My third post for Carl's Christmas GIFT Challenge and here's Tradition.
Working + Christmas + hospital is not an ideal combination but if you had to endure it anywhere in the early 1970's there can have been no better place than the world's greatest (I'm biased I know) children's hospital at Great Ormond Street.
I'd started my four year nurse training on my birthday in September 1972 and so it was with some trepidation that, following 6 weeks of PTS (Preliminary Training School), I was off to my first ward placement.7th floor, ENT & Private Patients and I would be working over my first Christmas.
Emerging with new found skills such as making up cots with the pictures on the counterpane facing towards the child, how to mix a Milton steriliser, umpteen ways to fold a nappy (you wore a clutch of nappy pins attached to your pocket with pride) and the art of bathing a baby it was a thrill to finally set foot on a ward and you quickly realised that they were very special places.You were stepping into a world of traditions and customs that you felt had probably been handed down from one generation of nurses to the next since Charles Dickens first campaigned for the hospital to open in 1852.
In the run up to Christmas we were quickly drawn into the excitement and more traditions.
One room on the ward was designated as the staff Christmas cubby hole and decorated to the hilt.On Christmas Eve we then headed off to the old Covent Garden market at 5am where all the traders generously sent us off laden with enough fruit to keep an army on the move.The problem of getting it back to the hospital was solved by the police who transported us back in the old Black Maria vans, always an experience.
By Christmas Eve you knew which childen would be staying in and all the usual arrangements were made for Father Christmas and the reindeer and of course being up on the top floor of the old hospital we had the perfect view as he made his way around the capital.
We must have been a familiar sight as we walked across Russell Square from our nurse's home in Bedford Place in our starched pink and white striped uniforms, caps and navy blue capes but on Christmas Day you traditionally wore your cape red side out.
When you arrived on the ward there was another ritual.Junior nurses swapped uniform frills with seniors for the day.Staff Nurses were goddesses and we had started to covet these accoutrements on day one, frilled cuffs, petersham belt, badges and a strings cap.
Eventually, and several years later, as you can see I did get a set of my very own.
The cap thankfully minus the strings tied in a bow under your chin, came as a large oval shaped piece of starched and goffered linen.It was a feat of magnificence with needle and thread and cardboard to assemble and then keep it on your head through a day of caring for children.An encounter with a steam steriliser or an oxygen tent with added humidity could prove fatal.
Bees knees wasn't in it, we spent Christmas Day bursting with pride over our new found seniority, until there was an emergency of course and everyone thought you were in charge of the ward.
Then you couldn't hand it all back fast enough.