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Sport 21: Spring 1998

[Letter to the editors of Sport]

page 88

Dear Fergus and James

I'm not sure that I care to reminisce about my 21st birthday in 1947, which was spent in hospital at death's door. I had an infected jaw following a dental extraction which led to a dangerous fever. It was treated with sulphanilamide to which I had a violent allergic reaction. Our doctor rang the Christchurch Public Hospital at midnight and was told they had no beds, sorry. (We are dreaming if we think this never happened before market reforms.) The nuns at Lewisham Hospital (later Calvary) took me in; but penicillin, which was still rare, was only available from the Public Hospital. Having delivered me to the nuns, the doctor raced across town for a supply, and it worked. I spent my birthday (or the day before or the day after, I can't be quite sure) spitting out basins-full of blood and pus from the infected cavity. It was a wan return home a week or so later. One of the few 21st presents I actually remember was Edmund Blunden's life of Shelley, which I recall as very much the portrait of an ethereal poet. That seemed to fit, at least the ethereal bit. I can't think of anything less appropriate for the 21st issue of Sport.