• NZ Booklovers

Interview: Dick Sainsbury talks about All Experience is an Arch


DICK SAINSBURY MA, MB ChB, FRACP, PG DipArts. After Dick graduated from the University of Otago he completed six resident medical officer years in Auckland before going to the United Kingdom for advanced training.


Since 1982 he has worked as a consultant physician in geriatric medicine in Christchurch in dual university/hospital appointments. He has a particular interest in student teaching and has served a period as trainee intern co-ordinator. He has also been involved in the examination, mentoring and supervision of international medical graduates.


Dick talks to NZ Booklovers.



Tell us a little about All Experience is an Arch.

It is a collection of writing resulting from my experiences as a physician in geriatric medicine and my interest in the portrayal of older people in literature. I have always found the bedside tutorial the most satisfying way of teaching medical students, and so there are some case vignettes and stories as well as some opinion pieces and papers that I hope will both entertain and teach; these are supplemented by references to poems and stories featuring older people.


What inspired you to write this book?

I was encouraged by colleagues who told me that I have a wide fund of stories and a good memory and that I should record some of them. I was also keen to reflect on how the specialty of geriatric medicine had developed in Aotearoa over my practising career and how we had to confront prejudice and ageism in the early days.


What research was required?

Reviewing papers that I had written for journals, my MA thesis on Older People and Ageing in the Fiction of Thomas Hardy (Massey University 2009) and reading literary criticism about the authors that I had quoted.


What was your routine or process when writing this book?

Mainly to stay focussed on each section at a time. I am easily distracted. I had a notebook handy in case I got an inspiration about another topic, but tried to discipline myself to stay on one section at a time. I also sent some sections to friends or colleagues to critique.


If a soundtrack was made to accompany this book, name a song or two you would include

I would use Chi Mai by Ennio Morricone for the more serious and sadder bits, and excerpts from the Overture to The Merry Wives of Windsor by Otto Nicolai for the more light hearted sections.


What did you enjoy the most about writing All Experience is an Arch?

Recalling the patients, students and colleagues who have inspired me and taught me so much.


What did you do to celebrate finishing the book?

Because of Covid 19 restrictions opportunities for celebrations have been limited but where possible I met for a coffee with the various people who had reviewed sections. It is intended to have a book launch at the Burwood Hospital Grand Round and at the Doctors Artists concert in August.


What is the favourite book that you have read this year and why?

Attlee and Churchill by Leo McKinstry. One of the best biographies I have ever read. Two remarkable men with a deep respect for each other, even when in bitter opposition. Because Attlee was shy and withdrawn he was often underestimated but he was aman of great ability. As The Guardian review said, ‘It is a sobering reflection that today’s equivalents are Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn!’

In fiction I enjoyed Long Bright River by Liz Moore.


What’s next on the agenda for you?

I would really like to act as an amanuensis for someone who was unable to complete their memoirs because of physical or memory problems.


Quentin Wilson Publishing