This was a momentous year – the NHS was created. The greatest gift to our nation ever bestowed, and only slightly greater than the Education Act of the previous year.
And we got a proper family doctor! No more bowing and scraping at the door of the Medical Officer of the Met Police and his rheumy eyes and billowing pipe. Our GP was Dr Louis Posner, a kindly, sincere and dedicated man whom I later learned had a very real history. For Dr Posner had served in the Royal Medical Corps and was the first British medic through the doors of Belsen... And he was a Jew...
We all loved him very dearly and I have reason to be thankful for he it was who realised my bronchitis was nothing of the sort and no wonder it had not responded to the treatments. I had asthma. He quizzed mother about my history and, she told him about the V1 in Streatham.
In those days treatment for asthma was difficult. There were no inhalants, no steroids. The solution was a drug called ephedrine. It came in minute tablets of a quarter grain. It relaxed the airways but had one critical side effect – it caused hallucinations. Mine took the form of monstrous goblins piling over the end of my bed like a Tolkienian army of Orcs. I was convinced they emanated from those two huge jars on the wardrobe...
When it did work well was during the day when I could be restored to decent activity by a single tablet within the hour. That was miraculous. Just don't nod off...
Dr Posner was to play a critical role in our lives from then on, as any good family doctor should.
This was also the year of the tonsils. Back then their purpose was little understood, their propensity to swell up and cause all sort of problems rated a nuisance. They had to go. Mine went at Hornsey Cottage Hospital at a time when patient care, even of children was not good. Thus it was that my wrongly informed parents did not show up to sooth me like all the other kids but obediently stayed away. Thanks Dr Stowers and if only Dr Posner had arrived earlier!
By the way the many years of continuous low level upper respiratory tract infections which dogged kids into the 60s was probably caused by removing the front line defence against infections - the tonsils.
These were the Mike and Nick years for me. Mike would have been about 14 in 49, Nick 12. Both were keen aero modellers and they drew me into the craze, But they were different. Mike loved the thrill of the highspeed engine-powered control line aircraft, which involved the flyer hanging on to a control bar and keeping his fast charge in the air. Nick preferred the quieter world of gliders and rubber powered aircraft. I was the annoying brother aged 6 who had to be amused. It would be possible to write an entire chapter on the activities of our modelling days – some fast, some huge and slow, some to be controlled by a radio my grandfather never built, small jetex powered hyrdoplanes which annoyed the hell out of everyone at Broomfield Park – but which commanded massive public enthusiasm as well!
About 1951 Mike was called up and joined the REME. Two years later Nick went off to train as a journalist. The house was empty – except for three Elkhounds, two corgis and various litters of saleable puppies at different times. Oh and two cats. And a budgerigar. And my hamster.
Nick's move requires a brief diversion. Holidays became a feature of our lives in the late 40s and early 50s. We would decamp by bus, coach and train to Susses, mum's old home. At first we stayed with her aunt Laura and Ralph in Lewes. Ralph was the editor of the Sussex Express and County Herald. And that explain Nick's decision to leave school and become an apprentice journalist at Ralph's newspaper. In Lewes.
Back to the dogs: We showed the Elkhounds at a variety of show across the UK, travelling by train. I often accompanied mum and dad Roger would stay with Gran or friends up the road.) I also was taught to be a junior ring show handler.
The year of 51 ended badly. The smogs were terrible and my mother went down with pneumonia in late December. It hit both lungs, added pleurisy and she was rushed to the Royal Northern Hospital, Holloway. Thanks to Dr Posner she got top care and was offered and took a new wonder drug – streptomycin. An anti-biotic it saved her life. In those days convalescence was the treatment and she transferred in January to Grovelands, Southgate. I was old enough to accompany dad on the tube to New Southgate and walk to the hospital. Thus it was that I discovered the nine hole golf course that I later visited a few times but never got the bug.
But my very quixotic father failed to understand that it was the smog that nearly took his wife and blamed itg on the stress of breeding dogs in a fairly small London house. So he got rid of the entire lot. Two elkhounds were sold, one corgi dittos. The breed corgi, Sally, was given to Miss Cross, one of my teachers and who lived up the road. And the hero or my young life Buster (Gelert of Vealsholm, CH) was given a grand new life far way in the Welsh hills courtesy of his breeder who knew farmer with a need of a house dog.
So when mum came home from hospital her first words were “Where are the dogs?” and when told by dad she flew into a rage that shocked me even if it did not shock him. He never, ever understood women, my father.
1953 was indeed the year of the coronation and Everest. Not much else seemed to matter. Television needs a digression . You see my grandfather was a great innovator and in 1949 or so he started to read Practical Wireless. He built several radios (one of which kept me entertained under the covers at night!). But Up the road and high on our weekend agenda was Ally Pally – Alexandra Palace with its palace, grounds, lake, gardens – and THE BBC!
To be continued....