Saturday, March 11, 2017

Some Faces
Pat and Ginny earlier in the Lakes before it all went pear shaped.

Blue belts Kate, Pat and Ginny back row 
Kate arising from the Welsh sea apparently fully clothed and pearls of course. 
Pat and Gerhardt.  It was quite scary 
Pat with the lovely German girls.
The German party 1949 who we had been taught to hate. 

Sunday, March 05, 2017

An Imperfect Life.  Chapter 19
New Faces and Places.

“You’ve been dumped.  Now you know what it feels like.  Get over it!”

 So I told myself but it was a lonely time with Ginny engrossed in her new boy friend

and our set halved with nurses leaving, unable to withstand the stresses and strains of

  caring for very sick children.

   My immediate problem was what to do with the fortnight’s holiday in February –

 planned as a  trip to Oxford to be with Jamie.

 Just lately I had been working on the wards with Kate – a member of our set.  She

 was a really good person – without being pi and I found her a very comforting


Kate told me about Plas y Nant - a Christian Fellowship House in North Wales.

  “It’s a beautiful spot – if you like mountains. There’s graded outdoor activities with

 leaders in charge but I have to warn you Pat - there are prayers morning and night.”

   When she showed me a snap of this old house nestled amongst

 pine trees and surrounded by mountains I had no hesitation in accepting an

 invitation to join her.  I knew it was going to be a special place.  Betws Garmon, is five miles SE of
 Carnarvan – an area of mountains, llyns, (lakes) waterfalls and glens.  Plas itself was a rambling old
building in grounds that begged to be explored.

When we arrived there the gardens were fragrant with the smell of pine and as we crunched our way up the drive we had a fantastic view of a mountain – the Elephant and Llyn Quellyn. 
When we first saw the Elephant – you can guess its shape – it was diamond encrusted as a result of

all the minute slivers of ice scattered over it.   Because of the time of year Kate and I were the only

guests, with an influx of walkers at the week-end.  This didn’t trouble us as we both needed respite

and Lena, the manager, made sure we got it.   Kate was a bit worried about my finger nails; off duty

I wore Peggy Sage nail varnish a pale pink natural shade.

 “Pat I’m a bit worried Lena may be shocked at your nail varnish.”
“Kate if she objects I promise I’ll remove it.”

 We couldn’t wear it on duty of course but since my break up with Jamie a bit of steel had entered my

 soul and I no longer felt obliged to try desperately to please everybody.

 Lena was a gentle looking lady – slight, with fuzzy hair and large owlish glasses.
  In spite of her delicate appearance she had complete control over all guests at all times, even the

rowdy ones in the larger parties.  We were privileged to have her undivided attention during the week

 and I certainly found peace and tranquillity.  One of the charming customs of the house - when it was

occupied by men and women – was the evening ritual when the men would gather outside the

conservatory and serenade the women with the song ‘Good Night Ladies.’  I can’t remember what we

 sang back to them and neither can Kate.  Our memories are slightly conflicting because I believed

we had wandered over the Pyg track – just the two of us – in fog, but Kate said we climbed Snowdon

in a party.  Maybe it was Crib Goch I remember with a lonely sheep dog for company. It felt very

daring and was quite dangerous. We certainly climbed at least two mountains, read lots of poetry and

 enjoyed Knickerbocker Glories in Caernarfon.  Lena said we ought to return in the summer when

there would be team leaders and graded walks and climbs.  This was our final year of training, with

more responsibility and lots of studying so we decided to repeat the experiment in the summer and

booked then and there.

  There were to be a lot of changes in the next few months - some I was aware of and some came as a surprise.  One thing was certain, the remaining members of our set would take their finals in October and then leave.  I would have to stick it out for another six months when I would be old enough to take State Finals.  And then what?

 When I got back from Plas it was my birthday – twenty and still unmarried - unlike Mum and Maddie.  I still went out with boys but imagined I would have platonic relationships for the rest of my life.  I wasn’t going to mope - just be realistic.
Maddie told me that Liam- Jamie’s elder brother had met a girl at Yale and they were to be married.  She was Jewish and her family had escaped from Austria before the war.  So much for Jamie’s father’s dream of his sons marrying nice Scottish girls. 

Maddie dropped the bombshell that Paul - her husband - had got a job in Africa and the three of them were going out there to live.  We were all going to miss them – especially Mum, Dad and the Aunts.
Evan had got a serious girl friend and Gran was in the States again so Mum and Dad were having the time of their lives with just themselves to think about.  I knew I would never live at home again but felt a bit rudderless.  Still I had another year before I had to decide what to do next.  I saw much less of Ginny as she was fully occupied with her fiancĂ©e.
  Kate and I were very thankful when August came along and we set off for Plas once more.  It was very different in the summer - beautiful gardens, crystal clear views and a great buzz of excitement as people settled in and started getting to know one another. There was a lovely feeling of fellowship and we were excited to hear there was a German Party – it was 1950 and the war was still fresh in our memories.  I spotted them in the garden bunched together and looking a bit glowery.  I cursed the fact that I didn’t know any German except ‘Ich liebe dich’ – the song ‘I love you.’  I went up to a young man with a thunder cloud on his brow and said ‘Ich’ pointing at myself, ‘Pat.’  Then I pointed at him questioningly and said ‘Dich?’- meaning I’m Pat who are you.  I now think this is possibly an intimate way of speaking rather like the French tu- toying but I had no idea then. .He beamed from ear to ear and told me, in excellent English that he was Gerhard and - still with a happy smile introduced me to the rest of the party.  I’m not sure what he said to them but from then on there was no stand - offishness and Germans and Brits alike spent the next week walking, eating, laughing and praying together.  They had all been children during the war - like us, and we were able to rid ourselves of the belief that all Germans were wicked.  We giggled when the boys stood outside serenading us and sang ‘Merrily we yoll along.’ instead of ’roll along.’  There was a lot of joshing and teasing.  One of the Brits was Johnnie - a wag- and the last night he sang a song about all the characters which ended up with a chorus of ‘Pat and Gerhard’ to every body’s amusement and Gerhard demanded a copy.  It was the sort of holiday where one felt one loved everybody but it was all light-hearted - nothing serious.
  Back in hospital the rest of my set were madly swotting for the Finals in October and I was thankful that I had another six months breathing space. October marked the end of the three years I had been training

  Just as I thought I was going to be friendless along came Vanessa.  She had joined the hospital as a second year nurse, having done her general nursing and so was already State Registered.  I first noticed her standing languidly by the tea urn in the dining room.  She was tall and willowy with blonde hair and only needed a couple of borzoi to be a dead ringer for Diana the Huntress.  I didn’t get to know her until our final year when Home Sister said as we were both senior nurses we would have the privilege of sharing the bedroom in the Admin Block.  This room was special; up in the eaves of the main hospital, above sick bay and above the doctor’s quarters - so remote it wasn’t regularly inspected.  And it had a fire-escape and a fireplace. It was a cold October and Vanessa thought it would be fun to have a fire so we would have the luxury of dressing and undressing in the warm.  But how on earth would we get the coal up two floors I wondered.  Next thing I knew I was following Vanessa down the main corridor; blessing the fact that she was so tall and had been given the longest cloak in the hospital.  It reached the floor and completely hid the two buckets of coal she was carrying.  We kept that fire going for three days until Home Sister happened to notice smoke coming from a normally dormant chimney.  She was a great sport and after playing hell with us made us promise we would never do it again.  Thankfully, she didn’t tell Matron, (thanks Sister Walters).
  Not all the sisters were so kind and understanding.  Vanessa - who the medical staff nick-named Snake-Hips was made very unhappy by two bitchy Sisters whose ward she was on and I had a problem with one of the Night Sisters. I was sad that Vanessa only told me about this in later years. .Being so isolated we didn’t get the usual wake up call from the maids and had to rely on an ancient alarm clock.  It was very large and had two brass bells attached.  One morning it didn’t go off and I was late for breakfast.  This particular Night Sister was big and bouncy and somewhat of an exhibitionist.  She glared at me through her dark framed spectacles got hold of the alarm clock, managed to get it ringing and to prove her point went striding down the main corridor swinging the pealing clock triumphantly.  Once on night duty she was so unreasonable and unfair that I became enraged and determined to go to Matron and hand in my notice.

 “Pat you can’t throw away the last four years training just because that cow was bitchy to you.  You know what she’s like.  The other night Jones took her 11pm coffee – on the dot - Sister decided it was too weak and poured it onto the main corridor floor,” Kate tried to reason with me.  Fortunately by the time I came off duty I had calmed down and agreed it would be silly to throw all the years of training away because I had a problem with one Sister.  Common sense prevailed.

    Compared to the normal Spartan single bedrooms ours had a bohemian feel to it;
posters of Margot Fonteyn decorated the walls, there were dried flowers in the fireplace and there

was a delicious aroma – a mixture of pot pourri, fresh fruit and Vanessa’s scent.

   In October I decided to go to the hospital dance.  I had heard that Andrew had left the area so I wouldn’t bump into him.  After a few dances I noticed there was a bunch of chaps who apparently were engineers from Metro-Vickers.

 One in particular seemed rather ebullient and even went up to Matron to have a chat - a rare occurrence with invited guests.  He seemed to stare at me a lot and finally came up and asked for a dance.  He told me later he had said no way was he going to ask that conceited looking girl to dance.  I had never met anyone quite like him and haven’t to this day.  He said his name was William.





Thursday, February 16, 2017

Lisbon from the River Tagus

 An old brewery now a museum
Padrao dos Descobrimentos
commemorating the discoveries of Christopher Columbus

 Moody, misty mid morning.
Our beautiful ship - Balmoral.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Some Merry Widows on Board
Christmas night -  the good part of the evening when we choose our wines and decide what we are going to eat.  We had the same two waiters and I became Mam Pat so have lost my previous  title.  The boys were very efficient and always charming.  My dinner companions were five widows - all totally different but excellent company and it was fun to let one's hair down.  Breakfast and lunch were also very enjoyable with two bachelors, a married couple and anyone who cared to join us.  I found it was relaxing always to use the same restaurant.  You are given a restaurant where you eat each night - you choose either first or second dinner and keep to it throughout but then you have 3 or 4 other places to eat the rest of the day.  You can eat throughout the day -some people do -  but I find sticking to three meals a day and sticking to my normal diet - their porridge is yummy - helps weight control.

A disappointment was that both at Puerto del Rosario and La Gomera the pilot declared the swell was too great to dock.  So that meant two extra days at sea. There was some mal de mer and a few empty seats at dinner.  I was thankful for the legacy from my sailing days.

Safely in the Canaries we went ashore and found a church which was quite normal outside
 but inside was so dazzling  I became emotional and was about to have a' moment.'

 Then over the tannoy came
'Yeah, you better watch out, you better not cry
You better not pout, I'm telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town.'
And I collapsed in fits of laughter.
 A nice bit of Gothic
 and a nice chap whose name I didn't discover.
 A Garden where we were served sweet little cakes and juice - or was it wine?

 Back to my haven.
Tea, coffee and more hanging space and drawers than I can use. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Day out in Casablanca

Day out in Casablanca
Please click on photos for best results
The beauty and spaciousness of the Mosque reminded me of the Taj Mahal.
Our gorgeous guide - GG used the space to demonstrate her daily ablutions and assured us that in her country women were free to choose how they dressed.

She talked a little about Ramadan and  explained that it was a matter of timing when you could eat  and drink and intimated that as far as sex was concerned the hours when it was permitted were not wasted.
 GG took us through this lovely market.  At no time did we feel uncomfortable or in any danger.  She told us that they loved their King and Queen who were kind and caring  and helped the less fortunate people.  She took us to an old, tall building in the city- which housed La Toque Blanche.
 Slowly with the aid of a tiny open iron lift - the like of which I haven't seen since visiting my agent's office in Cambridge Circus in the fifties- we reached the 5th? floor where we learned how to make Moroccan Fekkas, Bahla and Gazelle Horns.  And then of course we had to eat them.
 The School was owned by a young woman,  the women were in charge and we were waited on by sweet young men.  Delicious!  The cakes I mean.
 Gloria - one of us - was encouraged to have a go.
Then we were shown how to make Beef Tajine, Chiken Tajine and Couscous Tfaya with vegetables and chiken.
 Then we were taken even higher to a dining room.

   The silver tureens were removed and we were served with plates of divine food.  I had asked for a small helping so felt justified in going back and asking for more.  That pleased them greatly.
We all got a certificate from Mme Laila Lahlou, directrice de l'ecole de gastronomie La Toque Blanche to say Mackay Patricia (or whoever)  a participe au atage d'initiation a la Cuisine et Patisserie Marocaine en date du 24/12/2016.
After a little shopping a local man burst on to the coach - upset that he had unwittingly overcharged one of the passengers convincing us all that Casablanca is a special place.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Seasonal wishes to all blog friends and may 2017 bring health , happiness and peace to all

See you next year. Pat

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

An Imperfect Life                            Chapter 18


Half sick of shadows


“Which Ball are you going to?” I was making beds with Staff Nurse Harvey.  At Christmas we had two Balls – one before and one after Christmas.

“I’m going to the first – my boyfriend Jamie is coming up from Oxford.  He’s trying to get a lift- otherwise he’ll have to hitchhike. 

“Nurse Barnes ‘as got a boy friend an’ she LUVS ‘im!’

“Sit down in your bed Tommie Sargent and stop that row – you’ll wake the babies.Oh that’s the last clean draw- sheet - I’ll go and get some more.”

The draw- sheets were very wide sheets which went under the child’s body.  They were wide so that the excess sheet was tucked in at either side of the bed and if the patient wet the bed during the night the draw sheet could be quickly adjusted without disturbing the patient too much. There was a waterproof mat under the sheet. In theory this shouldn’t happen as the children were regularly pottied and bed panned but children make their own rules.

“Won’t he be at home for Christmas,” asked Staff Nurse?

“Well actually he lives in London but it’s his Final year so he has to spend most of the time in Oxford – swotting - poor lad!”

Actually it had occurred to me that he rarely goes home at all these days.

“Nurse can we see ya when yer all dressed up.  PLEASE Nurse.”

“Stop shouting Maggie.  We’re not allowed on the wards when we’re in mufti.”

Staff Nurse came to my rescue.

“IF you settle down and IF you stop shouting I’ll have a word with Sister and see what she says.  No promises mind!”

I loved our dances.  Jamie said he was definitely coming and I looked forward to showing him off.  I was so proud of him and as usual we were all rallying round making sure we looked our best with pretty ball gowns, evening slippers and sparkly jewels.  Just as well there were two balls as some of the more desirable accessories were working overtime.

Off duty I had just washed my hair when I got the call.

“Barnes!  You’re wanted on the phone!”

 “Thanks.  Male or female?”


  It was Jamie.

“Pat it’s not looking good.  I want to come but I’m snowed under with work.  I’ll do my best but be prepared in case I can’t make it.”

My hair was dripping so I told him not to worry and said goodnight.

By now I almost hoped he wouldn’t come.  At least I would know where I was.

Then at the last moment he phoned and said he WAS coming but could only stay for one night and could I arrange for us to stay at the Millers?  I didn’t feel I could ask them at this late date so I ignored his request.

  As soon as he arrived – resplendent in his DJ - I knew it wasn’t going to be a happy evening.  There seemed to be a great wall between us and I felt sick in my stomach with an awful feeling of foreboding.

Over supper he said,

“I don’t think the visit in February is a good idea.” I stared at him blankly.

“I shall be so busy revising and catching up on practical work.  If you‘re there I wouldn’t get anything done.”

I was struggling  - trying not to look as miserable as I felt when he rocked me on my feet by saying he might go abroad as no-one would miss him.

 Those words reverberated in my head.  Did he really just say that? It felt like I had been kicked in the stomach and I was so choked with emotion I couldn’t speak for fear of screaming at him.  With hindsight I realise now that he was far needier than I had ever imagined.  Maybe he too had heard whispers – Maddie’s husband had caused trouble before - and maybe Jamie had had doubts and uncertainties.

 I remembered telling had him that one night - fed up with having none of my set around - I went to see a film ‘The Third Man’ with a junior houseman.  It was totally innocent – like going to the flicks with my brother.  Surely he trusted me?

  Ginny was on night duty and I’d promised to take Jamie round to see her.  Both of us were relieved to get out in the cold evening air.  We had to be discreet and met her on the ward balcony.  I was thankful it was dark because she said:

“Cheer up Jamie!  It won’t be long now before Pat comes down to Oxford and then you’ll have two whole weeks together.”

Neither of us said anything.

  When we got home to Rossendale everybody was in bed and I suddenly felt deathly tired.

I asked him if he would mind if I didn’t get up in the morning.  There didn’t seem any point in prolonging this misery – but his face crumpled and I moved towards him.

“Please come and see me off Pat”.

He put his arms around me and clasped me close.  I could feel his hands pressing my body closer and closer until I could hardly breathe.

“Yes, yes - alright Jamie I will.  Let me go please.  I’ll see you in the morning. “

  For once I was grateful for Gran’s snoring which drowned my stifled sobs.

  Mum was just leaving for work when I got up in the morning.  She took one look at my ravaged face.

“Eeh what’s the matter Pat?”

I shook my head – afraid to start speaking and she said:

“If ‘e’s ‘ urt ya yer Daddy‘ll kill ‘im!”

That’s when I realised that despite family and friends, ultimately we are all alone

This was my mess and I had to deal with it.

Normally we would go to Manchester on the Ribble bus but for some reason we got the train at Waterfoot.  The carriages reeked of stale tobacco and the bleak landscape – cotton mills and gas works shrouded in a freezing fog did nothing to lighten our spirits.  Neither of us attempted conversation.  Walking through Manchester as we neared the Bus Station Jamie spotted a fellow student in the queue.  He turned to me,

“Don’t bother to wait Pat – it’s so cold.”

“Alright.  Goodbye Jamie.”

  As I walked away from him – I’m sorry there is no other way I can describe this – I felt my heart break


I didn’t know what to do.  The thought of going home or back to hospital was unbearable so I phoned Mrs Miller and she invited me round.  During the day with the children I was fine but after we had put them to bed we were listening to some music – I think it was Mahler’s Fifth and the tears started to flow and I had to tell them what had happened.  Maria told me later that Hector had been very upset and I realised that I had to get a grip or I would drive everyone mad – including myself.

I decided to end this unbearable state of affairs and wrote to Jamie telling him I still cared for him but if it wasn’t the same for both of us it wasn’t going to work.  A certain amount of pride was involved.  I had a letter back reluctantly accepting this and experienced the length, breadth and depth of misery.

  The worst part was the awful guilt I felt.  Most of us have been dumped at some stage in our lives but there was this feeling that I had been given something rare and precious and through my selfishness and bad behaviour I’d ruined it.  Typically as my closest friends came off night duty I went on and – feeling isolated the moment came when I – alone on the ward- in charge of the poison cupboard key found myself unlocking the cupboard door and taking out a small brown bottle of phenobarbitone.  The tablets were quite tiny and the bottle was full.  I could swoosh then all down with a glass of water.  I hoped Mum and Dad would forgive me in time.  But Gran?  Never!

She would never understand how I could let some man get me into this state.  I felt some of her steel enter my soul.  A child cried out.  I put the bottle back, locked the cupboard and went to check on the child.

Around this time there was an outbreak of typhoid.  The food at a large firm’s Christmas Dinner had been infected.  The Fever Hospital was in desperate straits and I went to Matron and volunteered to go and work there until the crisis was over secretly hoping I would get sick and die and be rid of this misery for ever.  She was very sweet but would not allow me to go.

 Jamie had loved my hair long so I chopped it off.

  Then I heard some shocking news that gave me the kick up the backside I needed.

I was in town – shopping with Maddie when she suddenly said.

“See that blonde over there?”

I looked amongst the shoppers and saw an attractive woman with bleached hair.

“Yes.  What about her?”

“She looks like the woman Jamie’s been seeing.

When I had got over the shock I begged Maddie to tell me all she knew.  She was probably regretting having said anything but gradually she gave me snippets of information so that I could piece them together and get some understanding.

He had met her sometime in the summer before our Lakeland trip.  She was a sexy older woman, married to a barrister with a young child.  She fell hook, line and sinker for Jamie; she knew about me and was aware of when he came up to see me.  She was a strong woman, determined to have Jamie, and left her husband and child to pursue him

For his part Jamie – just 22, was very vulnerable as far as sex was concerned and aware that it would be at least a couple of years before we could be married.  He was in debt and I earned peanuts.  I don’t think he stood a cat in hell’s chance to resist such a temptation.  Friends who had met me remonstrated with him but whether Maddie and Paul did I have no idea.  They obviously had known - hence the odd hints they had dropped which had unnerved me.  At one time they had jokingly suggested I ask Jamie why he would never play the trumpet again.  He was living a double life, drinking too much through stress and got into a fight which resulted in a broken tooth.

  It puzzled me that they took it so lightly.  As far as Maddie was concerned I was just her kid sister - not to be taken seriously.  Jamie had sworn me to secrecy and no-one knew of his proposal and my acceptance.

  It took me a while to absorb all this information and slowly I began to get angry.

I was angry with this woman for deliberately setting out to seduce Jamie knowing he had a girlfriend; I was angry with Jamie for being weak and allowing me to think it was all my fault and I was angry with myself for being such a stupid, deluded virginal idiot.  The anger was cleansing and eradicated the self pity and despair.  I thought of the strength of Mum and Gran.  No man was going to ruin my life.  I had been happy before and I would be happy again.  I decide to remove all conscious thoughts of Jamie from my head and try never to take anyone or anything for granted again.

  Meanwhile I was going to get on with my life- finish my training and plan the future.