Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Hands off the Sandhills!

This is the children's Convalescent Home in Lytham St Annes - now no more. I went here , aged sixteen, to work with children and babies who were having a respite from their hazardous life in the slums of Manchester.
For three weeks they were loved and cared for and allowed to run wild on the sandhills by the sea. They were deloused and fed good nourishing food
Probationers and children alike lived life to the full under the watchful eyes of Matron, and a few tears were shed each time the children left, to be replaced bythe next batch. We never knew what they were going back to.

Below, this is on the sandhills between the Home and the sea. The nurse on the front right was a Jewish girl who, with her brother, escaped the Holocaust. She was one of the kindest people I ever met and when , on night duty, I committed the unforgiveable sin of letting the boiler out she got out of bed, came down to the cellar , now reeking of fumes, and with great dollops of floor polish got the beast blazing away before Matron found out. We probationers were doing pre- training until we were 171/2 and old enough to start our State training at the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital. Out of the five of us I was the only one to go to RMCH where I stayed to take my finals aged 21.

One night the night nurse found an empty bed in the boy's ward and all of us were dispatched with lanterns to search the sandhills. The convent next door rang its bell and the nuns in their gowns slithered with us, up and down the sandhills frantically calling Tommy's name.

At last the bell rang the signal for us to return and there was Matron - still chalk white - but a smile on her face. Little Tommy had got up to go to the loo in the night and got back into an empty bed in the girl's ward. No-one had thought to count the children. Sandhills have always been special to me and evoke such memories.

Decades later I dicovered the sandhills at Instow where we go in June. What triggered this post - familiar to my old faithfuls, was reading that residents in St Annes want to have the sandhills removed because it spoils their view. I'll leave it to you to comment as I don't want to get my BP up.
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The Unbearable Banishment said...

Sand hills prevent beach erosion. Take them away and soon enough their houses will be out to sea. Surely they know this?

I know everyone's heart was in the right place but I question the wisdom of taking children from poverty stricken areas, showing them paradise for two weeks and then sending them back to their hell. To what end?

Pat said...

UB; It's the same mind-set that strips hills of forests and then stare goggle eyed at land and mud slides and the devastation caused. And all the people who tar-mac their gardens to park cars and then suffer flooding.

I believe for those children to see that life can be good must give some of them an incentive to rise out of their poverty. There would be follow up from the hospital for the serious cases.
Not all of them came from un- loving homes and there was a wonderful spirit in all but the odd tragic little mite.

R. Sherman said...

One would think the British environmental agency would prevent that inasmuch as those probably provide substantial barriers to the winter storm nastiness you get.


savannah said...

it never ceases to amaze me, sugar, how people will move to an area because they love the locale and then within a year want to change it! xoxoxo

Ponita in Real Life said...

I will be very unhappy if they succeed in removing the sandhills. Those dunes do exactly as UB says... prevent erosion. I hate it when people try to change the environment like that because it "spoils their view". If you don't like the view... move!!!

Scarlet Blue said...

Yep, my blood pressure is up!
These people who want the hills removed are a bunch of flaming idiots.
Apart from the bit at the end, Pat, I very much enjoyed this post. It must have been horrible for the children to go home after having such a wonderful holiday.

debra said...

What a lovely sweet post, Pat! I love the stories.

kenju said...

Removing the dunes is a big mistake!!

Pat said...

Ramdall: I'm trusting common and geological sense will prevail.

Savannah : and cocks wake them in the morning and they have to listen to the church clock chiming - oh the horror!

Ponita: it's always 'incomers' that start the fussing. I'm waiting to hear someone complain about the deep shade when the sun goes behind Ben Nevis. Off with its head!

Scarlet: I have to look on the positive side. Even with the worst scenarios in their home life - and they had had the bombing of Manchester to cope with and all the rigours of the war - they deserved some happiness and I firmly believe it would give them strength to cope.

Pat said...

Debra: thank you:)

Judy: I couldn't believe my ears when I heard it. I must check what happened.

angryparsnip said...

I'm sure these people are the ones who "talk" a good story about how good they are to re-cycle their morning coffee cup on Earth Day but drive a huge car or worst yet feel entitled by driving a Hybrid car... soooooo California

Off with their heads !

cheers, parsnip

Pat said...

Parsnip: I googled and found a surgeon who lives there has actually had dunes removed. He says it is his land and he can do what he likes with it.
I despair!

lom said...

beside the point that the dunes keep everything where it should be, what about all the fun that will be lost from running up and down them, playing hide and seek, and when you get a little older... lets leave that one.

Pat said...

LOM: ooooh! I 'd forgotten about 'that one':)

Z said...

When I was a child, we had children from Stratford (London, not On Avon) for summer holidays. I don't know how they then felt about their home, seeing how the other half lived.

Re sand dunes, I agree with the others and you.

Pat said...

Z: I should think they were enriched by the experience.
The idea that if you have a miserable life you mustn't have any respite because you have to go back to that miserable life makes no sense to me.

Mary Witzl said...

Let's hope the people who make the final decision about this understand geography. If the residents got rid of those sand dunes, they'd find out soon enough what a stupid a move they'd made.

I know it's from a different era, but have you read Angela Ashworth's memoir 'Once in a House on Fire', about growing up in poverty in Manchester? She and her sisters definitely welcomed the chance to get out of the situation they were in. I think as long as people are treated sensitively and not patronized or talked down to, they are happy to have this sort of respite.

Pat said...

Mary: that book sounds interesting - I'll make a note of it. I often wonder what the children I nursed are doing now.
I kept in touch with the mother of one for decades - in fact I think she must have passed on.
Writing to her once I mentioned 'my little boy'- her son - and she reminded my that he was now a pensioner!

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

That is quite incredible!!! Sometimes I don't understand people, at all....! Removing these doesn't even make sense in any way, shape or form....!
You have led such an interesting and varied life, my dear...GREAT Picture, too!

Pat said...

Naomi: it is beyond madness.

Anonymous said...

Hello. Pat I think I was in that home in the sixties I was there about 3 times one of my Sisters (got six sisters ) we lived in 2 up2down in Manchester.the home was paradise to us.the. food and staff was loverly. We went on walks most days and returned rosy cheeks and good appitite. Playing outside and looking over the wall at the sandunes. To me that was my paradis everybody needs to experience paradise at sometimes. Thanks for those treasured memories ..Annette

Pat said...

Annette: I was so happy to get your comment. I often wonder about the children I looked after at St Annes and it is reassuring to know that is was a bright spot in what was often very difficult childhoods. Thank you for writing.