Friday, April 28, 2006
…in the nicest possible way.
I was told about Chris by a blogging friend Kath and took the plunge yesterday. He quickly grasped my lack of technical ablilty when he had to e-mail back for my web-site address!
It has been a pleasurable experience and I have taken his constructive criticism to heart and will try to get links and rolls sorted.
Thursday, April 27, 2006
In the summer Evan left school, and started his training to be a mining engineer. In addition to college he had to go down the mine and on the first opportunity got permission to take me down. I was given a helmet and bright green clogs and it made a lasting impression and I had the, not very original conviction that everybody should go down the mines – at least once – to see what it is like. Dark, damp, full of strange odours and feelings of forebodings.
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
It wasn’t much fun having a day off in the week when all one’s friends were at work so as soon as I knew I had a Saturday off we arranged that Sarah would come home for the week-end and we would plan our holiday in Scotland. We tended to cram in as much as possible and first went to the next town to the first house pictures, to see Joan Fontaine and Cary Grant in ‘Suspicion’. Then we had a long walk back over the old road passing the Catholic Church where Gran went, the Unitarian Church where Maddie was married, the Wesleyan Church with it’s dramatic pillars and finally the Church of England, at the top of our steep hill, where the white marble angel blessed us as we walked past.
It was imperative to get back before Saturday Night Theatre. We wouldn’t want to miss our favourite radio actress, Grizelda Harvey being throttled, poisoned or done the dirty on, without our devoted support. Sweet rationing still existed, (oooh how I missed Grandad’s shop) so we would make toffee – not always burning the pan – and Evan and friend would appear like magic. Then there was just time for a quick game of Newmarket before the highlight of the evening – Jack Jackson’s Record Round Up. We sang along with Nellie Lutcher and her ‘Fine Brown Frame.’ And Hoagie Carmichael’s ‘Buttermilk Sky’. We loved American films, artistes, novels – the whole life style thing seemed so desirable.
Then Mum and Dad came in having been to the second house flicks. Mum gave us tea and her malt loaf and we said we were thinking of going to Scotland in the summer and had they any advice. This always put them in a good mood,
‘You’d do a lot worse than Callander .’ Dad said.
‘Isn’t that in Perthshire,’ I asked, ‘I’m sure I’ve heard Annie talk about it.’
‘Aye it is. Mum have you still got the address of that place we stayed last year?’ Dad asked.
Mum finally found the address and said it was a real home from home. Mrs Scott was a right good cook and you could eat off her floor. Their recommendations last year when we went to Ambleside had proved most satisfactory so we agreed to give Mrs Scott a try so we could eat off her floor with impunity. Then Mum found the snaps they had taken in Callendar and Sarah and I agreed it was our sort of place – mountains – lochs and haunting scenery.
‘We must take walking boots this time Sarah. I’m determined we’re going to do a couple of mountains so I can hold my own the next time I see MTL. - whenever
that might be.’ I shot a baleful glare at Dad but he took no gorm.
‘I hope you’re good at map reading Sarah – because our Pat’s bloody hopeless!’
As usual Dad had the last word. Plus ca change!
It was great to have something to look forward to especially as I was due to go non night duty soon. Sarah was the ideal holiday companion – always amiable and tolerant of my more hare brained schemes. Just like her mother had been with mine when they were at school together.
Sunday, April 23, 2006
I have a slight problem: a discomfort over the shoulder blades. A massage on Friday soothed but didn’t cure. This coincides with a 24 hour anniversary trip so will eschew a post tomorrow and be back – fit and well on Tuesday. DV
Enjoy the rest of the week-end. Did anybody be brave enough to tackle the Marathon?
Friday, April 21, 2006
Ginny and I travelled home together taking the bus to Manchester from outside the hospital and crossing the city on foot to Moseley Street Bus Station. (Surely it wasn’t named after Oswald?) We discussed what I should wear for the Ball. I thought I would probably have to make do with the white lace inherited from Maddie as I had to find the fare to Oxbridge. Ginny offered to lend me one of hers – she had already borrowed my bridesmaid’s dress – and promised to bring it the next day when we returned to hospital.
Maddie and Paul had been visiting for a few days, so Mum and Dad knew about the invitation and I could see from their faces that something was up. Finally Dad said.
‘Pat we don’t want you go.’
I just could not believe it. After some heated argument and a few tears it transpired that Paul had told my father that Commem Balls were riotous affairs that went on all night and ended up with orgies on the river. Paul was very persuasive – he had already convinced my parents that Maddie should marry him before she had finished college and aged just nineteen. I’m sure he described the Ball more succinctly than that but the gist is there.
When I had calmed down I pointed out that I had been living away from home for almost two years and could have got up to all sorts of mischief for all they knew, but that I hadn’t. Also I was now eighteen, the age that Mum got married and a year younger than Maddie when she got married. All to no avail.
I had always had a very loving, affectionate relationship with my parents – as had Evan and Maddie. I don’t remember them ever hitting me – although it was the norm in those days. My worst punishment was to be sent to bed early. But the one thing I couldn’t bear was my father’s disapproval. We had a special relationship - it was different with Mum. So I had to accept that – unlike Cinders – I shall NOT go to the Ball.
I don’t know which upset me more: the fact that, apparently Dad didn’t trust me or that he had been swayed by a b….y Southerner. There’s the prejudice!
When I told Ginny the next day she was both incredulous and sympathetic. I had to write and tell MTL that unfortunately I now had to refuse his invitation.
I had a letter form Sarah suggesting we should spend our summer holiday together and how did I fancy Scotland. This was a welcome distraction and we arranged to meet to discuss plans. Out of the blue I had a letter from Sean Malloy, Paul’s best man who was at the same college as Paul, inviting me to his Commemoration Ball. When I got over the shock I was angry to discover that this was acceptable to my parents – presumably because he was a friend of Paul’s. Maybe I was prejudiced but this seemed blatant hypocrisy. Pride made me spurn the invitation in spite of MTL pointing out that if I went down at least we would see each other.
A sorry tale and I admit I behaved like a spoilt brat but, please fathers: if you are lucky enough to have a daughter, at least consider trusting her.
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
Whilst in training I never had Christmas at home so the photo below (which was meant to be above) would have been my first day off after Christmas. It was still a time of austerity, so no decorations, but at least we mustered paper hats.
In hospital, Christmas Day was for the children and there was no off-duty. Christmas Eve we turned our cloaks inside out, with the scarlet lining uppermost and with lanterns walked round the wards singing carols with the children gazing, wide-eyed. All the local charity organizations made sure that the children had splendid trees, toys and decorations. At the end of the carol singing, few of us had dry eyes and it is one of my most moving memories.
Christmas Day was hectic and one of the consultants on each ward carved the turkey. Boxing Day was for the nurses. Our parents were invited and we could show them all over the hospital and they could begin to understand what our lives were about. Mum regarded it as a great treat. After the parents left we, the nurses, donned fancy dress and were served dinner by the sisters. One year I was dressed as a geisha girl (you can see the likeness) with knitting needles in my chignon and a beautiful kimono, Maddie’s husband had brought from Japan. Sadly, a sister who I didn’t particularly like spilt gravy down it.
Although Christmas in hospital was exhausting nothing ever came close to the feeling of fulfilment experienced then.
In the Photograph below, only Maddie and I are still here.
Monday, April 17, 2006
Back on the surgical ward, I was thankful to be on a ward where the patients, mostly, were admitted, had their op and went home after a few days, fit and well. The majority were T’s and A’s (tonsils and adenoids). Before WW2 it was the norm to remove them at the first sign of trouble. I had mine out aged three. During the war the hospitals were more stretched, the lists got longer and longer and it was realised that in most cases, by the age of eight, the problem had disappeared
The one thing we dreaded were ‘bleeders’: patients who bled unremittingly after their op. A close watch was kept on their pulse rate to monitor this, but our hearts would sink if there was a redhead or a certain wishy- washy, mousy hair colour coupled with a pasty skin. I don’t know if there is a scientific explanation for why these patients were more likely to bleed, but as student nurses we believed they did.
We also treated mastoids and we had a staff nurse who was brilliant at dressing the most delicate wounds with such skill that the patients kept calm. I really enjoyed this type of nursing and took pride in following her example. Going to theatre with a patient could be nerve wracking when you didn’t know what to expect. The theatre staff were super efficient, had low fuses and Heaven help you if you had forgotten theatre socks or any of the things you were meant to remember. One of the anaesthetists had a whacking great diamond on her finger and I stared, fascinated as she spilt ether on it, as well as on the mask she placed over the child’s face. It was so mesmerising I used to wonder if I was soaking up the ether myself.
The consultants were treated like gods; a hot water bottle for this one – special soap for that one. In my ignorance I thought they were great fuss- pots but of course the soap was for an allergy and the hot water bottle to warm the consultant’s hands before he examined a child. Nevertheless when the ENT specialist entered the ward in white theatre gum boots and a lamp on her head, there were a few sniggers when a child called out:
‘Coo look! A miner!’
I went out a couple of times with the chap I met at the Christmas dance and then it fizzled out. One of our set – Ginny - was on the ward with me and we discovered that she lived just north of our valley and would travel on the same bus. Most of the girls came from round Manchester and there was a subtle difference. The staff in Kendal Milne’s Store used to blench when it was our Wakes Week, and they were over-run with these strange folk from the valley. Ginny and I spoke the same language and became close friends.
Just before my eighteenth birthday I got a lovely surprise: an invitation from MTL to go as his partner to a Commemoration Ball. I told Maddie when I phoned her and she said it would be a wonderful experience. I couldn’t wait to tell Mum and Dad on my day off.
Saturday, April 15, 2006
Friday, April 14, 2006
After we greeted MTL at the porter’s lodge – he and I darting shy glances at each other- he led the way up a winding staircase to his rooms. Liam and Dylan were there already 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 MTL 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.
‘Gosh Liam! What short legs you’ve got.’ It was true; if he’d been in proportion he would have been 7’ tall.
Liam looked at me thunderstruck and the others rocked with laughter – MTL nearly fell off his chair. Northern girls are nothing if not direct – sometimes to the point of rudeness. Some time ago the famous music-hall star Roy Hudd was trying to make the difficult transition from stand-up comedy to serious acting and was being interviewed by the late lamented playwright Dennis Potter, at his home. Both men were lively companions and got on like a house on fire without ever mentioning the reason for the meeting. Dennis invited Roy to stay for lunch whereupon Roy said he couldn’t as his wife was sitting in the car downstairs.
‘Bring her up.’ he was told. Roy went down to the car and collected his wife – another Pat and a Lancastrian. As she walked in the room her first words were.
‘Well has he got the job then?’
MTL gave us a splendid tea – crumpets oozing with butter, chocolate cake and good strong real tea complete with strainer and a brightly coloured tea-cosy which his mother had knitted, obviously with the same wool she had used to knit the brother’s Fair Isle pull-overs. 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 took them to the little kitchenette. MTL 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 liked him and loved getting letters, so I said yes.
The rest of the week passed all too quickly and the last morning – washing up yet again (Maddie and Paul were at work) the soldier friend of Paul’s who was to take me to the station, said that now that Paul was married to a girl like Maddie he should buck his ideas up. I didn’t know what he meant but he’d been in India with Paul and knew him pretty well.
Back in hospital I was delighted to discover I was going on Heywood – a surgical ward where, on the whole, patients were admitted, had the op and went home fit and well. This would be much less mentally taxing than Borchardt ward and I was thankful for the respite.
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Yesterday was fun. I prevailed upon my D in law and granddaughter to join me on the next leg of The Coleridge Way; another son and grandchildren had helped me do the first which was Nether Stowey to Holford. Part 2 was from Holford toWest Quantoxhead – 3.9 miles according to the guide – rather longer our way.
It’s a fair way from us to Holford so I was to drive there, park the car, do the walk and the men would meet us at the Windmill pub and drive us back to my car. My car is an ancient Escort – Bluebell, whose blueness is now tinged with a green alga as she lives outside in all weathers. Which probably accounts for our not being able to unlock the doors. However son No 3 who is big and strong and very handy with machinery managed to open them, so off the three of us went.
We had excellent instructions which had worked very well on the first leg, along with my son’s map. This time I didn’t think to take a map. Not a good idea as you have no idea of distance and the orienteering is a bit hit and miss.
At Holford we drove up the far side of the pub looking for the village green car-park. We took a right when we should have taken a left and ended back at the pub. I started to turn round in the narrow road and was thankful Sheila was a girl and therefore able to ask for directions. Unfortunately there was no one around so we decided to turn the car round and go back up the first route.
The three point turn became more of an eight point turn and Sheila, appalled at the stiffness of the steering and trying to help, grabbed the steering wheel so there were four hands frantically wrenching the wheel as we reversed – into the pub. Just the gentlest of bumps it was, so we didn’t bother to wake up the sleeping pub. Twice more Sheila got out and asked and finally we ended up at the sweetest village car park tucked away out of sight.
Such a shame – today and Monday were beautiful days but yesterday was grey and a bit rainy. However we got views over the Bristol Channel, saw Alfoxton House where Wordsworth lived, saw an ancient Dog Pound and missed a Hugenot silk mill. Wild moor land, deep combes and forests as black as the ace of spades made it an interesting and varied walk.
It all went a bit pear-shaped at Perry Combe where we were instructed not to take the gate to the A39 and to ignore all paths uphill. There didn’t seem to be a path ahead so we went up and up and up – looking for a stile into the forest. At the top we walked along – skirting the forest and eventually dropped down and down and down until we were back on track, exhausted and cursing our lack of a map.
We phoned the men four times – each time certain that our arrival at our rendezvous point – the Windmill Pub – was imminent. At last, weary, wet and bedraggled we arrived. The Windmill was awash with people including my chum Frank. Frank and I are on the A team of |Newspapers for the Blind and he had his 89th birthday last week.
After an excellent lunch we managed to replace the calories we had lost and were driven back to pick up Bluebell. Home again and after a hot bath and a nap felt like a new woman. Just as well as today is James’s sixth birthday.
Monday, April 10, 2006
Next to Uncle Bill, Ernest was my favourite - he was such a gentle man. The two men on his left are also Dad's brothers. There were six boys and one girl, who died young. The four eldest all served in the army in WW1 and all survived but Ernest was gassed and only Dad lived to a good age. Dad ran away in 1918 to join up - under-age - and the other Gran - his mother, brought him back. The youngest boy served in WW2 along with his cousins.
Sunday, April 09, 2006
Friday, April 07, 2006
The Christmas dance was fun. It was formal and Matron would invite the army or navy from the nearby bases. We had a dance every month in the Nurses Recreation Room and there was a steady flow of young men – engineers and under grads and forces – all under the watchful eye of Matron and her army of senior staff – 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 wore a beautiful white lace dress – handed down from Maddie, and with a bunch of violets pinned to my bosom felt quite grown up. I met a nice sailor from Kent and we arranged to meet when I came back from holiday. Actually I wasn’t very good with boys. 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 a way as to frighten them off. I was only seventeen and expected I would get better with age.
At home Gran was excited about her forthcoming trip to the States to visit Auntie Janet who was expecting her first baby. Evan was swotting for School Cert and planning on leaving school afterwards and training as a mining engineer. I found it difficult to imagine my little brother ever having a career without me there to look after him, but he seemed to have managed so far.
There was a happy reunion with Annie who was enjoying her Fever Training. When I told her about my training school she said she was sure she had made the right decision as ‘Pen ‘ sounded too rigorous.
At last it was time to take the train to Oxbridge. Mrs T, next door gave me ten shillings – bless her – and I had saved up enough money – as long as I was careful. I don’t remember why I was travelling overnight – maybe it was cheaper – and it was a difficult cross country journey. The excitement of travelling alone in the middle of the night wore off 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.
The best time to arrive at your destination is early in the morning when you can see and smell it au natural. When I saw the ‘dreaming spires’ and the mist rising from the river I realised that cities could be beautiful.
Maddie met me and we went for a coffee in the High and she showed me the Asmolean where her art school had been evacuated to. We had been invited to have tea in MTL’s rooms later in the week. She and Paul had rooms in a large old house outside the town and a soldier friend of Paul’s’ was also staying. Maddie and I had lots to catch up with and we chattered and giggled non stop – much to Paul’s annoyance. I don’t think he was delighted we were seeing Liam and MTL On the day I made sure my hair was freshly washed and dressed in a suit hoping it would make me look older. When we reached the porter’s lodge there was someone studying the notice board and as we spoke to the porter he turned round and it was MTL. Gosh! I’d forgotten those dark gypsy-ish looks.
Thursday, April 06, 2006
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
The unlabelled picture is our wonderful next door neighbour. She had five children – the youngest two, the same age as Evan and I. Her husband, who grew wonderful tomatoes, lost his leg in WW1. As Mum was out at work all day she was a second Mum to us and although she ‘played ‘ell with us’ we thought the world of her.
She was Yorkshire and talked differently to us; she would say ‘Mester’ for Mr and being Yorkshire was a great cook. Wednesday was her baking day and we would pester her for a piece of her ‘sad cake’ – a sort of pastry filled with currants and butter spread on top.
This should have been under the photograph but this thing has a will of it’s own.
Monday, April 03, 2006
Mum is wearing a turban. During the war women went to work in munition factories and wore turbans to prevent their hair being caught up in the machinery. Then it became a fashion - very useful for a 'bad hair day' and northern girls would have their 'curlers' underneath -metal contraptions they wound their hair around to acheive curly hair.
Older women used to wear awful pink, boned corsets with laces up the middle. They could only be really relaxed after they had taken them off at night. These were replaced by the 'roll on' which even the very skinny wore to prevent any wobbly bits. Running for a bus was like wading through treacle. Laundry was done once a week on Mondays mostly be hand. and we wore 'sweat pads' under arms in our sweaters.
Men. in the north didn't wear under-pants but had long shirt laps which they wound round their nether regions - rather like nappies. Personal freshness was a different ball-game then. The fabrics we wore were natural so didn't require the endless washing man- made fibres require. Men's suits would aquire a sort of patina - a sheen which wasn't unattractive.
On the whole we were healthier and fitter - not just because of the diet but we walked everywhere - to work , to school, to church and to the pictures. And I think we were quite elegant with our gravy browning legs with a line drawn up the back, out hats and gloves and slim figures. I have a theory that natural slim figures went out with the advent of the pill.
You had to admire the French girls. They gave a Gallic 'up yours' to their invaders by piling their hair high on their heads and strutting their stuff in high wedged shoes. Vive la France!