Most of the obstetric cases at Ishaka were complicated, as I have mentioned, and so when the time came round for our family’s long leave and my continuing education, I decided to study for the Membership of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (MRCOG). This would involve two years of study and practical work in a teaching hospital in the U K. I wrote to try to find a position, but was told that I should wait until I arrived and then apply. My dream was to start a Midwifery Training Course, on my return, with the help of Sr. Lola Hill.
It was in June, 1967, during the Middle-East "Six-Days War" that Lilian and I, with our two girls, flew over to Heathrow and our flight was diverted because we could not overfly Egypt. While staying at the old "Hydro" at Stanborough Park, my two priorities were to find a training post and a place to stay. So I obtained a recent copy of the British Medical Journal and wrote off applications to about six hospitals in various parts of England. Then we drove up to Lowestoft to visit Lilian’s aunt and uncle for the weekend. On our return, I found a message, asking me to contact the gynaecologist at Old Church Hospital, in Romford, regarding a SHO post. The interview was successful and so I had a job.
Dr. Essery offered us accommodation in a little bungalow in Garston. The building needed some minor repairs and considerable painting, but I was willing to do that, in order to have a place for our family to stay. The main drawback of this arrangement was that I would have to be a weekly commuter from Watford to Romford, using the notorious North Circular Road. Also, I would have spent most of my "free" Sundays doing maintenance work on the bungalow.
During my first week at Old Church, the hospital secretary (who was the equivalent of the modern hospital manager) called me to his office and offered me a brand- new hospital flat. It was fully furnished, including linen and cutlery. I jumped at the offer and breathed a heartfelt prayer of thankfulness to God, who had provided me with both a training post and ideal accommodation. We moved in the next week and stayed there until we returned to Africa in January,1970.
Mary was a weekly boarder at Stanborough School. There was a bus that went from Watford to Romford, but she found that too long and boring, preferring the challenge of taking the Underground, even though it involved three or four changes.
We were able to arrange for Jane to attend the Highland House School in Walthamstow. This involved a journey on two buses each way and we wondered how a six-year old child, brought up in the wilds of Africa, would cope. Lilian took her for a week or so and then she was confident enough to go alone. She said, "The conductors know me and make sure I’m all right." One of the teachers, Miss Heppenstall, would meet her at the Walthamstow bus stop and also see her safely on to the bus in the afternoon. Lilian would meet her when she returned.
After six months, I was able to get a registrar post in the "firm" of the senior consultant, in the same hospital. Again, we saw God’s leading, in that we did not have to move house and the girls could continue their school routine.
After some time, when Jane was confident on the bus, Lilian took a position doing hearing tests using an audiometer at a local hospital. She had never done this type of work before, but soon became proficient in the various types of hearing aids and their advantages and drawbacks.
One of the requirements for the MRCOG exam was to write a "Book" consisting of 15 short and one long obstetric cases and 15 short and one long gynaecology cases, that I had cared for, with appropriate commentaries on each. These had to be professionally typed and bound into a "book" which was submitted to the examining board – the equivalent of a Master’s thesis. This involved many hours of research, typing, revision and frustration. My first submission was rejected and this delayed my sitting for the exam by six months.
I had to compile a second version, which, to my great relief, was accepted and I was successful in obtaining the Membership degree in January, 1970.
During our stay in Romford, Michael Parker became part of our family. His mother, Pauline, is Lilian’s sister and lived in Ipswich. About two years previously, Pauline’s husband, Jack, died in a motor accident, leaving a widow and five children. Michael had been very close to his dad and he took the loss of his father very badly. We invited him and his older brother, Paul, to spend a few days with us and a few weeks later Pauline told us that Mike had enjoyed his time with us and wanted to come and live with us. We explained that we would soon be returning to Africa and that we would need to have some legal papers, in case he needed emergency treatment, to which she agreed.
Michael’s experience is a story in itself. In short, the outcome was that he became virtually our adopted son, became an Adventist (very much against his mother’s wishes at the time, but later she also was baptised) attended Stanborough School and graduated from Newbold College. He married Carola Ginbey and they and their two children are serving the Church in Australia.