The Clockwatcher

cover.jpgAs previously mentioned, The Clockwatcher is back in a new revised edition. It tells of my survival and recovery following an air crash in a deep, forested Rocky Mountain valley near St. Mary’s Lake on October 1st, 1983.

Thanks to the skills of many dedicated personnel, the recovery and retrieval of the two survivors of the four-person volunteer search and rescue training flight took only five hours. That wait beside the burnt out wreckage of the plane seemed like a lifetime.

The availability and experience of the eight called-in doctors and a multitude of other medical personnel at Cranbrook and District Hospital, saved the lives of two fast deteriorating, severely injured patients. It was a Saturday night I will never forget.

The midnight flight transfer to the Foothills Hospital burn unit occurred thanks to yet more dedicated personnel.

Despite the horrendous suffering and despair of my three months in the burn unit, the results achieved by that superb team set in motion a recovery that even surprised those experienced professionals.

The long road to recovery included multiple surgeries for fractures and 30% body surface skin loss. A further desolate feature of the first two years was the need to wear a tight, pain inducing, “Jobst” face and skull mask, body suit, and elastic gloves to protect and apply pressure to newly grafted surfaces.

Poverty, depression and stubbornness forced my return to the physiotherapy practice exactly six months from the accident. The appearance of the Jobst mask caused great alarm in my clientele, many of whom fled or were ‘no shows’ for subsequent appointments.

A new element in the revised Clockwatcher is the insertion of pencil sketches at the start of each chapter to give a graphic hint to the printed words. I’m told “a picture is worth a thousand words,” and the sketches proved to be a popular addition in my other book, The Frolicking Physio, which is a more cheerful and entertaining read about my 20 country travels and joyous career.

Eight new eight chapters in The Clockwatcher tell of the wonderful final outcome of that almost life-ending tragedy. Contributing immensely in this success story has been the constant love and caring support of my family and friends, and hitherto unknown helpers. What a fabulous team they have been. I’ll never be able to thank them enough.

I hope that The Clockwatcher can be an inspiration and glimmer of hope for others who find themselves in similar tragic events. It has taken 33 years to write the final pages. The hoped for movie may take longer!

The revised edition of The Clockwatcher is available ($20) at the CBI Health Centre (formerly Cranbrook Physiotherapy Clinic), at 28-11th Avenue South. It is also available in ebook and paperback from the retailers linked on this page.



The Revised Edition of The Clockwatcher….

The Clockwatcher Revised EditionThirty-two years ago on October 1st, life changed radically for me. My interest in flying nurtured my involvement as a volunteer in Search and Rescue. The first practice flight that I engaged in lasted a whole twenty-seven minutes until tragedy struck when the small plane crashed and burned in the Canadian Rockies near St. Mary’s Lake, BC. Two members of the team died as a result of this accident.

In 1988, I wrote the first edition of The Clockwatcher, which described the crash, protracted rescue, and subsequent journey through hospitalization, healing, and rehabilitation. That book was very well received and reviewed in the Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy in April, 1992.

Many things have happened in my life since that fateful day and the revised version of The Clockwatcher has an epilogue and hand-drawn pictures to accompany each chapter.

This new edition of The Clockwatcher is now available in print and ebook form from,,, Apple iBooksKobo, and Barnes & Noble

In the mail from Milan

On a recent -20°C January morning, I had the pleasure of receiving several copies of WIDE magazine—the beautiful quarterly publication produced by Piaggio, makers of the famous Vespa scooter.

Three copies of the magazine arrived from Italy via Fedex, and caused instant cancellation of all my plans for the rest of the day. Among the various articles and photos of gleaming scooters, one story gave me an almost heart-stopping thrill. There, on page 45, was the cover of my book beside a picture of Maureen and I riding my Vespa on our wedding day. It’s a lovely, flattering article (Maureen was pleased to be called a ‘youthful bride’), which you can read by viewing the magazine online.

Congratulations to Piaggio on the 65th anniversary of your wonderful Vespa. As someone who has owned four of your 17 million scooters, I bow to the brilliance of your design and engineering. In the event that some of Wide’s readership finds themselves on this site, I’m posting the “Wee Vespa” chapter from my book as a free download:

Click to download “The Wee Vespa” (PDF format)

Enjoy the ride and the read!

The Shirt Still Fits

In one element of my life, I can proudly say I am the envy of the majority of males my age. It’s a heavy subject that I allude to, and the accompanying pictures give credence to this claim.

Sadly many men suffer the insidious increase of one pound per year from age 20 onwards for the next half-century of their lives. They are then obliged, it seems, to make jokes about their immense girth with statements like, “I’ve paid for each inch and pound of it.”

It’s quite unsportsmanlike of me to say, “Eat your hearts out lads!” as I compare my 16-year-old torso with my 70-year-old physique that still fits into the same Boy Scout shirt 56 years later…

Boy Scout - Then and Now

Lord Baden Powell, the founder of the Boy Scout movement also had a slim, trim figure at life’s end at the age of 84. Of course, his early times in the 217-day siege of Mafeking during the Boer War weren’t conducive to obesity. His secretive prowling around the desert landscape shaped the activities on which he modelled the outward-bound adventure basics of his future Scout worldwide organization.

I can confidently recommend to the youth of today the physical, social cultural and lifestyle values embodied in Scouting. I cannot promise the same results for every youth, but wouldn’t it be so grand to “Be Prepared” to look back in fifty years time and see if the shirt still fits?

Photos show sixteen-year-old Blair (centre) leaving Dumfries en route to the 8th World Scout Jamboree at Niagara on the Lake, Ontario in 1955 (recounted in Chapter 9 of The Frolicking Physio), and Blair today.

Letter from Joanna Lumley

Joanna LumleyChapter 24 in The Frolicking Physio acknowledges Joanna Lumley’s immense contribution in helping rectify the horrendous injustice of wage discrepancy and settlement rights for current and former serving Gurkha soldiers in the British Army.

Her fight on their behalf has brought her to address the political hierarchy in The House of Commons and The House of Lords in Britain. It is to her great credit that her persistence has paid off and now those formidable soldiers from Nepal, (whose generations of fathers and sons have served since Queen Victoria’s time), are at last on an equal footing with their counterpart military cohorts.

The talented actress, comedienne, singer, diplomat and former ‘Bond girl’, whose father was a British Officer in the Gurkha recruiting and training depot in Nepal, has been kind enough to send me a beautifully handwritten letter in thanks for the gift of the book I sent to her.

In her letter, she acknowledged my account of the fearlessness and loyalty of the Gurkhas…

I visited Kinrara as a small girl, to visit the sick Gurkha soldiers – so much of what you write is familiar territory to me.

It was fascinating to read your chapter on the Gurkhas – I feel so lucky to be part, even a tiny part of their world. Dear Blair, a thousand congratulations, and a blizzard of good wishes to you and Maureen.

Yours very sincerely, Joanna Lumley

It is a very special connection for me to learn that she had visited the sick and injured Gurkha patients when she was young. She would have visited the very same Military Hospital where I served in the early ‘60’s in Kinrara, near Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.

Fifteen years ago, when I first put pen to paper, I could not have imagined the joy I’d get from those like Joanna Lumley, who would read my second book!

Congratulations to Robbie Taylor

Robbie TaylorIn the vocabulary of aviation, ‘overdue’ is a word that breeds fear amongst everyone involved in the field of aircraft safety.

And so, 28 years ago today, on October 1st, 1983, the announcement that an aircraft was overdue in the tumultuous 9000 foot mountain peaks and 6000 foot deep valleys near Cranbrook, British Columbia, created quite a stir.

The ultimate irony was that the missing aircraft, a 4-seater Cesna Cardinal, was part of a search and rescue training exercise lead by the 442 Transport and Rescue Squadron — a unit of the RCAF based in Comox on Vancouver Island. The crew of the lost craft were four local volunteers: an experienced pilot and three trainee spotters, all of whom were on their first ever search and rescue flight.

What had started as a training exercise had suddenly become a full search and rescue operation, bringing an atmosphere of controlled anxiety to the Cranbrook Airport, the official nerve centre of the operation.

Robbie Taylor was the volunteer coordinator and the most experienced local pilot. She was selected to fly the search aircraft into the dangerous area where the lost plane was presumed to have crashed. She chose experienced spotters Albert Comfort and Ron Krowchuk as her crew.

During the search, she would ‘shoot’ individual creeks — a dangerous low level flight pattern that involved flying down the length of narrow mountain stream beds. On her third attempt, a provisional tentative sighting was made of what remained of the small aircraft that had been all but consumed by fire.

At this point, Robbie chose to take the courageous step of flying up the valley, following almost the same path and altitude that the doomed craft had followed just a short time before. It was her best option to obtain a definitive sighting.

With a positive sighting yelled out by the two spotters, Robbie’s years of experience enabled her to extricate her plane from the depths of that perilous creek valley and set in motion the subsequent rescue of the two surviving passengers.

In her career, Robbie Taylor has served in many search and rescue missions. But speaking as one of the two survivors who eagerly awaited rescue that day, it is the mission 28 years ago that has left me forever grateful for her courage, skill and dedication.

I wish to congratulate Robbie on her well deserved award of the 2011 Elsie MacGill Northern Lights Award recognizing her as an outstanding woman in aviation. To me, the selection of this recipient for this accolade, particularly on this date, is long overdue.

Read about Robbie Taylor and her recent award in the Winnipeg Free Press…

The Cranbrook Daily Townsman will run a feature on Robbie Taylor next week.

Update: The Daily Townsman has now published their feature article on Robbie Taylor.

Standing the test of time

While there is glaring evidence of the passage of time on the human body as shown in the maturing change from the 17-year-old to the 70-year-old vintage Blair Farish, Dalgonar Bridge looks as good as new, and is described thus in The Frolicking Physio.

Blair, then (17) and now (70)

Built in 1818, at the time said to be the widest single-span bridge in Scotland, it still offers safe crossing over The River Cairn that flows under its magnificent arch near my ancestral home, Broombush.

Designed to withstand the weight of two Clydesdale horses and their loaded cart (4000 pounds), the granite and sandstone structure today bears the loads of double decker buses and full huge articulated logging trucks weighing 80,000 pounds.

As they installed the keystone to lock the 200 foot-wide arch, Joseph Farish and sons, joiners (carpenters) and undertakers, my distant ancestors, contributed in the assembly of the magnificent structure. They couldn’t have imagined that hundreds of immense vehicles would speed over their masterpiece each day almost 200 years later.

In our modern world of graffiti-marred walls, I have mixed emotions of shame and pride that Dalgonar Bridge shows my initials, BF, scratched into the top sandstone block. It is evidence of the laborious yet patient endeavour of a 10 year-old wee laddie, 60+ years ago…

My initials inscribed on Dalgonar Bridge

A picture is worth a thousand words

Most of us doodle or scribble little sketches at some time in our life, but we seldom retain those momentary imagery efforts. Since time immemorial there have been hieroglyphics and carvings in caves and rock faces and painted face masks and tattoos to adorn the human body.

The urge to create graphically has been witnessed, recorded and cherished (mostly) throughout history. Even now the desire to decorate/desecrate walls and buildings with graffiti is a fact of life we are obliged to tolerate. A pleasing exception, I have to concede, is some of the bold postscript – amateur signatures and drawings on railroad containers – which make the passage of a 100-car convoy a tolerable, if not enjoyable, delay.

My recent venture into artistic endeavours came in the form of the simple pencil sketches that serve as the opening teaser for each chapter of The Frolicking Physio. These illustrations came about quite accidentally. I found myself doodling as I tried to recall details and memories of the distant past, in a time when the photographic record of places and happenings were precious few.

Trying to recreate in my writing some degree of accuracy of tiny details, I found that “painting a picture” (rough diagrams and squiggles on paper) helped bring back snippets of those far off times.

Musing over a faint memory – my visit to the Recruiting Sergeant’s cramped office in 1957 – I distinctly recalled a photo of the Queen and a Union Jack flag on the wall, a burning cigarette in the ashtray, and medals above that veteran’s left pocket on his battledress tunic. Once these trigger items were identified, other details were easy to conjure up and even embellish marginally.

The Recruiting Officer

Thus a thumbnail sketch as a prelude to each chapter became what I hoped would be a worthwhile addition to my writings.

Feedback from those who have read The Frolicking Physio has been very pleasing and has prompted me to a new venture that I hope will come to fruition in the foreseeable future. Many of my new readers have commented, “Oh, I remember reading your first book, (The Clockwatcher) but I loaned it to someone and never got it back.”

Now out of print, I’m considering a plan to do an updated edition of that 1988 creation, including a 20-page postscript and a pencil sketch lead-in to each chapter. I shudder to think that those pictures might make the subsequent thousand-words redundant!

A letter from The Queen

My natural ‘immodest’ effort to spread the news and humour of The Frolicking Physio gave me the audacity to send a copy to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.

In the accompanying letter, I dared to mention that we’d met in 1954* when she was a recently crowned young Monarch, and I was a 16 year old Queen Scout. I refrained from elaborating that I was one of 200 boys on parade at Windsor Castle at the time.

The motto, ‘Who Dares Wins’, of the British Special Air Service Regiment seemed to justify my actions in sending her my book. Much to my delight, I received a Buckingham Palace heraldry-embossed letter of response (now suitably framed) written by one of her Majesty’s ladies in waiting…

I am writing to thank you for your letter to The Queen and the gift of your book, The Frolicking Physio.

Her Majesty appreciated your thought for her in sending her your biography, and hopes you enjoyed writing your book as much as you enjoyed your travels.

The Queen was pleased to hear you enjoyed seeing the wedding of her grandson and his bride on 29th April, and I am to thank you for your loyalty and support.

Now that is a true bedtime story to entertain my 10 grandchildren in the years ahead. As time goes on, and the likelihood of repudiation diminishes, who knows how much embellishment will sneak in!

* See Chapter 9, page 53.

The Frolicking Physio

It is a great pleasure to announce the launch of my new book, The Frolicking Physio. As my friends and family can attest, it’s taken many years to get this collection of stories onto the page and into print!

For those of you who don’t know me, I should introduce myself. My name is Blair Farish. I’m a retired physiotherapist currently living outside of Cranbrook, British Columbia, Canada. In 1988 I published my first book, The Clockwatcher, in which I told the story of surviving a plane crash in the Canadian Rockies, and my subsequent recovery. The Clockwatcher is currently out of print, but watch this site for details about a possible second edition in the near future.

Thanks for visiting… check back for more updates soon!