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Jun 07, 2023, 09:43 AM

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Part II Groby Road Sanatorium

Sister and Nurse Gilbert were on duty that Saturday afternoon in 1935 and another nurse, Nurse Carr, who stabbed me in the wrist drawing off what seemed to be gallons of black looking blood. After this I was handed over to Nurse Gilbert whilst Mam and Sister went off into another room to effect the handing over of yours truly into Sister’s care. It was at this point Mam paid off the first instalment of my keep. I knew belts would be tightened in the Hastings’ household for the next few months.
Nurse Gilbert took me first into the ablutions block. She filled the largest bath I’d ever seen with hot soapy water and then, without even a by your leave, I was stripped and dipped and thoroughly scrubbed! I can still smell that rich, soapy, steamy, carbolic smelling hospital bathroom to this day even though most of my time in the bath was spent with me telling Nurse Gilbert Mam had already washed me down thoroughly only that morning! Cleaner than clean, I was then rubbed dry with a coarse hospital towel until blood was very nearly drawn, and then finished off with several big smacking kisses. I decided then that I was going to like Nurse Gilbert.
Years later Mam told me that besides having a large cavity in the top of my lung, they’d found neither lung was drawing properly and both were in a near state of collapse. (Trust me to go the whole hog!) Not to put too fine a point on it, a lot of expert chest doctors were shaking their heads and ‘tut, tutting’ over yours truly’s chest X-rays!
Frankly, had I known, I wouldn’t have been too bothered because:
a) I felt very well thank you very much and
b) I was madly in love with dear Nurse Gilbert.

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Part I: Groby Road Sanatorium circa 1935
The appointed Saturday arrived. I can’t remember if I’d been told I was going to hospital. If I had, it didn’t worry me unduly. I had my dinner in the normal way after being scrubbed and cleaned until I swear I shone!
Clean clothes were put on me and always, when being prepared for anything special, our Ted’s bony finger was hooked under my chin and my head tilted back at an impossible angle whilst he put a parting in my hair. Never once whilst performing this simple service for me did he meet my enquiring gaze nor use his favourite expression used at times such as this,
‘Keep your bloody head still or I’ll give you a bloody good hiding!’
That alone should’ve told me I was in bad trouble!
Then it was time to go. I clearly remember it being a truly lovely day. The sun had been shining and a gentle breeze was wafting the curtains of the living room. The window was open, I think because Mabel was downstairs with us and we had to watch those germs, although we never let on to her. The tenseness in the air had got through to me and I wanted to get off, otherwise I was going to start to cry. I had a new comic pushed down the side of my sock, a favourite place in those days of short trousers. On the floor was a small case, although where that had come from, God only knows! I suppose it was borrowed. It contained only pyjamas and this puzzled me, for you see the penny hadn’t dropped I was going to be admitted to the ‘Sanny.’

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26 Jun 2021 -
The Goldfish

The Goldfish
‘Ragga bone; any old Ragga bone?’
That familiar cry of yesteryear, whose echoes can still be heard to this day, reverberated through our poor living room that early morning. How those men, and sometimes women, made a living even today still confounds me but that piercing cry, so much a part of those days, heralded the arrival of those whose bread & butter depended upon discarded rubbish which by rights should’ve gone into the dustbin, never to be resurrected.
It was a health hazard sitting, as all the rubbish did, on the open cart. The Rag Man would take virtually anything that might raise a few coppers. God knows where he took the bottles, rags, stinking rabbit skins etc., etc., and rumour had it the Rag Men would also dispose of dead dogs & cats by selling them to people keeping pigs (and quite a lot of people did), to be boiled up in swill coppers along with tasty items like old cabbage leaves, rotten potatoes and discarded pieces of ‘gone off’ fish crawling with maggots, from the local chippy!

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06 Jun 2021 -
The Good Old Days

The Good Old Days:

Lest anyone be taken in by the phrase ‘the good old days’, then let me assure you that ‘good’ was the last word to describe them. 90% of those in the area where we existed must have been on the bread line, and even then our bread was decidedly stale.

Industrially, the picture was bleak, and we’d hear harrowing tales, perhaps a ‘hodge pot’ of different stories, of lines of unemployed men and women being subjected to an auction type bidding process for any vacancy. The Boss or Foreman would come out and address the poorly clad, often hungry applicants thus:

‘I need a packer! Who among you is a packer by trade?’

Hands would shoot up whilst eyes, dull with lost hope from years of the most appalling and grinding poverty after those terrible years spent in the trenches of France and Belgium, would light up with renewed hope.

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