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.