Tony Atkinson may well be the only -commoner' alive who can share intimate, insider knowledge of what it was like within the walls of Buckingham Palace during the reign of Queen Elizabeth II and behind the door of 10 Downing Street during the uniquely colourful days of Winston Churchill.
Tony was born within weeks of the Wall Street Crash of 1929, and his life has always been a bit of a bull-and-bear run. After he spent much of his early years in a cage suspended from the sixth-storey window of his parents' London apartment, it was perhaps no surprise that he would always see the world a little differently. A Prescribed Life is the gloriously entertaining memoir of a life fully lived in and around ridiculous, hilarious situations.
There was that time Tony came between Winston Churchill and his bowel movements (an incident that required a parliamentary explanation); and that time when Tony and his friends unofficially rerouted the London bus network so they could race Stirling Moss around the city; and the high-society shenanigans Tony witnessed after becoming footman to the Queen. Tony has always had a knack for mischief and for finding himself at the centre of the action. Characteristically, he features in the most famous photograph of Queen Elizabeth II's coronation – on the cover of this book, with Tony stifling a laugh after Prince Phillip urged his wife not to -drop the bloody thing!'
Even when Tony and the great love of his life, a passionate Irish republican woman called Terry, came to Australia as ten-pound Poms, funny business followed. Imagine an English toff straight off the boat, trying to get a handle on the wilds of Australia, and you get the picture. Although Tony eventually settled into a medical career, one would never really say that he settled down. His speciality might have been anaesthesia, but Tony's greatest gift is for slapstick adventure and telling rousing tales.
Tony Atkinson was born in London in 1929. He worked as a casual footman for the Royal family and as a waiter in London while he was training to be a doctor at Guy's Hospital. Tony and his wife, Terry, brought their young family to Australia in 1962, and they settled in the northern suburbs of Melbourne where he practised as a specialist anaesthetist until 2014. He is a former President of the Medico-Legal Society.
Lynn Smailes is a Melbourne writer, teacher, manuscript editor, reviewer and writing mentor. She was the President of the Victorian branch of the Fellowship of Australian Writers for five years, and the editor of The Australian Writer for three years.
A Prescribed Life
Author: Tony Atkinson