Saturday, May 06, 2017

Still here - just.
Serves me right .  I forgot to say goodbye before leaving for my seventh and - I have decided my last cruise.  In brief it was ill -fated;  at least three helicopter rescues and an ambulance in Sicily then one stopped counting.  When I was confined to my cabin with a hacking cough  - along with many other passengers, it occurred to me that the only time I have felt really ill in the last four and a half years was when I was on board and at my lowest point I was scared I could be dumped in a foreign hospital to peter out alone.
  Safely back home, drugs finished I'm getting back on track and ready to welcome my various family visits.
Sicily, Amalfi and Cartagena were all memorable but please forgive me if I concentrate on getting back to normal.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

An Imperfect Life

Chapter 20.


  By the end of the evening we both knew quite a bit more about each other.

William was twenty five – my senior by five years.  As Mum said when she first met him,

‘He’s a man Pat, isn’t he?’

He had been in the navy and was indignant at the amount of space allotted to a

Rating compared with that of an officer.  His brother was a serving officer in the

Royal Navy – and was married with two children.  William had just left Leeds

University (First Class Hons) and started an apprenticeship with Metro Vickers.  I

found him perfectly natural and easy to talk to and it didn’t occur to either of us to leave each other after that first dance.  We arranged to meet in ten days time.

William said he had to go back to Leeds to pick up a book-case and’ clear things up’.

I got the impression that he was ending something.  When we met again I was

 surprised how easily we slipped into a natural relationship with none of the awkwardness one sometimes experiences with a new acquaintance.  This felt more like a comfortable old glove.  

  “By the way Pat there’s something I must tell you.  I’ve got a stammer.”  Considering we had been talking pretty non-stop since we met – this came as a surprise.  His beautiful speaking voice had been the first thing that attracted me to him.  However, when he bought some chocolates for the cinema, I saw how bad it could be.  It seemed to vary according to whom he was speaking.  It never embarrassed him or stopped him speaking whenever he felt like it.

One of his friends later told me William had been a member of the Debating Society

and when his allotted speaking time was up he said he should have longer because of his stammer.  This friend also said he had never seen such a change come over someone, since we had met.

 His parents- both teachers who had met whilst teaching at a school named Sexey’s - had sent him to be treated by Lionel Logue – the man who famously treated King George VI.  However William decided that no ‘trick cyclist’ was going to teach him how to speak, so it was a total waste of money.

  On our first date, ten days after we met, William asked me to marry him which rather took my breath away. I told him about Jamie and said I didn’t think I could ever love anyone else. This Probably was not a sensible thing to do but it didn’t seem to daunt him. He said I probably needed time and he could wait, so we agreed to wait six months when I would be twenty- one in March. Meanwhile we would continue getting to know each other.
  Vanessa had started going out with Abe who was at Manchester University and at Christmas the four of us were going to a Fancy Dress Ball. The men made the minimum of effort – Abe in a Noel Coward dressing gown with a long cigarette holder and William, for no particular reason, in dungarees. Fancy Dress was right up Vanessa’s street and she took charge. I was to be Nell Gwyn, complete with oranges, and a purple satin dress trimmed with white muslin. Vanessa thought it was too prudish and attacked the neckline with a pair of scissors, which left little to the imagination and forced me to stay upright all evening.  Vanessa was magnificent as Cleopatra – draped in a white sheet on which she had painted hieroglyphics with gold paint. Her sandals got the gold paint treatment along with a rubber catheter which she wound round her brow and which looked exactly like a golden asp.
We had a great time and I felt – amongst all those rowdy students - completely safe with William. At one stage he had gone to get us all a drink and a student grabbed me, lifted me high into the air, spinning me round whilst I desperately tried to keep in my dress. William appeared, gave an almighty roar and the student dropped me and fled.  We were very late back at the hospital and for the first time took advantage of our fire-escape. Abe and William came up too and we gave them a snifter of the peach brandy Vanessa had bought for a Christmas treat.

As we said a lingering good night William shocked me by saying:

“You know Pat I think you should have made up your mind.  If you haven’t by now that is an answer in itself.”

In spite of the night cap I didn’t sleep much that night.  I was feeling pressured.  It was just January – my birthday wasn’t till March.  As a Pisces I find decisions difficult except on the rare occasions that I’m swept along by a tide of conviction.  The last year had dented my self confidence and I was no longer sure I wanted to do further training – assuming I got my RSCN.  I had been honest with William and told him I could never love anyone as I loved Jamie and he accepted that.  Or so I thought.  Of one thing I was certain – I wanted children of my own and instinct told me that William would be a great father.  I would probably never meet anyone like him again.  He was kind, he had the common touch; equally at home talking to the lord of the manor or a dustman and people took to him.  He had a first class brain, was honest, trustworthy and honourable.  He appeared to be deeply in love and I knew he would take care of me – like that lovely song ‘Someone to watch over me.’ Would it be enough for both of us?  Could I trust his judgement?  

I first met Jamie when I was fifteen, but I was nineteen before I realised I loved him.  Might not the same thing happen with William?

 On the other hand he had very strong convictions and didn’t hesitate to air them, regardless of other people, which sometimes caused upset.  I suspected he was stubborn.  In the first flush of love I could usually sweet-talk him round but what about after we were married?  How I wished Maddie were around.  In the past I had resented her interference but now I really needed her ‘take’ on the situation.

Then there was his stammer; I was proud that he hardly stammered at all with me.  He was full of ideas and with his mind racing ahead, I found it very moving when he struggled to get the words out.  But I didn’t want to marry him out of compassion.  I prayed for guidance and the next time we met I took one look at his face and said ‘Yes.’ and was swept along by his joy and enthusiasm.
William said we should phone his mother and he wanted me to speak to her.  I  

think the whole idea took her by surprise.  She had had William late in life and in those days a late child was often looked on as companion for old age.  William had been educated at home until he was eleven and his mother adored him. 

‘I hope you know what you are taking on.’ she said but I took this to be her sense of humour.  Conversation was difficult as she was very deaf and usually kept her hearing aid switched off.  Sadly William’s father who had been an officer in WW1 was now virtually bed-ridden with heart problems so would be unable to attend the wedding. We planned to have it in late July – it was now January.
  “William I think you should come home with me on my next day off – then you can ask Dad for my hand.”  William agreed it would be a good idea.

 One night William came to meet me on his motor bike and he was wearing an old rubber mackintosh.  He had lost the belt and tied some rope around the waist.  I determined no way was he going to show up at home looking like that, so we had a serious talk about his sartorial appearance. I was going to take as much trouble with his appearance on the big day as with my own.  On my day off we met in Manchester and instead of going to the bus station went to a stop on the edge of town.  It was not a very salubrious part of Manchester and my heart sank when the bus came and the conductor said it was full.

“‘Oh please let us on.  I’m a nurse – it’s my day off and I’m going home.”  His face softened and he extended his arm to help me up.

 “And I hope your rabbits die!” came William’s voice from behind.
“Right!  Off!’ The conductor’s face hardened and he almost shoved me off the platform.  I turned to look at William – totally unaware of what he had done.
During our enforced wait in the sleazy area, I explained to William that if he had resisted the urge to condemn the bus conductor’s rabbits to an early death, we would now be on the bus and halfway home.  William, in his wrath had not noticed the conductor’s face soften, nor yet his proffered arm to help me up.  He listened, a little abashed and apologised.  I thought it ironic that his stammer didn’t prevent the snappy crack that would be better left unsaid.
  There was a warm welcome and one of Mum’s special high teas waiting for us and William relished both.  After tea I went into the kitchen with Mum to wash up and let the men get on with the business of ‘permission to marry.’  Before we’d even started the cutlery, Dad appeared with a big grin on his face.
“What happened Dad?”
“Well t’lad couldn’t get it out an’ I knew what he wanted to say so I said it were alright and you could get wed!”

“Thanks Dad.”  You’d think they were glad to get rid of me,

“When were you thinking of?”
“July – as soon as I have finished my Finals.”

“Eeh Pat- couldn’t ye wait a year?  We’ve just bought t’three-piece suite”’
Mum caught sight of my face and said.

“Never mind we can manage it” Good old Mum!  Well, she held the purse strings so she should know.

   Over the week-end we discussed the arrangements and William suggested we got married at sea where, as long as you were three miles out, the captain could marry you.  I said I wanted to be married by our minister.  He and his wife had been kind, helpful and supportive during my teen-age years and when William saw the simple church (alas no more) he agreed. 

 It was a shame that Gran would be in the States, Maddie and family in Africa and William’s brother a serving officer and his family in Malta.
  William sent off for an engagement ring that he had seen in a catalogue.
 “Goodness," said Vanessa when she saw it, “I’ve never seen such a tiny diamond.  You can get really good sized zircons for the same money.”

I forgave her and asked her to be bridesmaid.  I also asked Annie, my old friend from the Convalescent Home.  We all met in Manchester and as often happens when you introduce your special friends to each other it didn’t go well.  Vanessa had a vision of them wearing striped creations in yellow and black.

 ‘We’ll look like bloody big wasps!’ moaned Annie.

  There was so much to think about and Finals were looming which was giving me nightmares.  William’s poor father had a heart attack and when he was convalescing his mother wrote how she was pushing his bed out onto the veranda every day so he could enjoy the spring sunshine.  This worried William and his brother as she was no spring chicken and had angina.  And then a bombshell!
  William met me one evening looking desperately worried.  He had been called up.
‘Not another bloody war!’ I screeched.  Apparently when he left the Navy he was given the option of signing on as a Reservist.  This meant he would get an income of 1s 1d a day (about 14p but it went much further then) and as he was going to University he jumped at the chance.  Now however the Korean War had broken out; conflict between the Communist North and the American occupied Republic of South Korea.  I couldn’t understand why the British Navy had to be involved.  Maybe now history is repeating itself.  I wondered if someone was trying to tell me something.  William was insistent that we should bring the wedding forward – even if it meant we had to get married in a registry office, he just wanted to be married.  He was going off to war - anything could happen - I had to agree.  I went to see Matron and explained what had happened.  She was very sympathetic and said I could have leave to get married and would then return to take my Finals and make up the time after the exams.  There were a few tears shed.  Most of my close friends had left so the people who didn’t know me very well, assumed I was pregnant and had to get married.  I was so sick of wars.

  I was on the brink of a nervous break-down, what with last minute swotting and trying to arrange a ‘shot gun wedding’.






Saturday, March 11, 2017

Some Faces
Pat and Ginny earlier in the Lakes before it all went pear shaped.

Blue belts Kate, Pat and Ginny back row 
Kate arising from the Welsh sea apparently fully clothed and pearls of course. 
Pat and Gerhardt.  It was quite scary 
Pat with the lovely German girls.
The German party 1949 who we had been taught to hate. 

Sunday, March 05, 2017

An Imperfect Life.  Chapter 19
New Faces and Places.

“You’ve been dumped.  Now you know what it feels like.  Get over it!”

 So I told myself but it was a lonely time with Ginny engrossed in her new boy friend

and our set halved with nurses leaving, unable to withstand the stresses and strains of

  caring for very sick children.

   My immediate problem was what to do with the fortnight’s holiday in February –

 planned as a  trip to Oxford to be with Jamie.

 Just lately I had been working on the wards with Kate – a member of our set.  She

 was a really good person – without being pi and I found her a very comforting


Kate told me about Plas y Nant - a Christian Fellowship House in North Wales.

  “It’s a beautiful spot – if you like mountains. There’s graded outdoor activities with

 leaders in charge but I have to warn you Pat - there are prayers morning and night.”

   When she showed me a snap of this old house nestled amongst

 pine trees and surrounded by mountains I had no hesitation in accepting an

 invitation to join her.  I knew it was going to be a special place.  Betws Garmon, is five miles SE of
 Carnarvan – an area of mountains, llyns, (lakes) waterfalls and glens.  Plas itself was a rambling old
building in grounds that begged to be explored.

When we arrived there the gardens were fragrant with the smell of pine and as we crunched our way up the drive we had a fantastic view of a mountain – the Elephant and Llyn Quellyn. 
When we first saw the Elephant – you can guess its shape – it was diamond encrusted as a result of

all the minute slivers of ice scattered over it.   Because of the time of year Kate and I were the only

guests, with an influx of walkers at the week-end.  This didn’t trouble us as we both needed respite

and Lena, the manager, made sure we got it.   Kate was a bit worried about my finger nails; off duty

I wore Peggy Sage nail varnish a pale pink natural shade.

 “Pat I’m a bit worried Lena may be shocked at your nail varnish.”
“Kate if she objects I promise I’ll remove it.”

 We couldn’t wear it on duty of course but since my break up with Jamie a bit of steel had entered my

 soul and I no longer felt obliged to try desperately to please everybody.

 Lena was a gentle looking lady – slight, with fuzzy hair and large owlish glasses.
  In spite of her delicate appearance she had complete control over all guests at all times, even the

rowdy ones in the larger parties.  We were privileged to have her undivided attention during the week

 and I certainly found peace and tranquillity.  One of the charming customs of the house - when it was

occupied by men and women – was the evening ritual when the men would gather outside the

conservatory and serenade the women with the song ‘Good Night Ladies.’  I can’t remember what we

 sang back to them and neither can Kate.  Our memories are slightly conflicting because I believed

we had wandered over the Pyg track – just the two of us – in fog, but Kate said we climbed Snowdon

in a party.  Maybe it was Crib Goch I remember with a lonely sheep dog for company. It felt very

daring and was quite dangerous. We certainly climbed at least two mountains, read lots of poetry and

 enjoyed Knickerbocker Glories in Caernarfon.  Lena said we ought to return in the summer when

there would be team leaders and graded walks and climbs.  This was our final year of training, with

more responsibility and lots of studying so we decided to repeat the experiment in the summer and

booked then and there.

  There were to be a lot of changes in the next few months - some I was aware of and some came as a surprise.  One thing was certain, the remaining members of our set would take their finals in October and then leave.  I would have to stick it out for another six months when I would be old enough to take State Finals.  And then what?

 When I got back from Plas it was my birthday – twenty and still unmarried - unlike Mum and Maddie.  I still went out with boys but imagined I would have platonic relationships for the rest of my life.  I wasn’t going to mope - just be realistic.
Maddie told me that Liam- Jamie’s elder brother had met a girl at Yale and they were to be married.  She was Jewish and her family had escaped from Austria before the war.  So much for Jamie’s father’s dream of his sons marrying nice Scottish girls. 

Maddie dropped the bombshell that Paul - her husband - had got a job in Africa and the three of them were going out there to live.  We were all going to miss them – especially Mum, Dad and the Aunts.
Evan had got a serious girl friend and Gran was in the States again so Mum and Dad were having the time of their lives with just themselves to think about.  I knew I would never live at home again but felt a bit rudderless.  Still I had another year before I had to decide what to do next.  I saw much less of Ginny as she was fully occupied with her fiancĂ©e.
  Kate and I were very thankful when August came along and we set off for Plas once more.  It was very different in the summer - beautiful gardens, crystal clear views and a great buzz of excitement as people settled in and started getting to know one another. There was a lovely feeling of fellowship and we were excited to hear there was a German Party – it was 1950 and the war was still fresh in our memories.  I spotted them in the garden bunched together and looking a bit glowery.  I cursed the fact that I didn’t know any German except ‘Ich liebe dich’ – the song ‘I love you.’  I went up to a young man with a thunder cloud on his brow and said ‘Ich’ pointing at myself, ‘Pat.’  Then I pointed at him questioningly and said ‘Dich?’- meaning I’m Pat who are you.  I now think this is possibly an intimate way of speaking rather like the French tu- toying but I had no idea then. .He beamed from ear to ear and told me, in excellent English that he was Gerhard and - still with a happy smile introduced me to the rest of the party.  I’m not sure what he said to them but from then on there was no stand - offishness and Germans and Brits alike spent the next week walking, eating, laughing and praying together.  They had all been children during the war - like us, and we were able to rid ourselves of the belief that all Germans were wicked.  We giggled when the boys stood outside serenading us and sang ‘Merrily we yoll along.’ instead of ’roll along.’  There was a lot of joshing and teasing.  One of the Brits was Johnnie - a wag- and the last night he sang a song about all the characters which ended up with a chorus of ‘Pat and Gerhard’ to every body’s amusement and Gerhard demanded a copy.  It was the sort of holiday where one felt one loved everybody but it was all light-hearted - nothing serious.
  Back in hospital the rest of my set were madly swotting for the Finals in October and I was thankful that I had another six months breathing space. October marked the end of the three years I had been training

  Just as I thought I was going to be friendless along came Vanessa.  She had joined the hospital as a second year nurse, having done her general nursing and so was already State Registered.  I first noticed her standing languidly by the tea urn in the dining room.  She was tall and willowy with blonde hair and only needed a couple of borzoi to be a dead ringer for Diana the Huntress.  I didn’t get to know her until our final year when Home Sister said as we were both senior nurses we would have the privilege of sharing the bedroom in the Admin Block.  This room was special; up in the eaves of the main hospital, above sick bay and above the doctor’s quarters - so remote it wasn’t regularly inspected.  And it had a fire-escape and a fireplace. It was a cold October and Vanessa thought it would be fun to have a fire so we would have the luxury of dressing and undressing in the warm.  But how on earth would we get the coal up two floors I wondered.  Next thing I knew I was following Vanessa down the main corridor; blessing the fact that she was so tall and had been given the longest cloak in the hospital.  It reached the floor and completely hid the two buckets of coal she was carrying.  We kept that fire going for three days until Home Sister happened to notice smoke coming from a normally dormant chimney.  She was a great sport and after playing hell with us made us promise we would never do it again.  Thankfully, she didn’t tell Matron, (thanks Sister Walters).
  Not all the sisters were so kind and understanding.  Vanessa - who the medical staff nick-named Snake-Hips was made very unhappy by two bitchy Sisters whose ward she was on and I had a problem with one of the Night Sisters. I was sad that Vanessa only told me about this in later years. .Being so isolated we didn’t get the usual wake up call from the maids and had to rely on an ancient alarm clock.  It was very large and had two brass bells attached.  One morning it didn’t go off and I was late for breakfast.  This particular Night Sister was big and bouncy and somewhat of an exhibitionist.  She glared at me through her dark framed spectacles got hold of the alarm clock, managed to get it ringing and to prove her point went striding down the main corridor swinging the pealing clock triumphantly.  Once on night duty she was so unreasonable and unfair that I became enraged and determined to go to Matron and hand in my notice.

 “Pat you can’t throw away the last four years training just because that cow was bitchy to you.  You know what she’s like.  The other night Jones took her 11pm coffee – on the dot - Sister decided it was too weak and poured it onto the main corridor floor,” Kate tried to reason with me.  Fortunately by the time I came off duty I had calmed down and agreed it would be silly to throw all the years of training away because I had a problem with one Sister.  Common sense prevailed.

    Compared to the normal Spartan single bedrooms ours had a bohemian feel to it;
posters of Margot Fonteyn decorated the walls, there were dried flowers in the fireplace and there

was a delicious aroma – a mixture of pot pourri, fresh fruit and Vanessa’s scent.

   In October I decided to go to the hospital dance.  I had heard that Andrew had left the area so I wouldn’t bump into him.  After a few dances I noticed there was a bunch of chaps who apparently were engineers from Metro-Vickers.

 One in particular seemed rather ebullient and even went up to Matron to have a chat - a rare occurrence with invited guests.  He seemed to stare at me a lot and finally came up and asked for a dance.  He told me later he had said no way was he going to ask that conceited looking girl to dance.  I had never met anyone quite like him and haven’t to this day.  He said his name was William.





Thursday, February 16, 2017

Lisbon from the River Tagus

 An old brewery now a museum
Padrao dos Descobrimentos
commemorating the discoveries of Christopher Columbus

 Moody, misty mid morning.
Our beautiful ship - Balmoral.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Some Merry Widows on Board
Christmas night -  the good part of the evening when we choose our wines and decide what we are going to eat.  We had the same two waiters and I became Mam Pat so have lost my previous  title.  The boys were very efficient and always charming.  My dinner companions were five widows - all totally different but excellent company and it was fun to let one's hair down.  Breakfast and lunch were also very enjoyable with two bachelors, a married couple and anyone who cared to join us.  I found it was relaxing always to use the same restaurant.  You are given a restaurant where you eat each night - you choose either first or second dinner and keep to it throughout but then you have 3 or 4 other places to eat the rest of the day.  You can eat throughout the day -some people do -  but I find sticking to three meals a day and sticking to my normal diet - their porridge is yummy - helps weight control.

A disappointment was that both at Puerto del Rosario and La Gomera the pilot declared the swell was too great to dock.  So that meant two extra days at sea. There was some mal de mer and a few empty seats at dinner.  I was thankful for the legacy from my sailing days.

Safely in the Canaries we went ashore and found a church which was quite normal outside
 but inside was so dazzling  I became emotional and was about to have a' moment.'

 Then over the tannoy came
'Yeah, you better watch out, you better not cry
You better not pout, I'm telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town.'
And I collapsed in fits of laughter.
 A nice bit of Gothic
 and a nice chap whose name I didn't discover.
 A Garden where we were served sweet little cakes and juice - or was it wine?

 Back to my haven.
Tea, coffee and more hanging space and drawers than I can use. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Day out in Casablanca

Day out in Casablanca
Please click on photos for best results
The beauty and spaciousness of the Mosque reminded me of the Taj Mahal.
Our gorgeous guide - GG used the space to demonstrate her daily ablutions and assured us that in her country women were free to choose how they dressed.

She talked a little about Ramadan and  explained that it was a matter of timing when you could eat  and drink and intimated that as far as sex was concerned the hours when it was permitted were not wasted.
 GG took us through this lovely market.  At no time did we feel uncomfortable or in any danger.  She told us that they loved their King and Queen who were kind and caring  and helped the less fortunate people.  She took us to an old, tall building in the city- which housed La Toque Blanche.
 Slowly with the aid of a tiny open iron lift - the like of which I haven't seen since visiting my agent's office in Cambridge Circus in the fifties- we reached the 5th? floor where we learned how to make Moroccan Fekkas, Bahla and Gazelle Horns.  And then of course we had to eat them.
 The School was owned by a young woman,  the women were in charge and we were waited on by sweet young men.  Delicious!  The cakes I mean.
 Gloria - one of us - was encouraged to have a go.
Then we were shown how to make Beef Tajine, Chiken Tajine and Couscous Tfaya with vegetables and chiken.
 Then we were taken even higher to a dining room.

   The silver tureens were removed and we were served with plates of divine food.  I had asked for a small helping so felt justified in going back and asking for more.  That pleased them greatly.
We all got a certificate from Mme Laila Lahlou, directrice de l'ecole de gastronomie La Toque Blanche to say Mackay Patricia (or whoever)  a participe au atage d'initiation a la Cuisine et Patisserie Marocaine en date du 24/12/2016.
After a little shopping a local man burst on to the coach - upset that he had unwittingly overcharged one of the passengers convincing us all that Casablanca is a special place.