Sunday, 28 December 2008

Different kettle of fish now


In the early 70s I used to work in the university holidays at the old East Surrey Hospital just by Redhill Common. I don't remember any outbreaks of winter vomiting viruses or wards closed - it was unheard of. Even on Christmas Day, the patients and their visitors would go and sit in the sun rooms if they could, and enjoy the daylight and change of air.

It's a rather different kettle of fish nowadays at the current East Surrey Hospital.

On Saturday 18th December there were 8 new inpatient cases of that Norovirus, as well as admission from A&E, and 16 ongoing symptomatic inpatients. Overall, since the beginning of December, there have been 99 patient cases and 16 staff members affected. The hospital has a number of wards closed, as well as some bays in others also affected.

They say that there are no long-term effects....

...but an October 08 scientific report states otherwise: - Deaths from norovirus among the elderly, England and Wales Emerging Infectious Diseases, by John P. Harris, W. John Edmunds, Richard Pebody, David W. Brown, Ben A. Lopman.

An estimated 80 deaths each year in this age group may be associated with norovirus infection.

That sounds like a pretty long term effect if you happen to be over 65. The data came from the Office of National Statistics and the Health Protection Agency. If you read the whole paper you will see they are expecting it to get worse.

Back in August the Hospital Trust admitted to me online that they don't carry out microbiological tests within ventilation systems or have any system of eradicating those germs. Neither they, nor the HPA followed up my messages about how this can be put right with UV GI technology, so let's just hope they haven't caused any deaths by their oversights and faulty systems. I could name names, but they know who they are.

This picture shows some contact plate results from the air handling units of 2 NHS hospital operating theatres. The first one shows the growth of germs if you don't do anything about it; the second one shows no growth of germs if you do install UV GI. There is an added blessing that it saves on operating costs.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Royalty in Reigate

If you go to an event in the Holbein Hall at Reigate Priory you will see an array of large colour photographs of HRH Prince Edward when he visited the Grade 1 historic building and Grade 2 park on 9th July 2008.

He was presented with a copy of Mum's book, "Discovering Reigate Priory - the place and the people" and he even mentioned it in the letter of thanks from Bagshot Park.

In the book there are many references to his family of course. One of the photographs is of his sister, Princess Anne who visited on June 28, 1980 for a rally of St John Ambulance Cadets.

Their grandmother, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, used to visit the stables at Reigate Priory fairly regularly, just 21 miles from London. I can remember from my childhood in the 1960s, seeing her black limousine sweeping round from Croydon Road into Church Street, and she waved. She was on her way to see her horses in the Priory stables in Park Lane, where they were trained by Jack O'Donoghue. He had trained many horses owned by her. His obituary in the Independent, 1998, started with"As well as being the oldest licensed trainer in Britain until his retirement in 1996, Jack O'Donohue's other distinction during a career spanning half a century was to send out the 1951 Grand National winner Nickel Coin.

I remember the stables and paddocks were always so picturesque, set in the lovely landscape of a gentleman's country estate, now a municipal park. What a shame that they have been the target of arsonists three times this year and still nothing has been done to conserve them or put them to good use as amenities, as originally intended. Peter Beatty had stated as such in his letter published in the Times during WW2.

I wonder if the Queen Mother and our reigning monarch Elizabeth II knew that Reigate is the almer mater of their Honorary Surgeon, Philip H Mitchiner, and also the hometown of Her Majesty's Honorary Gynaecologist, who safely delivered Prince Charles sixty years ago.

In previous generations, owners of Reigate Priory have also had many royal links. Earl Beatty was a national hero and legend in his time - Admiral Sir David. As owner from 1921 onwards of Reigate Priory, perhaps his finest hour was on the deck of his Grand Fleet flagship, HMS Queen Elizabeth. In 1948 it was sold for scrap.

Reigate Priory was even used as a secret refuge for the royal princes (later Edward VIII and George VI) when there was a big scare about a Sinn Feinn plot to murder some members of the Royal Family and the government. They were guarded by the local police who were 'gone for some time until the scare was over'. Churchill was there at the same time, knowing the geography and acting with political discretion and secrecy.

Edward VII, two generations earlier, was a regular house guest along with the Marlborough House set. There is a huge photograph taken May 20th 1905, along with signatures in the visitor's book of Edward R, the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire (a.k.a. 'the Old Trout'), Maud Warrender, Arthur Balfour, the Cadogans, Ernest Cassel, Violet Savile and her husband, Muriel Wilson, William McEwan and Alice Keppel - "the King's special friend". Years ago when I taught at Reigate Priory School, one of my classrooms was Edward VII's bedroom - very grand, with a fabulous view south towards the parkland, the ha ha, the peaceful sunken garden and fountain. There are connecting doors between the rooms of course.

There have doubtless been other right royal visits. In another book stored in a Toronto university library there is a comment that 'we must not omit to mention' that the future James II resided there. We don't yet have the definitive proof of him actually residing there except that there are firm references that he was co-owner for some time.

Then of course we have the geological links with royal palaces. Reigate stone has always been highly prized and used in the building of Westminster Abbey, Westminster Palace, Windsor Castle, Rochester Castle, Hampton Court's Great Hall, Nonsuch Palace, Hadleigh Castle and St. Paul's Cathedral.

There was also Reigate Castle! Its memory survives in legend and history books - on Reigate Grammar School's badge and the Borough's Coat of Arms.

How far back are the right royal links with Reigate? Well, the Domesday Book of 1086 states that "The King holds Churchefelle in demesne" and "Edith the Queen held it". Edith was the widow of Edward the Confessor. It is lovely to read in Hooper's book of Reigate: Its Story Through The Ages, that William the Conqueror respected her title and allowed her to retain possession of this and her other manors during her life.

It's a shame about the stables being burnt down in 2008 though.

Did those vandals ever learn anything about history or respect? Did they ever apologise? Perhaps nothing will ever be done about it until that rather special jigsaw piece of our royal heritage is eventually bulldozed over and forgotten for evermore. Progress, huh.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008


The Borough of Reigate had a very explosive moment when it was only 4 years old - July 14th 1867.

Alfred Nobel chose a stone quarry in Merstham, Redhill to demonstrate his new discovery of dynamite - what an improvement over the only existing methods, incendiary gunpowder or unstable explosive nitro-glycerine, by adding a packing substance to the nitro such as diatomacious earth, Fullers Earth or even sawdust. This proved to be much safer than nitro-glycerine and it earned him a fortune, leading to his even more famous, lasting legacy of Nobel prizes for good works.

He would probably be turning in his grave if he knew about the scandal of alleged bribery and corruption with the 2008 Nobel awards for medicine. Did a multi-national pharmaceutical company exert undue influence on the judges and so call the panel's integrity into question? Oh well, we shall see what happens. It rather casts an ominously dark shadow over the worldwide HPV vaccine campaign.

Meanwhile it is lovely to know that our local Fuller's Earth, quarried just a couple of miles further south in the Lower Greensand Ridge, is such a useful commodity. There are very few places in the UK where it could be extracted. This very fine type of earth is excellent for removing oils and grease, and decontaminating all sorts of things.

Fuller's Earth is sold in supermarkets as cat litter and face masks, but there's lots more: in the woollen industry, the chemicals industry, engineering, decontaminating army clothing from chemical poisoning, powdering babies' bottoms - and so the list goes on. Fuller's Earth is multi-purpose, and best of all, natural.

I gather that if you use dynamite in a Fuller's Earth quarry you make a terrific plume up in the air with the explosion.

What a great day out it must have been for Alfred Nobel and his newly patented dynamite.

Sunday, 21 December 2008


Today, 21st December, is the shortest day - the winter solstice.

Here's a photo taken early evening, of some woodwork done years ago at my postal HQ - 1, Howard Road Reigate, RH2 7JE by that infamous Great Train Robber/local carpenter, Ronnie Biggs. To cut a long story short, he went off to South America and was rarely seen again.

I don't know where he learned about geometry, but it's a very strange experience, walking up that staircase. There's something not right.

Apparently he learned the carpentry trade in prison so maybe that explains it.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

First Post

Christmas is nearly here. Already I've received a surprise by post. It's a local newspaper cutting from 30 August 1990 about the prizewinning pigeons that helped to win the war. They were pedigree Logans and Barkers, frequently winning trophies and certificates for long distance races in the 1920s. The loft had become so well known that it was called the Great Doods Loft - number 18 Doods Road I'm told.

Early in World War 2, Reigate was chosen as the HQ for Montgomery's South Eastern Command. For the vital messages to and from this control hub, a despatch riders' camp was established just by the hillside near Pilgrims Way, and only a minute or two along a specially constructed road leading down to Underbeeches, where Monty was staying. No one was allowed up there of course and it's all overgrown now, but still the evidence is there. The grand old Victorian houses and new villas in the area were commandeered to accommodate the army personnel.

The War Office also took over Mr Blasby's local pigeon loft. The birds would have cylinders on their legs just like lipstick. Each day one or two of them used to fly in and land on the loft carrying their messages, so there was a sentry on guard, day and night! If the owner's family went anywhere near it, the guard would up his gun. How sad that the owner wasn't allowed to feed or even visit his pigeons. The news item reports that it broke his heart.

Some of them returned wounded, and the birds that survived were in a really bad state by the end of the war. The end of the story? They were awarded pigeon VCs.