TALKING WITH STRANGERS IN THE CITY

Talking with strangers in the city is always interesting.  A man I sat next to on a bus told me he had accompanied his very elderly neighbour, when she had been admitted to hospital the day before.  She’s 93 years old, compos mentis, he said  She hadn’t seen the inside of a hospital since she resigned as a senior nurse in the 1940’s. (Probably  had to leave her post upon marriage).  The modern, 2017, hospital environment was, no doubt, a bit of a shock to the lady.

Pointing out a young girl working in the ward wearing a light blue dress the elderly lady observed, with some disdain, that  the hospital management had left the housemaid to look after the ward!  The man explained the ‘housemaid’ was wearing a staff nurse’s uniform.

Staff Nurse 3

Late 1950’s Staff Nurse

Why is she not wearing her [starched] hat?” … And   “Why aren’t doctors wearing their white coats,” and so on.

More explanations were required.

On the other hand, the senior nurse, (equivalent of a ward sister) who arrived at the bedside in her dark blue dress and her I.D. badge pinned to it, no frilly starched hat though, was received without query.

Marian Chaikin 3rd wife

1960’s Nursing Sister

SUCH IS THE VARIETY OF ONES LIFE

It has been the [wet and damp] season of Garden Parties at the Palace of Holyrood in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Is One going to a Garden Party?”  I was asked this week as the rain teemed down…….

No, One is not”.

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One was wearing an all weather peach outdoor coat with hood up.  One was  also carrying a soggy, exotic fruit patterned cloth bag with a book in it; in addition, One had a casual, very wet sloppy, but, almost weatherproof, plum- coloured shoulder bag slung crosswise on Ones torso.  The look was finished off with rain-soaked black trousers and a pair of damp trainers on Ones feet.  Not exactly a picture of ‘My Fair Lady’ attired to meet the requirements of Royal protocol, One thinks.

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DROPPING LOOPS,MAKING HOLES AND STUFFING THINGS.

A feature on yet another revival of homely hand knitting reminded me…….  At primary school, the girls’ craft classes were the bain of my life. Could I knit as a seven year old? Much as I tried, sitting at an old wooden desk, with oversized knitting needles and a well re-used ball of wool, made the whole experience a clumsy affair with little to show for it. There were some loops on the needle and maybe I managed to put some wool through a loop or two, I don’t really remember. I do know, that there were some stitches,  on the needle that did not seem to be very productive.  I was glad when the tortuous efforts came to an end and another lesson began.

Then there was the class where the better little hand-stitchers made bunnies with lovely fluffy cloth already cut to shape, probably by the teacher, a grandmother figure, who took that girls’ class.   Once stitched to the required point, busy little hands had lots of fun stuffing the bodies, arms, legs, hands and ears of their creations, through a small open seam, with what I believe was Kapok.  Polyester fibres were not in use all those years ago to stuff things. The opening was then closed up with even and neat little running stitches.   We, the ones relegated to the ‘untalented’ corner, (the majority of the class) had a bit of rag each plus a needle and thread to practice with. I cannot say what others may have thought, but it seemed to me the three or four  bunny-makers looked more than a teensy bit smug.  Just a bit of me would have liked to have been with them bathed in their success.

A couple of years later I discovered the Grandmother figure, really was granny to two of the girls in her ‘better’ group. Also, another teacher in the school, who was French, was her daughter-in-law. By then, I was old enough to understand that a big war ended not so many years before, so, it was likely that the girls had no dad.   Mum and granny were supporting each other and the two girls on prescribed lower women’s salaries, much lower than their working male teacher counterparts.

From the amount of time we spent in church and on religious education, I wonder if there wasn’t some hope of recruiting future nuns and priests.  This primary school was certainly schooling the girls, for at best, domesticity, sweat shops, or, subservient jobs and the boys, to be unskilled. We weren’t seen as having much potential.

Scott Monument and Poppy Memorial Princes Street Gardens Edinburgh

When we all divided up to move on to our next secondary stage school experience, it was really surprising how many children started to thrive in a different educational environment, even though the development of domestic/service skills was still a major theme for girls.  Many of us as schoolchildren, were undervalued.  Notwithstanding, most of my school friends, both genders, broke the expected mould.

YaY !!