Tuesday, May 30, 2006


Story contd.

Meeting Andrew convinced me that I was not the ice maiden I had been accused of being when I objected to being groped by some one whose name I don’t recall. Our enforced separation caused by his operation and convalescence was enlivened by lectures from various consultants who seemed to blossom and bloom before an audience of young ladies and we discovered the joys of the Manchester ice skating rink.

As part of our Medical Block we each had a day with a health visitor in various parts of the Manchester area. Mine was in Levenshulme and it was an eye opener to poverty and squalor beyond my ken. The first three houses saw us coming and we didn’t gain entry – a frequent occurrence apparently. The next one had just won £400 on the Football Pools – a sort of lottery of the day - and the dank, odorous room was at odds with the newly purchased bright green Rexene suite, draped with damp clothes and nappies that had all merged into the same greyish hue. There were about four small children – in various stages of undress and a new- born baby. The mother was quite amiable but looked worn out and it was clear she had no intention of attending any clinic. Afterwards the Health visitor told me that when the mid-wife asked the mother what had happened to her stitches she said her husband removed them because they hurt him.
Later in the day, we all recounted our experiences to Sister Tutor and , for once she hung on our every word and actually laughed out loud a couple of times.

On the home front, the other Granddad was dying. Dad sat up with him till 5am and when I went over Dad’s youngest brother cried. I was sorry I never got to know Granddad better but he was so distant and I could never imagine hugging him as we do all the time in the family. Mum was thrilled with her first grand-son and I wondered if there was any truth in the belief that someone has to make room for the new arrival.

There had been the odd letter and phone call form Andrew and we arranged to meet again at the next dance. David (one of my patients) had sent me a beautiful blue stoned brooch which looked great with the deep blue dress I wore for Maddie’s wedding but I was feeling nervous after such a long break. Everybody knew everything in the Nurses home and I dreaded the public reunion. By the time I mustered courage Andrew was dancing with one of the senior nurses and I took fright and fled. Dashing for the stairs I tripped over the hem of my dress and fell flat.

‘Pat are you alright?’

I looked up and there was Andrew looking concerned.

‘I thought you were a mirage – one moment you were there and by the time I had made my excuses you were gone.’

‘You were dancing and I’d forgotten something…’

‘It was a ladies-excuse- me silly.’

He helped me up and kept his arms around me so we sidled on the dance floor so as not to be so conspicuous. From then on all was dreamy and next time he took me to the Café Royal for dinner and brought me chocolates and said he thought he must love me a lot. On Valentine’s Day I got a lovely card from him and one from MTL.

I was longing to see my little nephew and heard the Girl’s Friendly Society could put me up. My return ticket to Oxbridge was the princely sum of £1- 2s – 7d. I told Andrew I was going to see MTL – a family friend, kissed him good-bye and promised to write.

Sunday, May 28, 2006






The Roseland Peninsu

The Roseland Peninsula

Here is the serene part of Cornwall with lush countryside, pretty villages, mysterious creeks and generous beaches.  Truro, with its gothic cathedral, interesting museum (both very child friendly) and award winning theatre, is worth a visit.  The shops and restaurants are good but we were being so well fed we limited refreshments to smoothies (love ‘em!)  If the weather were clement (we were not blessed) it would be fun to use the river and ferries.

We didn’t get to the tip of the peninsula, this time because the road is one car width, steep and windy and we were made to reverse down a steep slope, with a bully boy in front and four cars behind.  In order to maintain calm within the car, I fore bore to get out and have a chat with the BB but there was a lot of deep breathing and biting of lips.

The beautiful church and gardens at St Just had its usual calming effect and the creeks are evocative of Daphne du Maurier and her stories.  The food at the hotel was a constant delight and the indoor pool (87 degrees) an easy way to shed a few calories.
It was planned to break the journey at Okehampton on the way back but the fog and the utter shambles at the ill-named Merry meet roundabout meant we missed the turning and no chance of turning round until it wasn’t worth it.  On the other hand I strongly suspect MTL had no intention of spending another night away from home.

<a href="http://rocrebelgranny.blogspot.com">Granny>
<a href=”
http://jonnybillericay.blogspot.com”>jonny b</a>
<a href=”http:// musingsfromthehinterland.blogspot.com”>randall</a>
<a href=”http:// balloffish.blogspot.com”>amy</a>

I have to thank the above kind bloggers who have helped me solve the links problem.  Even if this isn’t perfect I think I’ve got it.
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Saturday, May 20, 2006



I’m taking MTL to Cornwall for a few days – not to emulate <A HREF=http://jonnybillericay.blogspot.com/>jonny b<A> - our trip has been arranged for some time.  Looking forward to continuing the story when we return, meanwhile, keep the faith!  This is also to see if my link works.  If it does hooray!  If it doesn’t find your own expletive please!
Four generations: Gran, Mum, Maddie and her baby boy 1949
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Auntie Janet and my new American cousin on left 1949
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Friday, May 19, 2006


Story contd.

The week-end before the ball I spent at home. We were off the wards again in Medical Block so our week-ends were free. I had been ill and was afraid I wouldn’t be allowed home but they relented. Ginny had a friend George coming to pick her up so I had the luxury of being driven home. They came in for coffee and biscuits and then Sarah arrived for the week-end and lent me her pearls for the dance.

Back in hospital most of my friends had gone to the first ball so there were many willing hands helping me get ready. We practiced dancing but ended up ‘Balling the Jack’ a la Danny Kaye http://www.google.co.uk/search?hl=en&q=Ballin+the+Jack&btnG=Google+Search&meta=.

I had a lovely dress which was white (well I was entitled as I believe most of us were) and was not thrilled to hear there were to be a least three other white dresses.
There were the usual pre-dance nerves. I didn’t have a partner – suppose no-one asked me to dance and I ended up a wall-flower. Sick with nerves I finally drifted in as the music was starting and was immediately asked to dance by the handsome consultant Mr H followed by doctor F. There was a different partner for every dance and I started to relax and enjoy it.

I noticed a bunch of naval officers Matron had invited, looking debonair in their uniforms and a dark haired one came over and asked me to dance. As we squared up to each other I felt an instant attraction and when he drew me closer and I felt his hand on my waist and his face close to mine I felt a warm tingly glow. His name was Andrew and he said the officer I had met at last year’s ball had told him to look out for me. I asked him how he had recognised me and then grimaced when he told me. I still hadn’t learnt how to accept a compliment graciously. Physically I was drawn to him and he was so much fun. It didn’t seem to occur to us to separate at the end of the dance – why would you. The evening flew by and at some stage we went out for air – in spite of the snow.

‘We walked and talked and kissed – three times. Told unintentional lie about kissing (I don’t know what that was about). Am seeing him tomorrow.’ Diary 1949

At this stage MTL and I were friends who were attracted to each other. We corresponded, had met only twice and hadn’t seen each other for almost a year so there was no sense of commitment. I day-dreamed all through the next day whilst trying to get lecture notes up to date. I met Andrew at 7pm and went to the flicks to see ‘The Winslow Boy’. The diary notes ‘It’s nice to be kissed by someone who knows how.’

Then there was a hiatus. One of our set had also started a relationship with a naval officer and I had a message that Andrew couldn’t make our next date as he had tonsillitis. He had a spell in sick bay – had a tonsillectomy and then went home on sick leave. Meanwhile Maddie had a bouncing boy, I was booked in at the Girls Friendly Society in Oxbridge and MTL had awarded me a blue for sending him a photo.
As it says in the song ‘There may be trouble ahead.’

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Gran in one of her American dresses
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Story contd.

There was never a shortage of young men – what with the monthly dances – but I still hadn’t met Mr Right and I began to wonder if I would be left on the shelf. Taking advantage of time off together, Ginny and I went into Manchester and visited the NAFFI and met two Welsh soldiers. Harry wrote me a lovely poem, but a few days later they called unannounced at the hospital, asking for us – an absolute NO-NO - so they were history.

Maddie’s baby was due in February so I arranged to have a week’s holiday in March. Gran would still be there so I booked myself in at ‘The Girls Friendly Society’ which was in the university town itself and therefore more easily accessible for MTL which seemed a good idea. Gran had just returned from the States where she had been helping Auntie Janet with her new baby boy. We were so lucky to have Gran with all her midwifery experience and her capacious bosom was a bonus. When she came to visit I would be waiting for her at the door and would say;

‘Come in Gyan! Sit down! Beya!’

Beya-ing was resting a child on her CB and gently rocking to and fro. Bliss for babies and toddlers alike. There was never any boiling of bottles, teats and comforters in our family. All babies were breast fed and then were supplemented with ‘pobbies’ – pieces of white bread soaked in hot milk and sprinkled with sugar. Its strange fragrance instantly evokes my childhood.

1948 was coming to an end – a year that had seen the Olympics held in London where Fanny Blankers –Koen of the Netherlands won four gold medals, Israel became independent, Ghandi was assassinated in Delhi and the film de jour was ‘Easter Parade’ with Fred Astaire and Judy Garland.

We had two Christmas Balls; one in December and one January. In order to have something to look forward to after Christmas I decided (or Fate did) on the January one. Dad had given me a Collins One Day Diary for 1949 – the only year I ever kept one – a great aide memoir.

You know how you can wait for ages for a Number 19 bus and then two come along at once? Here I was looking forward to seeing MTL after nearly a year and then, at the ball, I met Andrew.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Every Sunday Evan and I would go to chapel (Unitarian) in the morning and Sunday School in the afternoon. This meant crossing two roads, so from a young age we were escorted by the Taylor sisters - three blonde older girls. Sadly I have no photograph of the third one - Edith. She looked like a blonde Barbara Stanwyck.
The photograph of Evan and I and the peke was taken in the garden of a super B& B in Newquay on our magnificent tour to Land's End. We had our own rooms and I had a beautiful pink jug and basin in mine. Our last hooray before the war and petrol rationing. The peke owners also had a chow called Wendy but that photo has disappeared. Strange how - in those days we rarely had bare heads - men and women, boys and girls. A Hatters paradise.
Pat with Evan and friend in Newquay just before was broke out
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Friday, May 12, 2006

Blue belts! P back row fourth from R. Ginny third from R
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Story contd.

If you have to be on a committee, try to be chairman; the secretary does all the work and its quite fun to be in charge. Calling Matron to order was heady stuff as I discovered on being elected chairman of the Student Nurses Association. I and another nurse were deputed to accompany Matron to a conference in Edinburgh – a big get- together of paediatric nurses.

We travelled on the overnight train and I remembered that lovely scene in ‘I know where I’m going’ where Wendy Hiller looked out from her luxurious sleeper and saw the Scottish Hills covered in tartan. Our compartment was just four bunks with a moggy looking blanket each. Matron obviously had her own compartment more fitting to her station.

We quickly donned nighties before the other two occupants arrived and spent a fairly sleepless night. When we joined Matron in her taxi the next morning she asked us how we had slept.

‘We found the blankets a bit scratchy on our skin Matron.’

‘You didn’t undress Nurse?’

She was horrified and explained the difference between a sleeper and a resting compartment. No wonder the other two occupants looked a bit startled when they saw us in our dishabille.

We were so tired of our dreary clothes emblazoned with the dreaded utility symbol and we yearned for a bit of glamour so when we discovered that Dorothy Lamour
was appearing in Edinburgh we determined to see her. From our itinerary we spotted a gap between the afternoon session and the final party.

It was fascinating meeting nurses from all over the country and we all felt inspired when a Matron said in a rousing speech,
‘I would rather have an RSCN nurse my mother than have an SRN nurse my child.’
As Registered Sick Children’s Nurses (or in embryo) we heartily agreed. You have to think for a child and they are so much spunkier than adults – but I’m biased.

As soon as the afternoon session was over we scooted off to the theatre and positioned ourselves by the stage door. And waited. And waited. Past our dead-line it was obvious that either Miss Lamour had been taken ill or there was another entrance and sadly we hot-footed it back to the Hospital. Maybe we could slink in without Matron noticing but she towered above the rest and her gimlet eyes spotted us immediately. We froze as she strode towards us with a small rounded Matron clinging to her arm.

‘You mustn’t be cross with them Jane. They are only young once.’

‘Where have you been?’ Matron glowered.

‘Sorry Matron we went to see Dorothy Lamour but she didn’t turn up.’

Peals of laughter erupted from the little one and even Matron twinkled. It turned out that the little one was Matron of Great Ormond Street – the crème de la crème.
She was a honey and gave us a ten bob note each to have a treat.

It was time for our set to come off the wards for an intensive revision block. In October we sat the State Prelim Exam which was essential before we could have further training. Success meant you never had to repeat the first year so that General Training would be two instead of three years. In November we learnt that most of us had passed – we lost some of the original 21 but all my close friends got through. Now we were second year nurses and could swap our grey belts for navy blue. Hooray!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

David with his sisters. He was a much loved patient and his mother adopted me as a surrogate daughter. Once he said 'Pat are you really a Christian?'
'Yes. Why?'
'I can't marry you then' he said sadly.
He became a very good actor and I always felt proud of him. Not long ago I asked his mother to give my love to 'my darling little boy' and she reminded me that my DLB was now a pensioner.
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Mary used to like me to braid her hair. When I lwas moved to another ward, Sister asked me to go back one night to do it.
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Monday, May 08, 2006


Story contd.

It is always a stomach churning time – returning to hospital after a holiday – until you had examined the notice board and seen where you were going to be working for the next three months. It was night duty for me, which meant living a topsy-turvy sort of life; going to bed in daylight and working in dimly lit wards with darkness looming through the large windows. It could be quite scary – especially if you had to reach the outside wards or visit the mortuary. We didn’t have hospital porters so we were the trolley pushers.

The hospital did their best to keep us healthy; we had sun lamp sessions where we stood in a special room, clustered round a machine – a green triangle of material protecting our bosoms and an oily smell slowly emanating from us. We had a night nurse’s corridor where banging doors and loud voices were forbidden and, best of all; we had nine nights on and three nights off.

In charge of us were two sisters and a staff nurse and on each ward there would be at least a trained or very experienced nurse and a junior nurse. One of the sisters was a power house of energy and she would flit from ward to ward like a tornado – you never knew when she was going to appear and she was a tower of strength in an emergency. She had a short fuse and one night when her buzzer was buzzing rather longer than usual she stormed on the ward and demanded.

‘Can’t I even pee in peace?’

The junior nurse was responsible for the children’s breakfast and I thought it would be a good idea to mash the bananas in the porridge. Sister didn’t agree and I was sent to Matron. One day I burnt the bacon and I was sent to Matron. If you broke a thermometer you were STM. You had to shake them violently to bring the mercury down and it got to the stage where I bought replacements out of my salary rather than face Matron again. We were all in awe of Matron. She was always impeccably turned out and glided through the wards with grace. She was responsible for the discipline, efficiency and smooth running of the hospital and she was a paragon. I always found her to be very fair and she had a lovely twinkle in her eyes which made you feel you weren’t all that bad.

When I first went on the wards and witnessed my first death the ward sister took myself and the other junior on one side. She was concerned of the effect this would have on two young inexperienced girls. She was a very down to earth person – nothing remotely ‘airy - fairy’ about her and we believed her when she said we shouldn’t feel sad about the child as all her problems were now over and she had gone to a better place. Where else would a child go but to Heaven? When I was on night duty we lost a child and I had to assist the staff nurse with the last offices and was comforted by what the sister had said. The little girl was gone and we had to do this last task for her as carefully, as professionally and as reverently as possible. RIP

Gran was much in demand. She had gone out to the States to help Auntie Janet with her new baby and promised to be back for Maddie’s baby in February. That meant no room for me at Maddies so I had better start saving up if I wanted to se MTL again.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Bride and Groom?
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Some years ago Mum made me custodian of 'the hat box' which held old family photographs - Maddie was settled in the States and Evan was very ill. I had been familiar with them for years but I haven't a clue who these two couples are. The seated ones were taken in a studio in Blackpool where most of us spent Wakes Week in the thirties ( you can just see the tower in the background although I'm sure it was a studio photograph.) Posted by Picasa

Friday, May 05, 2006

P with bike
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Sarah in Callander
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Story contd.

Someone said there is nothing better than driving south with the one you love.
That’s fine if you are in France but to my mind you reverse that if Scotland is your destination – but I’m getting ahead of myself – it is 1948 and Sarah and I were off to the Trossachs.

As usual Mum and Dad’s recommendation turned up trumps and Mrs Scott was a real find. She greeted us with a splendid high tea with lots of oatcakes, pancakes and shortbread. Just as well we were going to be doing lots of walking and Callander was the idyllic spot for that. Towering over the town is Ben Ledi 2,873ft. On a sunny day, we set off with Mrs Scott’s exhortations ringing in our ears and actually made it to the top – sans map as usual (don’t try that at home). On a clear day you can see Ben Lawyers and the Forth Bridge – we were told later – so I’m sure we probably did.

We got into a routine of walking during the day – back for tea and then cycling past Loch Venacher to the Trossachs Hotel. There in the climber’s bar we played darts and drank cider like the dissolute teen-agers we were. One night we cycled to the Brig o’ Turk where there was a ceilidh. We met two friendly Scots – also on holiday and danced our socks off. Brig o’ Turk was a favourite haunt of artists including Millais and Ruskin. Forty years later MTL and I retraced some of the footsteps. See photos below.

Loch Katrine inspired Walter Scott’s ‘The Lady of the Lake’ and Ellen Isle on the lake is named after the ‘Lady’. In olden times the MacGregors used to hide the cattle they had stolen from the Lowlands on the island. There was a lot of it about and MTL himself is a descendant of Highland sheep stealers.

Memories flit in and out of one’s consciousness like will o’ the wisps. This from Sarah:

Our last holiday was in Callander; do you remember the name of the lady who’mothered ‘us? You were very scathing when I panicked on scree and began to slide down the hillside (Ben Ledi I think) One day you were rowing us on Loch Katrine – do I imagine that we were singing the barcarolle from Hoffman? When ever I hear it that’s where I am. We went to a dance where I could not master the intricacies (to me) of ‘Strip the Willow’. You (as usual) had a number of young men in thrall; the names that come to mind are Alastair and Angus. I hope this is helpful. There’s so much more we must have done if I could remember the details but we did have lots of fun, didn’t we?

I was very proud of my scree running where you run down the mountain digging your heels in and leaning forward. If it is very steep you zigzag. We sang everywhere but always running down hill we laah- laahed to Littolf’s Piano Concerto. Try it!
The boy’s names were Bob and Barclay.

One last memory of sitting with Mrs Scott in her garden and listening to ‘Bonnie Strathyre’ and ‘Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond’ which she played on a portable horn gramophone and showed us a photo of her son who was a professional golfer.
If ever you get the chance to see that lovely old film ‘I know where I’m going.’
see it and get the flavour of Scotland as it was then.
TheTrossachs hotel
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Brig o' Turk 40 years on
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