Thursday, November 10, 2016

Chapter 17 Doubts and fears.

Chapter 17

 Doubts and Fears

“Quick Ginny – there’s one coming.  We can get it if we run.”
“Stick your hand out Pat then he’ll know we want it.”

Breathless and giggling we clambered up the steps of the double-decker bus.

“Did you have to come up stairs,” grumbled Ginny “I’ve been on duty all night and it stinks of fags.”

“You can see more up here,” I reasoned.

“Stunning Salford scenery- not quite the Lakes is it,” she snorted.

In spite of the badinage it was a rare treat for us to be out together so we were off for a morning in Manchester.

“What’s on your list Ginny?”

“I want to get a top that’s glamorous, colourful and cheap.  Ooh and warm so I can wear it at the Ice Rink. How about you Pat?”

“Actually a coffee at Sisson’s will be my limit.  You know that pretty silver grey beanie I bought?  I got a lecture from Jamie about spending – we are supposed to be saving.”

 I wished I could tell her – and all the family - that we were secretly engaged but I had promised Jamie to keep it between ourselves.  Later in Sisson's when we were sharing a delicious slice of Fullers Iced Walnut Cake Ginny asked me if everything was alright and I assured her it was.  I had lost my heart to Jamie but somehow he had got inside my head and our relationship was off balance.  It was that damned seesaw of love again but this time I was way up in the clouds; losing control and totally dependent on his smile or nod of approval.  We had to make do with fleeting visits when Jamie would try to hitch hike – sometimes with Paul who was back in Oxford.  These had to coincide with my days off. It was a long way to come for such a short time.  Things didn’t always go to plan – sometimes I was kept on duty and Jamie would be left twiddling his thumbs in Rossendale.  My next holiday was some months off in February and we planned that I should join him in Oxford then.

“When does Jamie take his Finals,”   Ginny asked.

“Next year and then just one more year and I’ll be through.”

“It’s a shame you have to stay on longer because you’re 6 months younger than everybody else,” commiserated Ginny.

“My own fault for leaving school at sixteen.”

We called in at a posh hairdresser's as Ginny wanted to know how much it would cost to have her hair cut and styled.  The Salon was named ‘Louis and Barnard’ and reeked of mink and Wilmslow.

“Who would Modom like to style Modom’s hair?”

“Oh - Louis or Barnard,”  Ginny drawled.  I exploded with giggles and we had to beat a hasty retreat.  How I missed the fun we used to have.  I seemed to just live for the next letter or phone call.  The only link was Paul and I received odd snippets of news from him via Maddie which - rather than being reassuring were vaguely disquieting.  Maddie and I weren’t getting on too well.  I realise now that life wasn’t too easy for her at this time; I seemed to be having all the fun whilst she was stuck at home with the baby.  She coveted a Prince of Wales check suit I had and wanted to borrow it for a trip to Oxford.  In return she would lend me her black suit.  Clothes were still very precious in the forties.  I kept my side of the bargain but Maddie changed her mind when it came to the black suit.  I think possibly the aunts didn’t approve but I was horrified and flew off the handle.  Maddie cried and I ended up in the dog house.  Normally this would be part and parcel of sibling rivalry but I earned Jamie’s disapproval and was shattered.  I knew exactly how Jane Austen’s Emma felt when she earned Mr Knightley’s displeasure.  I did behave badly but I thought I had reason to.  I have since learned to always ‘try to rise above it.’

Jamie was still very loving but I began to feel I was walking on egg shells and my spirits would plummet if I saw his frown.

  The monthly dances started and as my room was close to the phone room I answered it one evening and it was Andrew.  As Entertainment’s Officer of the Naval Camp he was phoning to liaise with one of our Dance Organisers.  I longed to ask him how he was but a shutter came down in my brain.  He said he was coming to the next dance in his role of E.O. so I reassured him that I wouldn’t be there.

“How are you Pat?  Have you changed your mind?”

I had enough problems – I couldn’t risk complications so I told him I hadn’t changed my mind and promised not to be at the dance.

  Over a week elapsed before I heard from Jamie and he said he was coming up.  I started to get pre-visit nerves.  I was at home on my day off and when I got violent stomach pains Mum got the doctor.  I remembered him from school - his sister had been in the same form and his father had put sutures above my eye when I was bashed with a hockey stick.

“Oh what are you reading,” he asked examining my poetry book?  Then he examined me and NAD.  Nothing abnormal was discovered.  Just part and parcel of Jamie nerves.  I was excited about Jamie’s visit but scared of anything going wrong.  My spirits alternated between elation and desolation.  I longed to be on an even keel once more.  Sometimes I would say something that made him laugh and he would look at me with love and I would be happy again.  I told him about Andrew- I told him everything – there had to be complete trust.  Maddie went down to Oxford to join Paul for her birthday and when she came back I asked her about Jamie looking to her for reassurance and there was none forthcoming- just vague worrying hints.

“He’s waiting for you to grow up,” she said dismissively.

Jamie’s birthday was coming up.  We had a colour that was special to us - a soft coral tan that was the shade of lipstick I used - Tangee.   Jamie had bought me a beautiful mohair scarf in the same hue and I found some wool in the same colour and as a real labour of love (I was a rubbish knitter) I decided to knit him some socks.  On four needles.  Maddie was an ace knitter- her needles would fly through the air whilst the garment grew at an alarming rate.  It was torture and everybody ribbed me but eventually the socks were finished with just one small hole where there shouldn’t have been.  Once I had darned it you would never have known.

  I took Jamie to meet the Millers whilst we were in Manchester and they were – as usual – very warm and welcoming.  That night Jamie wanted us to stay in Manchester but we couldn’t afford it and it seemed silly to stay in a sleazy B& B on a freezing cold night when we could have warm and cosy beds at home – to say nothing of Mum’s food.  Was I being selfish?  I could tell he wasn’t pleased and I sobbed silently in bed so as not to disturb Gran.

The next hospital dance I peeked through the windows and saw Andrew.  He looked a bit drunkish.  He didn’t come to another dance after that and it was the last time I ever saw him.

  One night Jamie phoned twice and didn’t get me.  When I got the message I phoned back and he wasn’t there.  I spoke to his landlord – who I had met – and he sounded strange.  Eventually I had a letter saying it would be better not to phone him as he had to be out a lot and he would phone me.  My state of mind was beginning to be affected.   Carelessly I put my hand in Oxalic which was very painful but did no lasting damage.  One of our long standing older patients was threshing about a lot whilst I was changing her and bashed my face with her fist.  She couldn’t help it of course but to my shame I burst into tears.  We all dreaded going to work in theatre for the first time and sure enough that was gong to be my next assignment.  The pressure was high and the two Sisters – excellent at their job - took no prisoners.  One was a sporty looking Amazon and the other was how I imagined an adult Violet Elizabeth Bott  of ‘Just William’ fame to look: slender, petite, curly hair, long lashed deep blue eyes and slightly protruding teeth.  She could totally demoralise you at six paces without ever raising her petulant little voice.  The first few days went well and then we had to autoclave rubber gloves to sterilise them.  The gloves were in the dangerous drugs cupboard and the keys were missing.  The engineer was called to break open the cupboard and there were the keys locked inside.  I had been the last person to have them.  I had been looking forward to seeing Matron because I had had an excellent report from Monsall Fever Hospital.  It was the custom for Matron to read reports aloud for one’s benefit.  Now I was going to see her for quite a different reason.  My health was suffering, my work was suffering – I couldn’t go one like this.  Something had to give.