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!