Saturday, October 22, 2016


Today I've been clearing out the attic and came across this poem I wrote sometime in the nineties.
It was winter and we were staying in our cottage twixt Skipton and Keighley - a lovely little village with an old church, a pub , the canal and the river Aire.
When the moon shines silver on the river,
When the hills and trees are decked with snow,
When ice crystals crunch beneath our footsteps,
And our nostrils prickle, do we know,
How lucky we are? 
When the gales gust wild upon the moor-side,
The rain is relentless, and the Aire,
Bursts its banks and floods the fields and meadows,
Drenching sheep and cattle, do we care,
How lucky we are?
When his chair is empty at the table,
And nobody reaches for your hand,
And the only voice is from the wireless,
Maybe then we'll really understand,
How lucky we were.
Let us seize the day, count our blessings,
Forget dewlaps, aches and stiffening knees,
Make each day a day to remember,
Cherish, love and aim to please.

Friday, October 14, 2016

It must be love.

Chapter 16

 It must be love.

. “Pat have you heard from Jamie yet?” 

I had bumped into Ginny outside the dining room.

“Yes thank goodness and at last I have an address.  Let’s meet up in the Rec when we come off duty and we can catch up.”

Ginny was her usual understanding self when I told her later of the harrowing meeting with Andrew and the angst at not being able to meet Jamie at the bus station.

“What rotten luck to be Relief Baby Nurse – the one duty when you can’t be off in the morning.  Was he upset?”

“He said he had been but soon realised it must have been impossible for me to get off duty.  It’s great to see you Ginny.  Most of our set are scattered all over the place – either on nights or at Baby Hospital …“

“Or Fever Hospital,” said Ginny, “including me.  I’m off tomorrow for a month.”

I groaned – life was going to be quite lonely for the next month or so.  We all had to do a month at St Mary’s Baby Hospital and also Monsall Fever Hospital.

“What’s the betting that as you come back from Monsall I’ll be next?”

  Letters became all important – from family, friends and patients but the reason I dashed to the mail pigeon holes twice a day was to see if I could spot that bold looped handwriting that was Jamie’s. I wrote to tell him what had happened with Andrew and anything else I thought might interest him.  Fortunately - on duty - my six babies kept me happily occupied.

  It did little for my peace of mind to hear he had missed his footing on a climb called Bad Step Alasdair but he assured me the rope had held and he was fine.  I was touched when he asked me to send him one of my lipsticks - they were smaller in those days and he could use it to stub down the tobacco in his occasional pipe.  Three times I sent one and three times it was returned by the Post Office so we had to abandon the idea.

Jamie left his mac in a car that had been giving him a lift.  There was an address in the pocket and the driver kindly returned it and told him ‘Look after that girl friend of yours.’

  Most of my free time was spent writing to Jamie or thinking about him.  The word ‘soon’ was for ever in my mind like a mantra.  It was the word we used to comfort a child who wanted its mother or wanted to go home. 

  A welcome diversion was when the Student Nurses’s Association asked me to put on a play for Christmas so casting and rehearsals kept me busy.  Then the Miller family – parents of my little Jewish patient – David - invited me for a week-end trip to St Anne’s.  It was fun showing them the Convalescent Home where I had started my training.  St Anne’s was agog that week-end as the very famous film star Margaret Lockwood was there and we were all thrilled to catch a glimpse of her - a raven haired beauty with her signature central parting, her lovely figure encased in glamorous white lace.  The children and I romped up and down the sand hills and we had the usual Hector trauma driving back to Manchester with no headlamps.

As I had suspected I was to be next to do a stint at Monsall.  I planned to do General Nursing after Sick Children so it would be useful experience in dealing with adult patients.  It certainly was an eye opener.

Oh joy!  A letter saying that Jamie planned to return towards the end of August. Yippee!

As I arrived at Monsall Ginny was leaving but there was a letter and chocolates from Jamie.  He would be with me soon; I hoped he would find his way to this unfamiliar locality.

  After my first day I decided I hated it.  There was some horrible language on the wards which themselves seemed grimy in comparison with our own pristine ones at Pen.

The Fever Nurses were used to this reaction from the Children’s Nurses and did their best to make us welcome and helped us to cope with the very different circumstances. Generally they treated us with kid gloves.  Soon we settled in and things began to improve but one morning I was asked to bathe a new admission - a man with erysipelas.  As I pulled the screens around him I noticed he was very dark, extremely hairy and I felt uncomfortable under his glare.  With shaky hands I started to remove the bedclothes.  He lurched forward, grasped my hand and leered at me.  I wrenched my hand away and fled to the sluice.  I felt an idiot but no way was I going back behind those screens.

Staff Nurse followed me into the sluice.

“Don’t worry love – we get all sorts on this ward.’

 I wasn’t asked to bathe a man again.

It was interesting seeing new diseases and learning about barrier nursing but it made me realise how lucky I was to be at such an excellent training school as Pendlebury.

  One night on the Women’s Ward there was a sweet grey-haired old lady with long plaits twined round her head.  We weren’t busy so remembering how Gran used to love me to brush her hair I asked her if she would like me to brush hers.  She nodded, and as I let down her hair I realised with horror that it was alive.  With shaking hands I excused myself and went to report to Sister.  I was horrified and angry that this could happen.  Of course on admission at Pen every child had their heads examined for nits and if they did have them we treated them daily until their heads were clean; it was a morning ritual so there was no chance of cross infection.  Thank Heaven I hadn’t listened to the Staff Nurse at St Anne’s who tried to persuade us all to do Fevers instead of Sick Children.

At this time there was a lot of polio or infantile paralysis as it was also known.  It was a viral infection of the nervous system and patients were treated by being put in an iron lung.  The American President FDR Roosevelt developed polio in the early 1920’s and spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair.  One night we got this pretty young woman admitted with suspected polio.  She was very distressed as she had twin babies and naturally didn’t want to be separated from them.  The doctor told her quite firmly that she was very ill indeed and naturally she became more distressed.  I stayed with her as long as possible trying my best to comfort her.  I really believed she would get better.  I was totally shocked the next morning to be told she had died during the night.  All part of one’s nursing experience and I concluded that I didn’t want to do Fever Training and wondered if I really wanted to do my General.  I felt very fortunate to be nursing sick children.

One of the younger doctors was very attentive and asked me for a game of tennis but I didn’t want any complications so politely refused.

  At last a letter came from Jamie to say he was arriving in Rossendale that day.  I sent a telegram to Mum to ask her to get Jamie to ring which he did at 11.30pm and we arranged he would come here for my evening off.

Next day was a beautiful day and I had an ambulance trip to Knutsford to pick up a patient.  Off duty at 5pm and there was my darling sitting in the waiting room.  It was Heaven to be in his arms again, to smell his fresh open air smell and feel his tweedy jacket against my cheek.  Only the lure of the open air could tempt us from that dingy waiting room.  We went to a place incredibly named Bogart Hole Clough – a steep valley with lots of trees and beautiful bird song.  We walked dreamily and ended up in Manchester at the Blue Angel for a meal.  Back at the hospital we parted- but only for a day.

  I asked Matron if I could be off duty in the evening so I could go home with Jamie and she agreed.  It was always a given at my own hospital- that you would have the evening off before your day’s leave.  Later on we started shifts and could finish at lunch time, have the next day off and return at lunch time the following day- two nights at home which were much appreciated.

I phoned the Millers and told them I couldn’t see them this week and they said to bring Jamie next time.  Young David was endlessly playing his new record ‘Sparkey’s Magic Piano.’  I couldn’t get the tune out of my head: ‘I’ll play anything you want me to play…from now on.’  Sung with a jangly, twangy voice that sounded like Cher with croup.

Jamie picked me up and we went home on the bus.  Only Gran was in so we made supper and she went to bed.  As each member of the family came in we would make them a drink and then sit and chat until the penny dropped and they would retire to bed.  We were allowed to stay up to do the washing up and sometimes we did. Our time together was precious and brief.  We kept on the go so as not to fret about the inevitable separations.

Down we waltzed to the aunts and had coffee with Maddie and Paul (Maddie told me Paul could tell if a girl had slept with anybody just by looking at them.  Well I hope he got it right about me!)  Maddie’s friend from Art School was staying – the Vamp as I called her.  Back home again Gran had left lunch for us and we took a bus over the moors towards Burnley.  Between Toll Bar and Townley Park I remembered there was a farm up on a hill which served delicious teas.  It was a long way from the road but there was a helpful white painted sign on the roof announcing ‘TEAS’.  At last In spotted the farm and we had a leisurely climb up for tea.  It certainlty live up to its reputation.  Walking back replete, we came upon theTownley Arms and spent an hour playing cricket and drinking cider. There was no sign of a bus so we started the long 6 mile walk home.  When we came to the wide corner where there is a sort of natural balcony overlooking  the wildest, dourest part of the moors - no Lakeland beauty here – Jamie put his hands on my shoulders and looking earnestly at me said,

“Patricia Dixon Barnes will you marry me?”

“Yes! Yes! Yes!” I screeched, whilst the pipits and the plovers seemed to join in with a joyful chorus.

  It was a surprise – he was starting his final year with quite a few debts, His parents were working class with three sons to educate – two at Oxford - and he had no visible means of support until he started earning.  I still had18 months to do but was earning – if only a pittance.  It amazes me – looking back - on what a great time we had on so little cash.

“Pat I think we should keep it a secret for the time being.”   I wanted to shout it from the house tops but promised to be discreet.

We started the long trek home.  It was mainly down hill so we would run until Ifell over and Jamie had to pick me up and slow me down.  Miraculously we finally made it.

   Everybody was there including the Vamp who was puzzled by the hairy ties all the men were wearing.

“Is it some sort of Secret Society” she asked? 

“No“said Evan. “they’re presents our Pat brought back from’t Lake District!”

I felt Mum staring at me; she could tell I was very excited but I gave nothing away by mouth and kept my word.

When everyone had gone and we were metaphorically doing the washing up Jamie kissed me and I fainted

When I came round Jamie wanted to get Mum but there was a simple explanation.  My face was quite a bit smaller than Jamie’s and he managed to totally block my airways. .  I wasn’t behaving like a Victorian Miss and it wasn’t the kiss of death.

 We said goodbye in Manchester the next day.  It had been a wonderful couple of days
The future looked bright - but it was a mirage.

Monday, September 19, 2016

French River Cruising. Final Part.

 Cruising down the Seine.
 Next port of call Montoir-de - Bretagne.  This was somewhat of a concrete jungle.  I was told submarines were stored here during the war and once ashore it had a dreadful wasteland feel to it.  I was with a passenger with mobility problems so it was difficult to get away from the concrete.
 We persevered and at last found a sea shore and a café and then slowly returned to the ferry bus for our ship

 A lovely tree in beautiful Bordeaux.
 We spent 2 nights here and I was able to wander round the streets which reminded me of Paris.

 A lovely little church near a delightful square for coffee.  Such a relief to have Braemar in my sights.  Impossible to get lost.  Here we were cruising the Garonne and Gironde rivers.
On board alone it is very easy to get the days confused and as a result I missed one of my excursions.
It was 'leisurely Rochelle' in a pony and trap.  Friends tod me it was very bumpy so I gave myself a talking to and won't do that again.  Two of the best excursions I had already done and two were booked up by the time I had decided.  However Trevarez Castle  was a treat.
 We drove through pleasant countryside from Lorient.  There are really beautiful gardens in France but as the main plants here are rhododendrons, camellias, azaleas and hydrangeas it was mainly the beauty of the woodland and surroundings that attracted.  There are various exhibitions in the outbuildings
 Here is our guide leading us up the garden path.
 Trevarez Castle was built in the early 20th century and looks down over the scenic Aulne Valley
 You can see why it is named the Pink castle.  Alas on Sunday 30th July it was bombed by the RAF and subsequently partly destroyed.  It was bought by the Finistere council and buildings and gardens have been beautifully restored.  It is very much a work in progress and inside much of it is like an immaculate bomb site.  One dreads to think how much it is costing and who is to pay?  Not the RAF I'm fairly sure.
 There is a fantastic drop from the castle to the Aulne Valley.  These shots were taken from the terrace

 Part of the ongoing restoration.  Its going to be divine one day.
 Finally we repaired to the Orangery and had tea or coffee with a cake which appeared a little dry but had a delicious filling of prune puree which saved its bacon.
Au revoir France.  A bientot.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

French River Cruising Part 2

 Next came Rouen situated on the banks of the Seine and described by Victor Hugo as the city of a hundred spires.  It is the capital of Normandy and has inspired artists and writer in the past.  The cathedral - with its Gothic façade has been immortalised by Monet.

 Scattered around the streets are 2' high concrete pillars which become invisible should you stop to  look in a shop window or chat with a friend resulting in shins becoming an interesting navy blue colour.  All fading now.
 Rouen is the capital of Normandy and has distinctive architecture.

 The cathedral is very impressive outside but I was disappointed with the interior.  It suffered from bombing in WW2 and seems to have been neglected.  We were on a tour and the guide didn't wait for everyone to gather so must of us missed the commentary and as she had no microphone and didn't project her voice we missed most of the commentary and I missed seeing the tomb where the heart of Richard the Lionheart is buried.
 Above is the famous astronomical clock - the oldest in France1389  It just has the one hour hand and is a thing of beauty.
 In the Place du Vieux Marche we entered the Chapel commemorating Joan of Arc
and I was startled to realise that although she led the French army to victory she was only 19 when she was burnt alive.
Here is a structure on the site of her pyre.
"Saint Joan of Arc was burnt alive in the Old Market Square in Rouen, France on the morning of May 30, 1431, pronounced a heretic, relapse and idolater. Her ashes were gathered and thrown into the Seine River. According to witnesses present at her execution, during the final moments of her life she saw several priests with tears in their eyes. Turning to them she said, "All you priests who are here, I beg you to say a Mass for me, every one of you."
I met two nice women - Anne and Sue  and also Eve from Cornwall who is doing the same Amalfi coast cruise next year.

French River Cruising

  Part 1
 My cabin in chaos.  It's late afternoon - I've yet to unpack.  It's lifeboat drill and early dinner is 6.15pm
 As our captain says 'Ladies and yentle men out beautiful chip Braemar where a year last Christmas I broke my arm learning the slow foxtrot.  Don't worry boys - I shall keep my promise not to dance.
 Our first port of call - lovely Honfleur.  a classic French experience.  A casual coffee where my French was understood.  Helping a fellow passenger buy pyjamas - apparently he had forgotten them and then an aperitif watching the boats bobbing and the world go by- with a delicious lunch to look forward to.

Monday, August 29, 2016

The Call of the Running Tide

It's that time again.  French Rivers in September - who could resist?  The Bayeux tapestry I did years ago when my elder son was a teenager and Monet's garden I did when our French family were living in Paris but I've never been to Bordeaux and there are plenty of other excursions to choose from.

I shall take my camera.  This inability to post photos can't last for ever.  Back soon.  Keep the faith.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Chapter 15 

Back to Reality


“Hey!  Break it up you two.  It’s great to see you Jamie!” 

Alec was grinning from ear to ear – at last he wasn’t solely responsible for two inexperienced climbers.

I realised Jamie had been travelling all night,

”I’ll go and fix an extra breakfast with the warden and Alec show Jamie where the showers are.  It’s all been paid for remember.  Ginny go and grab a table please.”

We had just one more night before the end of our magical holiday and decided to simply do the long walk to Keswick with no deviations so we could catch up on our doings and give Jamie a chance to recover from his ordeal.  He told me he had confided in one of his uncles about our falling in love and the uncle had strongly urged him to get back here before the end of the holiday.  I blessed that uncle.   Maddie had once met Jamie’s parents and said only ‘a guid Scots girl’ would be good enough for their sons but Liam, his elder brother at Yale married Ruth – an Austrian Jewess who – with her parents had fled the holocaust.

 He showed me an enormous darning needle that his grandfather used to darn his socks – he had left it to Jamie.

  Another beautiful day and although there was an air of melancholy that our happy foursome was coming to an end Jamie was coming home with me and we would have Saturday and part of Sunday together.  I decided that when I got home I would do the unheard of and phone Matron to ask if I could have an extra day – Monday - as my day off.

 We turned up by Rogue Herries – climbed lots of walls and whilst resting under a bridge were caught up by four American girls. They were very friendly and seemed mesmerised by Jamie.  To our amusement and Jamie’s discomfiture they asked if they could take a photo of him.  They did so and went on their way whilst we teased Jamie unmercifully.  It was an eye opener- I had always been fairly immune to his good looks – it was himself I loved.

  By the time we reached Keswick we were tired, hot, dirty and hungry so we went in search of food.  To our horror (Ginny and I) we saw our least favourite Ward Sister – a chilling reminder that all good things come to an end.  It didn’t stop us demolishing Fairy Floss, cherries, peaches and short bread however.

  The hostel was a bit of a disappointment but Ginny and I donned our dresses for the last time, we all had a very merry supper and set off for a local tavern.  After drinking cider all sadness disappeared.  Jamie and I had a prolonged goodnight kiss and inadvertently were locked out of the hostel.  Safely inside again we adjourned to the stairs until rudely interrupted by the assistant warden and dispatched to our separate dormitories.

Both Ginny and I woke early and at 4.45 am walked down to the lake and saw Keswick in all its early morning glory.  A mist was rising and four beautiful chestnut horses were standing under a tree.  We gazed at them in awed silence.

  After breakfast and our obligatory duties we found a café and had one of our usual feasts – a last supper before we bade a tearful farewell to Alec.  What a star he had been.  Jamie and he were meeting up in Scotland later to climb in Skye.  I wondered if

the four of us would ever come together again.  On the bus to Ambleside we admired the scenery and decided Thirlmere was our favourite lake.  Ginny and I went to collect the rucksack we had left there and Jamie went to buy sandwiches – Heaven Forefend that we should go a couple of hours without food.  At Kendal Ginny found she had the wrong rucksack.  Jamie didn’t flap - just dashed off again to sort it whilst we two girls applied Nivea cream in Kendal High Street in a last frantic effort to achieve a honey brown skin tone.  Tans were rare in the forties – nobody went abroad for holidays. We were both fair so the nearest we ever got was a pinky gold.

 As the scenery changed from green hills and mountains to industrial towns with blackened factories I felt the usual droop in spirits at leaving the Lakes.  I knew Ginny felt the same and we tried hard to keep smiling when we said goodbye. Neither of us knew where our next assignment would be.

  At last we were home and it felt really special having Jamie there.  Mum and Dad were very sympathetic about the loss of his grandfather and marvelled at all we had accomplished on our holiday. 

“Honestly Dad if you and Mum hadn’t dragged us up Hellvellyn and Skidaw when I was knee high to a grasshopper – I couldn’t have done it.”

“You would have been proud of her Mr Barnes.”  Jamie was my champion.

  When Maddie appeared I told them I was going to finish with Andrew.  After supper we walked Maddie down to the aunts and on the way back I stopped at the phone booth opposite the Globe Mill.   I told Jamie I was going to try to get hold of Andrew.

To my amazement I actually got straight through to him.  Trying to keep my voice normal I told him I was back and would get in touch as soon as I knew my off- duty and arrange to meet.  I had to tell him in person but I was dreading it.

  Back home we had a lovely chat with Mum and Dad and then – exhausted went to bed- I in the room I shared with Gran  - she was in the States visiting her other daughter – and Jamie in Evan’s room – he was on holiday.

Next morning I saw my parents off, made breakfast and took a cup of tea to Jamie.

I completely forgot it was Wakes Week when all the shops were closed and when Rossendale lived up to its nickname – The Valley of Death - and let poor Jamie go off in a fruitless search for a haircut.  I didn’t mind the longer locks but Jamie dressed for climbing was looking decidedly scruffy – especially in the trouser department, so I purloined a pair of Evan’s trousers – beautifully pressed – Mum was an excellent valet - and then he looked presentable if a little rakish.

The only time my sweet-tempered brother got angry with me was when he discovered what I had done.  So sorry Evan.

  We went to the Aunts for tea and came back with Maddie - our chaperone and her baby.  I enjoyed showing off my skill bathing and feeding the baby.  As baby nurse on the wards I was used to doing six of the little loves every four hours.

Eventually with Maddie and the baby in bed we were alone.  At last.

Mum had left us a ‘wimbry pie’ – a sort of blueberry grown wild on the moors.  We demolished it and with purple mouths talked and spooned and looked at the stars.

  During the week-end we were often alone together late at night, lights off, curtains open and the ghostly moonlight shining in.  I had never been in such a position before – alone with someone I loved and the freedom to do anything we wanted to.  I felt Jamie was the most wonderful man/boy I had ever met and trusted him completely.  I felt yearnings and wanted to stay enfolded in his arms for ever.  As we got more passionate Jamie - in a shaky voice said he respected the fact that we were in my father’s house and he would not betray that trust.  I knew he was right and this delicious, warm, oozy feeling would have to be enough until we were married.  I just wished I had been wearing a prettier petticoat instead of one of my mother’s which was too big for me and I'd had to knot the straps.

  I took Jamie to a farm in the Ribble Valley where we used to stay.  They had known me since I was a child and I was proud to show him off whilst Mrs Walker gave him the once - over; always a bit unnerving as her eyes looked in different directions, but he passed muster and we were given a splendid lunch.

“Eee's a gud ‘un Pat.  ‘Ang on to’im!" she said as I hugged her goodbye.

When we got home Maddie had been joined by Paul – her husband.  I wondered how he would behave as originally it was he who stopped me going to the Commem. Ball with Jamie.  To all intents and purposes they appeared to get on- there was a lot of bonhomie- which didn’t seem totally natural to me.  I cooked my speciality- Tomato Omelette for us all and then Jamie and I went to look at the Unitarian Church where Maddie and Paul had been married.

On our last night we stayed up till dawn.  It was time to return to hospital, get back to work and tell Andrew I couldn’t see him anymore.  Jamie was meeting up with the Climbing Club in Skye.

After a last walk over the hills we had lunch, said goodbye to Maddie and Paul and thanked them for chaperoning us.  We caught the 4.15 bus to Manchester and to take our minds off our sadness went to see ‘The Great Gatsby’ at the Odeon but Jamie had a headache so we came out.  The city was hot and oppressive, there was nowhere to eat so we took the bus back to the Hospital and sat in a field.  I told Jamie of my fears- working with desperately sick children- what if I made a mistake- it was such a huge responsibility.  He tried to reassure me and we kissed good night.

“I‘ll see you in the morning Jamie. As soon as I get in I’ll ask if I can have my off-duty in the morning.  I’ll get off at 10am and go straight to Moseley Street Bus Station so I can wave good bye.”

  I rushed up the hospital steps and went straight to the notice board to look at the rota.

My spirits dropped:  I was relief baby nurse on Wrigley.  Baby nurses can never have a morning off – with six babies to bathe and feed there is too much to do.

Although the post was excellent it was too late for a letter. Mum and Dad didn’t have a phone and mobiles were unheard of.

  Next morning the frustration was awful as I pictured Jamie waiting fruitlessly.  Determined to make some sort of progress I phoned Andrew and we made arrangements to meet outside the hospital that evening.

Jamie had been very specific about how I should tell Andrew; I should keep it brief- not go for a drink and not kiss him so I was behaving like an automaton.  Andrew said he could tell from my voice something was up.  We walked and said not very much.  He behaved perfectly; he had brought chocolates and perfume which he insisted I accept.  It was a shocking contrast to all the happy times we had had together and I hated it.  We said goodbye and as I walked up the Hospital drive I bumped into Nurse Mitchell who had passed us in the road.

“You both looked terrible – as if someone had just died.”

I was really sad to lose someone with whom I had shared such light-hearted, happy times.  I love perfume but to this day I can’t use Chanel No 5.