Heaven & Hell: Brian Faulkner

Brian Faulkner, FRCVS, co owner of Aldeburgh Vets. Picture: Sarah Lucy Brown

Brian Faulkner, FRCVS - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Brian is a vet, management consultant and confidence coach. He co-owns Aldeburgh Vets and co-founded Colourful CPD - a company whose products are used all around the world. Unusually for a vet, Brian also holds master’s degrees in psychology and business which he uses when coaching and mentoring vets and their colleagues all around the world. An avid runner, in 2020, between lockdowns, he completed 31 marathons in 31 days, raising almost £150,000 for animal related charities. Here he talks to Gina Long

What is your connection to East Anglia?

Whilst studying at Edinburgh University, the girl who lived in the flat above mine came from Suffolk near Framlingham. So I married her.

What is your East Anglian heaven?

I grew in up Northern Ireland, which was great, but it rained a little almost every day, and certainly most weeks!  Whilst it might not seem like at times, living in the east of England is such a lovely climate compared to what I was used to. Before setting up my veterinary practices here, I had worked as a short-term locum in over 250 locations all around the British Isles. I always had an eye open for where I might settle and set-up my practice, but I couldn’t find anywhere that felt as right for me as East Anglia in terms of the pace of life, the ability to enjoy the countryside and yet travel to London in little over an hour, the civility and values of the people who I work with and who are my clients. Someone told me when I first came here that it would take 30 years for me to be accepted.  I never found that to be honest. I felt at home and welcome right away.

What is your East Anglian hell?

I don’t hate anything to be honest. Perhaps the fact that I live out ‘on a limb’ within the UK makes travelling to other parts of it a little harder, but that’s a small price to pay.

Most Read

What are your favourite East Anglian restaurants?

I’m afraid I am not a foodie!  It's an external tease from my friends and family that I am the guy that would take all my nutrition in a little pill, if I could! I know that makes me sound so ‘uncultured’, but that’s not to say I don’t enjoy and appreciate a wonderful meal at times – I just don’t crave it!  If I do eat out I enjoy The Station in Framlingham, Shapla in Woodbridge….and the chocolate cake from Bawdsey Beach café!

What’s your favourite East Anglian landmark?

I love the beaches in north Norfolk.  When my head gets ‘full’ we head for the north Norfolk coast and a long walk along one of the long sandy beaches.

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

Then Suffolk Sunrise 100 mile bike ride. My wife entered me (as a Christmas present) when I bought a road bike in 2011, as she was concerned the initial enthusiasm for cycling would pass. I had to build up the miles, which was surprising tough – the first time I did 50 miles I couldn’t remember my name. But I managed on the day and have done it again several times since. It’s a lovely way to see parts of Suffolk at a different pace than usual. And it’s flat.

What your specialist Mastermind subject?

Flags! I love flags and I reckon I could identify 95% of the world’s flags. Some of those African ones can look very similar though. Every now and again I meet another flag-geek and we talk flag-trivia and people think we are such nerds. But trivia such as ‘What’s the only country flag with a gun on it?’ is important – to me!

Question for your readers: What’s the only flag in the world that doesn’t contain any of the colours red, white and blue….?

What is always in your fridge?

I guess as I have already said that I’m not a foodie, I can’t pretend that there is a ‘must-have’ in my fridge.  So I will answer that another way, ‘What is never in your fridge?’ and  the answer is fizzy, sugary drinks. Once day we will look back and think, ‘I can’t believe we used to feed that stuff to kids!’.  I believe processed sugar results in as many health issues as nicotine.

What’s your simple philosophy of life?

Challenge, adversity and disappointments are absolutely guaranteed in one form or another as we go through life, but we often have a greater capacity to overcome them than we think. I know that sounds like some sort of ‘positive motivational platitude’ on first reading, but I think I was in my 30s before I genuinely started to realise – and believe.

What’s your favourite film?

It’s a little-known Australian movie called The Castle which is a fictional story about a family that lives literally on the other side of the fence beside the runway of Melbourne airport. Airport and government authorities wish to expand the airport and assume that it won’t be hard to acquire the house and land that most of us would consider an undesirable place to live.  But the family love their home – their Castle – and the fact that it acts as the rock that holds a unique and eccentric family together as they go through life’s challenges, and they aren’t for moving.

 I love the principles the story is based upon and the humour and the ridiculousness of the characters, that we can all resonate with. In 1997 I lived with an Australian vet colleague, (now my best mate), who told me about it, and frequently quoted all the best lines long before I had actually seen it. When we meet up we frequently quote lines of it to each other, which adds an extra layer of meaning.

What was your first job?

If you’re defining job as work, it was at my home farm in Northern Ireland as soon as I was able to carry and fetch something – probably around the age of four!  I worked every day on our family farm until I left for Edinburgh University to study veterinary in 1989. My first proper employed job was as a new graduate veterinary surgeon in Leicestershire, where I stayed for the first five years of my career. I worked a mixed practitioner vet, the classic James Herriot image, seeing and treating everything from cats to camels, hedgehogs to horses. 

What is your most treasured possession?

I am grateful for and appreciative of so many things, such as my health and having my ‘marbles’. Along with the many little items of personal memorabilia that I have accumulated over the years, but honestly….smart phones have added so much to my life compared to pre-smart phone days.  I know that being constantly connected can have its downsides as well, which is which I don’t have or use any social media apps on it but being so conveniently connected with so many people provides me with much more pleasure than the occasional hassle it causes.

Who do you admire most?

Tom Hanks. I think he has done so well going from his early run-of-the-mill movies to being a back-to-back Oscar winner and yet he seems to have remained so humble. His characters are always heroic and inspirational.

What is your biggest indulgence?

Shortbread biscuits – but they make my skin go red. I think I’m allergic, but I can’t help myself.

What do you like about yourself most?

I guess I’d say my work ethic coupled with my optimism. “Every problem has a solution” (Tom Hanks line from the movie Philadelphia).

What’s your worst character trait?

My pride - at times.

Where is your favourite holiday destination?

Provence, France. Travel-wise, we try to go to the south of France at least twice every year and we haven’t been since summer 2019, but we have trips planned for 2022. We had planned to celebrate my 50th birthday in conjunction with my daughter’s student-exchange trip in South Africa in August 2020, but due to the pandemic that had to be cancelled.

Best day of your life?

Besides the highly meaningful ones of my wedding day and the births of my children, and becoming a vet, I’d say arriving at Lands End in August 2020 having completed 31 marathons in 31 days running from John O’Groats to Lands End.

What’s your favourite breakfast?

Full Scottish - with haggis!

What’s your favourite tipple?

San Miguel lager

Do you have a hidden talent?

Public speaking and being a raconteur, I guess. I won the Toastmasters’ International humorous speaking competition for UK and Ireland in 2014 thanks to the wonderful tuition and support from my fellow club members at Speak Easy.

What’s your earliest memory?

Feeding our pet lamb at home on my family farm in Northern Ireland.

What would you like played at your funeral?

Danny Boy, aka Londonderry Air. We sang a hymn to the tune at our wedding. I’ll ask them to imagine me giggling when they are trying to hit that high note!

Tell us something people don’t know about you?

I smashed my right forefinger in an unfortunate farm accident when I was 11 and it had to be set crooked ever since. Weirdly, the compensation payout of £15,000 I received in 1985 turned out to be of the most positive life-changing events of my life in the end as it led to good things such as funding my time at vet school, travelling the world during my university holidays and putting down a deposit on my first house when I was 25.

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

“I don’t think this is working”.  My wife, (then girlfriend) broke up with me for a year in 1997. 

Tell us why you live here and nowhere else?

I have visited and worked in many parts of the UK but never felt at peace as much as I do here.

What do you want to tell our readers about most?

We must resist being seduced by images, assumptions and expectations that propagate the notion that life should be perfection. Everyone has their own problems, which can feel overwhelming and seem insurmountable at times, but I never fail to be surprised at how quickly we can turn things around with the right attitude and a little effort. This is the basis of what I do in my work as a confidence coach.  To be clear, we need to keep it real - I can’t be bothered with superficial platitudes spouting meaningless positivity. Genuine inspiration comes from observing ‘likeable characters’ who overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles in pursuit of worthwhile goals – the basic formula of any inspirational movie, story or performance we see. If you’d like to get in touch for professional mentoring, small business consultancy and communications training or personal confidence coaching I am available at brian@aldeburghvets.co.uk

I am always looking for interesting people from Suffolk and Norfolk to feature in my Q&A. Please contact me at gina@hallfarmfornham.com