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Behind the scenes at Suffolk Lowland Search and Rescue

PUBLISHED: 07:00 25 July 2020

Andy King of Suffolk Lowland Search and Rescue. Picture: Neil Baxter

Andy King of Suffolk Lowland Search and Rescue. Picture: Neil Baxter

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Gina Long MBE meets Andy King, chairman of Suffolk Lowland Search and Rescue.

Andy King has a passion for mountain biking. Picture: Neil BaxterAndy King has a passion for mountain biking. Picture: Neil Baxter

Andy King joined Suffolk Lowland Search and Rescue (SULSAR), 15 years ago, as a very naive searcher and has been chairman for the last seven years. The organisation, which is a member unit of the UK’s Lowland Rescue service, is 100% voluntary and receives no government or emergency services funding. Facing a pandemic relying on donations has never been more crucial, as an organisation SULSAR doesn’t take anything from any other organisation. Here he talks to Gina Long MBE.

What’s the impact of Covid-19 on SULSAR and how are you adapting?

There have been two main impacts on us as a team. All of our events have been cancelled for this year, our income has literally disappeared. We raise funds to run the team by attending supermarkets and country shows, such as the Suffolk and South Suffolk Shows. We are yet to work out how we will fund the coming year and are working hard to secure funds, as yet without success. Secondly, we have had to completely change how we deploy as a team. We limit numbers who can attend a search, so should someone suspect they have the virus, the whole team will isolate. By limiting numbers, we can deploy a second and third team if required. Obtaining PPE has been a challenge, we insist members on a call wear masks and gloves as a minimum. You must remember that there will be situations where it is impossible for us to maintain social distancing, while attending to our ‘misper’ (missing person). Other changes are we have ceased training and we have stopped recruiting new members, so I’m afraid the 30 or so people on our waiting list will have to wait a little longer.

What help and advice can SULSAR offer our readers during Covid-19 times?

Fundamentally, follow the instructions that the government issue. Whether you agree with them or not, you have to have trust in the science, and remember they have never done this

before either.

One very important thing we encourage is for people to maintain contact with their family, friends, and colleagues. Talk to them regularly to ensure they are dealing with the isolation. People you may think are ok may be feeling the pressure of being unable to get out and be with family and friends. Depression is a very powerful thing, that many will not know how to cope with. We very sadly see the end result, when people just can’t cope. We as a team are staying connected with one another by phone or FaceTime to check everyone is okay, this is done on a regular basis.

What is your connection to East Anglia?

I was born in Folly Road, Mildenhall, where I still live 58 years later, however, in a different house.

What is your East Anglian Heaven, i.e. what do you love most about East Anglia?

During the week I work in London as a projects manager on some of the capital’s most prestigious residences, so coming home to Suffolk is heaven. Being able to walk, run and cycle in the county’s forests is just icing on the cake.

What is your East Anglian Hell i.e. what you hate most about living here?

Being followed out of London on a Friday afternoon by the masses, all of whom want a part of East Anglia. But I don’t blame them, it’s a magnificent place.

What’s your favourite East Anglian landmark?

The Five Ways roundabout, as it means I am nearly home.

What’s the best thing that happens in East Anglia every year?

Me and the SULSAR team were invited to help Santa do a street collection in Mildenhall and the surrounding villages last year. Seeing the faces of the small children as Santa came around the corner on his sleigh was fantastic and a memory that will remain with me for a long time, especially as I’m a grandpa for the first time. I hope this tradition continues to happen around the county annually, for many years to come.

What your specialist Mastermind subject?

Suffolk Lowland Search and Rescue of course, what else would it be?

What is always in your fridge?

A bottle of white wine for my wife Jane and white chocolate desserts for me, with a good bottle of French red on top of the fridge for me!

What’s your simple philosophy of life?

Work hard, play hard and find as many vulnerable missing people as possible, whether they want finding or not.

What’s your favourite film?

It has to be Everest.

What was your first job?

I had my first job at the age of 11, (it was allowed then) on a Saturday and Sunday morning collecting eggs on a battery poultry farm.

What is your most treasured possession?

My family are without doubt what I treasure most, however my most treasured possessions are a few personal items that belonged to my parents, a small bone handled pocket knife from my dad and a hair brush from my mum would be way up there and the memories that go with them.

Who do you admire most?

Those alive, it would be Ben Fogle, who has done so many things. I would love to have climbed Everest. However, whilst sorting family papers recently, I realised just what an exceptional man my dad was. A quiet, unassuming man, who was one of the founders of Mildenhall Museum to which he dedicated his entire life.

What is your biggest indulgence?

Mountain bikes, I have five!

What do you like about yourself most?

My voluntary work with SULSAR, it gives me a great deal of satisfaction and self-worth.

What’s your worst character trait?

I do not suffer fools gladly. If you upset me , you would know it.

Where is your favourite holiday destination?

Anywhere in France.

Best day of your life?

I have four, my marriage to my wonderful wife Jane 35 years ago, and the weddings of my three daughters, all were amazing and beautiful days.

What’s your favourite breakfast?

A crispy bacon roll with brown sauce.

What’s your favourite tipple?

Rhone valley red wines. I don’t mind which, they are all good.

What’s your hidden talent?

I am good at solving puzzles.

What’s your earliest memory?

Helping out feeding the animals at the family farm on Folly Road, Mildenhall.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

I love the music of Les Miserables, “Do You Hear the People Sing” would be a good send-off.

Tell us something people don’t know about you?

I just have, as most people would say they didn’t know he liked that type of music!

What’s the worst thing anyone has ever said to you?

You have had a stroke.

What do you want to tell our readers about most?

I would like to say a big thank you to all of the SULSAR volunteers and to everyone who supports us. I especially thank James and Clare Taylor of TMJ Interiors, who generously donated our new building, which is invaluable. The work of Suffolk Lowland Search and Rescue (SULSAR), would be impossible without the donations we receive. As a nation, and indeed the world, we are in unprecedented times, we do need your kind support now more than ever. This year our funding has disappeared due to the pandemic, we would be so grateful to have any donations people may wish to give. Anyone, who may wish to help in any way, however big or small, can contact us via our website. Please visit sulsar.org.uk

Are you doing something special during Covid-19 times? Email gina@hallfarmfornham.com or follow Twitter: @geewizzgee1 Instagram:ginalongmbe


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