In Memory of Paul Manning

Richard Brown shares his memories of Paul

I first met Paul in 1975 in G Block Cripps St John’s College when he was a third year and I had just started the vet course. The college used to put new students next to older ones. We immediately realised we were from completely different backgrounds and interests but luckily got on OK and every now and then he would ask me how things were going.
We both attended chapel and I recollect clearly the Sunday early communions followed by breakfast together. Being John’s with its traditions, at the communion we all wore white surplices and formed a half circle by the altar at the front. The altar bizarrely had on the floor the signs of the zodiac portrayed, but that was more cause of amusement than theological debate. Or maybe it was a hint to us to be flexible and expect the unexpected.
Somehow over the years we kept in touch in a very haphazard way although we were in completely different fields, but with two common denominators our Christian faith and a belief in the importance of the general practitioner. Paul’s work in developing the role of GP vets should not be under estimated.
Then one fateful time in the eighties he needed a locum and I needed some work between overseas contracts, so my wife Heather and I travelled down from Scotland to his practice beside the Aston Martin factory. We had an excellent time though my rural Scottish approach needed some fine tuning a few times and Paul was very gentle about that. One case I can clearly recollect.
Paul used to work very hard then developing the practice and even his staff were concerned since his own lunch breaks could be very brief. One afternoon it had been agreed by all that Paul was taking the afternoon off. The only case of note was an egg-bound 9-foot python. I had phoned London Zoo but their charges were so high the owner had decided to run with us. It was agreed we would do the procedure after we had clear instructions from London on what to do. The nurses and I were all primed to go and so we told Paul to go away.
Well, midway through the procedure the nurse performing the anaesthesia fainted and as she fell to the floor she pulled out the ET tube. I still remember wondering which do I attend to first; the nurse on the floor or the rapidly waking and irritated python. My memory is pretty blurred but I think I checked the nurse was OK and someone else grabbed the snake firmly behinds its head (the rest of the body was now on the move) and then I came back and pushed the ET tube down. Half an hour later all was done, egg removed, X ray taken etc.
Then Paul, popped his head round with an enormous grin. Some sixth sense told him to come back earlier. He had just been to reception. “I hear you have had an interesting time!” and then he broke out into his large laugh with tears streaming down his cheek.
When I think of Paul I confess I did assume a lot of him and that shows his great strength and depth of character. He was always charitable in approach, always reasonable, always quick to see the funny side of things, often independent minded but with reasons, always wanted to help, always listened before he spoke and so on. His was a Christian life where ‘life’ came first and ‘lip’ afterwards and I always admired him for that.

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