Friday, October 14, 2016

It must be love.

Chapter 16

 It must be love.

. “Pat have you heard from Jamie yet?” 

I had bumped into Ginny outside the dining room.

“Yes thank goodness and at last I have an address.  Let’s meet up in the Rec when we come off duty and we can catch up.”

Ginny was her usual understanding self when I told her later of the harrowing meeting with Andrew and the angst at not being able to meet Jamie at the bus station.

“What rotten luck to be Relief Baby Nurse – the one duty when you can’t be off in the morning.  Was he upset?”

“He said he had been but soon realised it must have been impossible for me to get off duty.  It’s great to see you Ginny.  Most of our set are scattered all over the place – either on nights or at Baby Hospital …“

“Or Fever Hospital,” said Ginny, “including me.  I’m off tomorrow for a month.”

I groaned – life was going to be quite lonely for the next month or so.  We all had to do a month at St Mary’s Baby Hospital and also Monsall Fever Hospital.

“What’s the betting that as you come back from Monsall I’ll be next?”

  Letters became all important – from family, friends and patients but the reason I dashed to the mail pigeon holes twice a day was to see if I could spot that bold looped handwriting that was Jamie’s. I wrote to tell him what had happened with Andrew and anything else I thought might interest him.  Fortunately - on duty - my six babies kept me happily occupied.

  It did little for my peace of mind to hear he had missed his footing on a climb called Bad Step Alasdair but he assured me the rope had held and he was fine.  I was touched when he asked me to send him one of my lipsticks - they were smaller in those days and he could use it to stub down the tobacco in his occasional pipe.  Three times I sent one and three times it was returned by the Post Office so we had to abandon the idea.

Jamie left his mac in a car that had been giving him a lift.  There was an address in the pocket and the driver kindly returned it and told him ‘Look after that girl friend of yours.’

  Most of my free time was spent writing to Jamie or thinking about him.  The word ‘soon’ was for ever in my mind like a mantra.  It was the word we used to comfort a child who wanted its mother or wanted to go home. 

  A welcome diversion was when the Student Nurses’s Association asked me to put on a play for Christmas so casting and rehearsals kept me busy.  Then the Miller family – parents of my little Jewish patient – David - invited me for a week-end trip to St Anne’s.  It was fun showing them the Convalescent Home where I had started my training.  St Anne’s was agog that week-end as the very famous film star Margaret Lockwood was there and we were all thrilled to catch a glimpse of her - a raven haired beauty with her signature central parting, her lovely figure encased in glamorous white lace.  The children and I romped up and down the sand hills and we had the usual Hector trauma driving back to Manchester with no headlamps.

As I had suspected I was to be next to do a stint at Monsall.  I planned to do General Nursing after Sick Children so it would be useful experience in dealing with adult patients.  It certainly was an eye opener.

Oh joy!  A letter saying that Jamie planned to return towards the end of August. Yippee!

As I arrived at Monsall Ginny was leaving but there was a letter and chocolates from Jamie.  He would be with me soon; I hoped he would find his way to this unfamiliar locality.

  After my first day I decided I hated it.  There was some horrible language on the wards which themselves seemed grimy in comparison with our own pristine ones at Pen.

The Fever Nurses were used to this reaction from the Children’s Nurses and did their best to make us welcome and helped us to cope with the very different circumstances. Generally they treated us with kid gloves.  Soon we settled in and things began to improve but one morning I was asked to bathe a new admission - a man with erysipelas.  As I pulled the screens around him I noticed he was very dark, extremely hairy and I felt uncomfortable under his glare.  With shaky hands I started to remove the bedclothes.  He lurched forward, grasped my hand and leered at me.  I wrenched my hand away and fled to the sluice.  I felt an idiot but no way was I going back behind those screens.

Staff Nurse followed me into the sluice.

“Don’t worry love – we get all sorts on this ward.’

 I wasn’t asked to bathe a man again.

It was interesting seeing new diseases and learning about barrier nursing but it made me realise how lucky I was to be at such an excellent training school as Pendlebury.

  One night on the Women’s Ward there was a sweet grey-haired old lady with long plaits twined round her head.  We weren’t busy so remembering how Gran used to love me to brush her hair I asked her if she would like me to brush hers.  She nodded, and as I let down her hair I realised with horror that it was alive.  With shaking hands I excused myself and went to report to Sister.  I was horrified and angry that this could happen.  Of course on admission at Pen every child had their heads examined for nits and if they did have them we treated them daily until their heads were clean; it was a morning ritual so there was no chance of cross infection.  Thank Heaven I hadn’t listened to the Staff Nurse at St Anne’s who tried to persuade us all to do Fevers instead of Sick Children.

At this time there was a lot of polio or infantile paralysis as it was also known.  It was a viral infection of the nervous system and patients were treated by being put in an iron lung.  The American President FDR Roosevelt developed polio in the early 1920’s and spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair.  One night we got this pretty young woman admitted with suspected polio.  She was very distressed as she had twin babies and naturally didn’t want to be separated from them.  The doctor told her quite firmly that she was very ill indeed and naturally she became more distressed.  I stayed with her as long as possible trying my best to comfort her.  I really believed she would get better.  I was totally shocked the next morning to be told she had died during the night.  All part of one’s nursing experience and I concluded that I didn’t want to do Fever Training and wondered if I really wanted to do my General.  I felt very fortunate to be nursing sick children.

One of the younger doctors was very attentive and asked me for a game of tennis but I didn’t want any complications so politely refused.

  At last a letter came from Jamie to say he was arriving in Rossendale that day.  I sent a telegram to Mum to ask her to get Jamie to ring which he did at 11.30pm and we arranged he would come here for my evening off.

Next day was a beautiful day and I had an ambulance trip to Knutsford to pick up a patient.  Off duty at 5pm and there was my darling sitting in the waiting room.  It was Heaven to be in his arms again, to smell his fresh open air smell and feel his tweedy jacket against my cheek.  Only the lure of the open air could tempt us from that dingy waiting room.  We went to a place incredibly named Bogart Hole Clough – a steep valley with lots of trees and beautiful bird song.  We walked dreamily and ended up in Manchester at the Blue Angel for a meal.  Back at the hospital we parted- but only for a day.

  I asked Matron if I could be off duty in the evening so I could go home with Jamie and she agreed.  It was always a given at my own hospital- that you would have the evening off before your day’s leave.  Later on we started shifts and could finish at lunch time, have the next day off and return at lunch time the following day- two nights at home which were much appreciated.

I phoned the Millers and told them I couldn’t see them this week and they said to bring Jamie next time.  Young David was endlessly playing his new record ‘Sparkey’s Magic Piano.’  I couldn’t get the tune out of my head: ‘I’ll play anything you want me to play…from now on.’  Sung with a jangly, twangy voice that sounded like Cher with croup.

Jamie picked me up and we went home on the bus.  Only Gran was in so we made supper and she went to bed.  As each member of the family came in we would make them a drink and then sit and chat until the penny dropped and they would retire to bed.  We were allowed to stay up to do the washing up and sometimes we did. Our time together was precious and brief.  We kept on the go so as not to fret about the inevitable separations.

Down we waltzed to the aunts and had coffee with Maddie and Paul (Maddie told me Paul could tell if a girl had slept with anybody just by looking at them.  Well I hope he got it right about me!)  Maddie’s friend from Art School was staying – the Vamp as I called her.  Back home again Gran had left lunch for us and we took a bus over the moors towards Burnley.  Between Toll Bar and Townley Park I remembered there was a farm up on a hill which served delicious teas.  It was a long way from the road but there was a helpful white painted sign on the roof announcing ‘TEAS’.  At last In spotted the farm and we had a leisurely climb up for tea.  It certainlty live up to its reputation.  Walking back replete, we came upon theTownley Arms and spent an hour playing cricket and drinking cider. There was no sign of a bus so we started the long 6 mile walk home.  When we came to the wide corner where there is a sort of natural balcony overlooking  the wildest, dourest part of the moors - no Lakeland beauty here – Jamie put his hands on my shoulders and looking earnestly at me said,

“Patricia Dixon Barnes will you marry me?”

“Yes! Yes! Yes!” I screeched, whilst the pipits and the plovers seemed to join in with a joyful chorus.

  It was a surprise – he was starting his final year with quite a few debts, His parents were working class with three sons to educate – two at Oxford - and he had no visible means of support until he started earning.  I still had18 months to do but was earning – if only a pittance.  It amazes me – looking back - on what a great time we had on so little cash.

“Pat I think we should keep it a secret for the time being.”   I wanted to shout it from the house tops but promised to be discreet.

We started the long trek home.  It was mainly down hill so we would run until Ifell over and Jamie had to pick me up and slow me down.  Miraculously we finally made it.

   Everybody was there including the Vamp who was puzzled by the hairy ties all the men were wearing.

“Is it some sort of Secret Society” she asked? 

“No“said Evan. “they’re presents our Pat brought back from’t Lake District!”

I felt Mum staring at me; she could tell I was very excited but I gave nothing away by mouth and kept my word.

When everyone had gone and we were metaphorically doing the washing up Jamie kissed me and I fainted

When I came round Jamie wanted to get Mum but there was a simple explanation.  My face was quite a bit smaller than Jamie’s and he managed to totally block my airways. .  I wasn’t behaving like a Victorian Miss and it wasn’t the kiss of death.

 We said goodbye in Manchester the next day.  It had been a wonderful couple of days
The future looked bright - but it was a mirage.


Ms Scarlet said...

I have been waiting so long for this, and now I have to wait for the next part!!
Err.... the kiss at the end??? Well, that took me by surprise!!!

SDC said...

I laughed at the kiss. I thought it must have been wonderful if he could knock you out with a smooch. But to literally leave you oxygen deprived....I feel compelled to ask, was that a sign of things to come?

helen said...

Oh he knocked your socks off :D

Kim Ayres said...

I'm curious about Maddie's friend, the Vamp - you mention the nickname, but without explanation - what was she like and why did you come up that name for her? :)

Pat said...

Scarlet: everything comes to she who waits. Sorry to have ben so long. the cruise didn't help and it is doubly difficult to get into it again after a long gap. Will try to do better.
I think we were both surprised at the result of that kiss.

SDC: it is difficult to answer your question as you will understand anon. It had been a very exciting, exhausting day and our faces were very different in size.

Helen: yes you could say that.

Kim: I first met the vamp at Maddies's party before her wedding and she stood out amongst all we country bumpkins as she leant over the best man - flashing her embonpoint and asking in a slightly husky voice "Can I tempt you?"

Pat said...

Kim: she was actually proffering a tray of hors d'oeuvres at the time.

angryparsnip said...

I was so happy to see this pop up on reader.
Now I have to wait for the next installment.
Your live was so exciting. Even a walk for tea !

cheers, parsnip

Granny Annie said...

I am sorry the post office returned the lipstick you sent Jamie but happy you did receive the chocolates he sent you:-) So awful about the patient with "alive" hair. Yikes! You weave so much information into every episode.

AndrewM said...

She could feed me hors d'oeuvres any time!

Pat said...

Parsnip: honestly there were lots of boring times and worse. Wait and see. Not too long I hope.

Granny Annie; I really appreciate your enthusiastic support :-)

Andrew M: that was useful. The one in the red spotted dress is an excellent example. Its all about the embonpoint.
Apparently there is a boy band named the Vamps. Don't want to be sexist but a Vamp has to be female IMO

Kim Ayres said...

You'll have to give me a demonstration, Pat, next time I come to visit :)

neena maiya (guyana gyal) said...


There's always so much happening...alive hair, a young mother with polio, a secret engagement, fainting...I never knew kissing could make that happen. A sign of things to come?

The Vamps have always made me feel naive, gauche...was that how she'd made you feel?

I can't wait to find out why you and Jamie parted ways :-(

Exile on Pain Street said...

I had to Google erysipelas. Most unfortunate. Why would he attack someone trying to help him? An awful episode.

You have an astonishing memory. It's as if these things happened to you just the other day. Keep up the good work.

What do you mean a mirage? What's that supposed to mean?

Pat said...

Exile: re the hairy monster -it wasn't so much that I feared he was going to attack me as put my hand where it didn't want to go. Inexperienced ninny that I was I wasn't going to hang around to find out. As for the mirage - an illusory thing - you will find out soon enough.