Monday, 10 March 2008

#005 Christmas and homeward bound

The Sunday before Christmas Mr Heather came round with a list to ask us what we would like for Christmas, I put down a farmyard, sure enough Mr Heather came dressed as Santa delivering presents for everyone (I was to learn many years later how he did this). Turkey was enjoyed by all with a doctor carving, A large Christmas pudding was ceromonously wheeled in ‑ it was a terrific day. On Boxing day we were all moved out of our ward to make way for the nurses party, it was due to finish early the following morning, we were wide awake with the noise from the band and after the do was over, ‘up patients’ raided the place for the leftover food and drink. We were half drunk in a few hours, what a time we had. All the people in that ward 5 and all other wards swore terrible. One particular day we were hard in conversation, every other word a b or f or worse, what we had not realised was that just above us was a Sisters bedroom. The sister in question worked days but she had changed one shift to night duty and we had woken her, she came down on us like a ton of bricks! The end result was that three of us were put in ‘quarantine’ under the stairs ‑ no lights and bare food for three days and nights.

On winter evenings we held relay races in the ward, the long centre table was removed and then we commenced, all events were on the floor ie backward and forward crab, rabbit jumps. And the best was crab football, I was to incorporate these relays years later when I ran a gymnasium. We were all mad keen on aeroplanes in those days drawing Spads, Bristol fighters and Fokker three wing planes. One of the boys had a ‘frog plane kit’ brought him powered by elastic, we all had a hand in building it then came the great day for the launch. The elastic was wound, the aerolons were adjusted and off it went inside the ward of course, everything was great and it did a magnificent three-point landing on the centre table. The only thing wrong was that it didn’t stop and wiped all the vases of flowers off the table. Water, flowers everywhere, the plane was confiscated never to be seen again! Also in the winter we had slide cinematography shows, the ones remembered most where Scott of the Antarctic, Nanook of the North and Rin Tin Tin. These were all silent films from the original filmmakers in the Scott South Pole expedition. Another film that comes to mind was one of that great explorer Shackleton (I have just ordered a new book from our local library by Roland Hunniford about Shackleton). Also read by most of us in the ward was a book by Cherry Orchard “THE WORST JOURNEY IN THE WORLD”. I have read this book many times since then.

After 18 months in hospital, the great day dawned when I returned home, still in plaster, but walking OK in my new boots. Goodbyes and best wishes were said to mates, several of these were still there on my return for two more ops some three years later. Dad had contacted another Long Eaton cycle dealer friend, a Mr Russell. He had the famous Raleigh agency, he also had a car and very kindly brought me home.

I had only seen my two brothers once while in hospital as no visitors under fourteen years of age were allowed, (slightly different from today's rules). The only time I had seen them was when a walking plaster and boots had been fitted, and I was able to walk over the grass in front of Ward 4 to the iron fence near the caves and lakes at the bottom. We were not allowed over this fence so all one could do was talk through it.

The trip home via Willington & Repton was like a window on another world, after the restrictive view from the hospital windows. I arrived home on a Saturday afternoon to find my brothers ‑ with a friend ‑ had gone to the local Co‑op to fetch some extra groceries, during the journey home they decided to use the towpath along side the canal. Somewhere along the way, relationships deteriorated and the three of them were involved in an argument. The friend promptly threw all the tinned food in the canal! ‑ On their return home all hell let loose, my mum going hairless, eventually calm reigned and my dad by some means or other managed to retrieve the tins.

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