Friday, March 31, 2006

Photos of Hospital and Convalescent Home by kind permission of Churnet Valley Books from 'Pendlebury' by Pamela Barnes
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Story contd.

My month’s trial turned out to be on one of the three medical wards. I knew there would be patients suffering from tubercular meningitis and leukaemia – both fatal diseases in the forties, so it was going to be harrowing. Everyone knew someone with TB, before the advent of safe milk. One little girl from a wealthy family had been given her own cow, which tragically turned out to be tubercular.

Over the years progress has been made; TB is rare and leukaemia can be cured, but then, the nursing was all- important to keep the patients comfortable and as happy as possible. Nursing children spoils you as far as nursing adults is concerned. They are incredibly brave and warrant love and affection. Whenever I am afraid of some ordeal I have to go through, I remember Edward, a boy of ten who had to have intramuscular injections every four hours. He would look at me with his big brown eyes and say,
‘Just wait till I get my grip Nurse,’ and he would grip the bed head, have the injection and let me give him a hug.

Parents were allowed to visit once a week on Sundays from 3pm till 4pm and they were very much under the eagle eye of Sister. There was no sitting on beds, no children visitors and only parents were allowed. And there was no cross infection. Each ward had its own maids and the wards were spotless. From the entrance to the ward you would see that all the bed castors were turned inwards at the correct angle and all pillow case openings were away from the door. This attention to detail was carried through in all aspects of nursing care, and the sloppiness one sometimes sees in today’s hospitals concerns me.

As a junior nurse, one’s first duty in the morning was to wipe down the beds and lockers with dettol. Matron did a ward round every day but never at the same time and you and the ward had better be looking immaculate. There was a cleaner who spent all day going from one end of the main corridor, on her hands and knees, scrubbing. I flinched every time I had to walk over it.

Friends used to ask how I could bear to nurse children so ill and the answer was the children were so inspiring and we could have happy times together. No, what used to finish me was when I looked at the parent’s faces when they came on the ward on a Sunday. I would have to retreat into the Sluice, have a good blub and then get back on the ward.

At last the month’s trial was over; I had my grey belt and a few months’ respite before the Preliminary State Exam in the autumn. There was the Christmas Dance (held in January) and my trip to Oxbridge to look forward to. Life was good.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Annie in the middleLETTER FROM ANNIE

Story contd.

Annie was also starting anew and had embarked on Fever Training with another St Anne's nurse. Like me she was missing the carefree, open air life at the sea-side but was finding the work interesting and satisfying. We were now miles apart in different towns and it was difficult to coincide our off-duty. We agreed to wait until one of us was on holiday to get together. There was no shortage of friends. Our set really bonded during the schooling session known as'Block' and a nucleus of us would be friends until death.

The days were enlivened by lectures from the consultants. One adjured us never to leave furniture polish around as his children had eaten some and had hallucinated for days. Another painted a vivid picture of a typical TB patient - fair, delicate skin, rosy cheeks and long eyelashes and a couple of us had a 'La Dame aux Camellias' moment until we remembered our rigorous medical checks, including a mantoux test.

Yet another described the physical signs of a syphilictic patient with a dropped saddle nose and certain teeth, remarkably similar to the sister sitting in on the lecture. His descriptions of the slow deterioration of the victim ending in GPI ( General Paralysis of the Insane) was so horrific it could have put us off sex for life. Actually there wasn't a lot of it about - sex I mean- in our neck of the woods. The odd (not very) bright young thing who talked about sex before marriage was regarded as being no better than she should be. During my time there were a couple of pregnancies but they were both 'nice girls'.

As Greer Garson proclaimed in 'Blossoms in th Dust',

'Bad girls don't have babies!'

Then too, if you wanted to wear white on your wedding day you had to be 'pure', obviously.

At last it was exam time. Most of us passed and we were deemed fit to go on the wards and pratice our new skills on the patients - under strict supervision. For a months trial that is!

Then off to Oxbridge to visit Maddie and Paul and maybe see Liam and the lad who was to becomeMTL
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Sunday, March 26, 2006

T Thirties wedding - small bridesmaids Maddie and P on right

The little ones wore gold satin. Mine then, was Sunday best and I was wearing it when Chamberlain told us on the wireless that we were at war. The big bridesmaids wore Marina blue - a sort of pale turquoise - named after the very popular Princess Marina, who was Greek and who married Prince George - later Duke of Kent (father to the present one) They were a beautiful couple and lived the high life. Tragically he was killed when his plane came down in Scotland.

The other night I discovered that a sweet elderly lady at my writing class was a Barnado's girl and had been for many years nursery maid to the same couple. She adored the Duke. Less so the Duchess. Just my luck the class ends this week!
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Friday, March 24, 2006


Story contd.

It was hard work with lectures every day, practical nursing sessions, copying up notes and trying to absorb all the information, but it was also a lot of fun. We all had the same off duty so there was always someone ready for a trip to Eccles to sample the cakes or a jaunt to the local flea-pit to see a flick.

At bed-time Freda would regale us with tales of what she got up to in the army and we would discuss our hopes and dreams – usually scoffing our sweet rations at the same time. Apart from Freda who was older,, we were mostly aged about eighteen. Some of the girls had come straight from school and some had had office jobs. I was the only one with any experience but was also the youngest. As we walked from Jesson House to the hospital for our meals, we would catch glimpses of the wards and the ‘real’ nurses and wonder if we would be capable of coping in three months time.

The practical sessions were enjoyable, where one of us would act as patient and we would learn how to give a bed bath, without the patient freezing to death and with modesty preserved at all times – only exposing the part of the body to be washed and washing the private bits under a towel. Great care was given to pressure points and through out my training bed sores were unknown - the hospital would have died of shame.

Of all the girls, Turner stood out. She was different in that she had no trace of a Lancashire accent, had been expensively educated and oozed confidence from every pore. She was always first – to ask and answer questions, to collect her post, in line at meal times – always head of the queue. When we started sick room cookery lessons at the local technical college, it was more noticeable than ever as there was a shortage of equipment. The more diffident of us who would stand back to let others go first would then be racing against the clock in order to complete the recipe in time. As we were awarded marks each week which would affect our final result, we started to get a bit twitchy. Our cookery tutor was a little hedgehog of a woman who appeared to be completely mesmerised by Turner. On the day of the final cookery exam we were all nervous. Poor marks in this exam could influence the final PTS result. If we didn’t pass we were out.

Turner excelled herself. She whistled round the room like a whirlwind, grabbing, lunging, and clattering in order to be first to collect equipment and ingredients and present the hedgehog with the perfect invalid’s stew. We followed in her wake as best we could. And then disaster! In her haste Turner had grabbed what she thought was a bottle of gravy browning to give her stew the perfect brown hue and was devastated to see it turn scarlet. Inadvertently she had grabbed a bottle of cochineal. For once the hedge hog asserted herself and awarded Turner nil points! Which we thought was a bit hard. Not long afterwards we lost our first probationer and the original twenty-one became twenty.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The glamourous forties.
Auntie Janet with all accessories and the obligatory corsage of a GI bride. Still happily married.


Mum looking demure with her neat bob

and dropped waist with romantic background

Mum and Dad and friend.

Mum and friend in beanies.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Our second home - Windermere - in the thirties

Monday, March 20, 2006


After 24 hours of unadulterated luxury it's good to be back home to the simple life. It was one of those special deals where you have dinner and spend the night free as long as you spend more than £100. Not a problem!

I'm always a little wary of 'special deals' but this was an elegant Regency house with views over the Quantocks. The grounds looked inviting - shame it was too cold to explore but we were seduced by the opulent, voluptuous interior. They didn't stint in the room with fresh fruit and flowers, sweeties in a jar, robes and slippers, bottled water, both fizzy and still, and first rate 'smellies' in the bathroom.
The staff were helpful and friendly without being intrusive and the atmosphere was totally relaxing.

The food was the kind that is great for a treat but you wouldn't want to eat every day. A French woman, who had been awarded a cordon bleu for cooking, once told me to always have a digestif after a rich meal - preferably kirsch. This time I had Grand Marnier because it's like velvet liquid fire, and it worked its magic.

Spring cleaning must be a nightmare with all those drapes, swags, cushions and curtains that weigh a ton, but as my nosy forefinger discovered it was spotless.
Those of you a little longer in the tooth may remember Cicely Courtnidge and her tongue twister ditty, 'I want two dozen double damask dinner napkins.'
No? Well I like my damask dinner napkins to be soft so I can easily drape them over my knees not have than stand to attention like rampant Bishops. My only criticism of Mount Somerset.

Friday, March 17, 2006



Late in a good way – not an irreversible way – but I meant to do a photo post this morning and am running out of time.  We are off carousing, in spite of the absolutely FOUL weather, so will continue over the week-end when we return, bloated and flatulent no doubt.  Don’t work too hard and poorly ones get better soonest.



Late in a good way – not an irreversible way – but I meant to do a photo post this morning and am running out of time.  We are off carousing, in spite of the absolutely FOUL weather, so will continue over the week-end when we return, bloated and flatulent no doubt.  Don’t work too hard and poorly ones get better soonest.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006



Pat  ( after a couple of glasses of birthday champagne)
‘When we die and go to Heaven , who will you spend time with – me or your first wife?’

MTL  ‘I’m not sure I’ll go to Heaven.  I’m not sure you will!

Heigh Ho!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


Story contd.

Sitting on the Yelloway bus going west to the sea-side I was returning to the Convalscent Home for the last time. I reflected that from now on journeys from home would be less pleasant. This bus was usually filled with people in a holiday mood. When I started at the Main Hospital it would be a Ribble bus going south through dreary mill towns to the city. On the outskirts of the city we would pass the awful Strangeways Prison - truly a gateway to hell. In 1949 a well known local – she was a bus conductress – was ‘hanged by the neck until she was dead’. She dressed like a man and had been convicted of murdering an old woman. I remember being told that on the day of execution her lesbian lover stood in the town centre in front of the church clock. When it chimed twelve noon she knew that Margaret Allen was being hanged.

I was looking forward to seeing Annie and telling her about the holiday. I caught a glimpse of her as she took the children out onto the sand hills. There was no time to talk but I could tell from her face there was something wrong.

In the Nurses Sitting Room there was a parcel for me. A pair of nylons from J – one of the chaps we met in the Lakes. For some reason this offended me (who can understand the psyche of a teen-age girl – I couldn’t understand myself) and I returned them. And yes I am ashamed of my stupid pride and rudeness.

It was after supper before Annie and I had a chance to talk and she told me, with tears in her eyes that she had decided not to come with me to continue training at the Hospital but was going to do Fever training instead.

A couple of months back we had acquired a new Staffie. She lived locally and although she looked immaculate in uniform, we had seen her in the town and knew she led a fairly bohemian life. She was once spotted in an ice cream van on the Pleasure Beach, in a mink coat, dripping with bling and selling ice cream. For some reason she thought we were mad to invest three years of our life on an arduous training when we could do something less demanding and have fun at the same time.

I had taken this brain-washing with a pinch of salt but Annie and another junior nurse lapped it up and did indeed leave to do their Fevers training. The sad thing was that eventually Fever Hospitals became defunct. There were tears and disappointment but many of the nurses in my set didn’t complete their training and Annie and the other nurse did. Our friendship survived and four years later Annie was my bridesmaid and is my dear friend to this day.

It was time to say good-bye and set off with my old tin trunk to the city and another adventure. The sedate, delicate pastels of the sea-side were replaced by lurid sun-sets, noise, grease and grime. I had a thumping headache which seemed to last for days

There were twenty one of us in our set and we were to have three months PTS (Preliminary Training School) before we would be allowed to touch a patient. During the three months we would live in a large old house outside the Hospital Grounds and have lectures and Practical Sessions in another old house. The first thing that greeted us as we entered our new home was a large decorated picture which said,
‘Enter Ye to Learn – Go Forth to Serve’
If we successfully completed the three months and passed the exam at the end we would be given our grey belts. Grey for first year, navy for second year and white for third year.
We had two Sister Tutors and a Staff Nurse. It was a bit like being back at school. We would have lectures by the Consultants, Nursing points by Sister Tutor (we sometimes wished she would go and sit on them). Sick room cookery at a nearby college and hockey. I was to share a room with Freda who had been in the army and Delia who was my age and eventually a gold medallist. We were very proud of Delia.
Sister decided that as I was the only one with any nursing experience I would be the week’s leader which meant that, with the help of one other I would prepare breakfast for the first week. More head pounding! The good news was a letter from Maddie, now ensconced in Oxbridge reminding me that in February I was to pay them a visit when I would see Liam and MTL again.

Sunday, March 12, 2006


Saturday, March 11, 2006


Maddie was on the way. 'Flitting' is moving, as in Removals. I'm not sure what 'Top bar' is. It's good to know that poor as they were they still included pictures. I remember 'When did you last see your father?' and a romantic Lakeland scene with cattle in a stream.

Friday, March 10, 2006


Story contd.

Why were we being berated for skimming stones on Lake Coniston? Sarah was the first to spot him. We all recognised him. Those beaky, aquiline features were unmistakably those of Sir Malcolm Campbell. He had broken the land speed record on nine occasions between 1924 and 1935 in Bluebird, which raced on land and a Bluebird that raced on water. In 1935 he reached 301 mph at Bonneville Salt Flats, in the United States. And now here he was waiting to do a run on our lake and we were causing ripples. Red faces all around.

In the end, although the lake looked like a mill pond to us, it was decided that the conditions were not ideal and the people drifted away. We felt privileged to have seen him. A year later he died. Seven years later I met his son Donald, whilst on a modelling shoot. He had continued his father’s pursuit of speed records and did 400mph in Bluebird, which now reclines in Lord Montagu’s National Motor Museum at Beaulieu, UK. Donald was charming and seemed interested to hear of our experience at Lake Coniston. Tragically he was killed in 1967, aged 46 in a re-engined Bluebird K7. It flipped and disintegrated at a speed in excess of 300mph on Lake Coniston.

It was time to say goodbye. The boys drove us back to the B&B, we bade them a fond farewell and J and I exchanged addresses. Mrs Lawson was waiting for us in the hall and we could see at once she was not happy. It was not so much that she minded our missing supper but to have a bobby come knocking on her door, in full view of the whole of Ambleside was not something she relished. Oh dear! We had brought her some chocolates and when she saw we were really sorry to have upset her, she melted and when we told her of our adventure she admitted she would have done the same – without the help of the policeman.

The next day we went to Keswick and found the field where we had camped with Mum and Dad. The field had been full of gypsies and I remember being fascinated by a little toddler with black hair and a red dress and they all seemed so friendly. When we got back from climbing one day we found there was a large hole cut in the wind screen of the sidecar. Dad took one look and said.

‘Right! Pack up, we’re leaving.’

And off we went to our more hospitable Lake Windermere. Maybe it wasn’t the gypsies but they must have seen something. We never returned.

Sarah and I agreed our holiday had been a success and decided to go to Scotland the following year. We spent a night at home regaling Mum and Dad with our doings and then it was back to the Convalescent Home. Returning on duty after a holiday is always a bit daunting but going back there was less so. It was such a welcoming place: the staff were like family, the children affectionate and the sea, sand hills and sky were always alluring. In a few weeks I would be leaving for good and starting training with a vengeance. Thank goodness Annie would be there. It wouldn’t be nearly so frightening with two of us.

Although the Convalescent Home was meant to prepare young girls before they started training proper at the main Hospital, not all of them made it. All we heard and saw of the Hospital filled us with awe and trepidation. The training was very intense and the discipline of the strictest. But this was part of my five year plan and I knew that the children would help to make life bearable. I was in for a shock!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Site Meter

Dear old Convalescent Home - now no more.

Today is a beautiful day, in spite of the rain and gloom, because at last I can get on with the story.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

P with neighbours Posted by Picasa
Maddie P and neighbours Posted by Picasa

Mum in her pinnie and P

Nurses on sandhills. Lottie on right. See earlier post

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Update for the friends

Update for the friends who can be bothered to scroll down.  Surprise, surprise – the engineers at PC world are clueless about blogs but they did clean me up and make me a little faster and another blog friend is trying to help with my little problem

Whilst waiting we gave ourselves a treat and saw ‘The Constant Gardener’ which was – I found - so gripping and so colourful – it made me long to go to Africa although the beauty doesn’t disguise the threat of violence and menace.  It passed the snooze test – I didn’t – and there is a wonderful coup de theatre at the end which made me want to shout ‘Yay!’

The acting is good – Rachel deserves her Oscar - and Ralph Fiennes should get one for being so lovely.  Or is he?

Monday, March 06, 2006

Auntie Janet on her high horse.
I have tried to delete the line that seemed to cause the problem.

I am sorry about yesterday's gobbledegook. It is not a virus but, inadvertantly, self induced. I hope to get back to normal as soon as possible and if not, tomorrow my computer is booked in for it's annual health check.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

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Thursday, March 02, 2006

A lovely day of sweet scented meadows and gentle flirtation

Story contd.

Whilst I was helping Maddie to change into her ‘going away’ suit, I asked her how things had gone the first time she took Paul home to Mum and Dad’s - he had been staying with the aunts.

‘Well as you can imagine Mum put on a big spread: high tea with all the trimmings, the Shelley china, her special malt loaf – although I told her Paul had had dysentery - and oh yes, because of that she decided to do up the loo and painted the lavatory seat.
Unfortunately she did it whilst Dad was at the match and forgot to tell him. Guess what happened?’

‘He didn’t!’

‘Oh yes he did. You could smell the turps from the bottom of the lane.’ Maddie giggled.

‘I wish I could have been there. How was Gran?’

‘She behaved like a duchess until she knocked the HP sauce bottle over.’

‘Don’t tell me…’

“‘Stand up you long-necked bugger!’ she shouted, and…”

Maddie then collapsed in helpless laughter.

‘Tell me! Tell me!’

“and Paul stood up!”

We collapsed on the bed tears rolling down our faces.

‘Well he would wouldn’t he’ I gasped, ‘him being used to orders.

I was really going to miss Maddie. Paul got quite irritated when we had giggling fits which made us worse. I would have to think of them as a couple from now on.

After the departure of the happy pair it all went a bit flat so it was a relief to set off with Sarah for the Lake District. I had managed to save some money and Sarah was earning so we decided to treat ourselves to a bed and breakfast instead of camping or youth hostels. Mum and Dad recommended Mrs Lawson’s in Ambleside. It was a typical local house built of grey Lakeland slate, close to the Police Station. Mrs Lawson was very motherly and a good cook so we were persuaded to have our evening meals with her.

After exploring Ambleside I took Sarah to see our old haunts. The camping ground now had a few caravans but the enormous tree by the edge of the lake which had been struck by lightening and uprooted was still there. Evan used to call it his castle and you could still see the rocks where we use to tie up and fish. We wandered round Bowness and admired the lovely boats moored there. One was called ‘The Girl Pat’.

The Lakes were busier than pre-war, but their beauty was undiminished and I never tired of gazing at the many varied lakes garlanded with dramatic mountains – so different to the sea-side scenery I had grown accustomed to. We decide to spend a day in the Langdales. To break ourselves in we would potter up and down the little sugar loaves there before tackling a mountain. The weather was unusually balmy and by mid afternoon we were hot and tired and retreated to a cool tea-room with flagged floors. The seating arrangements were forms with trestle tables – all quite matey and we got chatting to three young men who had been climbing. We had to get back to Ambleside for supper but as we were looking up the bus time- tables the chaps said they had a car and would be happy to give us a lift. They were quite a bit older than us and there were three of them but they were polite and charming and climbers so I knew we’d be fine.
We told them of the dance we were going to that evening and they decided to join us.
The evening was a great success and we arranged to meet the next day when they would drive us to Coniston so we would see a more remote area. Another lovely day of sweet scented meadows and shimmering lakes and gentle flirtation. Time flew and it seemed criminal to dash back for supper, especially as the boys were leaving the next day. I had a brainwave. We would phone the police station from the inn and ask them to pop over to Mrs Lawson’s to tell her we wouldn’t be back for supper.

It was magical by Lake Coniston in the early evening and we were surprised to see quite a lot of people. We decided to have a skimming competition where you find flat smooth pebbles and see who can get the most bounces on the water before the pebble sinks. The chaps were brilliant at this and we were rubbish – which pleased them no end until two officious looking blokes came up and said we must stop at once we were disturbing the calmness of the lake. What on earth was going on?