Tuesday, March 14, 2006


Story contd.

Sitting on the Yelloway bus going west to the sea-side I was returning to the Convalscent Home for the last time. I reflected that from now on journeys from home would be less pleasant. This bus was usually filled with people in a holiday mood. When I started at the Main Hospital it would be a Ribble bus going south through dreary mill towns to the city. On the outskirts of the city we would pass the awful Strangeways Prison - truly a gateway to hell. In 1949 a well known local – she was a bus conductress – was ‘hanged by the neck until she was dead’. She dressed like a man and had been convicted of murdering an old woman. I remember being told that on the day of execution her lesbian lover stood in the town centre in front of the church clock. When it chimed twelve noon she knew that Margaret Allen was being hanged.

I was looking forward to seeing Annie and telling her about the holiday. I caught a glimpse of her 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.

In the Nurses Sitting Room there was a parcel for me. A pair of nylons from J – 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 am ashamed of my stupid pride and rudeness.

It was after supper before Annie and I had a chance to talk and she told me, with tears in her eyes that she had decided not to come with me to continue training at the Hospital but was going to do Fever training instead.

A couple of months back we had acquired a new Staffie. She lived locally and although she looked immaculate in uniform, we had seen her in the town and knew she led a fairly bohemian life. She was once spotted in an ice cream van on the Pleasure Beach, in a mink coat, dripping with bling and selling ice cream. For some reason she thought we were mad to invest three years of our life on an arduous training when we could do something less demanding and have fun at the same time.

I had taken this brain-washing with a pinch of salt but Annie and another junior nurse lapped it up and did indeed leave to do their Fevers training. The sad thing was that eventually Fever Hospitals became defunct. There were tears and disappointment but many of the nurses in my set didn’t complete their training and Annie and the other nurse did. Our friendship survived and four years later Annie was my bridesmaid and is my dear friend to this day.

It was time to say good-bye and set off with my old tin trunk to the city and another adventure. The sedate, delicate pastels of the sea-side were replaced by lurid sun-sets, noise, grease and grime. I had a thumping headache which seemed to last for days

There were twenty one of us in our set and we were to have three months PTS (Preliminary Training School) before we would be allowed to touch a patient. During the three months we would live in a large old house outside the Hospital Grounds and have lectures and Practical Sessions in another old house. The first thing that greeted us as we entered our new home was a large decorated picture which said,
‘Enter Ye to Learn – Go Forth to Serve’
If we successfully completed the three months and passed the exam at the end we would be given our grey belts. Grey for first year, navy for second year and white for third year.
We had two Sister Tutors and a Staff Nurse. It was a bit like being back at school. We would have lectures by the Consultants, Nursing points by Sister Tutor (we sometimes wished she would go and sit on them). Sick room cookery at a nearby college and hockey. I was to share a room with Freda who had been in the army and Delia who was my age and eventually a gold medallist. We were very proud of Delia.
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. More head pounding! The good news was a letter from Maddie, now ensconced in Oxbridge reminding me that in February I was to pay them a visit when I would see Liam and MTL again.


AndrewM said...

Blimey. It's all go. Carry on the good work.

Sam, Problem-Child-Bride said...

"She was once spotted in an ice cream van on the Pleasure Beach, in a mink coat, dripping with bling and selling ice cream."

I think I'm going to carry that image around with me for some time!

Great post! A real slice of history that you tell beautifully. Keep 'em coming!

PI said...

andrewm: Y'see stuff happens!

Sam: Thanks. I have tried to leave a comment on your blog but something goes wrong. Is it me?

Z said...

My mum told me that, at a dance during the war when she was in her teens, she turned down a dance with a black American GI because she felt shy and awkward. And she was ever afterwards embarrassed by her rudeness.
I love your writing, wait for each episode keenly.

fjl said...

Patti, I'd feel just the same if someone new sent me some nylons. I'd be shocked. xx
Not that anyone has, I'm just putting it on ;-)

PI said...

Z; Your poor Mum - I really feel for her.

fjl: thanks Felicity - one seems to carry a bucket of shame around for ever.