1A The Hole Hope End Street CARPOOL
December 6 1999
I am writing to let you know that I have moved out of the Nurses’ Home. I found I couldn’t bear the long stone corridors, institutionalized ambience, and stodgy fare served up in the frequently empty canteen.
However, it may now be a case of ‘out of the frying pan and into the fire’ as the room I am now occupying is very dark and has a window facing out on to concrete. My landlady is also fearsome and expects me to light all the open coal fires (4) each evening and deal with the mountains of hot ash turning grey in the grate at dawn. I have found it very difficult to make firelighters out of old newspaper but, luckily, help has come from an inmate on the geriatric ward I have been assigned to.
This ward is in one of six in a very old hospital which I think may once have functioned as the city workhouse. I have had repeated ‘early’ shifts on ‘Buttercup’ ward and this, I must say, has proved difficult in the extreme as I am usually sent to the annexe. This annexe is only got to by going down a long stone corridor (of which there seem to be many in Carpool) and is virtually windowless. I think about ten old ladies – in various states of disrepair – are ensconced in hospital beds in this section and, at 0800 hours, many of them are crying out for help. The old lady that I have found particularly trying is one who has a gastrostomy tube (like a rubber catheter with the end snipped off) going through her abdominal skin into her stomach. (At breakfast time, one is supposed to remove the spigot at the top end, insert a funnel, and pour down a sort of liquid gruel.)
This old lady. who I shall call by the name of Mrs Mare, can, once washed and helped out of bed, walk on a Zimmer frame off to the toilet. The only trouble Auntie is that – the whole way there – she is uttering the most terrifying (and aggravating) series of horse-like neighs. I can’t help but find this most irritating as I am also trying to help the nine other old ladies to wash, dress, and move about the ward. One unfortunate morning, having adjured Mrs Mare to get the whole way from bed to toilet without uttering even one neigh, I heard yet another emission of this sound. And – without really thinking what I was doing – I galloped away from attempting to get one old lady’s set of petticoats on her person, screeched to a halt in front of Mrs Mare and said: “For God’s Sake. Just Shut Up.”
As luck would have it Auntie, one of those stern Nursing Officer persons (clad in navy blue) was just rounding the – usually deserted – corner at this moment, and she said.
“What did you say Nurse?”
I hesitated momentarily Auntie, as you may imagine, but it was only momentarily. And then I said.
“I told her to shut up and, what’s more, I think you would have said the same if you’d been down here all morning!”
I think my words may have been a trifle incautious Auntie; I am currently waiting for the Axe to fall.
However, I must say that it has been of enormous assistance to have old Mrs Paed teach me how to origami firelighters out of old newspapers. And I hope to be able to exercise my new skill this very evening.
Yours, just about afloat on the tides of Life.