Updated 27 Oct 2015
Robert Palmer's autobiography - 07
Robert Palmer's autobiography 2005-2014
2005 to 2008
In January 2005 Valerie and I went to Cyprus again.
In March 2005 Valerie, Susannah and myself went to the Vermont chalet
(see photo 172).
In May 2005 Valerie and I went to an anaesthetic meeting in Vienna, where
Dad had a bad recurrence of his rheumatic fever in the winter of 1945 and
1946 and came back a dying man, and which ultimately killed him 11 years
later at the age of just 51.
Also in 2005 Susannah passed her anaesthetic primary first time (she had
been working in Bath) and then went to join David Lewis in Christchurch NZ
and worked in the anaesthetic department there. They lived in Sumner
which is on the coast south of Christchurch.
Youngest Daughter graduated from Brighton in social anthropology and international
development in the summer of 2005 (see photo 173).
She had done some of this course in Southampton. She had a boy friend,
James Bullock, and had started going out with him in 2004. After
graduation she worked as a health care assistant at St Richards,
Chichester. She then worked for a time with children with behavioural
difficulties, and then a job with Sussex County Council as an assistant
social worker for young carers.
Chalet in Vermont
Youngest Daughter graduation
In 2005 I went to John Sirs funeral in Buckinghamshire (swimming and
mountaineering club at St Marys). He was 79.
Brian Maugham sadly died on 3rd March 2006. Meanwhile I was playing bridge
regularly with Sandy MacKenzie who is from Massachusetts and lives in
Fareham, and golf at Furzely with Angela Sissons. On 12th April 2006 Morgan
was born at Christchurch NZ hospital, a vaginal birth,
(see photo 176 of him
when Sue and Dave came over that summer).
On 14th May 2006 I tore my calf
muscle while playing tennis. I hobbled to work and several days later
Valerie and I had a canal holiday in Wales and I spent a lot of it lying
down. In June 2006 Valerie and I went to an anaesthetic meeting in Madrid.
We went to Victoria Pearce’s marriage in June 2006, and our next door
neighbour Gwen Stanford died in October 2006. Malcolm West was over for
the new year and we took our house master Ian Higgens out to lunch in
Droxford. In January 2007 I went to Sumner, NZ for three weeks (see
photo 179 of me with Morgan).
On 30th June 2007 Carla and Wesley were married
(see photo 177),
and a week later on 7th July 2007 Yougest Daughter and James were married
(see also their photo 178). The 40th anniversary
of graduation reunion for my
year at St Mary’s was held in Richmond in September 2007.
Wesley, James, RJP, Dave
Sue, Carla, Morgan, Youngest Daughter, Valerie
Wesley and Carla's wedding.
Youngest Daughter and James' wedding
Morgan and RJP in New Zealand
In early 2008 Valerie and I had a holiday in Cusop Dingle, Herefordshire.
I had been tasked with writing a report on an orthopaedic list where there
were three total joint replacements and two of the three patients died of
an M.I. in the early postoperative period. I took it seriously and spoke
to a cardiologist. The problem was that the two patients that died had had
a preop ECG which showed marked ischaemic changes, but no one had looked
at the ECG’s. I was put in a difficult position and I am afraid I chickened
out somewhat on my decision that you can’t put the clock back, but I did
make changes in reporting on preop ECG’s. Meanwhile I won a doubles
tournament at the tennis club (see me 181
with trophy with Chris Wilkinson British Davis cup player on my left).
Also I went up to Scotland where Carla did a marathon
(see photo 182).
In November 2008 I went to Christchurch again for a whole month. I
swam every morning in the open air pool in Sumner, and cycled and
played bridge. Morgan was christened while I was out there.
Carla in Marathon
2009 to 2012
On January 9th 2009 Joshua was born (normal delivery).
See his photo 183
(though this was probably taken a year or two after he was born).
I was fit for swimming (my frozen shoulder had finally cleared up), and
I trained hard, primarily for the 200 backstroke which is the only
distance and stroke I am really competitive in. I was in the bottom of
my new age group 70 to 74. My goal was the long course GB championships
in June 2009 in Cardiff and the short course GB championship in October
2009 in Sheffield. In fact I came second to David Langley in Cardiff
(perversely I won the 50 breast stroke, but the competition by chance was
non existent). In Sheffield I did a personal best in the 200 back and beat
David Langley by four tenths of a second. Tony Cherrington who was faster
than both of us had not entered the event (saving himself for the freestyle).
I was wearing a lower body suit (body suits were outlawed at the beginning
of 2010). Sadly David Langley died of a brain tumour about two years later
and was probably not at his best. He had a grand mal seizure in the Welsh
meet in the spring of 2010 and decided against chemotherapy as I understand
as the prognosis was very poor. It is ironic that Charles Parker who kept
me out of the Hampshire team for some 13 years (he was faster than me in
the 50 back) should also have died from cerebral pathology (a cerebral
abscess I was told). Nevertheless that win along with being selected for
the British Universities water polo team in 1968 I consider my life’s
greatest achievements (better than qualifying in medicine) and have given
me my biggest thrill.
Morgan and Joshua
The summer of 2009 Haslar and St Mary’s were closed. All our work
thereafter was at QA hospital. I turned 65 in July and normally that
meant retirement. I had an audience in the late spring with the CD Matthew
Turner and Elisabeth and asked if I could be allowed to stay on. Matthew
said I would need to start drawing my pension which I did. They said they
could give me a 6 month short term contract, at the end of which there was
the possibility of an extension. In fact it was extended several times and
I was allowed to go on working until my 70th birthday.
In January 2010 I went to Christchurch for a month. While I was there I
visited Nutty and Graeme in Auckland and went to a swim meet in Katikati.
Meanwhile Carla and Wesley were in Malawi (from 2008 to 2010), where Carla
was doing some physio in Blantyre and Wesley worked for the microloan
foundation in Blantyre and Johannesburg.
I gave the talk at Jane Watt Smith’s leaving do in March of 2010.
In April 2010 I organised a Memorial Service for John Brenchley and
Tony Evans (and John Etches) to mark the 50th anniversary of their deaths
See photo of 184 2nd April 2010 at Taplow,
Remembrance Service at Taplow 2apr2010.
I started beekeeping again and joined the Petersfield beekeeping
"The Memories section of the Old Masonians Gazette closes, however,
with a look back at what was reported in 1960, the year of a most
tragic event. We also report on a service of remembrance which was
held on 2 April 2010 to honour the three boys who perished. OMs will
recall the letter from Bob Palmer which was printed on page 12 of the
2009 issue of the Gazette and which expressed his wish to show his
respects to the three boys and to commemorate the 50th anniversary of
their deaths. The text of the report from The Masonian (1960) is
reproduced on p132. Also, Old Boys might be interested to know that
A History of the Royal Masonic School Vol. 2, p153, reports: "Mourning
was deep, and endured for a considerable time. Despite the tragedy
Snowdonia continued to be used for expeditions, but stringent safety
precautions, tight organisation and careful briefing ensured that further
accidents were avoided."
From The Masonian Vol. 19 No. 9 July 1960
SCHOOL NOTES John Michael Brenchley Tony Evans It was with deep sorrow
that the School received the news of the tragic accident on Snowdon on
2nd April, 1960, which resulted in the death of these two boys during
the School's leadership course run under the auspices of the Cadet Corps.
With them was also lost John Etches of the Royal Wanstead School. It is
boys of special promise and ability who are selected for these courses
and therefore our loss is a loss of our best. The heartfelt sympathy of
us all goes out to the relations and friends of the three boys in their
tragic bereavement. A special memorial service for Brenchley and Evans
was held in the School Chapel on Saturday, 30th April . The fine
spirit of adventure encouraged by these courses must not be diminished
by this unfortunate accident. These boys had a fine spirit which should
be emulated by the rest. Robert Palmer, who instigated the remembrance
service, writes: On Friday 2 April 2010, a service of remembrance was
held at the private chapel of David Long (Headmasters 1965) and Shirley
Long at Amerden House, Taplow to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the
deaths in Snowdonia on the Beddgelert Scheme of John Etches (Royal
Wanstead School) and Tony Evans (Headmasters) and John Brenchley (Burwood).
Present were Mike Blamey (Derby 1959), David Long and Shirley,
Ian McIntyre (Derby 1961) and Joan, Robert Palmer (Derby 1962) and Valerie,
Tony Tilly (Lea's 1963) and Carol, Malcolm West (Derby 1962). Also present
was David and Shirley's son, Cloudsley. Others would have liked to have
attended but were unable to do so and gave their apologies: Ray Casbon
(Headmasters 1962), Jeremy Davenport (Keyser 1963), Richard Fawkes
(Derby 1962), Gordon Metcalfe (Staff), Roger Puddephatt (Connaught 1961),
Malcolm Read (Devon 1960), Bob Skillicorn (Lea's 1963), Peter Sutcliffe
(Staff), Stephen Thomas (Connaught 1961). Sadly, Brian Ridgeway
(Headmasters 1960) who was on the front rope passed away, in Australia,
a number of years ago; see 2002 Gazette, page 134. The service probably
coincided with the time of death of the three boys, starting at 1145 and
finishing at 1220. Afterwards, David and Shirley Long and their son very
kindly treated those present to an excellent lunch.
(L2R) : Carol Tilly, Malcolm West, Valerie and Robert Palmer, Tony Tilly,
Mike Blamey, Shirley and David Long, Ian and Joan McIntyre Outside the
Chapel - Tony Tilly, Mike Blamey, Ian McIntyre, Malcolm West, Robert Palmer,
David Long, Editor's Note: The photos on this spread were taken by Tony
Tilly. The report and the photo on the previous page were supplied by
Robert Palmer. My thanks go to both for so speedily providing copy so that
this last minute news could be included in the 2010 issue of the Gazette.
Inside the Chapel - Tony Tilly, Ian McIntyre, David Long, Robert Palmer,
Mike Blamey, Malcolm West .See
Tragedy on Snowdon
section of www.bearmead.co.uk with photographs.
Youngest Daughter had earned a masters in social work in 2009 and was working for
social services in Chichester, Bognor Regis and Worthing.
In October 2010 I won the 200 backstroke again in the short course
nationals in Sheffield. I was also a member of the
mens 280 plus 4 by 200 metres freestyle relay team that set a new
European and GB record. (see photo 190).
Valerie and I joined the Victory Services Club in London.
In late 2010 I developed polymyalgia rheumatica. The thing that really
worried me was when I had to get Valerie to pull me out of the bath. I
saw Fiona MacRae privately and indeed I had a high ESR and CRP and she
confirmed the diagnosis. She said it might be due to the finasteride I
was taking for my prostasism. She prescribed prednisolone but I refused
to take it. I stopped the finasteride and by late spring 2011 it had
Meanwhile at work I was still doing maternity. The politically incorrect
expression of the maternity unit at Portsmouth is “NFP” or normal for
Portsmouth. When we went to obstetric anaesthesia meetings at Salisbury,
Dorchester, Winchester etc they had no insight into the problems we faced
in Portsmouth (see QA maternity unit attached).
Obesity at QA
Meanwhile I was ribbed about my age (see photo
187, a letter from
Ignatz Semmelweis dated 1847 confirming we had met, this I made after
Rhys Lewis, a trainee had said during a presentation that I had met him).
Meanwhile I had 3 near misses in the final 3 years of my anaesthetic
career. The first was an elderly man having back surgery in the prone
position by Jason Harvey. The endotracheal tube completely blocked with
inpissated infected mucus (see attachment). Sean Kerr was in the next
theatre and helped me roll the patient over on to his back and reintubate.
The second case was a urological procedure under Steve Keoghane who had
a full blown anaphylaxis from atracurium. I had plenty of help from Nick
Barnes, Anu Bali, Matthew Wood etc but he developed severe bronchospasm
and was very difficult to ventilate. I feared the worst but after two and
a half hours of resuscitation the bronchospasm broke and he went home
24 hours later.
The third case was the worst and was at Spire. It was a morbidly obese
middle aged man on his side who had had a massive regurgitation, was a
grade 3 intubation and navy blue. My first attempt at intubation with a
bougie failed but fortunately for everyone my second attempt was
successful and we carried on with the operation. I offered some prayers
I enjoyed this sort of good natured repartee, but I certainly did not
enjoy it when earlier David Desgrand tried to get me to retire at 65, and
we never really renewed our friendship after that. Likewise Peter Heath,
who I had never got along with, tried to ease me out of the private group
(unsuccessfully) and that worsened our relationship. I used to carry my
European and GB swimming record with me so if there was a serious remark
my riposte would be to show them the certificate and enquire whether they
were fit to carry on (though a lot younger).
Meanwhile I had a new bridge partner at Emsworth, Rosemary O’Brien, and I
played at Purbrook with Sandy McKenzie.
Rockfall in Sumner
On 15/2/2011 Eloise was born in Christchurch, NZ.
(see photo 188 of her at 8 months). When she was
a week old the big aftershock hit Sumner and the
house was a write off. Fortunately it was not built of bricks and there
were no serious injuries. Susannah and Eloise were in the upstairs bathroom,
and Morgan and Joshua downstairs in their bedrooms and only had minor
bruising. (see photo 191)
On 19/2/2011 Maeve was born at St Richards, Chichester (see
photo 189 at her 1st birthday party). Valerie went
over to NZ in March 2011 to help Susannah where they had moved to Ashburton.
In August 2011 Malcolm West, Ray Wicks, Peter Hofman and myself had a
get together at Datchet.
Later in 2011 Valerie and I had a holiday near Dorchester.
In late 2011 Sharon Holland asked me to do a history of Portsmouth
anaesthetic department. I wasn’t working full time and I jumped at the
opportunity. For the next eighteen months and beyond I was preoccupied
with this task. I started by interviewing Don MacDougall, and subsequently
was in touch with many former and present members of the department
(Chris Linton, John Moon, Gary Smith, Anne Thornberry etc). Brother John
did an enormous amount of work putting it on to my website.
In April 2012 Valerie and I had a holiday in Whitchurch Canonicorum, and
in the summer of 2012 I had a get together at Wisley with Geoff Talbot
and John Fox (see photo 192).
In July 2012 I did the Otter half mile at Henley
(see photo 193).
In September 2012 I won two tennis finals at the tennis club, one with
Mike Hope and one with Sue Palmer.
Later in September we had the 45th reunion of graduation with my year at
St Mary’s Hospital.
On 21/11/2012 Juniper was born at St Richard’s Hospital, Chichester
(see attached photos of her taken in 2013, one by herself
(Photo 194 and one with
her mother 195).
Valerie and I had another holiday in late 2012, this time in Norfolk.
Maeve at 1 year
Eloise 8 months
Summer 2012. Geoff Talbot, RJP, John Fox
Youngest Daughter and Juniper
2013 to 2015
In early 2013 I think Malcolm, who had been complaining of a sore
right shoulder, was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma and started treatment.
In February 2013 Valerie and I had a holiday in Madeira.
On 15/3/2013 we had the opening of the QA anaesthetic museum (see
photos 196 of the four intensivists, from left to
right Peter McQuillan,
Bruce Taylor, Gordon Craig and Gary Smith, and of John, Valerie and myself
The museum was named after Alex Larson, and his three children came to the
Other developments in 2013 were my joining the Dorset cycling network so
I could go on bike rides while staying in the hut, and the starting up of
the U3a in Rowlands Castle, I joined the history, cycling, astronomy and
Matthew Wood our CD saw me in June 2013 and said the hospital were
retiring the “retirees.” I was to get three months notice and would
finish at the end of September 2013. I said I was grateful I had been
kept on so long. Two weeks later he approached me again and asked if I
would like a zero hours contract from October 1st 2013 until my
70th birthday. I said yes please. I didn’t bill for any of the NHS sessions
I did on my zero hours contract, but was able to stay in the private group,
with only one dissenter (Peter Heath).
In July 2013 I gave a talk on the history of Portsmouth Anaesthetic
Department at The History of Anaesthesia Society meeting in Kendal.
In September 2013 I won my last tennis trophy at the village tennis club,
the over 60 mens doubles with Gerry Ashton, my tenth title.
Osteoarthritis (principally left knee and subsequently back) precluded
me from being competitive any more.
In November 2013 Valerie and I had a holiday at Lower Knapp farm in Devon.
Susannah was given a six month unpaid
attachment working two days a week in the QA anaesthetic department. Kathy
Torlot overheard me talking to Debbie Marsh about Sue and asked if she
could help. It led to Sue’s appointment as a permanent specialty doctor
in anaesthetics at QA Portsmouth. Kathy deserved most of the thanks, but
Elisabeth King and John Burden also helped a lot.
In the spring of 2014 Valerie and I went to Beddgelert for a St Mary’s
Mountaineering club reunion.
In June 2014 I went to the UK long course championships in Swansea and got
a silver in all three backstroke events.
I retired on my 70th birthday and had a retirement party which Sharon
Holland kindly arranged, and Nick Barnes gave a valedictory speech
(see photos 198 and 199).
Shortly after I was contacted by the hospital who said they
were thinking of putting me up for an award (I suppose OBE or the like).
There was a lot of paperwork involved, and I didn’t really think I
qualified so I declined the offer.
Meanwhile there was a difference of opinion with our next door neighbours
over their intention to build an extension to their house which would have
been on top of and looming over our swimming pool. When they would not
compromise I had to go to the Parish Council meeting to make my point.
I won and the new garage had to be moved in the plans to nearer the road,
but sadly it soured our relations with them, particularly Anne Webber.
In October 2014 I won the 200 backstroke in the short course nationals in
Sheffield. The training and effort was getting harder.
Not long after and a few days after swimming for Hampshire in the county
championships I hurt my back lifting a bag of green waste at the tip and
have developed dysesthesia and neuropathy originating from the L2 L3 disc
space (I had an MRI scan), and getting on for a year later no real
Wilbur was born at home 30 minutes into the New Year of 2015
(see photo 201).
In the spring of 2015 Eloise and Joshua were christened
(see photo 200).
In April 2015 I withdrew the first instalment of my USA IRA pension.
Unfortunately it triggered a response from the recipient bank in the UK
(HSBC) and the result was hours and hours of work and not inconsiderable
expense in backfiling USA IRS returns and FBARs under the streamlined
amnesty program which is ongoing at the time of writing (August 12th 2015).
On a happier note Susannah was married in Elsted on 25th July 2015 to Mark
Roland (see photos 202, 203). They are living at the top
of Rowlands Castle. Mark
is chief of medicine at QA, and very good with Sue’s three kids. His
younger son George had a nasty head injury in late 2014 but made a
miraculous recovery, with thanks due to the Southampton paediatric and
So I have now been retired for over a year. Unfortunately osteoarthritis
(principally my back, but also both knees particularly the left knee)
has put a damper on things. However with anno domini it is what is to be
expected. Valerie has been a tower of strength all these 40 plus years.
Opening of Museum 15 Mar 2013
Joon, Youngest Daughter, James and Wilbur
Mark and Sue
Mark & Sue's wedding -
I have finally checked everything out and am pleased to say that
your Closing Balance for Year End March 2015 stands at Ł4362,
so not insignificant. I have asked Alison to arrange payment to
you asap. I'm sorry it has taken me so long to sort this.
Thanks for all the hardwork on behalf of PAG over the many years
and for going well beyond the call of duty. We miss you. Please
enjoy the final payment it is well deserved (and hard earned!).
I hope life is treating you well and you continue to enjoy your
retirement. Pop in and see us sometime. I need cheering up after
the Rugby World Cup.
(Nomination for a National Honour, I declined to be nominated).
The CSC has been asked to identify individuals for a Nomination for
an Honour. Matt, Phil and I wondered if you would be willing to be
nominated for your commitments to your longstanding work for PHT and
your dept. If you accept we would want to ensure the nomination form
had all the correct detail so we would ask that you complete some of
the form yourself (i.e. the section of address, time at certain roles
and the detail of the charity arrangements you have made to date). We
know that you have undertaken a lot of projects and would not want to
"sell you short" in the nomination so any additional information you
can give for our completion would be welcomed; the more detail you can
give us the better we can make our citations. The "Further Guidance
Letter" summarises the detail we may need. The guidance also says
"What makes a good nomination? - You need to describe what is special
about your candidate's achievements and show memorably and persuasively
how they have made a difference. The weakest nominations are those which
read a bit like CVs or job descriptions. The best are those which
demonstrate the impact the individual has made, showing how they have
overcome obstacles or gone the extra mile. See if you can provide clear
examples to show how they are head and shoulders above their peers or a
role model to others, often serving over a number of years". If you are
not happy to be nominated (as some people aren't), please just let me
know. Deadline for completion to Liz Malo is Friday 5th September as we
must have it finalised by the CSC Team to submit to Ursula Ward by the
Conceived, written and copyright © 2014, Robert PALMER,
All Rights Reserved.
Compiled, formatted, hyperlinked, and hand-coded
2014 by John PALMER,