Left to Right: Seriously Irish and seriously loyal friend, Beauty Queen, Moi, No-nonsense girl, three baduns, Louisa...best friend from day one: Serious Lesbian who HATED me. Two younguns who had been cadets.
Something happened, or rather did not happen last night reminding me of an incident that occurred long long ago but one which I've always remembered with a shiver; not for what did happen but for what could have.
I'm young, twenty one but still the oldest of this little group. We've had a month of School and a month of Ward Mondays and we are still wearing our hated Chip bag hats so are in our first three months. This picture is being posed for an article in the local paper.
Only six months on from this picture and I am on night duty.
Night duty and I don't exactly hit I off. I'm young and in love with life and dancing, and handsome American Airmen who swarm over Margate and Ramsgate...the two towns nearest to Manston Air Base. After my shift is over I am supposed to eat dinner [cooked the night before and warmed up as the day nurses eat their breakfast.] Then I should go to my quarters at the night nurses house...tuck myself up and sleep until it is time to get ready for another shift. Cannot be done. I toss and turn, and eventually I get up,and dress and creep away to my friends..to coffee bars or just to walk along the beach.
I do this for at least three nights and by the fourth night usually just about make it into my bed the next morning.
This particular night I'm not too well...beginnings of a cold, or just a tummy ache but, as I am on a convalescent ward set in a Quonset hut outside the hospital I have no qualms in settling down on two chairs with my apron crossed in front, shoes off, hat off...and eyes closed. I have done bottle round, night sister has done the meds, men are tucked up save for a couple going home the next day and are playing cards...and smoking. [truly ash trays sit on every bedside locker]
When I awake it is to door banging and pealing telephone bells. I cannot move 'nurse's paralysis' has struck me down; a phenomenon I have heard about almost as a myth...I know no-one to whom this has happened.
Then Sister Redmond is there, shouting at me...I still cannot move..she shakes me and actually slaps me...I remember her father is in the ward, a late admission just before I arrived. She is beside herself with anger..he has pulled out his catheter and is in pain. Now I can move.
I am sent off duty...the shame is immense.
Matron kept me waiting to hear my fate...at least three days passed before I was commanded to appear in her office.
I was a good nurse and they didn't grow on trees, no point to sack me.
She did the worst thing ever. Beside her desk was a large sack and in that sack there must have been two hundred Terry Towelling nappies [diapers] all needing hemming. And I HATED sewing. How did she find out? I did them all, slowly but surely and actually got quite good, taking a pride in the neatness of my work.
A moral there somewhere chaps and chapesses.