A Veterinary Life (1964-2013)

Location : Acle

I was born and bred in Norfolk, Downham Market, as the youngest child of four, at the beginning of the war in 1940. I went as a boarder to Kings Lynn, King Edward the Seventh Grammar School, which had an influence on my life because I think it makes you a bit more independent. We had dogs at home and I got interested in animals. I thought from a very early age that it would be a jolly good thing to be a veterinary surgeon.

Vet studies in Glasgow

Hugh Brown, who ran the practice in Downham Market was a hard-drinking tough little Scotsman. He swore every other word but he was jolly good to me. He rather adopted me as the child he never had and I used to spend my summer holidays going around with him and his assistant vet. It was a two-man practice. Hugh Brown and his assistant were both Glasgow graduates, so I was absolutely delighted when Glasgow offered me a place even though I’d still to retake my A levels. I was only just eighteen, and of course I took it with both hands. I had a chance to go straight into their second year (in 1959), but as I was on holiday that summer I was very rusty and would have had to take an exam to get in early. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise because I didn’t have to do any work in the first year at all – we’d done it all at A Level.

I enjoyed being in Glasgow enormously. It really was an eye-opener, it was a dirty old city in those days, but it was so friendly and so nice. Lots of people who were students with me have stayed friends and come and see us even now. At our last reunion, which was the 45th in 2009, we had a turnout of 78 percent of those left living and we reckon that was the record of any attendees of any reunion when we were at Glasgow. We were one of the last years that went to the old Buccleuch Street college, which had been originally Glasgow’s fire station. That was a wonderful tradition.

Practice in Hinckley

I qualified in 1964 and got a job with Benbow, Carr & Partners of Leicester and went to the branch practice at Hinckley. It was a very, very busy two-man practice. The boss Harry Hayes was a delightful chap and a lovely family but his passion in life was TB testing, so I was lucky that I saw practice with Hugh Brown as well, where I was spaying cats and doing PDs on cows and all sorts of things. Harry Hayes at Hinkley left me to get on with all the small animal work and we had a massive farm round there. Although it was a happy time I’m thinking ‘my God, if I’d have run this practice I’d have made it more efficient’. I couldn’t believe how old fashioned they were. We used to have Sunday morning surgeries, Saturday evening surgeries. Of course being the two-man practice at the branch we got used to the fact that you worked every other night, every other weekend; didn’t get off till Saturday lunchtime. Every fourth weekend was a so-called ‘long weekend’ when you got away on Friday lunchtime.

I started at Hinckley the week before I qualified. Marna and I got married and we had our first child at Hinckley, so we were in the new practice with a new baby and all the things that go on. It was a very busy life. Then Hugh Brown who had the practice at Downham Market died and his assistant at that time, Stan Seymour, rang me and said ‘come on, leave Hinkley and come to Downham Market and we’ll set the world on fire!’ Well it didn’t work out. Stan was a delightful chap, but he had no responsibility as far as dosh was concerned. I am one of the few veterinary surgeons who can say that I was sacked, and that was because my pay check bounced. I was looking round for something to do with a new wife and a new baby.

One man practice at Acle

I saw an advert ‘Mixed Practice for Sale, East Anglia, turnover roughly £10,000 and so wrote off for the job. Hopkins was selling up at Acle. I said to Marna on the way home from seeing it, ‘I have got to have it, it was just meant to be’. Her riposte was ‘we haven’t got any dosh’ which of course we hadn’t. I still had an overdraft! So I went on my knees to a nice bank manager at Downham Market he put up the money with one of the insurance companies. Although it was a two-man practice I ran it as a one man band to pay off the debt. I was young and fit and Marna was a qualified nurse and she used to be my practice nurse and do all the dirty work in the practice. I mean it was quite extraordinary how we managed. We used to put the baby in the carry cot when we were spaying bitches and so on. Also, when Hopkins retired he hung onto the quarantine kennel business which enabled us to share a secretary. I started to employ dear Mrs June Oldfield,  entirely on my own in about 1969 and she stayed with me until 1999 so she was my secretary for 30 years and we never had a cross word. She looks in now and I see her every morning when I go down the marsh and see my horses, she hasn’t changed a bit.

The practice was 90% farm work and I used to reckon to have to do thirteen farm calls a day before I started making money. Again, most extraordinary, we just got on with it. I mean in your early thirties you can do that can’t you. We did night work, usually in September we never had a night when you were in your bed all night, simply because all the heifers were calving in September. A big thing in those days.

It was quite a big practice. Before the war it was called Wardrows of Blofield and Acle. It was taken over sometime before the war by a chap called John Barr whose practice was the bottom of Mill Lane, Acle. The stable is still there which was where the old consulting rooms were. It was bought in 1940 just after the war started, by a wonderful gentleman called Oscar Vernon Gunning, Fellow of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and Graduate of both South Dakota and Ohio State University. A man who had been taught by Septimus Sissons (who wrote the Grey’s Anatomy of Veterinary Work, Sissons Anatomy). Mr Gunning had a very prosperous practice in the Midlands and decided to retire at sixty. When war broke out he bought the vet’s practice and came to Acle. Right until his death in 1974 he was the representative for the Eastern Counties of the Veterinary Defence Society and used to go regularly to meetings at Knutsford, Cheshire which involved thirteen changes by British Rail to get there! He was an absolute star of a man, he was a Fellow of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons by examination and I have his paper upstairs on sepsis in foals.

We think we know about public relations! When Mr Gunning was first in Acle and hadn’t got any work at all he used to pay a boy to come into the church at quarter to twelve when the sermon was coming to an end. The boy would be paid sixpence to come up the aisle, tap him on the shoulder, whisper in his ear. Mr Gunning would pick up his Gladstone bag and go out looking very important and all the parishioners used to say ‘who’s that gentleman?’ They’d say ‘That’s Mr Gunning the new veterinary surgeon.’ A marketing masterpiece. The best bit of advice he ever gave me was when you look over the box and whether it’s a cow or a horse or whatever it is, the first thing you do is go ‘tut, tut, tut, tut’ and shake your head so people think the worst, so if you do half a good job they thank you.

I realised that because I’d got a rented house and rented surgery premises, I was pretty vulnerable, although by the early 70s the practice was booming. I did have 100% back up from Marna which looking back was marvellous really. She realised we’d got to get the practice going to see us through. We decided that we’d try and attract the small animal trade because at the time we only had surgeries in the evening between 6.30pm and 7.30pm Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Wednesday was the day we didn’t do any tuberculin testing, so we used to do all routine elective ops on a Wednesday and my God what team work we had. I can’t believe now what we used to get through on a four-hour afternoon and they all lived so we couldn’t have done too bad a job.

The first help I had was a great guy called Rodney Blackmore whose first love in life was cricket. He had his own team and his own ground at Barrow near Newmarket. He did locum work in the winter and came to me in about 1972, He was very capable but in the middle of the winter disappeared to watch cricket in the West Indies. He belonged to a group that used to watch test cricket all over the world and play matches against the local amateur teams at the same time which was splendid for him but wasn’t helpful for me.

The Anchorage Veterinary Hospital sparkles

In 1973/74 we found a house to buy in Acle with a big garden which had been a factory, a bookmaker’s, and a greyhound training place on South Walsham Road, but we bought it for the garden basically. We then designed and built the Anchorage Veterinary Hospital which was great fun because I could do everything that I wanted and avoided being absorbed within the terrible traditions and prejudices of the ‘practice culture’. It meant that I never had a day’s stress in my life really. We opened the veterinary hospital in June 1975. By 1976 I could employ my first assistant who was a guy called Martin Grace who’s gone on to great things I think in the small animal world in Nottingham. He was a very stout fellow and was a Methodist preacher and never approved of me swearing. Everybody used to tell me what marvellous sermons he’d given on Sunday in the village chapel. He was followed by a tremendous Australian with whom I’ve stayed friends, called Ian Anderson who’d come over here and did ‘78/80 with me. I met him in Hong Kong, he’s been over here several times and he’s a real go getter. Then I was joined in 1980 by the wonderful Ian McNichol ‘Supermac’ who came for a long weekend but stayed for well over 30 years.

I think we were six vets in the end. So, the interesting thing is there was still enough work for one vet to be busy on the farms, and that’s how it stayed.

I’ve no idea why we were so successful. Partly because we had the only registered veterinary hospital in Norfolk so we sort of set a standard; it was a very small practice to come up to their standards. And I think we did give a very good service. We saw everyone and I tried to get the sort of philosophy in the practice that our strapline was: ‘the veterinary practice is clean but the Anchorage Veterinary Hospital sparkles’ and I like the idea of sparkling. I used to say to the young assistants ‘you’ll get out of hours calls. Some of them will be unnecessary but you go and do them first time with good grace.

We were lucky to get a very big car-park! Harold High, who died in the mid-seventies. used to come and clear up my horses and things if I was away.. He used to bring me mushrooms as well all autumn, mainly cos he used to do a bit of marsh work. Mrs High came to see me after she’d been widowed and said could I possibly buy the end of their garden which I agreed to do because that would make our car park bigger. I had become Acle’s representative on Broadland District Council, I stood as an Independent and got voted in the same day as Mrs Thatcher which was quite amusing; this was May 1979. Now because I was not only on the council but was also a member of the planning committee they thought they’d better come and have a look. Which involved a fee; I think it was about a hundred quid which really annoyed me at the time. When the planning officers turned up they looked over the fence and said ‘See all that spare land at the back here, Mrs Thatcher is telling local authorities to get rid of all these assets that they’ve never used. Do you fancy buying some of this land off the council?’ which I did. This squared up the car park, so we finished up with a car park big enough for 30 cars which stood us in very, very good stead.

Photo of Roger Clarke from Marshland by Mark Cator. ISBN 0-9551897-0. Printed by Saxon Norwich. Published by Mark Cator Publishing. www.markcator.co.uk. Photos and text copyright 2005 Mark Cator. All rights reserved.

Changes on farms

The topography of the area is that we are ten miles from the sea and between Acle and the sea is nothing but marshes which meant that traditionally dairy farming was very big on the periphery of the marshes. In Oby, then Filby and Caister-on-Sea, there were lots and lots of dairy farms because there was cheap grazing on the marshes. And similarly, with Reedham and Wickhampton there were lots and lots of dairy. Of course dairy farming was grist to the mill to a veterinary surgeon, particularly in those days because fertility was everything. You know the key selling point of a veterinary service to a farmer was ‘we can get your cows back in calve quicker and therefore they will spend less time dry and therefore you can make more money’. Because of experience in Glasgow I was very competent at pregnancy diagnosis and this sort of stuff which really in the practice hadn’t been heard of much before. But then they started ploughing up the marshes.

I owe an enormous debt to a chap called Andrew Lees who became the original conservationist of the Norfolk Broads. He convinced the Ministry of Agriculture that the great Norfolk Broads marshes, which run around about to 150 square miles, were the last great wet wasteland in Europe. The result of all this really led to the Broads Authority and  that led to the fact that farmers were then paid not to plough up their marshes. Now I always said in the 1970s that either all our marshes would be like the fens driving from Kings Lynn to Sleaford where it’s wall to wall sugar beet and no grass at all, or I always rather fancied that Great Yarmouth would become the new Euro port and that there would be a deep-water port like Rotterdam and the wasteland behind the marshes would be London’s third airport.

So, we had a great resurgence then because it had become profitable for farmers to keep calves again. But it gradually faded because there was less money in milk. Also getting labour, and the generation of farmers’ sons who weren’t interested in the seven day a week commitment that was dairy. Generally, though I think that was economic, they weren’t making the money and gradually they gave up the dairy. When I left the Acle practice there was only really one sizable dairy farm left , whereas at one stage just the little Acle practice looked after 3000 dairy cows. Virtually all of those used to be PD’d regularly, (pregnancy diagnosed) and post-partum checks, and we used to try and do weekly visits and farmers were happy to pay for that.

The pigs disappeared the day I joined the Veterinary Pig Society funnily enough! Wall’s ice cream company had a company called Wall’s Supermeats or something, they used to make the Wall’s pork sausage which was not a very fine product but they had a multiplier farm at Limpenhoe. We had a tremendous amount of expertise put in to these. I remember the Piétrain crosses that came from Belgium and how technical it all was. Fattening pigs never made any work for us, but on the other hand any parish you went to the people who worked on the land had large gardens and most of them kept a few calves or a few pigs or something in the back yard which was one of the most amusing things.

They’d ring up and say ‘Can you come and do it on Sunday?’ My response was ‘Of course we can do it on Sunday’ because that was the only day they were at home .

I don’t think we had a lot of ewes and lambs at Acle. It’s always the breeding stock that makes work for veterinary surgeons. You can see marshes full of store cattle fattening and they don’t make any work, you’ve got to have the breeding stock.

We had quite a big horse round. We were very lucky in that we had Ray Cook from Oby who single-handedly saved the Suffolk horse. They got down to about forty births I think on the stud book in about 1970 and Ray hung in there and really saved the breed and we had one or two quite big studs. We were lucky to have Brian Banham who had Shires, a big Shire stud and they was all very interesting work, but we didn’t have any flash horses. We didn’t have any race horses or anything like that, a few eventers and lots and lots of kids’ ponies. At that time gymkhanas were very big business and if you went around the coast starting at Caister and went around to Browston there were lots of families who spoiled their daughters with very expensive ponies which made good work. We also had a splendid American who bred American quarter horses which again was quite interesting and gave us something different to do. We did three caesarean sections on mares which you wouldn’t dream of doing in general practice these days, but we were all there was. If we didn’t do it the mare would die so it was all a challenge.

I felt one of the sad things was the newer generation of veterinary surgeons, wonderful as they are, their main worry in life was being sued for negligence. We used to try everything  – mending dog and cat bones was so easy with pins and plates, it was like doing Meccano and people thought it was absolutely wonderful. Younger members would send them off to the specialist. It may have been better for the animals but we had a very high success rate.

Night work and call out were just part of life. The only reason I could live this privileged lifestyle is the fact I was prepared to turn out at midnight on a Sunday and put somebody’s calf bed back or something in a cow.

You just accepted you were in a profession that was a caring profession, and this was part of life and you just got on with it. You knew what you were letting yourself in for before you started and in many ways it led to a very agreeable way of life. People were grateful. They always grumbled you were far too expensive but suddenly since I retired I realise how reasonable I was.

Remote farms

A big change was the bulk milk tank. When I was first in Leicester they still collected churns at the farm gate. The farmers put the churns out on a milk stand at the farm gate and the lorry would come along and pick them up. By about 1970 when I came to Acle everybody had to have a bulk tank, so you had to have a concrete road for the tanker to get down to the bulk tank. It did make life for most of the farms really quite a lot easier.

A fairly unique thing about being at Acle was the stock of the old farms on the marshes:, and that certainly could make things difficult. From Acle to Great Yarmouth is roughly nine miles. Acle New Road is the most horrifically dangerous road in the world. It’s a straight road with one bend in it, which was built in 1840. It’s followed on its south side by a single railway line which runs from Norwich to Yarmouth via Acle. So, we had farms that were off the Acle New Road on the right-hand side going to Yarmouth. somebody would ring up and you had to first of all turn right off the Acle New Road which, when it was busy, was a nightmare because you were waving out of the window, you were flashing your flashers and still people were overtaking you. You then had to find the gateway you needed which, even when you’d done it a hundred times you’d be amazed how difficult it was to wait and catch the right gateway. Then having survived turning right against the traffic you then had to cross the railway line which was always a problem but particularly if it was foggy, because you had to park away from the gates, clamber up the embankment of the line, open the first gate, prop that open, walk across the line, open the second gate then hop back in your car and hope if it was foggy, you could hear a train coming . As soon as you got to the other side you’d hear the train go swooping past and then you had to shut all the gates.

Some of the places we went to were just horrendous, we used to service the farm at Berney Arms which is beyond the Berney Arms pub which is one of the few pubs in Britain which has its own railway station. The railway lines run from Norwich to Yarmouth. One line runs from Acle straight to Yarmouth and the Berney Arms line branches off at Reedham on the river Yare then branches back to Yarmouth. To get to the farms  there were twenty-three gates in the summer, including two railway lines to cross. Then you had  to drive up on Breydon Bank to get to where the farm was the other side of the Stracey Arms pub. The only time I was ever grateful for having veterinary students in the practice was if I had to get over the Berney Arms; you could get somebody else to do the gates. And were twenty-three lots of cattle trying to get through the gates. I had to open the gate then run at it with the car to get through and each gate required its own locksmith – they each had their own technique. Some you lifted, some you pushed, some you tied with string, you could lose a finger on these damn gates.

On the way back once I lost it on top of Breydon Bank and my car slid down the bank nearly into the soak dyke, so I was completely stuck. Somebody else came along with the tractor and radioed (no mobile phones then) my garage to pick me up from that godforsaken place. So: fee for visiting and treating this cow: seven guineas; cost from the garage to tow my car: eighty-eight pounds.

We had a wonderful experience once at Clippesby Mill which is upstream from Acle Bridge and the only way to get to it was by river. Alan Johnson had a boat yard at Acle Bridge and he used to let us borrow a little day launch to go up there in the summer. I went to the football at Norwich one Saturday and my wife said dear old Mr Bailey from Clippesby Mill had rung to say he’d got a ewe he was worried about. I went to the entrance which is on the Acle Causeway, the other side of Acle Bridge and you had to park there on the main road and then walk across to Clippesby Mill which was about a mile and a half across about eight different marshes. I had to take gear with me and as I set off it began to snow. The wind was blowing from the East as normal and by the time I got there, to his house, about seven o’clock, I was like a snowman. I rattled the door, and nobody came, so I rattled the door again and I heard about fifteen chains and locks being freed up and Mr Bailey stuck his head out and he said ‘Oh it’s you. I don’t think we’ll bother her at night now; I’ve taken my boots off!’ I must have said some four-letter words I think.

Personalities – the marshmen

They were all Muttons or Mallets on the marshes. Little Freddie Mutton was a tiny man, but he was a very good marshman and he would always carry your calving jack for you, you know, which was quite heavy. He used to walk at about fifteen miles an hour. He had tiny, tiny steps and by the time you got to the cow that you wanted to calve down you were just exhausted trying to keep up with Freddie Mutton.

Billy Mallet was the one who used to keep cattle for other farmers and I went there one morning with Charlie Lanham.  The Lanhams were a famous, famous family of carters and cattle dealers and they were great customers of mine. When we got there, Billy Mallet had not got the cattle in ready for us to do blood tests or something. Charlie Lanham went to the door, Billy Mallet came round and he said in his whiney voice: ‘well I thought that was too hot Charlie’ he said.

The big character was of cause Charles Wharton Senior. When I arrived here he didn’t know he had a thousand cows. When I did his tuberculin test which was 1969, we did over a thousand because the calves and everything had to be done in those days. He and I got on like a house on fire mainly because when I first went to his herd they hadn’t even got a decent way of identifying the cows. I told him no  wonder you’re not making any money out of these cows because half the damn things haven’t been in calf for years’. So that’s when we initiated his fertility work; and I used to go once a week and PD about forty or fifty cows, I used to ask the cowman ‘when did she last calf down?’ and he’d say ‘three or four years ago’. I used to say to Charles Wharton ‘She’ll have to go, she’ll have to go’, and he always used to say ‘I can’t afford that’. It just became a bit of a standing joke. He was ever so cunning cos if you did say forty-five PDs, he’d slip in a few from the week before. If the next week you said ‘she’s eight weeks pregnant’ he’d say ‘you told me last week she’s eight weeks pregnant, it must be nine weeks this week!’ Well he was well renowned in his own lifetime. My best friend when we first came here was his son James who died in an aircraft crash.

There were a lot of characters.  There were lots of Hewitts, it was one of the great names round here. We had a new nurse at the practice and she’d written in my book, after lunch ‘can you go and see Mr Hurt of Reedham because he’s got some sick calves’. So I thought ‘Hurt?’ but I guessed who it was so I went to see Aubrey Hewitt’s calves. As we were getting cleaned up in the kitchen and going to have a cup of tea ‘Aubrey’ I said, ‘we’ve got a new girl in today’ I said, ‘she had you down as Mr Hurt not Mr Hewitt’ and he looked me in the eye and said ‘well I am Mr Hurt’. He couldn’t see the joke you see so I just had to back off.

Highs and lows

Well the highs definitely were to be your own boss. The boss is the bloke who has the best of it. He has the worry, he’s the one who has to go to the bank manager and beg, but you know you can make your own mistakes. The best bit of advice I’d ever give anyone would be never take on a partner. It’s like being married but with none of the compensations. You’ve got your money tied up with somebody else that you don’t know that well; it’s a disaster. I was lucky that at twenty-seven years old, only qualified four years, I was able to set up a practice the way I wanted it run. That was a joy .

Everybody thought it was terribly old fashioned. For example, our surgeries were always without appointment. Now that sounds horrific today when you must have appointments for everything but when you go to Tesco’s you don’t have an appointment. Tesco’s’ just cope and serve you stuff you see but this craze for appointments in my opinion leads to nothing but stress. If somebody comes in and they can see you’re busy they quite happily wait. We had this big car park and we used to give people coffee and newspapers and comics for the kids – a lot of them quite enjoyed it. Later on when we became computerised we could tell how long people had been waiting since they booked in. If people had been waiting forty minutes or so it was, ‘I’m terribly sorry to keep you waiting’; ‘oh I don’t mind, I can see you’re busy’. Whereas with an appointment system everybody is immediately under stress. You are under stress cos you know you’re running late, the customer is under stress because he’s probably gone to no end of trouble to get there by quarter to nine in the evening instead of quarter past so he’s all upset … We had a rule for example that every lunchtime and when we’ve finished evening surgery we tick every box on the book; so everyone had been rung up, everyone had been seen who needed to be seen. That way every day you’re under a fresh start.

The other thing was the payment. Because we started as a farm practice everybody had an account. In fact, it was quite revolutionary when I said, ‘Well we’ll have monthly accounts rather than quarterly accounts because that was more efficient for the cash flow. But people were saying to me ‘well think of the money you’re losing, all of that money out of the bank’, but I used to say, and I still say it: ‘look, if you are having a relationship with a professional person you expect to be rendered an account’. I don’t expect to go and see my solicitor, have half and hour chat with him and then have a slip of a girl saying ‘right that’s a hundred guineas please’., I expect him to render me an account and then you feel you’re on his books. So if you have to ring him up at nine o’clock at night you don’t feel too bad about it you see. All this business: must get cash up front; turning yourself into a cash business to me is very short-sighted.

I’m horrified when all the practices, which they do these days, turn themselves into pet shops. There’s nothing but leads and collars and dog food. I could have tied up a thousand pounds in dog food which I could sell eventually, at a profit fair enough, but I’ve got to store it, I’ve got to get somebody to sell it and then I’ve got to wait to get my money in. So, to earn ten pounds on that is a lot of hard work. If I actually took the trouble when somebody picked their dog up to go and see him and go through the x-rays with them and explain what’s going on or what I thought his prognosis was, then whether I charge them a hundred pounds or a hundred and twenty pounds they were still going to be happy because what I was selling was my expertise. If anyone’s got any sense what they do is concentrate on the things that only they can do. And if people can buy a dog comb down at Boots for ten pounds and you’ve got it hanging on your rack for twelve pounds they immediately think you’re ripping them off. Commoditisation, I argued about this with virtually everyone else in the profession.

There weren’t many low points but if there were I think possibly falling out with staff because you’re a small business. We like to think that everyone rubs along terribly well but every now and again something would happen, usually something which is nothing to do with you, and you can immediately pick up in the practice the vibes. You know there’s tension and I found that sometimes really quite difficult really because I’ve got not an ounce of sympathy in my body for human beings. I used to always say if ever one of my nurses would come into my office they always left in tears. I used to say thing like ‘for God’s sake get a life and stop making a damn fuss about nothing’ and unfortunately, they’d burst into tears. I think that wasn’t my area of expertise and I used to find that difficult – but people who employ human resources staff: still have the same problem, there’s no panacea for this.

Retirement

I sold out to Central Veterinary Services who came along when I was well into my seventies. I had begun to ease off when I was sixty-five. I stopped doing night work and weekend work which was brilliant. Nobody in the practice wanted to buy you see because whatever happened they would take a drop in earnings for the first few years if they had to borrow money to do it. Well you can understand that they’ve got debts coming up: university these days, they’re trying to buy houses at two hundred and fifty thousand pounds; no wonder they haven’t got any money left to put in the practice. I think again we were a lucky generation. If I went back to the 1970s, it was well predicted that goodwill was a thing of the past and don’t rely on it, that’s an old-fashioned idea and you won’t get any goodwill for your practice. Thankfully for my generation the corporates have come along and they have increased the amount of goodwill enormously. Since then I am surprised how very quickly the staff changed. The big disappointment was that they dropped all the farm work although they promised me that they would keep it as a veterinary practice and of course they also dropped the hospital status which I’m devastated about. But you know, that’s life isn’t it.

The farm work is simply dissipated because that’s just gone to local practices. They were informed that the Acle practice wouldn’t be doing any farm work as from next Monday and find yourself another vet. I expect my colleagues and neighbours were rubbing their hands.

Now I’m retired I am not doing a lot. I had an idea people would beat their way to my door and ask me to take things on but they haven’t. I sort of feel I’m the forgotten man, but I took up driving horses which I had great fun doing for the last twenty, thirty years. That’s another story I’ve got about driving horses, but we had great fun. My last driving mare is thirty and out on the marshes at Thurne. By accident really, a few years ago we got into thoroughbreds which has been tremendous fun. A great friend of mine who runs the local garden centre and I bought some wonderful horses. We have a funny old thing called Scruffy Skip who won I think, eight races for us; at a very low level but still eight races. We had a wonderful chap called Tarik Too at Newmarket and he won all over the world. We took him to every race course in France nearly. We took him to Oslo and raced him. When he had to retire a couple of years ago we dropped on to a gelding called First Sitting and he’s been an absolute star; he’s been in group two races and we just can’t believe how good he is. He’s beaten the best horse in Europe in August this year.

 

Roger Clarke talking to WISEArchive on 22nd November 2017 at Acle.

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