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FOLK TALES with Colin Lambert

BILL BROWN

Mistletoe, Cancer and Contour Lines

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ancer’s a funny subject. It’s not funny-haha, just funny-odd. Daniel Craig stood under the mistletoe when kissing Rachel Weisz in the Queens Arms, Corton Denham. Contour lines show the gradient of the land. Please be patient, all will become clear. Yeovil Hospital is a short drive from Staffords Green, but the journey lasted forever as, in late July, I drove my love, Sheila, for her colonoscopy. She chose hippy crack (gas and air) above Propofol (killed Michael Jackson) for pain relief and watched the whole show on the bedside monitor. Cancer comes in many forms. My dad, sister, son and… I took Sheila to her surgery in early August. The colorectal team were magnificent; everyone made us feel special, from the surgeons to the volunteers running the shop where a copy of The Sherborne Country Way by Bill Brown caught my eye. William Brown was born in Suffolk in 1930. Aged seven, he heard screaming from a Mr Squirrel next door and was scared. His mum said, “He’s just dying of cancer.” Bill was an only child, whose dad ran the village shop. Asthma was a constant companion until a school trip to Switzerland changed his life. He could breathe at last; fresh mountain air filled his lungs. He also fell in love with contour lines. Joined the Austrian Alpine Club, with cross-country skiing in Finland and holidays in mountain huts. Aged 21, he qualified as a geography teacher with a job in Woking. Bill organised field trips to the mountains and the contour lines got closer. He found a passion for photography, making slideshows with the students to present at open days. Back in Woking he organised a 27-mile marathon walk for YHA members. Three other teachers started, but only one finished – Julie, the domestic science teacher. Some 57 years later, she hands she me chocolate 118 | Sherborne Times | October 2017

fingers and a cuppa. They married, moved to Guilford; Julie quit teaching to raise two children and build a self-sufficient garden to feed her family. She loved it and, in their 50s, they purchased a livery yard with 13 acres of land, cows, chickens and the like. A weekly barter with neighbours filled the gaps. “Off-grid – wow, one of my ambitions,” I say. Bill retired at 55 to fully embrace his new lifestyle and mountain huts in Austria were put on hold. In Bill’s words, “a farm is a prison in the country” – their idyllic ‘good life’ and self-sufficient dream became more like a 24/7 job maintaining their growing flock of plants and animals. Bill needed contour lines, not age lines, so they retired to Milborne Port to explore the Somerset and Dorset hills. I excuse myself to visit their loo. You may recall I pee a lot (see ST with Dr Charlie Middle, November 2016). Well, Bill also peed a lot – his Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) shot up from the normal, under five for a post55-year-old, to 45. Must get mine checked again. Yeovil Hospital delivered those fateful words: “William Brown, you have cancer.” In Bill’s case, prostate; in Sheila’s, colon; my sister’s, breast; my son’s, chest; and my Dad’s, bladder. Not wishing to be left out, Julie offers me another biscuit. We discuss stools, Bisto gravy and the chemo that followed her six-hour operation once her own bowel cancer had spread to the liver. She’s now signed off and in the clear. Phew! Bill’s love of contour lines meant he needed hills and valleys, so he designed a book containing nine fabulous walks from Longburton to Bradford Abbas, Trent, Sandford Orcas, and Staffords Green, to name but a few. Friends and family helped to complete it as he has, he says, become “a bit slow between the fences”. Indebted, as are many of us, to the superb work of the

Sherborne Times October 2017  

Timber Millers, What's On, Unearthed, Shopping Guide, Wild Dorset, Family, Art, History, Film, Interiors, Antiques, Gardening, Food & Drink...

Sherborne Times October 2017  

Timber Millers, What's On, Unearthed, Shopping Guide, Wild Dorset, Family, Art, History, Film, Interiors, Antiques, Gardening, Food & Drink...