I have just found out, two minutes ago, my old friend, William Bunting, died 19th August, in Musgrove Park Hospital, Taunton.
He had lived in Milverton, Somerset in the original house of the famous Deaken family, one daughter, Lavinia, very hot red head, I used to know, whose father signed the cheques for my Council grants, each year, to get me though veterinary college when not resitting and having to rely on selling the 'home brew' revenue, instead, made in two large dust bins squeezed into our tiny student flat.
I remember William very well. It must have been the Spring of '78, being carried into East Reach Hospital, Taunton, by John Long, he, by the way, having jumped off some water fall in Brazil for some chap called Mr James Bond, in some film called 'Moon Raker', as Roger was, apparently, a bit scared of heights....join the club!
John had slipped a £5 note to the Weymouth ambulance boys, on the cliff top, to 'buggar off', once I had realised I was not going to my regular orthopedic surgeon in Taunton. John took me in his own car to Taunton that night, my screamiing in agony having bounced as I hit the ground at an estimated 50 mph. The net result in executing a very, very lucky perfect parachute roll, from a starting point at a 100ft up with a completely stalled airfram facing a 15 mph head wind resulted only in smashed ankle, compound, bruises dissipated along my right side of knee, elbow and shoulder, meaning I would walk, one day and not be a wheel chair job. The classic 'pilot error', running out of height, air speed and ideas all at the same time.
We had been flying hang gliders off Golden Cap, the famous fossil cliff near Lyme Regis, Dorset, long before the advent of microlights. Yes, I had been asked, as a commercial pilot, to put a Stihl chain saw engine on her, with home made propellor and to, literally, run off a cliff. The first accident was near Minehead, near Doone Valley country, 500 ft up.....we were not allowed wheels on our kites, in those days.....CAA strict regs ....."she who has to be obeyed," you know.
As for this second accident, William Bunting told me, as the morphine wore off, he had, that previous night, both condyles of my right leg, tibula and fibula, in his hands, musing the possibilities before causing fixation screws to have me walking, today, over 30 years later!!!! .....see web photo gallery.
Getting back to flight tests for, possibly, the first UK microlight,....... Mr Bunting sorted my fractured shoulder, on another occasion, on another late night, following my test flight, that afternoon, off a 100ft bluff, with my 'chain saw kite' off Hay Moor, North Curry, where we had, most Christmas Eves carried dad's double barrelled 8 bore, used with his home made and loaded black powdered cartridges, to have that 'grey' fleshed goose for dinner. Oh, the memories, trigger pull, pause, 'poumph', a jet of flame out of the barrel, not a bang. As the flight of Teal, less one, continued climbing vertically, me, eight years of age, crouching in dad's home made punt, watch him divert the left remaining barrel for our main meal. The other 'Flight', the old golden retriever, is dispatched, unserimoniously, into the ice broken water to retrieve both birds.
The flight, I am drifting, oh , no, so contrary to my nature.....in our experimental aircraft, that Autumn of ?78 caused my 3rd accident (first ...fractured left scaphoid and ulna....explaining the state of my hand writing...(my story and sticking to it).
William Bunting, once again, sorted me out with a clever op on the shoulder , a putti plat ..spelling, at this time of night , is not importent but to tighten the ligaments and muscle layers over the glenoid cavity which has stopped a re occurence of subluxation or dislocation.
Ah, but the finest memory of all, with my very special orthopod was at Tredegar magistrates, circa, 1994, at the very top of the Welsh valleys.The magistrates case had already been in Chepstow, lost, appealed to the Royal Courts of Justice, won on JR but referrered back to Cwm Bran, whereever that is, stoppped, part heard, for some reason I forget and then retried, for the third time in Tredegar!
I was beginning to get the feeling the courts in Wales or CPS had some vendetta to pursue such a minor motoring matter to such extremes. But, of course, I was new in South Wales.
Brooksy, of all people, demanded he sit in the gallery, to witness the fiasco, my having briefed him in advance of their predictable conduct. Brian Brooks was the local scrap dealer who, too often, had beaten me to French aircraft hangars for neglected 'french beauties'.....one near snow covered Eperney, I remember, Moet country, East of Paris.
But John just recalled the story to me when, in my passeger seat, just days of leaving hospital with William's brilliant work on my ankle, me on crutches and plastered leg, getting my Charlie 150 into Brooksey's scrap yard, 200 yds, uphill, in thick fog, and out, purely to have roast beef lunch, with lots of fat and to take, later, tadpoles in a jam jar for Caspar, my then, first son, is only a smidgeon of what occurred that day.
Back to the plot:
William Bunting, circa 1993, volenteered to give evidence at Tredegar magistrates court, refusing any travel costs, that he had replaced pieces of bone in my right ankle, found in the wrong place, as he produced the x-rays, holding the court's complete attention. His brilliance, for me, to evade the young PC and later police dogs, tracking, allowed my leaping across the very wide watery ditch, up onto a wall to a five barred gate, walking along, trapeze style, to the next wall, keeping my scent well off the floor. Next it was up on to the roof of the hay shed of local farm, to watch for an hour or so as police fanned out across the fields, blue lights flashing, alsatian dogs barking, between sniffs down each hedge row. Then things quietened. William's ankle allowed me to walk two miles to a Chepstow hotel where the hot bath, a double brandy or two, for medicinal purposes, and good company, was all truly appreciated.
William had found it difficult to believe, he said, that an ageing veterinary surgeon, with such an obvious impairment, could have succeeded to have 'outrun' a 25 year old Welsh rugby player. But I could not run, if I had tried, for more than 25 yards, due to the severe arthritis. But was reminded, later however, that Maurice had been picked for Twickenham, as a young lad, for the finals of the public schools seven aside.
It was all too clear that a conspiracy was afoot relating to my Guernsey registered car. If you believe it, he wanted to arrest me for 'failing a road side breath test', for his third attempt! Two perfectly good breath tests had been carried out, but he was then heard to call for 'back up' with no positive reading on the dial.
A slight shiver went down my spine......Guernsey harrassment, all over again. Noone would arrest me in the following months, only stepped up night surveillance outside my Barry veterinary surgery with incidents now before the Cardiff County Court. When he came to collect the car, another veterinary surgreon was dispatched for the purpose only to find the car, retrieved off the M5 by police, in the Chepstow police private car park, but with ignition leads all disconnected, for all the obvious sinister reasons. Another shiver trickled down my spine.
The Chepstow court, refusing legal representation or proper disclosure of records, found me guilty, later, in my absence...it had been nearly 6pm and the case had continued all day. I was on duty as from 5pm. The nurse's bleeper went and she left the public gallary to call the surgery. A possible caesarian was needed at Farmer Williams, Michelston Le Pit, Dinis Powys, meant the obvious, immediate exit. The warrant was soon issued for my arrest. The ensuing 29 minutes bike ride, from Chepstow Court car park to farm gates, was timed by cowman and myself. The nurse had been left, meantime, arguing my corner with Their Worships who, in the end withdrew the bench arrest, much to the chagrin of CPS.....the real cuprits of what was yet to come.
A long outstanding feud, with incompetent, arrogant 'authority', was beginning to re-gurgitate old tactics, at what everthe cost, finally, to block income, for lawyers in the RCVS, to jump on the band waggon, following a direct request from Barry police.
The fact that the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, on 29th May 2001, had relied on this Tredegar conviction, to have me struck off the veterinary register, did not help my demeanour when, later, before the 6th January 2005 RCVS court, for reinstatement, when Sheila Crispin, the then President, said...."each conviction rendered you unfit to practice veterinary medicine."
Time to find another good bottle of Medoc and raise my glass to William and his family on behalf of, not just my old joints but from other similarly grateful patients.