Doctor Lark: The Benefits of a Medical Education by Bill Larkworthy
|Doctor Lark: The Benefits of a Medical Education by Bill Larkworthy|
|Reviewer: Trish Simpson-Davis|
|Summary: Recollections of a medical career from an assured raconteur. Bill Larkworthy spent 20 years in the RAF, but his experiences working in several Middle Eastern countries are particularly interesting to read right now.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 324||Date: December 2010|
|Publisher: Mosaique Press|
Bill Larkworthy is a pleasant fellow who has lead an eventful, but not world-shattering life. So at the outset it's probably worth saying that this self-deprecating tale won't light many literary fires. If fireworks are what you are looking for, search elsewhere. On the other hand, I always find ordinary people's stories of everyday life fascinating, as well as providing useful background, or what used to be called 'general knowledge', about other parts of the world. Since my general knowledge of the Gulf States is more or less limited to Lawrence of Arabia and current news reports, a little padding won't go amiss. So yes, I did enjoy this read, and I imagine the Saga age group will borrow it in steady numbers from libraries (if they can find one open). It would make a good present for a man of a certain age, which is:
As a lad in the Second World War, Bill lived in Plymouth. He remembers identifying Spitfires and Messerschmitts by their engine tone, a boyish trick he says adults found highly reassuring. Bill Larkworthy had an unusual background when he went to medical school in the 1950's, for his father was an engine driver, not a white-collar professional. One of the earliest beneficiaries of full state funding for higher education, he repaid his debt to society by serving nearly twenty years in the RAF after qualifying as a doctor. In those days there were numerous overseas postings for service personnel, and Wing Commander Larkworthy (as he ended up) seems to have enjoyed globe-trotting as much as the social and medical aspects of his career.
Eventually a locum period in Saudi Arabia led him into civilian life and he spent the second half of his career in Saudi and then Dubai in the United Arab Emirates in hospital consultancy roles. I found these sections of the book extremely interesting. For example, I hadn't realised before that private hospitals in the region are better resourced than UK facilities; or that it's feasible to go camping in the desert, provided you have the right permits; or how extremely difficult it is to celebrate Christmas in an Islamic state, though it can be done.
For those who liked the sociability of ex-pat life, Riyadh was an excellent place, provided of course that the ex-patriate could tolerate the dichotomy between Saudi and Western cultures. Discretion and tunnel vision were required to fit in, and though Bill was evidently prepared to be tactful, eventually he ran foul of a powerful boss and was thrown in jail. Of course, a first-hand account of Saudi jail and justice makes for riveting reading, if only to compare with Libya (actually, it didn't seem that different).
Bill then returned to the Middle East to Dubai, at the very beginning of its transformation into a super-city, so here again his comments are of great interest. He built up his own clinic and eventually retired to France.
In the interests of confidentiality, I am not going to divulge even one of the blackly humorous anecdotes from the consulting room, which give such medical memoirs their unique appeal. I've summarised quite enough for you to decide if you will enjoy this book!
Mosaique Press are independent publishers with a small list of interesting titles heading generally in an African direction. I'd like to thank them for sending this book.
Suggestions for further reading
The Media Relations Department of Hizbollah Wishes You a Happy Birthday by Neil MacFarquhar. I'm sorry, I know I go on a bit about this book but it's the real deal on the background to the Middle East. Beg, borrow or steal it. If you are interested in the development of Dubai, Dubai: The Story of the World's Fastest City by Jim Krane will tell you all. We also recommend Disfigured: A Saudi Woman's Story of Triumph over Violence by Rania Al-Baz.
If you prefer fiction, then I'd recommend Sadie Jones' excellent Small Wars for a picture of 1950's service life in Cyprus.
You can read more book reviews or buy Doctor Lark: The Benefits of a Medical Education by Bill Larkworthy at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Doctor Lark: The Benefits of a Medical Education by Bill Larkworthy at Amazon.com.
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