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The Spirit of Christmas

It’s that festive time of year when everything in London seems to be subsumed by the preparations for Christmas festivities. I thought therefore that it might be appropriate to devote a few thoughts to the sadly departed Tim Christmas, the outstanding surgeon and urologist to the Charing Cross and Royal Marsden Hospitals who died two years ago and always loved his namesake festivities. Tim and I go back a long way. He was a medical student at the Middlesex Hospital in London when I was a trainee, and senior registrar at St Bartholomew’s when I was a Consultant there. He and I wrote a book together on prostate cancer, and we had some great times together at work and at AUA, EAU, SIU and ICS as well as other meetings in various parts of the globe.

Tim was a classic eccentric Englishmen, a great wit and an exceptional surgeon. Like Sir Lancelot Spratt he eschewed keyhole surgery in favour of a “maximally invasive” approach; this made him the acknowledged expert in the UK of para-aortic lymph node dissection and thoraco-abdominal excision of renal tumours with involvement of the inferior vena cava. Two technically difficult procedures which he learnt from his friend and mentor Bill Hendry. Bill like Tim was an exceptionally gifted surgeon.

Tim was a surgeon’s surgeon and a tremendous character (read Tim’s BJUI Obituary here). He is fondly remembered by fellow urologists, nursing staff and patients alike. Although Christmas comes once a year, sadly there will only be one Tim Christmas, the surgeon and we have lost him prematurely. He was a one-off, a product of his own special era, and we will most certainly never see his like again. If you have fond memories of or anecdotes about Tim please post them on this blog;  Tim has been sending to all of the patients baskets from Gift Tree and try to make their life a little happier, Merry Christmas to you all.

Roger Kirby, The Prostate Centre, London

Looking to plan the ideal Christmas function for your boss, workmates or staff? End of year is a busy time for everyone, and it’s refreshing to know that a relaxing time can be had on a skippered, catered function cruise.

It’s unbelievable and quite surprising that how fast, over half the year has already passed and it just seems like you celebrated New Year’s Eve last month. With the first half already over, don’t hope for the second half to stay back any longer and before you know it, Christmas will be knocking on your door waiting to tell you there’s a Santa stuck in your chimney. Now, with Christmas, comes the great office parties and the hassle you have to go through every year to organise everything to the point that it is pitch perfect. Because who wants a party ruined on Christmas Eve and especially not if it’s your responsibility. It’s only fitting that such a party, where your number of people is somewhere between 2 and 35, is done with a Boat Hire. They have the absolute best options and services for your office Christmas Party celebrations where all you have to do is make the booking and forget about doing anything else. The company will look after all your specifications and needs before arranging the experience of a lifetime for you at this year’s Christmas party.

If you are looking to make a huge impression on your staff then I fully suggest you to rent a yacht in montauk, some professional agencies offer a mesmerising package where you can charter a private boat for up to 35 people to take them on a cruise of the beautiful Yarra river. The package will include food and beverages that will be served onboard the cruise and can be tailor-made according to your requirements. If the number of people you’re taking with you is less than 10, then you can book the eco-friendly package and cut off the extra expenses. The new addition to the latest cruise packages given by a Boat Hire include a progressive dinner or lunch cruise of the Yarra River, and stopping at three different restaurants for a three-course meal, be it lunch or dinner.
If you’re looking to have a Christmas party and have a great adventure, then you can easily avail the self-drive hire where you can pack your picnic and cruise on the Yarra River. There will be boats available to you that can seat up to 12 passengers and you will require no boat license to hire and drive.

Boat Hire are offering three different routes for your Christmas party and you can book any one of the three. The first route is either of the three: Yarra river or Maribyrnong River or Williamstown, next up is St Kilda and Port Melbourne. All you will have to do is book a schedule and mention the number of people you’re planning to bring with you along with your contact and payment details. The hassle part of the deal is for us to look after and you to relax. What’s even better is that a Boat Hire are willing to offer packages according to all amounts of budgets and sizes and can make a special carved out plan according to your needs. If there was ever any easiness while planning a Christmas party.

23 replies
  1. David Rickards
    David Rickards says:

    I worked with Tim for 4 years when he was a registrar and then research fellow at the Middlesex Hospital and what fun it was, never a dull moment and the output of papers and books was prodigious, made me look good! He came to many a Sunday lunch which was always followed by a stroll in Regent’s Park. Being an ornithologist as well as a very good urologist, he would grab swans out of the lakes and tag them. This was often punctuated by old ladies bashing him over his head with umbrellas on the false assumption that he was vandalising the birds. His wedding to Ethna in Ireland was memorable, especially as one of the bridesmaids was misplaced and the guards had to be deployed to find her. A man with a wicked sense of humour, but never malicious. Wonderful guy.

    • David Rickards
      David Rickards says:

      The photo was of a crew I put together to sail from Lymington to Jersey for the BAUS annual meeting. On board in two boats, an Oyster 435 and a Macwester 34 were many souls, including Tim all of whom were to become important and formative Uorologists. I recall that trip with great memmories. It was nighttime that we left Lymington and we arrived in Jersey as seafaring folk! Tim was great at the helm overnight and seemed to eshew sleep, more interested in the sea birds that circled the boats. Kirby was a useless crew member, Witherow was great, but Milroy was utterly fantastic. We had a party on both boats the night after we arrived hosted by a company called Nycomed……twelve trays of oysters and a plentiful amount of fine wine….the boats the morning after were surrounded by oyster shells….Tim spent BAUS on my boat and was there to clea r up the mess, but what fun! Look at those guys in the photo……apart from myself, they are or were stellar

  2. Jeremy Noble
    Jeremy Noble says:

    Even now, some 18 months after Tim’s untimely death, a day rarely goes by when I don’t inwardly laugh to myself thinking of Mr TJ Christmas’s unique and uncompromising sense of humour. His razor sharp whit, always funny yet rarely politically correct, forms a major part of his legacy. Of all his many “urological” contributions including the Marilyn Munroe joke and the suggestion that my children would talk like goats if we were to leave London for the country, undoubtedly his ability to rename all those around him, both friend and foe, is one of his finest.

    I am sure that “Rog the Dodge” (Roger Kirby), “Alan the Smoothie” (Alan Doherty), “Eardley the Nerdly” (Ian Eardley), “The Stoat” (Simon Holmes), “Mr Millenroy” (Euan Milroy), “RICKARDS” (you know who I mean), “Killer Mills” (Ian Mills), “Bertie Wooster” (Jonathan Ramsay), “The Hairdresser” (Charles Hudd) and many others too irreverent to mention will join me in thanking “Timsy” for our synonyms and for still keeping us all amused in his absence. For this and many, many other memories I salute you Timsy! You are sorely missed.

    “Nobule” (Jeremy Noble)

  3. Peter Rimington
    Peter Rimington says:

    Whilst it may be true that Tim was a maximally invasive surgeon (and clearly a damn good one at that) it is not quite true that he had no time for minimal access surgery. When I started doing laparoscopic cystectomies and was having problems with morbidity he asked me to come and give a presentation at (which hospital was it again?). He listened to all I had to say and offered me his sincere congratulations for being pioneering, offered some sound advice about post op care and told me how refreshing he found it to hear an honest appraisal of a new procedure. He was kind, strict, academic and offered me a pint afterwards. What more can you ask from a real mentor?!

  4. Prokar Dasgupta
    Prokar Dasgupta says:

    While most colleagues will remember Tim as the archetypal open surgeon, I got to know him through the LOPERA trial which was a 3 arm randomised study comparing open, laparoscopic and robotic assisted radical prostatectomy. At a dinner hosted by Lord Ara Darzi, a mutual friend and principal investigator, Tim spoke with passion about this study. It clearly showed that despite his open surgical skills he was always willing to challenge himself scientifically, whatever be his own feelings about minimal invasion. A brilliant man.
    Alas we lost him and LOPERA failed to fly despite our best efforts, as most patients were not willing to accept randomisation.

  5. Nigel Borley
    Nigel Borley says:

    A wonderful reminder of a wonderful guy.
    I had the fortune to work along side Tim, though only for 3 years.
    I used to think “that’s the kind of man, with the kind of respect for him, I aspire to”.
    I wish he had be given longer to teach and inspire more people.

  6. Paul Miller
    Paul Miller says:

    I consider it a priviledge to have known Tim. He was one of those people who made life just more fun, whether at work or play. He surrounded himself and introduced me to similar people, two of them above have already blogged and there are many more who will have fond memories. I was lucky to know Tim since we were medical students at The Middlesex Hospital and our paths crossed again at St Barts when I was a research fellow and Tim then SR. Although the quote about “maximally invasive surgery” is true, he was never pompous and was a neat meticulous surgeon, who was kind to patients and their relatives. His incisive wit was never more sharp than when we went to the AUA together, when he was very much the Englishman abroad. His creased linen jacket and sunburnt nose ( he refused to put on sun block because it was full of chemicals), were met with great amusement. Hugh Whitfield may still regret asking Tim and I to organise the CHRISTMAS party at Barts but he had to concede afterwards that it was the best party that they had ever had!

  7. Christopher Eden
    Christopher Eden says:

    Most of us around the same age of TC have a Tim Christmas story or strong memory of when we first met him. For me, it was when I was Malcolm Coptcoat’s Registrar at King’s and he was running a course on advances in Urology. At that time, orthotopic bladder replacement was new and Malcolm had organised for Roger Kirby to do a cystectomy and for Jens Rassweiler to do the reconstruction. I was dispatched to assist Roger but found myself relegated to second assistant as he had brought along TC to help him, who lost no time in telling me that I could cut the sutures but wasn’t to touch anything else. It was a case that I still remember for being the quickest, driest and most technically proficient cystectomy that I had seen to date. It was also memorable for two more reasons: firstly, the banter between him and Roger (I hadn’t ever seen an SR give as good as he got in terms of insults before then!) and secondly because at the end of the case, as I was closing the abdomen, Jens Rassweiler got his guitar out in theatre and started playing and singing to the audience the case was being transmitted to in the nearby Medical School.

  8. John Fitzpatrick
    John Fitzpatrick says:

    It is indeed sad to remember Tim Christmas and a sombre thought that it is 2 years since his passing. I cannot forget the first time I went to South Africa to give a series of lectures in the company of Tim. It was a very enjoyable trip, but most memorable for me was Tim’s huge knowledge of birds. I believe he pointed out almost 200 different types, which as can be imagined, very much added to my enjoyment of the trip. That visit was about 1995, and of course he subsequently developed a large expertise in that most difficult of surgical problems, the removal of metastatic lymph nodes in advanced testicular and renal carcinoma. All this and a sense of humour which made one laugh along with him!

  9. Simon Holmes
    Simon Holmes says:

    I first met Tim when he was appointed Senior Registrar in the department of Urology at Bart’s where I was the research registrar. To say Tim was a colourful character is a gross understatement. Clever, witty, funny – there was never a dull moment when Tim was around and many tales were recounted over a few “snifters” on a Friday evening. All these tales were told with Tim’s characteristic delivery and idiosyncratic manner with which we all now recognise as being unique and irreplaceable. I can recall his stories of being arrested whilst trying to catch Coutts in Regents Park (Tim was a keen and well respected ornithologist), the time he broke the pre-operative rituals of Bill Hendry by blocking the toilet after a late night out and his escapades with the fairer sex. I can remember the trips we shared to various meetings at home and abroad and how he introduced me to the great, the good and the bad in Urology. I also remember Tim as one of the most acclomplished surgeons I have ever seen. He continued this expertise into his consultant career but never lost his sense of humour, challenge of conventional authority, wicked scrutiny of colleagues and he remains one of the most inspirational people I have ever worked with.

  10. Roger Kirby
    Roger Kirby says:

    Like Simon, I have some great memories of unusual and exciting times with Tim. For example Tim came with us to Zimbabwe on an RSM Urology section visit, led by Bill Hendry, and can be seen in a photograph drinking African beer with David and Annie Rickards and Paul Copeland. Here his ornithological skills could be put to full use.

    On another occasion he came with me to the European Winter ski meeting in Davos and insisted on wearing an especially shabby ski suit. On the second day he managed to ski into a snow covered pile of manure and his faded blue outfit turned to a rather unpleasant shade of brown. He brushed the idea of a new outfit aside and skied on undeterred for the rest of the week, wafting down the slopes with an unmistakable accompanying aroma of old cow pats.

  11. Krishna Patil
    Krishna Patil says:

    Although I did not have close association with Mr. Christmas, I was fortunate enough to listen to his talks and witness his live demonstration of open radical prostatectomy. He was very outspoken and did speak his mind for right reasons. I remember the masterclass by Dr Patric Walsh in St Barth. Hospital. Dr Walsh mentioned that the best position for digital rectal examination is knee elbow. After his talk Tim got up and said that though it is ideal position it is not practical and dignified in our part of the world. I thought it was quite courageous to speak his mind to towering personality like Patric Walsh. But Tim was as courageous a person as he was a surgeon. I had sent quite a few challenging advanced renal tumours to him. He always did a best job of it. The patients were highly impressed with his kindness and care. With his departure, he has left a big void which is difficult to fill. I sincerely pray that his soul rest in peace in Heaven.

  12. Christopher Chapple
    Christopher Chapple says:

    Tim was a great guy, a great character, and brilliant at what he did. We worked together very closely at the Middlesex and he has to be credited with driving a number of projects forward, such as the Fowler’s syndrome work, interesting work on painful bladder syndrome, and numerous publications.

    Tim was one of a kind. Not only in terms of his wit and enthusiasm, but also in his devotion to whatever he set his mind to doing. He always delivered whatever he planned to do, as evidenced by his subsequent clinical career as a consultant – he was a superb clinician and surgeon, to whom many patients owed their lives.

    Over and above this, Tim was a very loyal person and I very much miss meeting up with him. Many of us are still using the numerous catchphrases which he coined!

  13. Annie Rickards
    Annie Rickards says:

    I have so many memories of Tim some I’d like to share.When it came time to apply to become a consultant both David and I were both puzzled he didn’t get a post being such a bright chap. Then the penny dropped over one Sunday lunch, his attire left a lot to be desired. After a lot of persuasion he reluctantly bought a suit. So smartly dressed and advised to stop flapping his hands about, a star was born.
    He was so very happy when he met Ethna and married her in Ireland.
    He doted on his son Dermot (the squiremot). He always kept in touch about his progress. He is a sorely missed friend.

  14. Euan Milroy
    Euan Milroy says:

    What a marvellous character, never without a smile on his face (unlike the photo at the top of this blog!) and a witty remark to hand. Ward rounds and the sometimes seemingly never ending weekly urodynamic meetings were regularly enlivened by his always intelligent and appropriate comments and witticisms. We will all remember his allocation of the names of cast members of the Wombles of Wimbledon to each member of the firm at The Middlesex – together with less favourable nicknames for other hospital staff who irritated or annoyed him! (you all know who I mean, and who you were!)

  15. Sam Hampson
    Sam Hampson says:

    I worked with Tim at The Middlesex and never a day went by without a comment from Tim bringing a smile to my face; similarly every time I recall a “Tim nickname, or witticism” my face lights up. The urological world is a blander place without him, I will remember his wit, his creativity and his surgical endeavour, but most of all I will remember his friendship.

  16. Jonathan Glass
    Jonathan Glass says:

    I was a registrar with Alan ‘the Smoothie’ Doherty in 1999. Whilst there to learn endourology with Jonathan Ramsay from whom I learnt a huge amount both about urology and about managing hospital politics, I went into theatre with Tim at every opportunity. I set myself targets. As a future endourologist I thought it important that I could take out a kidney and create a conduit. It is in no small way thanks to Tim that as a consultant I did a large amount of open renal surgery (including one thoracoabdominal nephrectomy!) and indeed have created one conduit helping out a gynaecologist on call many years ago.

    Watching Tim operate was remarkable. He had an appreciation of anatomy that was second to none, an ability to compartmentalise any procedure such that every operation became a series of identical steps. As his assistant you knew exactly at what stage you would be needed. 47 minutes into a radical he would say “left hand in” as the assistant was needed to retract the bladder; as the small bowel was opened you would be ready with “the guacamole patrol” keeping bowel contents out of the abdomen! A list of two radicals and a cystectomy and conduit would be finished by 3 o’ clock!

    His memory will live on in theatres up and down the country, even those of an endourologist.

  17. Roger Kirby
    Roger Kirby says:

    Talking of memories, another sadly departed star of urology that we should remember this Christmas is Malcolm Coptcoat.

    Malcolm died even more prematurely than Tim, in his early 40’s, and like Tim was a great surgeon as well as an innovator. He was years ahead of his time in promoting laparoscopy, and was also an excellent open surgeon and uro-oncologist.
    Perhaps it is true that “only the good (surgeons) die young!”

    • David Rickards
      David Rickards says:

      Malcolm was part of my crew in a BAUS sailing race starting in Alderney. There were 7 of us on my boat and we set sail from Lymington to Alderney on a bad night…27 knots of wind and from the southwest, on the nose. We got half way across the channel and decided to talk to the skippers of the other boats involved. We found them all sitting in a pub in the Hamble, having decided that the weather was too gross. The meeting was in Brighton, and the race was from from Alderney to Broghton. Having no contenders, we turned around. with the wind behind us, we were soon back in Lymington. Malcolm was a wonderful crew member, to be totally relied upon.

      As Roger states, a urologist with so much to offer and gone far too early from our lives.

  18. Mark Emberton
    Mark Emberton says:

    It is wonderful reading these tributes as someone who did not know ether Tim nor Malcolm particularly well as I, like many others reading this thread never had the privilege of working for or with either. It was impossible, however, to train or indeed work within British urology without having been influenced by either Tim or Malcolm to some degree. Indeed, it says much about the specialty that we work in that both were allowed and indeed encouraged to flourish as true originals. Tim as the eccentric master craftsman. Malcolm, as the innovator and inventor who saw clinical unmet need as opportunity.

    My initial encounter with Tim was at my first ever BAUS in an unusually sunny Brighton. He was holding court at one of the tables on the terrace surrounded by a large group of young hopefuls (I was one of them) who were dreaming of a career in urology. He had us all enraptured by virtue of his wit, irreverence and dissent, in the stories that he told of his own training. There was no question for those of us listening in awe – this was the specialty for us.

  19. Liz Stagg
    Liz Stagg says:

    I have just found this site from researching Tim Christmas who was my first cousin. His father (Leslie Christmas ) and my mother (Molly Stagg) were siblings. Growing up I didn’t get to spend much time with Tim as I am 10 years younger and I was born and raised in Canada although I did make several trips to England as a child.

    I did look up to him and his successful career as a surgeon. I was intrigued by medicine but never applied myself. Tim may have inspired my brother to a career in medicine. I remember being 16 years old and spending the summer with family in Britain and so in awe of Tim. I was proud of the fact that he was my cousin.

    When I was 9 years old in 1975 Tim and his brother Steve came to Vancouver, Canada to visit us in the summer. We all went off on a camping trip to the Interior of BC and Tim and Steve set up their bird catching nets and I was excited at helping capture and tag birds.
    The last time I got to see Tim was in June 2001 when I helped in an International effort with the FMD outbreak. It is my last memory of him.

    I am saddened that I didn’t get the opportunity to spend more time with Tim growing up but the physical distance was too great.It was a huge shock to my brother Andrew (an ER physician in Edmonton) and to me with Tim’s passing. Miss You ❤️

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