - Three legs, blind in one eye, missing right ear, tail broken, recently castrated … answers to the name of 'Lucky' and that 'despite near-death experiences and chronic illness' he'd had 'A Fortunate Life.'

Mark was no stranger to Australia at the time of his arrival in 1974  There were the visits to his cousins when he was a boy, as can be seen with him riding behind his Dad in a farm truck at Christmas in 1959 and his first taste of Australian farm life on the Mondilibi Homestead when he was older, when his grandfather died and, of course, the year he spent working in Canberra when he was 18. Before he settled in Australia, Mark already rated the country “as one of the places I’d call home" and it is not possible to know if he would have enjoyed such a glittering career as a journalist if he had stayed in Britain, but it unlikely. Nick Bryant, the BBC's Sydney Correspondent from 2006 to 2011, put his finger on it when he wrote : 'In that great Australian everyman sort of way, he could detect the cant and fraudulent in an instant. His Australian side asserted itself more strongly than the British.'

In his last tweet, it seems only fitting that Mark may be showing deference to both the much loved English actor John Le Mesurier, who uttered the words : "It's all been rather lovely" to his wife before slipping into a coma in 1983 and Buzz Kennedy the long standing editor and columnist for 'The Australian.' who published 'It was Bloody Marvellous', his anecdotal memoir in 1996.

Tuesday 9 May 2017

Britain is still a country for and says "Happy Birthday and Thank You" to an old actor called Albert Finney

Albert, whose performances on stage and screen have provided us with entertainment over the last 60 years, is 81 years old today. When he was 27, back in 1963, he took the title role in the Tony Richardson film, 'Tom Jones,' based on the novel by Henry Fielding, written in 1749. The film contained the wonderfully lascivious banquet scene played between Albert and the late Diane Cilento and 54 years later it has lost none of its power.

"Heroes, whatever high ideas we may have of them, are mortal and not divine. We are all as God made us and many of us much worse."

From John Osborne's screenplay.

Friday 5 May 2017

Britain is no longer a country for and says "Thank you and Farewell" to an old, quintessentially English actor and 'lovely human being' called Moray Watson

Moray, who has died at the age of  88, had a voice which, with its perfectly enunciated diction, exuded a natural confidence, which probably explains why, over his 60 year career, he played a succession of authority figures, mostly military with the odd police officer and judge thrown in. Moray was always there, lending a secure and trustworthy presence to either the film, theatre or television production he graced with his presence. To his fellow actors on either the stage or set he was clearly a pleasure to work with.

Catherine Zeta-Jones, who played with him in 1990s 'Darling Buds of May,' said that he was a "true gentleman" and "the wonderful Moray has passed away. We shall all miss him. He was and is a national treasure,"

Gyles Brandreth tweeted : 'Sad news. A fine actor, Moray Watson, has died aged 88. From Compact to the classics, he was a class act. And a lovely human being. RIP.'
He told the Press Association : “What was extraordinary about him was his versatility. From a soap like Compact, to making a movie alongside Cary Grant, Doctor Who and the Darling Buds – he really was a safe pair of hands and a calming influence to have on stage and on set. But he was also tremendously funny. People loved him because, as a person, he was very witty, very droll. He had a fantastic sense of humour and he would bring out these wonderfully amusing anecdotes, including an excellent impression he used to do of Cary Grant. He was also extremely kind to people and he was, in every sense, a gentleman."

Born into a genteel family in 1928, in Sunningdale, Berkshire, the son of Jean and Gerard, a ship broker and was packed off to Eton in 1939, the year that the Second World War broke out and was there when his father was killed fighting in Belgium. After the War, he served his two years national service in the Army in the Northamptonshire Regiment and reached the rank of captain. Eton, followed by his Army service must have left an indelible print on young Moray and gave him the hallmarks we all recognised in his stagecraft.

Having made up his mind to be an actor, he went to London to study acting at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art and made his first professional stage appearances with the Nottingham Repertory Company and stepped onto the London stage for the first time at the age of 27 in 1955, when he appeared in 'Small Hotel' at the St Martin’s Theatre. He played Trevor Sellers, a novel-writing butler, in 'The Grass is Greener' and when Stanley Donen directed the film version two years later he reprised his role acting alongside Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr, Robert Mitchum and Jean Simmons.

It's a big thanks on behalf of the millions of people who have enjoyed Moray's acting on the stage and large and small screens over the last 60 years.

Moray reminds us how he spoke to us as :

Peter Marsh in The Quatermass Experiment in 1953

Jimmy in Find the Lady in 1956 

Ken Shield in The Saint in 'The Imprudent Politician' in 1964 in Spanish here, but you get the idea

Lord Collingford in Catweazle in 1970 

Colonel Winter in Upstairs, Downstairs in 'A Pair of Exiles' in 1972

Barrington Erle in The Pallisers in 1974

Jeremy Sangster in The Professionals in "It's Only a Beautiful Picture" in 1980

Mr Bennet in Pride and Prejudice in 1980
At 2 min 47 sec in :

Major Desmond Morton in Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years in 1981

Sir Robert Muir in Doctor Who - Black Orchid in 1982

Commander Hawksly in Minder in "Goodbye Sailor" in 1984

The Commander in Star Cops in 'An Instinct for Murder' in 1987

Roger Cranley in Worlds Beyond in 'The Haunted Garden' in 1987 

Sir Leo Pursuivant in Campion in 'The Case of the Late Pig' in 1989

Sir Donald Stuffy in Norbert Smith – a Life in 1989

Major Harriman in A Murder of Quality in 1991

The Judge in The House of Eliott  in 1991

Professor Eugene Quail in The New Statesman in "The Party's Over" in 1991

Henry Nugent in Haggard in "Orlando's Revenge" in 1992

Brigadier Arthur Maiford, M.C. (retired) in The Darling Buds of May 1991-93

The Stranger in The Vicar of Dibley in "Animals" in 1994

Britain is still a country for and says "Bravo" to an old allergist with a guardian angel and zest for life called Dr Bill Frankland

Bill, who is 105 years old, was interviewed by Justin Well on the BBC Radio 4 'Today' Programme this morning and said that in answer to the question "How is it that he's lived all this time ?" He replies : "I've been so near death so many times but I've always just escaped alive." He went on the say that he is still : "Fascinated by medicine in general and allergy in particular which is my subject, but there's so much to learn all the time : reading a lot about modern advances." He added that he still "sees some grateful patients I've been seeing forty years." In his continuing career, he said he attends conferences, reads journals and has a secretary to deal with his paper work. What he didn't say was that it is a career in medicine which began when he was an Oxford undergraduate 87 years ago and one that has earned him the epithet of 'The Grandfather of Allergy.'

If he had been given more time he might have told us that :

He was born Alfred William in Battle, Sussex, in March 1912, the youngest of four children and identical twin of brother Jack and born premature, the wrong way round and weighing three pounds one ounce and “was wrapped up and my cot was a chest of drawers" and later reflected : "perhaps this was one of the occasions I was lucky to escape death" and remembered that "father was very poor and my mother had been left a great deal of money, in fact in her early twenties, because she had a very good singing voice, she actually spent one year in Switzerland studying singing" whereas his father, who he admired, liked very much and always looked up to, had studied Classics at Wadham College, Oxford.

Bill was brought up without his Father's continued presence between the age of two and six, when he was absent serving as an Anglican Army chaplain in the First World War and recalled : 'He finally went off to Alexandria and later Cairo, where he was in a hospital ship. He used to send these lovely postcards of the Sphinx and the Pyramids and they were beautiful.'

After the War the family moved to Cumbria when his father became rector of St Mary's Church, High Hesket and Bill had a privileged and what he called,  "Victorian"
childhood, in the Lake District, brought up in a nursery and "was looked after by a nanny and she organised your life" and outside the home, enjoyed long walks and helping with the harvest.

He was motivated from an early age to become a doctor and recalled when he spent four months in bed after drinking unpasteurised milk and had his tonsils removed : "my sister and my brother and myself all had bovine tuberculosis and a doctor came to Penrith to see us, but he just kept us in bed. He'd no idea what was wrong with us, but we had a fever and I didn't like this doctor and I thought : 'Why should this silly old man, that's what I thought he was, be a doctor ? He doesn't know how to deal with children' and I thought : 'If I'm a doctor I would know how to deal with them as people."

As soon as he was old enough, was packed off with his brother to St Bees, a Tudor-founded, independent, boys' boarding school in Cumbria where he recalled : "every winter we did one of the Gilbert and Sullivans" in which, in the absence of girls, he enjoyed singing as a treble and was in the same year as rugby playing, Gus Walker, who would later become the 'One Armed Air Marshal' having lost his arm when 30, trying to rescue the aircrew of a crashed Second World War bomber.

He formed his childhood ambition to study medicine,  partly because he didn't have much contact with other people, apart from his twin brother, and saw a medical career as providing "the opportunity of meeting lots of people", and was inspired, as a teenager, by reading 'The Story of San Michele', the 1929 memoirs of Swedish physician Axel Munthe, which covered his association with Louis Pasteur and Guy de Maupassant but also poor, Italian immigrants in Paris, plague victims in Naples and Nordic Lapplanders.

At the age of 18 in 1930, Bill won a scholarship to read medicine at Queen's College, Oxford and  as part of his training, joined St Marys Hospital, Paddington in 1934 and applied for the position of
'house physician' in the Eye Department which "was a risky thing to do because you were kept very, very busy. You put on a long white coat, everyone called you ‘Doctor’ and you acted as a doctor for six months - even though you were still a medical student " but did it because working there he'd seen "a blonde girl with beautiful eyes and thought, “I must get to know this girl” " and as a postscript added : "Anyhow, I got to know the girl, and we were finally married in 1941. I’m a slow worker!"

On the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, Bill joined the Royal Army Medical Corps and found his father's 'Sam Brown' officer's belt from the First World War and wore it 'whenever I could, including when I got married. To me, wearing it was carrying on a tradition that there are things worth fighting for. We were told to fight for our country and this is what we were doing and I was lucky that I was an officer and so it was a privilege to wear something that he had worn in the First World War.'

In 1941, serving as a captain, he was given two day's training in tropical medicine and posted to Singapore along with 35 other doctors and after arrival after a two month voyage in a troop ship, recalled : "I and this other doctor (cabin mate, Captain Parkinson), went to an Indian field hospital and when we'd been there for three days an officer came along and said : "There are two hospitals, one is at Tanglin and its largely dermatology and some VD and the other is the Main Military Hospital. The job there will be an anaesthetist." We both wanted to go to Tanglin, so this officer got a coin out and he said to me "Frankland, call." I said : "Heads" and it was 'heads' and therefore all was well and I went Tanglin."

In Feb 1942 with the Japanese invasion of Singapore and surrender of the British Army, Bill became a prisoner of war and heard that Parkinson, sent to the Alexander Hospital, had been killed because, when it was overrun by Japanese troops "they murdered everyone in the operating theatre including the patient who was unconscious. So this was one of the occasions where, literally, a spin of a coin, saved my life" while he himself  was sent to Changi Prisoner of War Camp : "It was an 18 mile march, but I went by lorry with my patients. There was a lot of dysentery and after six months we were all starving. I was looking after one of the dysentery wards and saw little of the Japanese. Our guards were mostly Koreans and later Indians.”

Bill found his fortunes took a turn for the worse when, in 1943, he was transferred to a work camp based at a British Artillery Barracks on Blakang Mati Island, known then as 'Hell Island', where he was looking after 200 sick prisoners and found that if his "sick parade got too big, too large, the Japanese non medical private, if the patient could stand up and didn't faint, would say : "Out to work" the following day, but of course, they were so severe and I knew this would happen. I had to be myself really severe and put people up to work because they wanted people to work for them and that was that. They didn't mind how ill they were."

He recalled : "We lived off meagre rations of rice and everyone suffered from gross starvation. All we could think of was food. When we could, we ate rats, mice and dogs" and chronic dysentery, malaria, dengue fever and starvation beriberi were rife amongst the prisoners, coupled with the relentless forced labour instigated by captors who,“If the men’s behaviour was bad, the Japanese would bash the officers. They would line us up and just punch us in the face. The best bashing I ever had was when I was knocked unconscious. I didn’t feel much but when I got up I realised I had lost a tooth" and shortly after, he was escorted to a Japanese hospital to use a microscope to diagnose some malaria cases, his own having been confiscated, and while there suffered an inexplicable and unprovoked attack, by a private soldier who beat him about the head with a chair and protecting himself with his arm, ran to the officer in charge of the hospital who stopped the assault.

After 18 months, Bill was able to practise his Christianity in public, half a day every fortnight, in a church service led by an Australian padre, where he found reference to "give us this day our daily bread" a challenge because "when you haven't seen bread for three and a half years, this is difficult", but, with the other communicants, sufficed with bread fashioned out of rice and wine made from fermented pineapples.

After the surrender of Japan in August 1945, Bill was so emaciated that even sitting down was painful : “just bones on a hard seat" and he was flown, in a convoy of three Dakotas, one of which didn't make it after they hit a storm over the mountains of Southern Burma, to Rangoon for rehabilitation and a ship home and at the age of 33, after 42 months of hardship and violence he returned to Britain in November, where on being asked whether he "wanted to see a psychiatrist ?" said "no, I want to see my wife" and thought : "'Well I'm alive and this is marvellous' and I decided I'm going to forget everything I've gone through. I want to forget everything and not speak about it and to my wife and when the children were born I never spoke at all about what my experiences were like as a prisoner of war."

He was discharged from the Army in 1946 and rejoined St Mary's Hospital where he "was starting, as it were, a new life and I didn't want to think about all the nasty experiences" and although he had been intrigued by how desensitised the Japanese prison guards had been to native insect bites, stuck to his chosen field of dermatology until he saw the opportunity "of getting a little more expertise in a subject which at that time I knew nothing about. So I started in the Allergy Department and after six weeks liked it so much I went to Dr Freeman, my chief, and said, ”Could I be full time?”  and "after a short time I was looking after what was called the “Experimental Ward”. Therefore, I had to see Professor Fleming every morning at 10 o’clock to talk about the patients. But we never talked about them as he wasn’t interested in clinical medicine. He was a fascinating man in so many ways, and extremely clever. I really enjoyed these 10 o’clock meetings."

Bill was approached by Fleming who had been asked to produce a second edition of his book on penicillin, 'the bible of treatment of infection' , who said to him : “Frankland, you’re going to write this chapter on penicillin reactions. I’ll give you a week to do it; 3,000 words - not more; and not more than 30 references " and when he'd read it, said "I’m not saying that I agree with everything that you have written, but I’m not going to change it, except your very last sentence on the last page." I had written: “With the increasing use of penicillin, it is to be expected that allergic reactions will become more common.” He crossed this last sentence out and wrote in his beautiful handwriting 'With increasing use of penicillin, reactions due to impurities will become less common.' And that’s what’s in the book. To some extent, he was right - but I was also right!"

He had already been instrumental in the creation of the 'British Association of Allergists' in 1948 when he took over from Dr Freeman and "inherited all his expertise" and with the help of a botanist was keen to provide his London patients with information about pollen levels on any given day and times of year when levels would tend to be highest and from 1953 was able to send weekly London pollen counts to members of the British Allergy Society and in 1954, made his greatest breakthrough with the results of a double-blind trial involving 200 patients with grass pollen sensitivity, which suggested that the active vaccines were much more effective in reducing allergy symptoms than inactive ‘control vaccines' and broke new ground in its use of 'randomised, controlled methods and a standardised approach to every patient.'

With his Department seeing over 6,000 patients a year, Bill undertook a series of trials which proved that antihistamine tablets neither helped nor increased pollen asthma and published the results in 1955 and in order to produce a supply of grass pollen took over the largest pollen farm in the world, originally started by Freeman in 1911, in which "We produced pollen not only for experimental purposes, but we also sold pollen to America and Spain and so on. The pollen came, for the most part, from Timothy grass. I loved going down to the farm to see how to collect pollen."

In 1955, he experimented on himself by being bitten each day by the South American blood-sucking insect 'rhodnius prolixus', so he could document his own allergic reaction and "let it have a meal once a week. I kept it in my car and the first thing on monday morning before going to my department it would have its first meal" and after eight meals had "severe anaphylaxis and I had to have three injections of adrenaline" in fact “All I could do was hold up three fingers to indicate the doses of adrenaline the nurse should inject me with""It was a very severe reaction. At one point when I couldn't speak I had a feeling of impending doom. You think you're going to die and I thought that, but no, interestingly, I didn't" and used his research to enhance understanding of how long injections of allergens would need to be given to achieve desensitisation.

In 1961, Bill persuaded Britain’s media to include the 'pollen count' in weather forecasts and the following year, at the age of 50, became the Director and Consultant of the Allergy Clinic at St Mary’s Hospital, carried out insect and latex allergy research and was increasingly convinced that the rise in allergies resulted from increased cleanliness and the levels of hygiene in modern life, his so-called 'Hygiene Theory', and that failure to expose children to enough pathogens in infancy hindered the development of the immune system and “Allergy is immunity gone wrong. You are not making antibodies against infection; you are making antibodies against allergens” and so opened up the possibility of radical new treatments for lifelong sufferers by using small doses of an allergen to retrain the errant immune system.

Having retired from his job at St Mary's Hospital at 65, Bill started work as an unpaid consultant in the Department of Medicine at Guy's Hospital in 1977 and in 1979 was invited to give a consultation the new President of Iraq, Saddam Hussein in Baghdad : "They told me he had an allergy and he was being treated with various desensitising injections. But he wasn’t allergic at all. His problem was that he was smoking 40 cigarettes a day. I told him to stop. I thought because he was so addicted he wouldn't give it up and he said : "When are you coming to see me again ?" and I said "I don't think you're going to stop smoking and therefore I've no intention of coming to see you again", but strangely the following morning when I was waiting for my plane a little man came up to me and said : "Someone you're interested in has done what you wanted him to do. When are you going to come and see him again ?" He gave up smoking the day I saw him. I heard some time later that he had had a disagreement with his Secretary of State for Health so he took him outside and shot him. Maybe I was lucky.”

He worked at Guy's for the next twenty years on peanut anaphylaxis and paediatric allergies and after retiring at the age of 85 in 1997 continued to participate in academic life, attending conferences and publishing articles in journals and in 2012 when he became a centenarian appeared as an expert witness in a British court in a trial in which the accused claimed that a vehicle crash in which he was involved was caused by his losing control following a bee sting and gave his opinion that the 'delayed-response reactions' to bee stings only occurred after there had been 'initial symptoms' following the sting and since, in this case there had been no such symptoms, the accused was found guilty as charged.

In 2012, Bill said : "I try to keep up with everything, in fact, since I reached a hundred I've produced three academic papers that's a little unusual, but I so like medicine in its various forms and I still see some patients who I've treated for a large number of years and I still enjoy seeing them and I go to conferences if  I'm well enough, but I always say : "If I didn't continue doing what I call medicine in its broadest aspect and seeing all that is going on what would I do ?""

In 2013, he flew to Singapore with his daughter and visited the Kranji Memorial "to pay my respects to those who lost their lives. It was very quiet in November and I was all on my own. It was quite emotional."

Two years later he appeared in an episode of the BBC 2 tv series 'Britain's Greatest Generation', was awarded an MBE for 'Services to Allergy Research,' appeared on BBC Radio 4s 'Desert Island Discs' and was briefly interviewed for ITN News and was the oldest old soldier present at the parade of veterans on the 70th Anniversary of VJ day in Central London on August 15th of that year, 2015.

Bill said of his wartime captors : “If I hated them it would do me harm but it wouldn’t do them harm, and secondly, I am a Christian and I was taught not to hate.”

and : "Ive been very lucky. I always say I must have a guardian angel looking after me because I've been so near death so many times, but I've always escaped. I've been lucky and I've never been depressed"