Monday, February 29, 2016

Pride andPrejudice

An Imperfect Life


Pride and Prejudice

Chapter 10


 Back in hospital I was delighted to discover I was going on Heywood – a surgical ward where, on
the whole, patients were admitted, had the op and went home fit and well.  This would be much less
emotionally taxing than Borchardt Ward where many of the patients didn’t survive and I was thankful
for the respite. 

  As soon as I walked on the ward I could feel the difference.  It seemed lighter and brighter and many of the children were sitting up and taking notice.  There were two Ward Sisters and a Staff Nurse.  After we had bathed the children – some were well enough to go to the bathroom – Sister said I was to accompany Staff and help her with the dressings.  I watched carefully as she set up the trolley using instruments that had been boiled up in the ward steriliser.  There were different trolleys for different procedures and we had to learn them.  The dressings and bandages which we prepared when the children were asleep after lunch were stored in a metal drum.  This was then taken to theatre and sterilised in a giant autoclave.

Staff Nurse Bond was a sturdy Yorkshire lass and very quickly earned my respect as she dressed these very delicate mastoidectomy wounds (an operation to remove diseased air cells in the mastoid bone, which is behind the ear).  She made – what could have been a very painful experience for the child as normal as having a bed bath and I determined to try and emulate her skill.  I was allowed to put the bandage on when she had finished.  In those days we used a crepe bandage taking a turn round the forehead and then making a neat pattern going round and round above the ear and then below the ear.  I had been quite good at it in PTS and was pleased when Staff said “Well done Barnes!”

  After that we did the abdominals and again I admired the skill and the immediate effect of dressing the wounds and putting a clean dressing on.
  Many of the patients were T’s and A’s (tonsils and adenoids).  Before WW2 it was the norm to

remove them at the first sign of trouble.  I had mine out aged three.  During the war the hospitals

were more stretched, the lists got longer and longer and it was realised that in most cases, by the age

of eight, the problem had disappeared.

.  The one thing we came to dread were ‘bleeders’: patients who bled unremittingly after their op.  A close watch was kept on their pulse rate to monitor this, but our hearts would sink if there was a child who was a redhead or had a certain wishy- washy, mousy coloured hair coupled with a pasty skin.  I don’t know if there is a scientific explanation for why these patients were more likely to bleed, but we student nurses believed they did.  
I was certainly enjoying being on a surgical ward – the snag was going to theatre which could be

nerve wracking when you didn’t know what to expect.

.  The theatre staff were super efficient with low fuses as I had already discovered; Heaven help you if you had forgotten theatre socks or any of the things you were meant to remember.  Fortunately the ward was just opposite the theatre so I didn’t have the long trek down the main corridor.  We wheeled the trolley – with patient - into the small anaesthetic room.  The anaesthetist was an Irish lady with grey hair and a sharp manner.  You wouldn’t want to irritate her.  She had a whacking great diamond on her finger and I stared, fascinated as she spilt ether on it, as well as on the mask she placed over the child’s face. It was mesmerising and I used to wonder if I was soaking up the ether myself.

   The consultants were treated like gods; a hot water bottle for this one – special soap for that one.  In my ignorance I thought they were great fuss-pots but of course the soap was for an allergy and the hot water bottle to warm the consultant’s hands before he examined a child.  Nevertheless when the ENT specialist – another lady - entered the ward in white theatre gum boots and a lamp on her head, there were a few sniggers when a child called out:  ‘Coo look!  A miner!’

  Throughout our trials and tribulations we were sustained by the solidarity of our set, the original PTS.  During that initial three months we had bonded together.  Now we were doing different jobs on different wards with different time off.  But mostly we were in the same Home and we were like family, a great comfort during the trials and tribulations.  There was wastage of course and out of the 21 original student nurses only nine of us took our Finals.  Some found it exhausting and stressful.  Some found the discipline too harsh.  On the whole I found the older Sisters quite fair and kind but some of the younger ones could make life very difficult if they didn’t like you.

  I was lucky most of the time- until towards the end of my training.
One of our set – Ginny - was on the ward with me and we discovered that she lived in Padiham, just north of our valley and we would travel on the same bus.  Most of the girls came from around the Manchester area and there was a subtle difference; the staff in Kendal Milne’s Store used to blench when it was Rossendale Wakes Week, and they were over-run with the strange folk from my valley.  Ginny and I spoke the same language and became close friends.

  Just before my eighteenth birthday I got a lovely surprise: an invitation from Jamie to go as his partner to a Commemoration Ball in Oxford.  I told Maddie when I phoned her and she said it would be a wonderful experience.  I couldn’t wait to tell Mum and Dad on my day off.  Ginny and I travelled home together taking the bus to Manchester from outside the hospital and crossing the city on foot to Moseley Street Bus Station.  Not a very nice place to be on your own after dark. (Surely it wasn’t named after Oswald?)  We discussed what I should wear for the Ball. 

  “I’ve got to find the fare to Oxford so I’ll probably wear that white lace Maddie gave me.”

“Oh you look lovely in that – but if you’re fed up with it why not borrow my new one.  You lent me your bridesmaid’s dress.  I’ll bring it back with me tomorrow. ‘

“Thanks Ginny – it’ll be smashing to wear something that isn’t white.”

  Maddie and Paul had been visiting for a few days – staying with the Aunts – as they always did.  My excitement was dampened when Mum said they knew about the invitation.

“Maddie said it would be a wonderful experience and Ginny’s going to lend me her new dress so I’ve just got the fare to find and I can…”

  I could see from their faces there was something wrong and my voice faded.

  Dad cleared his throat and put on his really serious- quite cross face.

“Pat we don’t want yer to go!”

I could feel my jaw drop and was speechless.

“I’ve ‘ad a word wi’ Paul an’ ‘e sez them Balls go on all night an’ end up wi’ orgies on’t river.

“But Dad our Maddie’s been to one and she told me on the phone it would be a wonderful experience and Paul - he’s never been to one – he’s been out in India and -and Japan..”  I was beginning to splutter.

“I’ve said me say an’ that’s that.  May – I’m off.”  And off he went to the pub or Granddad’s or wherever he needed to go to escape my blethering.

  “Mum it’s not fair – I’m 18 next month.  You let Maddie get married at 19.  YOU got married at 18 and pregnant!”

“That’s enough Pat!”

“Mum you’ve met Jamie- you know he’s a decent lad.  He would look after me I know he would.”

“|Your Dad’s made up his mind!”

 “It’s ridiculous – I’ve lived away from home since I was16 and a half.  I could have slept with a whole squadron in St Annes if I’d wanted to.  I’m not that kind of girl.  I thought you and Dad knew that.”  By now the tears were starting to flow and I got hiccups.

“Your Daddy’s just trying to protect you”.  So there we were.  With Mum I could usually talk her round but Dad was immovable if he believed he was right and the devil of it was I could cope with anything but his disapproval.  The thing that really got me was that he took the word of ‘a bloody Southerner’ over his own daughter’s.

Paul was very persuasive – he had convinced my parents that Maddie should marry him before she had finished college.

When I told Ginny the next day she was both incredulous and sympathetic.  I had to write to Jamie that unfortunately I now had to refuse his invitation.

  Out of the blue I had a letter from Sean Malloy, Paul’s best man at the wedding who was at the same college as Paul, inviting me to his Commemoration Ball.  When I got over the shock I was angry to discover that this was acceptable to my parents- presumably because he was a friend of Paul’s.  This seemed to me to be blatant hypocrisy.  Pride and prejudice made me spurn the invitation in spite of Jamie pointing out that if I went to Oxford, at least we would see each other.

  By my next day off things had calmed down; Dad and Evan had gone to the match, Paul had gone back to Oxford so Mum, Maddie and I had a lovely girly day.  After supper Mum said we would walk down to the Aunts.  As we strolled along the Avenues and through the park Maddie started to talk about her marriage.  It seemed all was not well in Paradise, but Mum cut her off.

  “You’ve made your bed Maddie- you must lie on it!”

That seemed a bit harsh to me but that was Mum for you. I remembered Adrian’s words: “Now Paul’s married to a girl like Maddie he should buck his ideas up.”

However, all should be well because I then got the news that Maddie was pregnant.



kenju said...

I can totally imagine your distress at being told you couldn't go to the ball. I was invited to visit a friend in college while I was still in high school, and she had set me up with a blind date - one I desperately wanted to meet - and my aunt told my mom not to let me go for the same reasons your dad didn't want you to go. It was so unfair - I thought - and I was mad about it for quite some time.

I can't wait to hear if you got to go to the other one.

angryparsnip said...

I was so excited to see your post today.
Couldn't wait to make a cup of coffee and sat down to read it.
Enjoyable as ever.
And dear Paul has a nerve !

cheers, parsnip

Kim Ayres said...

So did you never make it to any orgies on't river?

Granny Annie said...

I recall crying so hard that I got hiccups. That was a true sign of the trauma the restriction caused you. I almost cried again reading about it.

AndrewM said...

Eee bah gum.

I'm sensing trouble at t'mill.

Ms Scarlet said...

Parents, eh?!!

Exile on Pain Street said...

Another fantastic chapter with an open ending. It's particularly interesting when you juxtapose the hospital horrors with the twee problem of an invitation denied. In hindsight, what do you think of your father's decision? How long were you angry with him. Love this stuff, Pat. Love it.

Pat said...

Judy: did you forgive your aunt? Her motives were less suspect than Paul's I think. I never felt quite the same about him.

Parsnip: Make your coffee first and have a comfy read:)

Kim: alas no. Is it too late do you think>?

Granny Annie: do you do it too?

AndrewM: it's your deep sensitivity:)

Scarlet:SO unfair!

Exile: It might seem twee to you Daddy!
In hindsight I think he was wrong not to trust me after a serious talk with me first. We had a special relationship and his good opinion of me was of prime importance. I think he may have regretted it and certainly it was more flexible and trusting afterwards. I think he realised he backed the wrong horse. I teased him about it for years.

SDC said...

Things are heating up. Funny, not so very long ago this would have read like a naughty novel that would have had its' own secret hiding place in your room. Now it's just enjoyable and a good read.

Vagabonde said...

I went back and read your posts – that last cruise did not sound too good, but you made some nice photos in the sun. The Magellan from the outside does not look that bad for a 31 years old ship (was made in 1985.)

I enjoyed your recollection at the hospital and with your friends. You know my father was an Armenian, and even though we lived in Paris, he would not (knowingly) let me go out by myself until I was …21! Which is one of the reasons I went to the US to travel… So I understand how upset you were to be denied going out.

Thanks for coming to my blog. The reasons I did not drive to the doctor when I was sick, was first because I was too weak to drive. The doctor is in another county, about 1 hour away or 2 hours return, and on freeways – my husband does not drive and there was no one to ask since it was Christmas. The other reason is that I did not know I had pneumonia – I thought it was a bad case of bronchitis and would go away. I am totally recovered now.

Anonymous said...

This would make a lovely afternoon TV series, or something like call the Midwife

Kim Ayres said...

We could organise one for next time I'm down in the West Country :)

Pat said...

Kim: I'll try to fit it in between cruises:)

OldLady Of The Hills said...

I could feel how let down you were and and how hurt when your father was so very stern about NOT letting you go to that important certainly did seem unreasonable.....
Your work at the Hospital sounds hard but so deeply rewarding, dear Pat. I bet all the children just adored you. I remember being so frightened as a nine year old being in the Hospital and them not knowing what was wrong. It was very comforting to have an understanding kind and caring nurse--let me tell you! All those kids were lucky to have you taking such good care of them!!! I just love reading your book, my dear Pat.

Pat said...

SDC: I never thought of it as a naughty novel. I'll have to watch myself:)

Vagabonde: I had no beef with the ship itself - just the incompetence shewn by some of the managers. I am so glad to hear you are better now. Even if it had been a bad case of bronchitis that still requires help and care especially when you are the carer. Look after yourself.

Helen: wouldn't that be nice - although I don't aspire to anything like 'Call the Midwife.'

Naomi: I must admit the children were the best part and on the odd occasion when we visited other hospitals and adults were involved I found it much more arduous.

Mage said...

What wonderful stories you share. Thanks so much.

neena maiya (guyana gyal) said...

Uh-huh, Paul and Sean did not set this up, right? Make her not go to the orgy on the river so she can go out with Sean.

Trouble's a brewing, Maddie's not happy and she pregnant.

I'm upset that she quit art school.

Pat said...

Mage: thank you dear reader:)

Neena: I suspect the main motive was to limit more contact with Liam's' family he having been - and still was - a very close friend of Maddie's. And of course he was Jamie's elder brother. I never felt quite the same with Paul after that and as things turned out I think I was right.
You and me both about the Art School cop-out.