We gathered once again for the 65th anniversary of our first meeting in the university’s Anatomy Department. Eight of us are left, but another eight are still living in the far corners of the world. We were like a copse of trees, saplings, whips and small shoots to begin with. We needed to be nurtured and trained in our respective careers.
Now, in the late Autumn, we are a dying wood. Our abilities fall away like autumn leaves; our branches crack and tumble. What remains creaks with decay and degeneration within. The killing winter frosts will soon finish us all.
The flicker of emails between us indicated that this would be the last reunion. No point struggling on with fewer and fewer of us – too depressing.
As we met before dinner, a late blossoming occurred. Our bodily discomforts, the aching hip, painful backs, numbness of the feet, the frequent need for a toilet and the grumbling stomachs disappeared, leaving us in a Shangri La of memories, a mythical place of peace and joy. The obese, the wrinkled, the shrunken, the forgetful and the rheumatic became youthful again.
It was good to see Brian, now over his depression since the loss of his wife. A GP for 40 years, he is remembered for crossing the Clifton suspension bridge by climbing up the chains and crawling through the suspension towers. Robert, another GP, practised by day and was a police surgeon by night, called out to murders, discovered corpses and drownings. A great cricketer in his youth, he married the delightful and vivacious great-niece of W G Grace. He is famous for scaling the walls of Berkley Castle to tend his patient, a sick member of the Berkley family. He is the first man to break in since Oliver Cromwell.
My old and hyperactive friend Peter, slowed by metal hips and plastic arteries, became a surgeon and played a primary role in modernising hospital casualty departments into the modern A&Es. We are unsure how many wives and partners he has had, but the current wife seems to have his measure. He once played rugby for Bristol and built a swimming pool.
Jaqueline, a tall handsome woman, married a medical politician. She kept herself sane by having a secret lover whose name and location no one has discovered. She headed specialist psychiatric secure hospitals and had to face down the politicians who wanted to hang ‘em high or thought the murderers were the victims.
Little Ian, a medical missionary, wasn’t there but sent a message from the Klondike saying he would pray for us.
Ted, the baby of our group at a mere 82 years, was sent by a fearsome ward sister to help a nurse make a bed. The nurse showed him how to turn envelope corners and smooth the sheets. I don’t know who made the beds during their 56 years of marriage, but Ted looked after locals and tourists in Cornwall and was a town councillor and producer of sculptures.
Jennifer did not come this year. Unknown to us, he was a secret transvestite and at the age of 70, decided that being a woman suited him better. Those who lose a limb have a phantom for years afterwards. Being curious, I asked whether she had a phantom male appendage. I never felt it belonged to me in the first place, she told me.
We had four Nigerian colleagues who returned home. Unfortunately, two perished in the Biafran war, another died young and the fourth was still working as a professor of anatomy five years ago.
For an evening, we took on the integument of youth and bathed in glorious memories. Recalling a bucolic midsummer night long ago, I remember Ed, a formidable climber, scaling the Sarsen stones at Stonehenge to witness the rising sun as he stood on the lintel before the rays touched the heel stone and druids beneath.
So we go on, beating against time until the last of us remains. But, yes, we will meet again next year.
Subscribe to Blog via Email