Sunday, February 07, 2016

Dreaming Spires and Bedpans

Chapter 9

Dreaming Spires and Bedpans.

    Now that we had completed P.T.S. to prepare us to be let loose for our month’s trial on the wards we were all wondering where that would be -  whether on a surgical or a medical ward.

“What’s the difference Pat?  You’re the one with experience.”

“Well I’ve never nursed very sick children.  It was a Convalescent Home remember.”

“But you must have some idea,” Delia persisted.

“OK - well speaking very generally - on a surgical ward patients are admitted, have the op, have their stitches out and go home – if all goes well.”

“And on a medical ward?”

“It’s a much slower process and requires a lot of day to day nursing care and patience.  Some of the patients will be unconscious so you have to think for them and keep them comfortable.  Anyway we’ll know our fate soon enough.  Sister has just put the list on the notice board.”

  Clustered round the notice board I felt my face flush as I saw that for the next month I would be on one of the three medical wards – Borchardt Ward. I knew there would be patients suffering from tubercular meningitis and leukaemia – both fatal diseases in the forties, so it was going to be harrowing.  Everyone knew someone with TB, before the advent of safe milk.  

  We were extras on the ward so there was time to get to know some of the thirty odd patients including half a dozen babies.  There were two baby nurses and I longed to be one of them looking after the babies but I had to help generally at first. 

  The wards had very tall windows by each bed (if a patient had a high temperature we were told to open a window) and at each end of the ward in the middle of the room were two large tiled edifices – waist high - with fires at each end protected by fire guards.  In the centre was Sister’s desk always with a vase of flowers.  First thing in the morning we would group round the desk whilst the night nurses gave their report and Sister would give us our orders.  Each nurses had six patients each and she was responsible for all their toilet and treatments.  There was usually an extra nurse who would cover off duty and days off.

  I got a shock the first week when Sister said:

“Nurse Barnes.  Get Tom Sargent ready for theatre please.”  As we were a medical ward this was unexpected.  I was told to get woollen socks from one of the cupboards in the vestibule - it was essential to keep the patient’s feet warm during an operation – but when I got there the cupboard was bare – of woollen socks.  I searched the other cupboards – fruitlessly.

  I rushed to Staff Nurse (running is only allowed if there is fire or haemorrhage involved.

“I can’t find – there aren’t any – I’ve looked in all the cupboards I…

  Sensing my rising panic she said:

“Go to the nearest Surgical Ward – that’s Wrigley next ward on the left and borrow some socks.  You’d better be quick!”

On Wrigley I found people were not inspired to move quickly when requested by an unbelted Nurse – we only were allowed to wear a belt if we successfully passed the month’s trial - and by the time I got back to the ward Staff Nurse was looking hassled.  Thank Heaven she had put Tom on a trolley and dressed him in a theatre gown.

“You’ve really got to get a move on now Barnes – Sister Violet has been on the phone and the whole theatre is waiting for Tom!”  I gulped – we had all heard about the Theatre Sister who ate probationers for breakfast in spite of her resemblance to a curly haired Violet Elizabeth Bott of “Just William” fame.

  Staff Nurse helped me manoeuvre the heavy trolley outside the ward and then left me to it.  I looked down the corridor - the length of the Hospital where the Theatre was sited and I could just see three irate figures gesturing angrily in my direction.  I took a deep breath, put one arm protectively over Tom and pushed with all my might towards theatre and the trolley forged straight into the wall on the side of the corridor.

I yanked it back and pushed again.  This time it forged straight ahead into the opposite wall.  By this time we were almost at HoldenWard.  Only Wrigley, Liebert and Heywood wards to go and we’d almost be there.  I tried not to look at the three figures – who now seemed to be dancing.  By the time I reached Heyood they raced towards me and snatched Tom and trolley out of my grasp. I reflected that Medical and Surgical are two different worlds and never the twain should mix.  Ideally.

  Sister Moon was one of the older ones and was kind and motherly.  This helped when we had to nurse patients with T.B meningitis and leukaemia –fatal diseases in those days.

  One little girl on the ward came from a wealthy family and had been given her own cow, which tragically turned out to be tubercular.   Over the years progress has been made; we have clean milk, TB is rare and leukaemia can be cured, but in the forties, these were dread diseases and careful nursing was all-important to keep the patients comfortable and as happy as possible.  Nursing children spoils you as far as nursing adults is concerned.  They are incredibly brave and warrant love and affection.  Whenever I am afraid of some ordeal I have to go through, I remember Edward, a boy of ten who had to have intramuscular injections every four hours.  He would look at me with his big brown eyes and say, ‘Just wait till I get my grip Nurse,’ and he would grip the bed head, have the injection and then let me give him a hug.  I once persuaded a senior nurse to give me an intramuscular injection so I would know what it felt like.  I’m not sure I would have been brave enough to have one every four hours.

Parents were allowed to visit once a week, on Sundays from 3pm till 4pm and they were very much under the eagle eye of Sister.  There was no sitting on beds, no children visitors and only parents were allowed.  Hard as it may have been for the parents normally the children became used to us after a day or so and the big pay off was there was no cross infection.  We would have died of shame. Each ward had its own maids and the wards were spotless.  There was a smell that was mixture of floor polish and disinfectant.  From the entrance to the ward you would see that all the bed castors were turned inwards at the correct angle and all pillow case openings were away from the door.  This attention to detail was carried through in all aspects of nursing care, and the sloppiness one sometimes sees in today’s hospitals concerns me.  As a junior nurse, one’s first duty in the morning was to wipe down the beds and lockers with Dettol and then check the children’s heads for nits.  Matron did a ward round every day but never at the same time and you and the ward had better be looking immaculate.  There was a cleaner Mrs Wray who spent all day going from one end of the main corridor, on her hands and knees, scrubbing.  I flinched every time I had to walk over it and she would give me a weary smile as I apologised.

  Friends used to ask how I could bear to nurse children so ill and the answer was the children were inspiring and it was possible to have happy times together.   What used to finish me was when I looked at the parent’s faces when they came on the ward on a Sunday.  I would have to retreat into the Sluice, have a good blub and then get back on the ward. 
  At last the month’s trial was over; I was given my grey belt and a few months’ respite before the Preliminary State Exam in the autumn.  There was the Christmas Ball (held in January) and my trip to Oxford to look forward to. Life was good.

The Christmas Ball was fun.  It was formal (before the War the men wore white tie and tails) and Matron would invite the army or naval officers from nearby bases.  Historically lesser ranks weren’t considered suitable for us nurses.  We also had an informal dance every month in the Recreation Room and there was a steady flow of young men – engineers, undergrads and service men all under the watchful eye of Matron, so there was no malarking.  You could, of course sneak out into the grounds on the pretext of showing the visitors the wards from the outside, but you’d better not linger too long in the shrubbery. 

  I had a beautiful white lace dress for the Ball– handed down from Maddie, with a bunch of violets pinned to my bosom.  I met a nice sailor from Kent and arranged to see him when I came back from Oxford.  Actually I wasn’t very good with boys and it soon fizzled out.  Mostly I regarded them as chums and when they started getting soppy my interest waned.  On the rare occasions I fancied someone, I behaved in such an off-putting way I frightened them off.  Such a bore!    I was only seventeen and expected I would get better with age.
   Gran was excited about her forthcoming trip to Rhode Island in the States - to visit Auntie Jean who was expecting her first baby. Evan was swotting for School Cert and planning to leave school afterwards and train as a mining engineer.  How would my little brother manage a career without me there to look after him?

 There was a happy reunion with Annie who was enjoying her Fever Training and mighty relieved to have been spared all the swotting she would have had to do had she joined me in P.T.S.

At last it was time to take the train to Oxford.   I had saved up enough money – as long as I was careful.  Travelling overnight was cheaper but it was a difficult cross country journey and I had difficulty keeping awake – I had been on duty during the day and I was nervous of missing my changes.

The excitement of travelling alone at night dwindled when a strange, beefy man with a long ginger beard boarded the train at Melton Mowbray, took off his shoes and put his feet on the seat beside me.  It was early in the morning when I arrived and the sight of those ‘dreaming spires‘and the mist rising from the river made Oxford seem another world and quite beautiful.

  Maddie met me and we went for a much needed coffee in the High.  She showed me the Ashmolean Museum where her Art School – the Slade – had been evacuated during the war which gave her the precious gift of being educated in such a special place.  I still thought she was mad to throw it all away to marry Paul but knew better than to say so.

I was getting exhausted.

“Maddie can we save any more sightseeing for another day?  I’m going to sleep standing up.”

“Sorry Pat I forgot you hadn’t slept for a while.  We’ll get the bus and be home before lunch.  By the way we’ve got an old army friend of Paul’s staying – Adrian - you’ll like him, he’s nice.  Oh and we’ve been invited to tea in Jamie’s rooms later in the week.”

That last snippet was much more interesting.  I remembered how much I enjoyed meeting the two brothers – Jamie and Liam.  The third one Dylan less so but I would just keep out of his reach.

After a few hours sleep I felt bright as a button and soon Maddie and I were chattering and giggling non stop – much to Paul’s annoyance.  I don’t think he was delighted we were seeing Liam and Jamie - I think if Maddie hadn’t already met Paul before Oxford she would have been much closer to Liam.

The days passed pleasantly enough but it was clear the highlight of my week would be tea at Jamie’s.

  On the day I made sure my hair was freshly washed and wore a fine wool suit because it made me look older and a yellow sweater because the girls in our set said it  made my hair look lighter.

I loved seeing the colleges- they exuded atmosphere and were such gracious old buildings – like nothing you would ever see in Lancashire. It really felt like another world.

When we reached the porter’s lodge there was someone standing in front of the notice board and as we spoke to the porter he turned round and it was Jamie.  Gosh!  I had forgotten those dark gypsy- ish good looks.  After we greeted Jamie- he and I darting shy glances at each other - he led the way up a winding staircase to his rooms.

Liam and Dylan were already there and there was a roaring fire.

It wasn’t long before all shyness had worn off and we were chatting and catching up on the last couple of years.  There was an oar on the wall which Jamie had won in an Eight’s race but Liam was the star oarsman and he was happy to share his skill with us.  Seated on the floor he demonstrated various rowing techniques.

  “Oooh Liam,” I blurted out. “what short legs you’ve got!”  It was true; if he had been in proportion he would have been 7’ tall.  Liam looked at me thunderstruck and the others rocked with laughter- Jamie nearly fell off his chair.  Northern girls are nothing if not direct – something I have tried to curb over the years.

Roy Hudd, the famous Music Hall star was trying to make the difficult transition from stand- up comedy to serious acting and was being interviewed by the late lamented Dennis Potter at his home – with a view to acting in one of Potter’s prestigious plays.

Both men got on like a house on fire and without ever mentioning the reason for the meeting, Dennis invited Roy to stay for lunch whereupon Roy said he couldn’t because his wife was sitting in the car down stairs.

“Bring her up,” he was told.  Roy went down to collect his wife – another Pat – also a Lancastrian.  As she walked in the room her first words were:

“Well has he got the job then?”

Jamie gave us a splendid tea- buttered crumpets, chocolate cake and good strong tea complete with strainer and a brightly coloured tea- cosy which his mother had knitted clearly using up wool she had used to knit the boy’s Fair Isle pullovers.  I hadn’t seen Maddie so animated for a long time – marriage seemed to have sobered her somewhat.  When all the food had gone I started clearing up the dishes and carried them to the small kitchenette.  Jamie joined me and we washed up and he asked if he could write to me.  He always covered any such request with a joke – as if he wasn’t really serious – but I really liked him and loved getting letters, so I said yes.

On the last morning of my stay I was washing up yet again with Adrian (Maddie and Paul were at work).  I was taken aback when he said:

“Now that Paul’s married to a girl like Maddie he should buck his ideas up.”

I had no idea what he meant and he didn’t volunteer any more information.  He had

 been out in India with Paul and knew him pretty well.  He very kindly took me to the

Station and I said good bye to him and au revoir to Oxford.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Before the Storm

Click on photo to see them properly

Diverted to Antwerp.

A lesson to be learned by British towns

Rubens in the cathedral and gigantic pillars
A strange figure - part of a temporary exhibition and - we think a much venerated local composer, not Hendrix as we first guessed.

The collection of the Cathedral of Our Lady includes four masterpieces by Rubens. 
this is the Descent from the Cross.
after nearly170 years of construction the outline of the spire of the cathedral finally dominated the skyline around 1520

Back to the ship after coffee and divine chocolates.
  1. More dull weather in Gibraltar...
but a friendly pub with a full English brekker to die for after our recent hardships.  No pun intended.
My cabin - I always forget to tidy it before photo.

More than adequate but in the storms every panel rapped and creaked and rattled and banged all night long.  Lying under the window in the dark was scary at times.

At last - the sunnier climes we had booked for.
We drove up through the Esperanza Forest.  Above is the Dragon Tree.
The landscape turns to lava as we near Mount Teide 12,000'
Spot the birdie at our pit stop.
We see black lava, red magma and green rocks through which the road was cut.
Here we coud wander around alone .  Mesmerising.
Just to the right you see the top of Mount Teide.  I longed to go to the top but there was no time

Note the dramatic change in the landscape.  Back to Santa Cruz
Another day another port - Las Palmas and more sunshine.

My cabin is on the other side - the port side
Very pleasant to just amble round in the sunshine - a week late!
Strange as it may seem we have had occasions when we lost sight of the ship and panicked when we couldn't make anyone understand.  Shame on us!
View from a bridge.

Friday, January 15, 2016

A Few Photies.

 Madeira - sun at last

 Later the same day - coming back down the mountain with an ace driver.
 Our lovely waiter James from Bombay.
 Two chums.
And another - lots of fun.

 Bay of Biscay through my cabin window
 I was on the sixth deck

Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Cruise from Hell.

I knew this cruise would be different.  It wasn’t my favoured shipping line which meant we were sailing from Tilbury – twice my normal mileage to Southampton and because of its proximity to the Blue Water Shopping Centre – just before Christmas - a night at a Premier Inn was required to ensure I didn’t ‘miss the boat.’

The Premier Inn was excellent value and the staff most helpful when problems arose the next day.  Other cruisers were staying there and through them we heard that the ship was going to be five hours late.  The helpful staff allowed us to stay in our rooms – and when the time came booked reliable taxis for us to share.  The previous day - Dylan told me - he twice waited for over an hour for taxis which didn’t appear.

At last we were on board, my cabin appeared satisfactory but no facility for making tea and coffee which I have grown used to.  On this ship you had to reach Deck 10 for hot drinks – two of the lifts were out of order and had been for some time we were told.  There were many wheel chair bound passengers so at meal times and show times there were queues everywhere.

The first disappointment was when we learned that – due to the weather - we would be diverted to Antwerp – so much for Christmas in the sunny Canaries.  Also that our trip to Lanzarote was cancelled again due to weather conditions we were told.

With the British spirit we weren’t down hearted.  It was the first night of our cruise and we had a delicious meal to look forward to.

Our spirits plummeted when we realised that the food was abysmal.  Nothing was ever on time and with the endless queuing and paltry diet it felt like war-time.  On the first formal night when we are invited to have drinks with the captain and had been queuing for 20 minutes with no apparent movement a few of us sneaked round the back way and eschewed the opportunity to have a photograph with the captain.

On Christmas Day we experienced the full horror of the cuisine.  The beef choice wasn’t too bad apparently.  I chose traditional turkey which was an unrecognisable knuckle shaped piece of ? meat, three bullet hard sprouts, a pink smear (cranberry?), and some white stuff which could have been bread sauce.  I asked for some potato and was given cubes of hard potato.  I was lucky with dessert and had a passible crème brulee albeit floppy.  For days afterwards people were talking about the Christmas pudding resembling a stale brownie and so called mince pies with jam inside.

When we reached Antwerp we were told two chefs had been flown in and the food improved somewhat.  We were also told that some passengers had jumped ship and flown home.  The cathedral in Antwerp was outstanding with some wonderful Rubens.  We had delicious coffee in a café – with chocolates thrown in –which stemmed our hunger pangs.

In Gibraltar we found a pub and had a full English breakfast.  As I had been surviving on porridge and honey I thought I had died and gone to Heaven.  More people jumped ship and flew home we were told.

As our trip to Lanzarote was cancelled I missed the excursion I had planned.  We visited Las Palmas and Santa Cruz and at last saw the sun.  I had booked an excursion to Mount Teide up through the Esperanza Forest to 12,000feet.  We were warned to wrap up well but the weather was lovely and warm even on high.  I enjoyed the dramatic volcanic rocks which were surprisingly colourful.  I had been there before many years ago with MTL so I enjoyed having a quiet wander.

My last excursion was at Funchal in Madeira.  As usual the different groups were told to muster in the theatre and when at long last our group was called to disembark we were very late and clearly not going to be back for lunch.  I spotted the cruise director near the gang way and mentioned how delayed we were and that I hoped lunch would be waiting for us on our return.

‘Oh I think you’ll find it will be’, he said with a cheery grin.

‘I’m afraid it won’t be.  Would you please ensure that it is,’ I said putting on a face that was less cheerful.

  It worked – we got a message on the coach that lunch would be waiting on our return and sure enough – around 4pm lunch was available in the Bistro.

All the workers – waiters, cabin staff, dancers, and beauty staff were charming and hard working but many were new on the ship and were finding their way around.  The administration was – to say the least – lacking.

Another worthwhile excursion was Scenic Madeira with steep climbs, stunning views and – a treat for we deprived ship mates - two types of Madeira cake and two types of Madeira wine.  One of our drives involved descending a mountain road through thick fog.  Happily the drivers were excellent.

In Lisbon both Dylan and I were familiar with it and got on a Hop on Hop off bus.  We hopped on and – so strange and vast did it seem we didn’t hop off until the bitter end when we were actually glad to see the ship again.

From now on we were at sea and the weather worsened – very rough seas, waves 9 metres high and lots of sea sick victims.  Dylan was ex navy and I sailed many years ago so we were lucky but people were queuing for sea sick tablets (which they had to pay for.)  Each forecast was worse and we had to take great care moving around the ship.  The lifts weren’t working but often the crew were there to help one up and down stairs.

Finally it got so bad we were confined to our cabins and went from bedtime to lunch time with no hot drink.  How I wished I had accepted Dylan’s kind offer to buy me chocolates in Antwerp.  We had a plate of stale rolls delivered to our cabins.

The last night we were allowed in the restaurant and we were all quite gay and light hearted at the thought of being back home soon – once through the Bay of Biscay.  But then the heavy chairs started to fall backwards – sometimes with people in them.

There were crashes as all the plates and glasses smashed to the floor and from the far end of the restaurant people were hastily leaving the mayhem.

One woman complained she had paid extra to have a large window and it had been boarded up fro the last few days.

   The last night we had a helicopter hovering over the ship as a passenger was air lifted to the shore.

Eventually we breathed a sigh of relief as we reached the Thames – not all that late.  We said a fond farewell to the hard working waiters and cabin staff and waited for our call to the gangway.  We managed to meet up with our favourite dining companions – two doughty ladies from Brighton and the time passed until our call about 3pm.

As we left the ship for the very last time (and I mean that most sincerely although Dylan had already booked the very same cruise to do in March) walking in front of us down the ever changing gangway I noticed a man I used to see often in the restaurant – always smartly dressed in a suit and helping his frail, delicate looking wife to her seat.  He was pushing her down the bumpy gangway in a wheelchair and suddenly the chair overturned and deposited his wife on the ground.  He completely lost it and shook his fist.

“I hate this bloody ship’ he cried! 
As we tried to help to put his wife back in the chair and some crew appeared I think a few of us had a quiet sob in sympathy.

Tilbury was chaos with cars and taxis trying to leave and enter the dock.  It was grid lock for some time.  We were both waiting for taxis so wanted to be visible and the rain came and we were surrounded by smokers.  I reached home about 8pm and Dylan apparently 10 pm.

As I constantly told first time cruisers on the ship:

‘Please don’t let this put you off cruising.’

Sunday, December 20, 2015

All my best wishes

To my dear blog friends.
 I wish you a joyous Christmas and a happy, healthy New Year.
Your friendship and support mean so much to me.
Once again I am running away to spend this sad time - for me - in the Canaries.
I plan to avoid dance floors and escalators.  Fingers crossed!
Keep the faith.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

No Sand-'ills in Salford

Chapter 8

There’s no sand’ills in Salford!”

  Sitting on the Yelloway bus going west to the seaside I was returning to the Convalescent Home for the last time.  This bus was usually filled with happy people in holiday mood.  From now on I would be going south on a Ribble bus through dreary mill towns to Manchester but Annie would be with me and we could face the gloom together.

  I was looking forward to telling her about the holiday in the Lakes.

In the Nurses’ Sitting Room there was a parcel for me: a pair of precious silk stockings from James one of the chaps we met in the Lakes.  For some reason this offended me (who can understand the psyche of a teen-age girl - I couldn’t understand myself) and I returned them.  And yes I’m ashamed of my stupid pride and rudeness.  Serve me right – I never heard from him again.

  I caught a glimpse of Annie as she took the children out onto the sand hills.  There was no time to talk but I could tell from her face there was something wrong.

It was after supper before we had a chance to talk.

“Pat – I’ve got something to tell you.”  I noticed she had tears in her eyes.

“What’s the matter Annie?  Is there something wrong at home?” 

“No – everything’s fine there.”

“Well what is it?  Come on you know you can tell me anything.”

“I’m sorry Pat – I -I’m not coming to Pendlebury with you.”

I stared at my friend unbelieving.  Going to Pendlebury together had been our main topic of conversation for months and I believed she was as excited about it as I was.

“I’ve been talking it over with Staffie and she thinks I’d be mad to tie myself down for three years and anyway I think the whole thing will be too difficult for me I’m not as clever as you so I’m going to do my Fevers instead.’

“But Annie –“

“Don’t try to talk me round Pat.  I’ve made my mind up!”

Before I could raise my jaw to its normal place she said:

“I’ve got to go - I’m expecting a phone call from home.  I’ll see you in the morning.”  At the doorway she turned round,

“I’m really looking forward to hearing all about the holiday,” and with that she was gone.  I sank onto my bed and now it was my turn for tears.

  The next day - on my off duty, I rushed to the Post Office to ring Mum at work and she – as always - helped me to put things in perspective’

  ‘Don’t worry Pat luv, you and Annie will always be friends and this Staffie may be right.  It may all be too much for Annie.  Not just the physical work but all the exams.  We know from Isabel it’s a tough three years.”

  I thought about Staffie; I had found her stunning and cool and had been in her thrall as she held court with us in the evenings.  It seemed there was a little more to her than we thought.  Apparently she lived locally, was married to a taxi driver and mingled with a wild bohemian set.  One of the maids had spotted her at the Pleasure Beach in an ice cream van, dressed in a mink coat with lots of bling and selling ice cream.  Not that there is anything wrong with that but I’m quite sure Matron Jones – now retired - had no idea about this.  What was wrong – in my opinion - was to use a young girl’s insecurities to influence her to change her career plan.  She had tried to do exactly the same with me but I didn’t take the brain washing seriously.  To my mind there was no comparison between a Fever trained nurse and a Pendlebury trained Nurse.  Pen was the Great Ormond Street of the north.

  In the event Annie and another nurse left to do their Fevers training.  The sad thing was that eventually Fever Hospitals became defunct.  Mum was right about one thing though - my friendship with Annie survived to this day.

  Before long it was time to say goodbye to the friends who had been my family for the last 18 months and to set off with my old tin trunk to the city.  The two maids Bridie and Dotty, Mrs Mack the cook and Mr Moreland the boiler man had been the constants during my time at St Annes and we shed a few tears on parting.

  I was glad of Mum’s company on the bus to Manchester.   Once there we had to cross the city and get a bus to Pendlebury.  As we reached the city outskirts I looked out on streets blackened with soot, grease and grime; we passed Strangeways Prison and it was like looking at the gates of Hell.

“Oh Mum!  Where are my lovely sand - hills?

“There’s no sand-’ills in Salford,” was Mum’s answer!

  At last we reached the hospital and were directed across the main road to a large Victorian  edifice – Jesson House which was to be the home of the 21 young girls who now made up PTS, the Preliminary Training School.

It was time to hug Mum good bye again.

“Be good Pat.  See you on your day off.”

“Bye Mum.  Thanks for coming with me.”

The first thing that greeted us as we entered the House was a large decorated picture on the wall which said:

“Enter ye to learn.  Go forth to serve.”

We were shown into a large room and told to help ourselves to tea which was in a large urn.  There was also a large slab of Huntley and Palmers fruit cake cut into manageable pieces.  Once we were settled Sister Tutor introduced herself as Sister Watson.  She wore spectacles and exuded a quiet intelligence.  A little nun - like in appearance with a scrubbed clean face that had never known makeup and which lit up when she smiled.

She introduced us to the other two members of staff –Sister Lee – small, bird- like with a worried expression and a Staff Nurse – Nurse Anderson her large, angular body emanating common sense and no nonsense!

For the next three months we would have Lectures and Practical Sessions in another old house further up the road.

  We would not be allowed to touch a patient until we had successfully completed the three months and passed the exam at the end of it.  Then we would be given our

 grey belts; grey for first year, navy for second year and white for third year.

It was a bit like being back at school.  We would have lectures by the Consultants and Nursing points from Sister Tutor (we sometimes wished she would go and sit on them).

  Sick room cookery was taught at a nearby college and once a week we played hockey.  I was to share a room with Freda an older girl who had been in the army and Delia who was my age and who eventually became a gold medallist. 

Sister decided that as I was the only one with any nursing experience I would be the week’s leader which meant that, with the help of one other, I would prepare breakfast for the first week.  By this time I had a raging headache which seemed to last for days.   I missed the delicate pastel colours and the fresh air of St Annes but in Pendlebury we had the most fantastic, dramatic sun–sets created – I was told - by the intense pollution in Manchester and its environs.

The good news was a letter from Maddie, now ensconced in Oxford. reminding me that in February I was to pay them a visit when I would see Liam and Jamie again. 

  It was hard work with lectures every day, practical nursing sessions, copying up notes and trying to absorb all the information, but it was also a lot of fun.  We each had the same off- duty so there was always someone ready for a trip to Eccles to sample the cakes, or a jaunt to the local flea-pit to see a flick.  At bed-time Freda would regale us with tales of what she got up to in the army and we would discuss our hopes and dreams – usually scoffing our sweet rations at the same time.  Apart from Freda who was older, we were mostly aged about eighteen.  Some of the girls had come straight from school and some had had office jobs.  I was the only one with any experience but was also the youngest.  As we walked from Jesson House to the hospital for our meals in uniform and protected from the elements by our scarlet lined navy cloaks, we would catch glimpses of the wards and the ‘real’ nurses and wonder if we would be capable of coping in three months time.  The practical sessions were enjoyable, where one of us would act as patient. We would learn how to give a  bed bath, without the patient freezing to death and with modesty preserved at all times – only exposing the part of the body to be washed and washing the private bits under a towel.  Great care was given to pressure points and throughout my training bed sores were unknown - the hospital would have died of shame. 
  Of all the girls, Turner stood out.  She was different in that she had no trace of a Lancashire accent, had been expensively educated and oozed confidence from every pore.  She was always first – to ask and answer questions, to collect her post and in line at meal times – always head of the queue.  When we started sick room cookery lessons at the local technical college, it was more noticeable than ever as there was a shortage of equipment. The more diffident of us who would stand back to let others go first and would then be racing against the clock in order to complete the recipe in time.  As we were awarded marks each week which would affect our final result, we started to get a bit twitchy.  Our cookery tutor was a timid little woman who appeared to be completely mesmerised by Turner.  On the day of the final cookery exam we were all nervous.  Poor marks in this exam could influence the final PTS result.  If we didn’t pass we were out.   Turner excelled herself. She whistled round the room like a whirlwind, grabbing, lunging, and clattering in order to be first to collect equipment and ingredients and present the tutor with the perfect invalid’s stew.  We followed in her wake as best we could.  And then disaster!  In her haste Turner had grabbed what she thought was a bottle of gravy browning to give her stew the perfect brown hue and was devastated to see it turn scarlet.  Inadvertently she had grabbed a bottle of cochineal.  For once the tutor asserted herself and awarded Turner nil points which we all thought was a bit hard.  Not long afterwards she left, we had lost our first probationer and the original twenty-one became twenty.

  Annie had embarked on Fever Training with another St Anne's nurse and like me was missing the carefree, open air life at the sea-side. We were now miles apart in different towns and it was difficult to coincide our off-duty. We agreed to wait until one of us was on holiday to get together. There was no shortage of friends. Our set really bonded during the schooling session known as 'Block' and a nucleus of us would be friends until death.  The days were enlivened by lectures from the consultants. One adjured us never to leave furniture polish around as his children had eaten some and had hallucinated for days. Another painted a vivid picture of a typical TB patient - fair, delicate skin, rosy cheeks and long eyelashes.
  " He might have been describing you Pat," said Freda,  "Good job we have regular mantoux tests to test for T.B.  
   Yet another consultant described the physical signs of a syphilis patient with a dropped saddle nose and teeth, remarkably similar to the sister tutor sitting in on the lecture. His descriptions of the slow deterioration of the victim ending in G.P.I. - General Paralysis of the Insane - was so horrific it could have put us off sex for life. Actually there wasn't a lot of it about - sex I mean- in our neck of the woods. The odd, bright young thing who talked about sex before marriage was regarded as being no better than she should be. During my time at the hospital there were a couple of pregnancies but they were both 'nice girls'.  As Greer Garson proclaimed in ‘Blossoms in the Dust’:

Bad girls don't have babies.’

Then too if you wanted to wear white on your wedding day you had to be ‘pure’ obviously

  At last it was exam time. Most of us passed and were now deemed fit to go on the wards and practice our new skills on the patients - under strict supervision - for a month’s trial.  Then I was off to Oxford to visit Maddie and Paul and maybe see Liam and Jamie the lads who had stopped off in Rossendale en route to climbing in Skye.

That should be fun.

Monday, December 07, 2015

Very Random Photies

Dad back row second from right, Uncle Bill front row second from left.  Little boy peering through window Uncle Harold 

Mum as a mill girl 
 Maddie back row left Pat front middle with the Trickets next door
Evan, Pat, Mum and Dad at Blackpool circa 1938 
 Maddie and Uncle Bill
 Mum and granddad Williams
 Mum, Pat and Evan at Polperro.  Evan rarely removed his cap:)
Maddie at Whipsnade Zoo.
Pat and Evan somewhere in the S.W.
I dare not delete this as they all may vanish.

Maddie and Aunts on Queen Mary
Pat bottom left with Trickets.  Why couldn't I have a bonnet?

Auntie Jean - Mum's younger sister and George her GI husband of 60 plus years.

Pendlebury- Royal Manchester Children's Hospital - my home from 1947 - 1951

Pat, Annie and Tommie at St Annes - the Convalescent Home 1947

Back row from left Cousin Danny, Cousin Benny and Bridegroom Cousin Ernie - three brothers all served in WW2.  Pat bottom right,

Uncle Ernest's wedding - on his right his brothers Uncle Frank and Uncle Joe,  Uncle Ernest was gassed in WW1.

Uncle Bill and Maddie  could be Cleveleys.

Evan in his mining days.

Pat and Evan on our exciting tour round Devon and Cornwall
Clever Evan caught supper in Lake Windemere.  One perch.

Mr Moreland our lovely Boiler Man at St Annes.

Grandad and Grannie Barnes with crosses above their heads.  That is a charabanc.
Gran - Mum's Mother

Maddie's reception
Miss knock knees 1932?
Mum with the Swallow and Rudge
  Mum , Pat and Evan Lake District.
Evan's Castle - the fallen tree in Lake Windemere
Maddie's bridesmaids.
Margaret - a loved patient of mine.

Sarah - my holiday chum
Four of the Nursed at St Annes.  Lottie is the front right.