Sunday, February 12, 2006


Story contd

All seemed to be well on my first night on duty. Gradually the staff drifted off to their bed-rooms, the children seemed settled and I marvelled at the deathly stillness replacing the sound of children enjoying themselves. The lights were dimmed and as I crossed the hall to climb the stairs I tried not to notice the shadows lurking everywhere.

In the boy’s ward I found that Tommy – a dear little lad with apple green eyes and a stammer (which always made me want to give him a big hug) had been sick. After comforting him I put him in one of the empty beds and started to change his own, whereupon he was sick in the empty bed. By the time I had changed both beds and settled Tommy down with a story and a hug I had a lot of bed-linen to sluice. Then it was time to change the babies and toddlers. Sundries were what we called the nappies or diapers of today. They were made of towelling, were not disposable and it was the job of the junior nurse to sluice them before they went to the laundry.

When all was finished I went down to the tiny Nurses sitting room to have the meal which had been left out for me. Somehow smoked haddock salad and tapioca pudding had lost its charm and then I remembered my other duty – the boiler – which should have been tended some time ago. Bracing myself I crept down into the bowels of the cellar. There was a stifling smell. The wretched monster was completely out. I tried raking it with one of the iron implements and was nearly choked with noxious fumes. Coughing and spluttering I escaped up the steps. I’d really done it now. The Home would have no heating and no hot water and Matron would surely kill me.

There in the hall was my Guardian Angel - Lottie.
‘You’ve let the boiler out haven’t you?’
‘Oh Lottie what shall I do?’
She told me to find as much newspaper as I could and bring it down to her in the cellar. When I joined her, laden with all the news print I could find, Lottie, her face covered with a surgical mask was raking enormous pieces of coral-like clinker. Then she showed me how to make very tight parcels out of the paper leaving a little tab in one corner. She packed these parcels into the cavernous mouth and then plastered them with great dollops of floor polish. Just one match to the tabs and WHOOSH – we had lift- off.
Dear Lottie – Matron was right - she was ‘not one of us’ – she was one in a million
One of the reasons I didn’t mind night duty, was because it gave me a break from my room-mate, Nurse Mather whose personal hygiene was questionable, who told the most outrageous Porkies and was getting odder by the day. We all had access to each others rooms – including the maids - and none of us thought to lock anything away, so it was very upsetting for all when I discovered my new savings book had vanished from the drawer.

Matron started an investigation and the assistant in the Post Office identified Mather as the person who had cashed the stamps – all £3 - 10 shillings – my total savings and over half a month’s salary. The General Office at the Hospital had to be informed and they said that because both the assistant and Mather were under age, no action would be taken. All I wanted was my hard earned savings returned. Matron was very sympathetic and said she would move Mather out of my room but that meant somebody else would suffer so I said to leave thing as they were. By now Matron seemed to have forgotten my earlier laxity and treated me as a valued member of staff.

When my seventeenth birthday was approaching Mather told Lottie she couldn’t think what to give me and Lottie suggested she gave me back the £3 – 10 shillings. She never did but left quite soon after that. It seemed, or so she said, she was secretly engaged to a doctor and they were going to be married. Sighs of relief all round. A new Nurse would be arriving, she would be junior to me and with any luck she would be a kindred spirit. Hooray!


R. Sherman said...

Good picture. I hope you don't take this as an offense, but almost as good as my ever more beautiful, long-suffering spouse.


Zinnia Cyclamen said...

Still loving your story, Pat.

Growing Up said...

You poor thing all your savings. Its not a nice feeling when someone steals of you is it.

PI said...

Randall: No offence - au contraire!

Zinnia: Thanks a lot.

GU: No it's horrid, but it never happened again whilst I
was nursing.

Caroline said...

Gosh that sounds like a nightmare - having to share with someone who was smelly and stole your savings! Yet it sounds like you took it all in your stride - wow!

Guyana-Gyal said...

Having your savings stolen, that really was a nightmare! I don't know how you stuck it out. You must be one good natured gal.

Lots of the nursing things you write about make me remember my cuz and her studies. I must send your blog to her, she will love it.

fjl said...

Happy Valentine's day Patti x

PI said...

Caroline and GG; Thanks for your sympathy. Taught me not to set too much store on filthy lucre.

fjl: The same to you.

C. Bagley said...

Interesting narrative. I hope you won't take offense as I mean this as a compliment: your writing reminds me of that of James Herriot. Inspiring and pleasant. Thank you.

PI said...

C. Bagley: Golly! Take offence? To be mentioned in the same breath as any established writer - let alone Mr Herriot-is so heartening. Thank you.