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Last month I reached the grand age of 75, so I am now one of the “vulnerable elderly citizens”  (almost as beloved of politicians as the “hard working families!”)

My first gift was a free TV licence from the government

On the Sunday before my birthday we visited our local stately home with the family and had a splendid cream tea in the Orangerie. (Gracious living at its best)

On the actual day Jennie gave us a birthday party tea, complete with balloons and hats!

Two days later Jennie and I went to see an excellent production of “War Horse” at the Millennium Centre.

When I see 75 written down it looks so old. Inside I still feel 35, still 8st  with all the energy I had then. Sadly I am no longer 8st and though the spirit may be willing the body is not and as for walking miles forget it!

Can it really be 70 years since the little girl with two fair plaits eagerly joined the mixed infants at Bentinck  School? I was the youngest of the family and all the cousins and had been so envious of my brother and cousins when they went to school.

64 years ago that same little girl walked along the boulevard,proudly wearing the scarlet and grey uniform of the grammar school.

56 years ago I started my Nursing training.

52 years ago I visited Norway for the first time and so began about 10 years of sharing my time between England and Norway.

The first babies I delivered will now be over 50, I wonder how they have lived their lives.

48 years ago I had my great adventure on the Bergensfjord.

41 years ago I married JW

35 years ago I had my lovely daughter, Jennie.

Since then the years have just telescoped into one another and Jennie is grown up with a family of her own and my grandchildren are growing up at a rapid rate. I do have one consolation in that my 2 year old granddaughter is a carbon copy of her mother so I have the joy of those early years, (which flew by so rapidly)  all over again.

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The Francis report on the Staffordshire hospital makes disturbing reading and sets
me wondering how nursing could have changed so much since I trained in the 1950s and 1960s.
As an outsider it is difficult to understand how things could have changed so much. I know that today’s nurses work in a very different environment (new drugs, hi-tech equipment, more advanced techniques etc.) from that we enjoyed, but surely the basic ethos of caring should still be there.
I think (as with many professions) that the chain of command has become far too complicated, so that it is much easier to “pass the buck” when things go wrong.
We had a simple, and easy to understand, structure. Matron was at the top and made sure she knew what was happening throughout the hospital. She and her deputy matron visited every ward every day. One day she would take the even numbered wards and the next the odd numbered wards. She went round every patient, and woe betide the nurses if a patient was in a soiled bed or had a genuine complaint.
We had one sister and just one staff nurse on most wards and they alternated their off duty. They were very much in evidence at all times. They went round as soon as they had received the report from the night staff, they did the medicine rounds and served the dinners and many of them rolled up their sleeves and worked on the ward. They somehow managed all this as well as mentoring the student nurses, ordering supplies, arranging the off-duty rotas and writing reports etc. They also accompanied the consultants on their rounds. Visiting times were more regulated then and either the sister or the staff nurse was available for any queries from the relatives.
When I was in hospital a few years ago the only time I ever saw the sister was when the lady in the next bed to me inadvertently pressed the emergency bell and the “crash team” rushed in through the door with all the equipment for resuscitation.
I think successive governments have had ministers with ideological missions, who have added more and more layers of authority, who have taken the authority from the clinical staff. Then in the 1980s Mrs Thatcher and Ken Clarke brought in the idea of “market forces” and put a price on everything and thought that patients would behave like commodities. Sorry MPs but patients are people and people behave differently! Some are textbook cases and “follow the rules” but many others don’t and cannot be put into groups and get all sorts of complications which go far beyond their “price range”
The other scheme in the 1980s was to privatise the domestic service. Before this we had an orderly and a ward maid on each ward. They took great pride in “their” ward and the wards were spotless. One of the orderley’s duties was to clean and refill the water jugs at least twice a day so no one had to drink water from a flower vase! They were accountable to the sister but now no one knows who is going to be doing the domestic work, this has also taken away the satisfaction the old domestic staff could take from looking after “their ward”
We have all seen how this cost cutting exercise was a false economy when the spread of secondary infection caused so much harm.
The reason sisters could manage with one staff nurse was that all the nursing staff, even the lowliest junior, had at least 12 weeks training before they set foot on the ward and most had had considerably more.
We ranged in experience from those just out of the preliminary training school in 3 month sets to those within 3 months of their final exams. There was a new intake of nurses “sets” every 3 months, so, as well as giving us a wealth of experience, the wards were well staffed.
I think one of the best piece of advice I got was, “However dirty, manic or disagreeble the patient may appear this may be part of the illness and you must treat them all with as much compassion as as you would like your own relatives to be treated”. This stood me in good stead when faced with a patient who wet the bed as soon as you had changed it, handed you a present of faeces, or tried to pinch or thump you!”
I have still to be convinced that a university degree is necessary for all nurses, could there not be a different title for those who would be quasi doctors and leave the nurses to do what they are best at, caring, keeping the patient comfortable, fed and hydrated and carrying out the apprpriate nursing procedure efficintly and professionally.
It should be mandatory for politicians, business managers and such individuals to actually work at the business end before they are allowed to make major changes.
As patients we should be more careful when complaining or taking legal action. Of course when there is a valid complaint it should be investigated, but not all patients will recover however dedicated and skillful the medical team, and every time frivolous complaints are made it gives the bureaucrats an excuse to add more paperwork. Very often all the patient wants is a polite and rational explanation. They just want to know that they have had the best care and attention.
Iknow that there are many younger people who will argue against our method of training, but the general consensus among those who trained this way is that we would have more cofidence being nursed by the old style nurses than by the new method. Judging from the presents of chocolates, tights, biscuits etc. left by the majority of patients, I would say that the patients were happy with their treatment.

Two weeks ago I had a lovely birthday.  It began with cards, flowers and presents and then a superb lunch, cooked by Jennie and GG for the extended family where we ranged in age from 8 weeks to 91 years. This reminded me of previous birthdays (of which there have been many :))

When I was a small child, in wartimes, it was usually an extended  family tea. My mother used to hoard any extras to the rations over the weeks before to put on a special spread. Sometimes this had been supplemented by food parcels from my father who was on the North Atlantic convoys. I don’t know how legal this was but he bought food and presents on his shore leave in America. Often he was given extras by the kind family, the Winfields who befriended him in New York. He also seems to have made a friend of the ship’s cook because I remember at least one splendid coconut cake we received. I was lucky to be a summer baby because there were always stawberries and raspberries. No cream or icecream, just top of the milk (in those unhomogenised days), evaporated milk or “mock cream”.

I usually had a new dress for the occasion. This was either one my clever Mum had made or another of those parcels bought in America.

Another time my father bought me a new birthday outfit was for my 16th birthday. Dad came home from work on the Friday and asked if I would walk up to the post office with him. I was wearing an old cotton dress and wearing a rather ancient pair of sandals, but as it was only a walk to the post office, I jumped up and went with him. When we had completed his business he suggested that we walk up the road and look at the shops. I began to feel uneasy when we carried on up the road and into the city centre. In those days a “trip to town” entailed dressing up a bit. My mother always wore a hat and gloves and I at least had a wash and brush up!

He then proceeded into one of the department stores, with me trailing reluctantly behind, and we bought a new dress, jacket and shoes. I think the assistant must have thought I was some urchin he had taken pity on, (but it was a very nice outfit!)

When I reached my teenage years most of my friends were members of the school guide company (99th Nottingham) and several of us had birthdays within 10 days  in July so we sometimes celebrated together. They were a super crowd and now 65 years since we left school  and even though we are very scattered geographically, many of us have kept in touch with each other. Not all of us with everyone but each to a few so between us we convey news between us. Some, sadly, are no longer with us but the only two I haven’t had news of recently are Halina our Polish friend and Chris Bond who I saw briefly when Jennie was a baby, so if anyone has news of them I would love to hear it.

When I was a student nurse I was usually working on my birthday, but we usually had a pyjama party in the Nurses’ Home after work.

On my 21st bithday I was working on the Obstetric ward at the QE in Birmingham. After report I walked onto the ward feeling a bit miserable that this momentous day should be passing without acknowledgement, when the patients started singing “Happy Birthday”  and one of the Midwifery Sisters followed me in carrying an iced cake and suddenly I was inundated with cards and flowers and presents.

In the intervening years I have celebrated my birthday in various parts of the UK and Norway  My last birthday with Dr Alf was celebrated in spectacular fashion at Glyndebourne. It was Dr Alf’s 40th year in General Practice and I was leaving London 1 month later, so he arranged what he called a staff outing on my birthday, which happened to be a Sunday. It felt very strange to be walking out of our flat in evening dress on a Sunday afternoon, but we had a lovely time.

Now we have come full circle and Jennie is arranging family parties and we are so lucky that we get on well with GG’s family and share with them.

Jennie and I went to see Anton and Erin, from “Strictly come dancing”, when they came on their annual visit to St. David’s Hall last month. This was the third year we had seen them and once again we had a magical evening, superb dancing (how do they do it on such a small stage?), great music, singing from Lance Ellington and interesting  and humerous chats from them about the show.

Erin and the other two female dancers had some beautiful dresses and that triggered one of my memories from over 50 years ago when I went to Matron’s Ball.

This was an annual event at the General Hospital Birmingham, a formal affair held in January. All the nurses and doctors who were off-duty were invited but there were rules. The nurses had to be accompanied by a male escort. We had to take the name and address of our proposed escort to Matron’s office and assure them that our parents approved of said escort (we didn’t reach the age of maturity until 21 in those days and Matron considered herself in loco parentis!)

Matron then sent a formal invitation to the boy.

My friend Chris and I decided that we would like to go and fortunately we were both due to be off duty. We were on junior night duty and worked nine nights on and five off and January 6th came during those five nights so we made preparations. I had a suitable boyfrend but Chris was between boyfrends so I introduced her to one of the fifth year medical students who was working as a dresser on Casualty where I was doing my night duty. The medical students were not automatically invited so they were going around being extra nice to the nurses and hinting that they either owned or could acquire an evening suit!

Dress was formal evening wear and my parents paid for my dress for my Christmas present. It was silver and blue brocade with a full skirt. The top was fitted and had shoestring straps. I managed to get matching blue and silver long gloves, made a blue velvet bag to match the bit of blue velvet along the neckline and had satin shoes dyed to match.

On the morning of the ball we went back to the nurses home and spent most of the day pampering ourselves ready for the great occasion, scented baths, hairdos, facepacks etc. Those of our friends who were not going all joined in the fun of getting us ready.

The nurses home was carefully  guarded in those days by the warden and home sister so the male escorts had been shepherded into the visitor’s room on the ground floor. When we opened the door to this room all I could see was a sea of black and white and hastily backed out. Fortunately our escorts had seen us and followed us out. My boyfriend’s father was waiting outside and transported us the short distance to the Grand Hotel.

Matron and one of the consultants were wating inside to welcome us. Most of the consultants were wearing the very formal “white tie and tails.”

It was interesting to see the sisters and staff nurses in their finery (and to make critical remarks about them). After the half time interval the most senior staff (Matron and the senior consultants) tactfully withdrew to a side room and everyone loosened up a bit, and by midnight some of the housemen were getting quite boisterous and belting out popular songs, I seem to remember”Ma he’s making eyes at me” and “Michael row your boat ashore”.

It was my first formal ball which is why I suppose I remember it so clearly. There were other balls, January for the General Hospital, and May for the Queen Elizabeth. The nurses home at Q.E. had its own ballroom in the home built by Lord Nuffield. I enjoyed them all but the first made the biggest impression, even more than the last one at the General where we all had the added adornment of a small dressing on our arms thanks to the emergency vaccinations we had had to have a few days previously due to an outbreak of smallpox in the neighbourhood.

I don’t know whether they still hold these balls now, but I think we had a lovely family atmosphere then and were not interfered with by bureaucrats, who would probably want to bind us with red tape and charge us for the privilege.

It has been some time now since I wrote a blog but I am still here and thought I should make my presence known again.

I hope you all had a Christmas as happy as ours. I suppose ours started a few weeks ago when Jennie and I took Handsome and Cheeky to the theatre to see, “Joseph and the amazing technicolour dreamcoat.” We all knew many of the songs from watching the TV programme when they searched for a Joseph, and the story from the bible, but  I didn’t expect so much humour. It is lovely to see the boys enjoying live theatre.

We started Christmas “proper” on Christmas Eve at the carol service and Nativity, where Cheeky was a very sweet and solemn King.

Christmas Day we were invited to the excellent family meal cooked by GG’s brother in law. There were ten of us, from the newest member M, who cast envious eyes at the food we were all enjoying, to the oldest member, uncle P who will soon be 91.

Boxing Day Jennie and co. came round to us for the day. The boys are a delight to give presents to  because they are so appreciative. Cheeky immediately started reading a poem to us from one of the books I gave him and they all played the new board game, (proving that they can enjoy simple things as well as the DS and Lego)

Thursday Jennie took me to see the Russian State ballet perform “Swan Lake” to the accompaniment of the Orchestra of Siberia. The prima ballerina especially was brilliant. It is quite a long time since I went to the ballet so it evoked many memories, going to ballets with my Mother or with  Grandad R, dancing in various concerts. One concert was particularly brought to mind by “Swan Lake”, the Nottingham Festival ballet in 1951. We performed the “Dance of the cygnets”at Wollaton Park in front of the large lake there as the sun went down. It was quite magical.

I saw an article last week which said that large numbers of over 65s spend Christmas alone, so I feel especially blessed that we have our family around us, and I hope that you are all so blessed.

My friend Valerie died suddenly at Christmas.

We first met 60 years ago in the second form at the Manning School in Nottingham. In our first year we were separated into four forms purely on the initial of our surnames, and then in the second form we were streamed on our first year exam results, and Val and I were luckily put in the A stream and soon became friends.  We eventually discovered that our fathers had been schoolfriends too and had started work together.

Val had lived in the same house from birth, which was less than a mile from the house I first lived in, but we had moved into town when I was about 2-3 years old. We were also born in the same week in July 1939 so if you believe in astrology we should have had very similar characteristics. No!  We could not have been more opposite!

We shared similar appearance, similar height, build and colouring, but there the similarities ended. Val was quiet, studious and never in trouble. I don’t think she ever had a detention or skipped her homework. This makes her sound a bit dull but she wasn’t. She had a great sense of humour, but was just a bit quieter about it than some of us!

She was one of the few people who were happy in their own skin from a very early age and had no great ambition to change things. I always had dreams of travelling to the places I had dreamt about, and when I decided to become a nurse I had no ambition to climb up the career ladder to become a Matron (then the top rung), just to be a good nurse and use it to travel!

Valerie left school when she was sixteen and went to work at a bank, which she enjoyed and then one year later she met Derek there  and they were “an item” from then for the rest of her life. They had a long courtship while they saved up to buy their first home, got married and had two sons. She was contented and, as far as I know, never regretted her choice.

She was quite bewildered by my period of wandering and used to tease me that she had a separate address book for me. I had six different addresses in Birmingham while I was training, then three in Geilo, one in Oslo, three while I did midwifery training, Edinburgh, Peebles,North London, South London, West London, Nottingham, North Kent, West Wickham, West Wales where we stayed for 20 years! and finally here in Cardiff! Val lived in two houses all her life. Her parents’ house and the house she and Derek bought!

Despite the different paths we took we both ended up happily married with lovely families and contented with our lots.

Although we had not seen each other for some time, I shall miss her letters and news of her family and friends, but I am glad that I have such happy memories of our schooldays together.

Fifty three years ago today I started my Nursing career!

I arrived in Birmingham not knowing a soul. I had only visited the city once before, about 2 years earlier when I went for my day-long interview. I must have made the right impression on the formidable panel of interviewers (the Matrons from the three main hospitals in the group and the senior tutors from the nursing schools) because they had written and offered me a place in the January 1958 school. They had explained to me that they were starting a new scheme of training which would incorporate the training schools into one which would become the Queen Elizabeth School of Nursing and we would gain experience from all the hospitals with their different specialities.

The PTS (preliminary training school) was housed in two large houses in a quiet road in the suburbs. I was in Priorsfield and found that I was in a six bedded room with a lino floor and minimally furnished. I was the second to arrive, the first was a very pretty Turkish Cypriot girl and during the afternoon we were joined by two girls from the West Midlands, one form Yorkshire and one from Leicestershire. The other rooms filled up with girls from all over the UK. Quite a number were from the West Midlands and I found the accents quite difficult to understand at first.

We had tea at 4 pm and then went to the school room where we found that there were 76 of us—75 females and 1 male! In those days it was very much a female dominated profession. Most of us were straight from school and all were unmarried. The tutors spent the first half hour telling us how fortunate we were to be there and that a high standard of behaviour was expected from us and that the three months we would spend in the school was a probationary period for us and that if we did not match up to their standards then our training would be terminated! They then went on to tell us how our time would be organised in the next 12 weeks.

The day started with breakfast at 7.30, prayers at 7.55, cleaning from 8-8.30am (gasps of horror from a few of the “posher” students), to whom it was explained that we couldn’t expect to organise cleaning on the ward if we had not done any ourselves, (it also cut the cost of running the nurses home :)) Lectures 9am-1pm, one hour for lunch and then practical lectures in basic nursing or visits, eg waterworks and sewage works,until 5pm when we would be free to go out or write up notes etc. The door was locked at 10 pm and lights out at 10.30pm. This “lights out” was rigidly enforced by the house warden, who I think must have been an air raid warden in her younger days so practised was she in calling, “Put that light out!”

This was our programme Monday to Friday. Saturday 1pm- Sunday 10pm we were free to go home or relax in the home. We also had an extension to the day by being allowed out until10.30pm!

Most of us survived the three months (one left after two weeks  because” it was nothing like the TV shows”) and another one left at the end of the three months to get married and we were not allowed to get married during our training.

The strictness of the school prepared us for the discipline of the hospital which was run on military lines. We complained (to each other) about this, but it did mean that the hospital ran smoothly and everyone knew what was expected of them.

I don’t think I would like to be nursing now. When I was training Matron was in charge, she organised the staffing levels and policies of the hospital, no faceless overpaid bureacrats, and she or her deputy visited every ward every day. The different disciplines, medical,radiography,physios,pharmacy etc  respected and worked together as a team. From what I read now they are all set against one another and fighting one another for funding.

Maybe because they remembered the time before the NHS, most patients were grateful and co-operative as were their relatives. Relatives only rang with enquiries at set times unless a patient was gravely ill and Sister was available after visiting hours to answer their queries in person. Now it seems to be a constant battle between “them” and “us”, each side feeling aggrieved.

The hospitals were run as economically as possible (most of the Sisters and Matrons had trained when hospitals relied on public subscription and patient contribution so were used to making every penny work.) but there were no bureaucrats telling the Sisters how to run their wards.

The wards were cleaned by dedicated ward maids and orderlies, who took great pride in “their” ward. Now that accountants run hospitals the cleaning is contracted out to private firms who tend to cut costs by cutting cleaning times and the cleaning may be done by people who have no particular interest or pride in the work and the there is no one taking any reponsibility for it.

Meals were served by Sister and handed out by the nurses and orderlies and any lack of appetite was reported back to Sister so no one starved! Now the food is sent up ready plated and no one notices if someone is not eating and so we get reports of malnutrition in the media!

During my training we had to work long hours for very little pay and study hard, but I made many friends, grew up, gained confidence and, most importantly, got a lot of satisfaction from the job. We felt valued and respected, something which, from what I read, is lacking now. We also felt secure in the backing we had from the sisters and Matron again this seems to be lacking today.

I am glad that I trained 53 years ago.:)

When Jennie was small she had a set of books called “A story a day” and I am reminded of these when we hear the news and the coalition government seems to put out a policy a day. I don’t know whether they are trying to get into the Guiness book of records  for the most policies in three months, or whether they are just too excited by getting into government again!

They are churning out policies just like we used to in the 6th form debating society. Some of them are new plans and others seem to paraphrase promises we have heard before.

 Today it was about single sex wards and I heard some woman say that it is difficult to convert the old hospitals to all single sex wards. This puzzled me as, during my time working in NHS hospitals in the 50s and 60s I never worked on a mixed sex ward and some of the hospitals were very old.

At the General Hospital Birmingham, (which was built in the 18c), the sexes were not only on separate wards but at opposite ends of the corridor!

Even in the small cottage hospitals I worked in they didn’t have mixed sex wards so I don’t know when they were introduced. Was it when the accountants took over the management and found that it was more economical to mix the sexes? It sounds like one of the crazy ideas from the business men who took over the running of hospitals and were more interested in “market forces” than patient care and patients became “units” rather than sick people. They doubtless gave a presentation with power points illustrating the advantages of mixed wards.

 I just wish that they would slow down and think through their pronouncements before they make them public, maybe then we would have “joined up” government and would not spend the next 20 years undoing the policies which don’t work.

When I babbled childish  nonsense my Great-Aunt Clara was fond of pointing at my ears and saying, “You have two of those and one of those” (pointing at my mouth), “Use them in the same proportion” i. e. listen twice as much as you speak!

What a pity that some of the MPs had no Great-Aunt Clara.:)

When I started nursing, on January 6th 1958, the hospital world was quite different from todays hospitals.

The hospital was run by THE MATRON and the senior consultant doctors. Bureaucrats were very much in the background and just dealt with the business side of the hospital. We were never aware of a CEO or any other highly paid bureaucrat having any say in how the hospital was run and the only targets were set by the nursing and medical staff.

The domestic staff were under the authority of one of the assistant matrons, who also controlled the supply of domestic goods (cleaning materials, linen etc.)

There was a good working relationship between the nursing staff, medics and other front line workers i.e. radiographers, physios, dieticians etc. which led to the  smooth running of the hospital.

There were no HCAs or other untrained people on the nursing staff, just student nurses. I know that there are some degree trained nurses today who seem to think we would not be able to cope with today’s training (nice old girls but a bit dim and we don’t understand what it is like to be under pressure!!)

Our first 11 weeks were spent in the Preliminary Training School. We worked the same hours as in the hospital (48 hours a week excluding meals). The whole time was taken with lectures, demonstrations and practising the new skills we had been shown. At a rough calculation this is 528 hours, no free periods, any private study had to be done in our “free”  time!

Of course there have been many advances made in medicine over the last half century so we would have different things to learn, but some of the advances would make some of our lectures and demonstrations superfluous now thus freeing up time for the new methods and theory. We learned very complicated methods of bandaging, urine testing was done using chemicals in test tubes over bunsen burners (not little sticks to dip in). We learned how to make and pack dressings and how to sterilise them, they did not come in convenient packs. Many of the medicines and injections had to be calculated and measured. They did not come in handy ampoules. 

We did invalid cookery and general nutritional needs. The meals were delivered to the wards in heated trolleys and served by the Sister and handed round by the nurses, who fed those unable to feed themselves, and reported back if the patient was not eating, so I never heard of anyone suffering from malnutrition.

As well as the obvious subjects (anatomy, physiology, hygiene, first aid etc.) we also had lectures on the history of nursing, legal aspects, ethics and it was impressed on us too how limited our knowledge was at this stage.

I don’t know whether we were especially fortunate, but our training was carefully planned and supervised. I worked out that over the three years we spent 1100 hours in the school and 5556 hours on the wards, which probably compares quite well with a three year degree course!

After we had gained our SRN we had to do 1 year as a staff nurse to get the coveted hospital badge and certificate, only then were we considered fully trained!

When we went on the wards we were given only the tasks for which we had been trained, and were usually paired with a nurse further along in her training.

The NHS was still relatively new and the patients remembered the time when they either had to pay for treatment or be means tested for voluntary hospitals, so most of them were very grateful for the treatment they received. They had no problem knowing which were SRNs, students, domestics, radigraphers etc. as we all had distinctly different uniforms.

Every ward had a permanent Sister, Staff nurse and domestics. Each Consultant had his own firm of registrars, housemen and student dressers and they usually had beds on 2-3 wards. I don’t remember any problems in getting a doctor when we needed one.

Our ward training was divided between the QE, a modern hospital which specialised in heart surgery and neuro surgery as well as the general wards, the General Hospital, an older long established hospital was in the centre of the city and dealt with a huge number of emergencies. We also spent three months each at  The Children’s Hospital and the Women’s Hospital, so we had a very good alround experience, by the time we had completed our training.

We had study blocks in our second and third years, where we had lectures from the same consultants who lectured the medical students.

The time spent on the wards not only increased our abilities to perform the tasks set, but also gradually increased our confidence. Of course some ward sisters were better teachers than others (just as some lecturers are better able to impart their knowledge!!) and some managed their wards better than others.

We had (what I think) were advantages, in that we had to live in the nurses home, so we had no domestic worries to distract us. We were all single, so no family worries! We were well fed, our uniforms were provided and laundered. Of course at the time we thought we were too closely guarded by Home Sister and the wardens and a Matron who considered herself in loco parentis, but I see now that it gave us security, and we always had the fun of out-witting them. 🙂

Because we lived in such a closed community there was a great loyalty for your “set” and friendships were forged which have lasted to this day. Whenever I meet or write to my friends we are all agreed that we were lucky to train when we did and would not want to be starting now.

If the “blogs” I read are an accurate description of hospital life today,  the hospitals are run by bureaucrats, matrons are distant from the nurses, patients are  increasingly demanding, visitors wander around at will and the domestic staff are provided by outside agencies who have profit as the guideline. I think the rot set in when the government in the 1980s decided that “market forces” should rule and patients became “consumer units”.

Yes, we were the lucky generation to train when we did. It was hard work, long hours and low pay, but, we were generally respected, had a lot of fun made lots of friends and most of the patients were lovely.

When 1950 came along the adult population were probably quite fed up as rationing was still in place and the golden future they had been imagining would come when the war was over had not yet arrived. Things were easier, but of course, the country was nearly bankrupt after the war and there had had to be much rebuilding, of  both the bricks and mortar structure  and the social structure. We had already got the new health service and welfare system and educational opportunities were open to a wider section of the population.

I was very happy in 1950 as I had achieved my long held ambition to gain a place at the Manning School. I had longed to go to this school for as long as I could remember. I used to gaze at it on our Sunday evening  perambulations on The Forest. It was a long, low modern buiding by the side of  The Forest. To the front were the tennis courts and to the side  playing fields. The school was approached up a shallow flight of steps flanked on either side by a colourful shrubbery, and I thought it was the most beautiful school I had ever seen. 🙂

I envied the girls in their smart grey and scarlet uniforms and vowed that one day I would wear that uniform.

I don’t think it entered my arrogant little head that I would not pass the 11+ exam, after all my boy cousins had gone to High Pavement (the boys grammar school) and my brother could have gone  too if he had not insisted on choosing the People’s College (technical college for the building trade)

I must admit that it was not  academic leanings which attracted me, just the school and the uniform. 🙂

It was only in later life, when comparing my education with others, that I realised just how fortunate we were at the Manning. We had a wide education, not only academic subjects, but such diverse subjects as domestic science, arts and crafts and music. Everyday from 4pm-6pm after school activities, ( sports, drama, Guides, orchestra etc.) were available to those interested, all run by the staff in their own time.

Many of the teachers were unmarried middle-aged and elderly ladies, who belonged to the generation where so many of their male generation had been lost in the carnage of WW1. It is only with hindsight that I realise what a brave fight they must have fought to get their university education, which probably explains their frustration with us when we didn’t work hard enough took our good fortune for granted.

The mood of the country was lifted in 1951 by the Festival of Britain. This was a very popular event, not only the exhibition itself, but all the local events it spawned. In Nottingham I was lucky enough to be given a place in the ballet, which was performed in Wollaton Park. We spent a very enjoyable summer rehearsing and then did several performances in September. The Park had been transformed into a magical place with coloured lanterns and giant swans were manufactured which floated across the lake in the background.

In 1952 we were all very sad when King George died suddenly. He had been a popular king and Britain was still very patriotic.

In 1953 we had the spectacle of the coronation. There were street parties and celebrations throughout the country and the newspapers were declaring that this was the dawning of the new Elizabethan age. Everest was conquered in the same year and there was optimism in the air. This optimism continued into the next year when rationing  was finally over.

When my friends who had stayed in the secondary modern schools left in 1954 (aged 15) there were plenty of jobs for them to choose from. In Nottingham the biggest employers were Boots, Players, Raleigh, NCB and textiles. All these firms offered further training for those interested and many provided social welfare facilities such as sports clubs etc.

At the technical colleges and grammar schools the earliest leaving age was 16, and most of those I knew went into office jobs, banking, insurance or, for those with a scientific leaning, into laboratories.

I think  about  a third of us stayed on in the 6th form until we were 18. I had suddenly changed my mind about teaching and decided to pursue a nursing career and got myself an interview at the Queen Elizabeth School of Nursing in Birmingham, which had a very good reputation. I was lucky enough to be accepted for a place in the school starting January 1958.

There were fewer university places available then and they seemed to have more lectures than today’s students, but at least they did not have the financial worries the students have now. Tuition was free and grants were quite generous and covered normal living expenses. They got nearly as much in grants as we were paid during our training, plus temporary jobs were available during the holidays to supplement their income. Most of them lived in Halls and those who lived out usually lived in lodgings ( presided over by matronly ladies of varying amiability!)  

Those who were intending to teach in junior or infant schools went to training college for two years, again living in college halls. I don’t remember anyone living out in flats—much less mixed  flats!

There have been many changes in education over the last half century, both good and bad.

 I think we were a very obedient society and probably quite naive. The age of majority was still 21 and we seemed to have a longer childhood than todays children ( or even previous generations had been allowed). Due to all those years of rationing we were glad to have new clothes and, since no one knew about designer labels, we suffered no problems  of peer pressure on that score.

Todays children, especially girls, have a far greater choice of career and more career guidance. There were still many people around then who thought it a waste to educate girls, luckily my parents did not hold this view and I had the same opportunities  and support as my brother.