Thursday 27 March 2014




   In big red digital letters the screen reads: ‘Patients who are ten minutes late for their appointment may not be seen.’

   So, if I’m late the doctor has the right to refuse to see me – what reciprocal right do I have? I mean if he’s ten minutes late for the appointment can I fine him? Go home and demand another appointment?

   No, it’s all self-defeating.

   All the rights go one way. Argue and you can be arrested, kicked out and find yourself doctorless. And why? Because there is another sign that says that staff and doctor’s have the right not to suffer abuse at the hands of aggrieved patients.

   Well, my appointment was for 4pm and I arrived 5 minutes ago – now it is ten past 4.

    Should have brought a book.

    Still, there is plenty to read – like the reassuring posters on the wall. ‘Free hearing test if you are over fifty five’: ‘That Pain Could Have A Name’: ‘Blood in your poo – talk to a doctor before it is too late’ and the adverts for things like MacMillan Trust and Specsavers.

    Then there are the magazines. Bella, Best, My Weekly, and Take A Break – I’d be in my element if I was a woman. But who reads things like ‘My Mother Sold Me For A Packet Of Fags’ or ‘I thought my father was really my husband’ – a mistake easily made I suppose though I have no desire to find out which he was.

    Buried amongst all this is a ‘National Graphic’ magazine. Great article on Angel Fish with lots of pretty pictures. If I wanted to look at Angel Fish then I’d buy an aquarium.

    Quarter past 4.

     The TV screen invites me to see a nurse for a check for Chlamydia; followed by a spooky silent film about depression. And then there is the message that there has been a road accident on the A146. All of these things put together reminds me of a song – yes, ‘Reasons To Be Cheerful’. Ian Dury and The Blockheads.

     I start humming ‘Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick’ to angry glares.

     If I was a kid I could go rooting around in the toy box at the back of the waiting room.

     The screen lights up: Mr John Smith to Room J – Nurse Annie.

     Lucky Mr Smith.

     Reminds me of a book .What was her name? Rosie Dixon, Night Nurse that was it – Rosie Dixon the female version of Timothy Lea who’s Confessions Of A Window Cleaner was widely read by many a young schoolboy – and watched by men in long raincoats in the cinema.

   A thought that provokes a laugh – but I don’t share the joke with the grim faced audience that is either engrossed in magazines or watching one of the screens.

4:20 and my doctor is ready to see Linda Green.

I am tempted to demand that the doctor makes a new appointment with me – one that he can keep.

    Someone does go to the desk to complain.

    The doctor is running behind – an attack of diahorea, maybe? No further explanation is forthcoming. The receptionist glares at the elderly patient daring her to kick off. She backs down and shuffles back to take her seat. The receptionist returns to her crossword puzzle.

    4:25 and Linda Green is out. That was a quick in and out – just like that – and she has a big smile on her face. One satisfied patient, then.

    Then nothing.

    5 minutes pass....time enough for another reminder that patients shouldn’t use the doctor’s parking spaces. A misplaced apostrophe has me questioning just how many parking spaces the doctor needs.

    The thought crosses my mind that maybe the doctor’s having a quick fag outside in one of his parking spaces. Might need a bit of down time after the last patient.

Okay – thinking process getting a little out of hand.

There goes that Chlamydia advert again....bad timing.

4:31 and Elsie Jones is invited into the doctor’s office.

I watch her shuffle slowly, her metal walking stick chinking away. It has taken her two minutes to get from her seat at the back to disappear through the door leading to the various surgeries.

The waiting room is empty.

I am the last patient.

After 50 minutes waiting for the 4pm appointment, I walk into the doctor’s surgery.

“Hi, Mr Balcombe,” the doctor beams at me. “How are you today?”

Inanely, I reply: “Fine.”

What a stupid thing to say. If I was fine then what was I doing there.

“So what’s the problem?” he wonders out loud as he studies my notes on a computer screen.

I avoid the temptation to tell him that I think that I have Chlamydia. Just able to check myself as I realise that for 50 minutes I have been brainwashed into a state of hypochondria.

“I’m here about the results of the tests,” I prompt instead. “I did phone but was told to make an appointment.”

He peers closer at the screen; fiddles with the mouse and highlights something. He frowns; glances seriously at me.

I prepare for the worst....but then he smiles.

“All clear,” he grins. “You’re fit as a fiddle.”

And I waited 50 minutes for something that he could have told me over the phone.

50 minutes of my life wasted.

Next time I’m coming armed with a book and an iPod – and you can bet that before I’ve plugged in the ear phones and started on page one the sign will light up with ‘The doctor will see you now’.
First broadcast on Felixstowe Radio 19th March 2014
Copyright Ray Foster 2013

Tuesday 25 March 2014

THE GREAT ESCAPE: 70 years on

On the night of 24th/25th March 1944 76 airmen made their way to a tunnel nicknamed 'Harry' in what was to become one of the most famous escape stories of the Second World War. Of the 76 escapers from Stalag Luft 3 fifty three would not return. Of those two Norwegians and one Dutchman made home runs while the other fifty were executed on the orders of Heinrich Himmler.

Stalag Luft 3 was reputed to be escape proof but even as Roger Bushell (Big X) was planning for the mass breakout another escape was under way. Overshadowed by later events the amazing escape by Eric Williams, Michael Codner and Oliver Philpot using a roughly made vaulting horse made what is regarded as the first successful escape from the east compound the previous October.

The original plan for the great escape itself was designed to cause the greatest amount of disruption to the Germans as possible. Yes, 250 men just walking down the road was Bushell's vision. Roger Bushell had been a British ski champion and barrister - a ski-ing accident had left him with a scarred drooping eye. He had been shot down near Dunkirk in May, 1940 and was a thorn in the enemy's side ever since.

The escape took over 600 men to organise - from forging, scavenging, digging, dispersal and security. The author, and Australian pilot, Paul Brickhill who wrote the book 'The Great Escape' in 1950, was in charge of the 'stooges' that protected the forgers. Although offered a place in the escape he was declared unfit due to his claustrophobia.

However, the tunnel was just a few yards short of the trees when the first escapee broke out this resulted in a hastily contrived contingency plan. In the end only 76 men made it out and fifty of those were destined to die.

Yet, 70 years on and The Fifty are still remembered.
In the woods near Zagen (Sagen back then) there are still remains of the hut foundations, the cooler (made famous by Steve McQueen in the movie) and the line of the tunnel can be seen and a newly erected guard tower shows how close it was to the tunnel.

The Great Escape was a mammoth achievement in both engineering and organisation - and Bushell's plan to cause disruption worked but it cost him his life and that of 49 others. But those who ordered and carried out those executions ended up at Nuremburg, several others have been caught up with over the years.

Friday 7 March 2014

REBEL RUN by Jack Giles

I am pleased to say that this 1985 'western' novel is now available to download. A Kindle version is available via Amazon.

The reason that I use the term 'western' is that while set in the era it is, perhaps, an eastern.

The story of REBEL RUN is set against the backdrop of the American Civil War. The hero is a Confederate Artillery Sergeant with the Virginia (Rockbridge) Battery who, on the 9th August 1862, is captured during the retreat from Cedar Run.

Van Essen is a habitual escaper who is sent to an island prison camp that is reputed to be escape proof. The camp commander has no love of artillerymen nor do the group of Confederate cavalrymen to whom he is attached. They have plans of their own that do not include the newcomer.

This is not just an escape yarn but one that rides the rapids and develops into a running battle against the Federal Army.

I must have enjoyed writing this book as it embraces things that I do remember. Influences of the escape stories that I read when I was young like Colditz, Stalag Luft 3, 'The Wooden Horse' escape by Eric Williams and the First World War classic 'The Road To En-Dor'. Combine all that with an interest in the American Civil War and, I guess it would be inevitable that 'REBEL RUN' would happen. Although fiction the Regiments and Civil War events are factual.

This book was the one that I was reading when my wife, gently, told me that I had written it. For those new to my blog a stroke left me missing 30 years of memories. While Van Essen was captured on the 9th August by  a weird coincidence that was also the date of that stroke.