I know I have said before that, at my age, looking backwards is more comfortable than looking forwards. This was brought home to me last month by an article in the newspaper describing an aeroplane crash at Gatwick exactly 50 years previously, when an Indian Boeing 727 crashed into a house near the runway at 200mph, killing half the passengers on the aeroplane and all the occupants of the house except a baby who was in her cot. She is now now 51 years old and the article detailed her life since the crash. The article brought back vivid memories for me because I had just started a Cardiology job at Redhill General Hospital. In those days, we were on call non-stop and I was called into the hospital just after midnight on the morning of Sunday, January 5th 1969 and I did not see my bed again until the Wednesday. The hospital was full to bursting with seriously burned and injured adults and children, their burned flesh peeling off in sheets, and all covered in liquid mud and aviation fuel. My two most vivid memories are of the all-pervading acrid smell which still haunts me, and the large number of casualties who were beyond hope and died in spite of all our efforts. As a young doctor, the combination of shock, horror and an overwhelming sense of my failure to save these people whatever we did was a strong element in my formative years in my career.
My actual job was as Senior House officer in Medicine. Basically, it involved being available24 hours a day, 7 days a week with half a day off every fourth Friday. I even had an office and a bed, both on the ward, and hardly ever got to my own bed in the flat over the road.
The salary was £1,100 per annum, less income tax and rent for my flat – £17. 8. 3d per month. So, I took home about £65 or £70 a month. However, as I never managed to go anywhere to spend it, I managed to save some of it after paying for the running of my old my old Hillman Mix purchased for £35 and held together with pop rivets and bits of metal. Fortunately, it was black, so touching in the paint on repairs was no problem.

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“How to live and be happy on two acres”: Methwold fruit farm colony, am alternative community in West Norfolk 1898 – 1917


Tucked away in a quiet back water of West Norfolk, there is a small satellite village, which does not distract your view from the road ahead as you spend, probably less than a minute passing through. The the cluster of houses, now known as Brookville, which line the road in to the village of Methwold, are only there because of a bold experiment into alternative living that was the vision of one man and which began at the end of the nineteenth century.

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Last November my publishers asked David and me what amendments we wished to make to our book ‘The Hare’ (published 2005) as they are intending to bring out a new edition in April. In the intervening 14 years David has amassed a large number of new pictures as any holidays we have are normally planned around opportunities to photograph hares. The last break we had was catching up with friends and relations in the south and we started off by visiting my ninety year old uncle who lives in Okehampton on the edge of Dartmoor. Once upon a time there were probably a lot of hares round there but now a-days the best place to look for them is in the churches, which may seem odd. I will explain.
The Three Hares motif is a circular design of what looks to be three hares with only one ear each, but giving the impression of having two. It has actually been around for centuries although no-one knows for certain its origins. As they are often found at sacred sites they are thought to have a religious connection. There are innumerable seventh century ‘Three Hare’ or ‘Three Rabbit’ symbols in China dating back as early as 581AD. These have been found painted on the ceilings of Buddhist cave temples. The symbol also appears on fabric, coins, tiles and other objects; a copper coin found in Iran was dated 1281. It is thought the hare design may have originated in Persia and from there been spread, by way of what is known as the silk route, through its use on precious textiles such as silk which were traded around the world. In the UK it appears mainly in the West Country where it also became known locally as the ‘Tinners’ Rabbits because it was adopted by the tin miners as their logo. In Devon these motifs are found as medieval wooden roof bosses where cross members of the roof intersect. 17 churches in Devon, particularly around Dartmoor, contain a total of 29 of these bosses. In addition they appear in Somerset, Cornwall and Wales. Examples of the motif can also be found in Selby Abbey, North Yorkshire (roof boss), Chester Cathedral (medieval floor tile) and another tile dates back to c1235 at Long Crendon, Buckinghamshire. It also appears on gravestones, in coats of arms and in the church at Long Melford, Suffolk there is a small medieval glass motif window above the north door, presumably representing the Trinity. The Three Hares symbol is also common in other countries such as France, Germany, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Southern Russia and modern China. The church in Chagford on Dartmoor has two ‘Three Hare’ roof bosses and the symbol appears in many places throughout the town. A guide titled ‘The Three Hares Trail’ lists where the symbols can be discovered in Dartmoor and Mid Devon.

William “Bill” Miller 1927-2019

Boughton Church was full on Jan 30 for a memorial service to a long time village resident Bill Miller. The service was led by Rev Ken Waters, whilst the eulogy was given by Bill’s son David, who spoke of his father’s early career in the Royal Navy, before the family move from Ten Mile Bank to Boughton in 1947, to start a life in farming. We were reminded that over the years his father had seen a huge change in farming methods, from horse drawn to mechanisation. David told the congregation of his parents’ affection for Boughton: he recalled that they had had to curtail one holiday and return home as Mum was so homesick. Finally retiring, his father had undergone major heart surgery at Papworth, before becoming a full time carer for his beloved wife Joan, who had suffered a stroke in 1999. His father, he said, with his military background (he always wore his RN veterans hat with pride) had been moved to fund restoration of the village War Memorial, even employing a forensics expert to decipher the inscriptions which time had rendered virtually illegible. The work was done so well that the Memorial is now listed.
Following Joan’s death, after 61 years of happy marriage, failing health in turn meant that Bill had finally to leave Boughton in 2016, for residential care in Ripon, close to his son.
The service over, everyone was able to mingle and share memories, whilst enjoying a nip of sherry and some delicious refreshments. A retiring collection raised, with Gift Aid, £185 each for the funds of the Church and Boughton Cricket Club, both which Bill had supported, in addition to Papworth Hospital and the Canaries – Norwich City Football Club.