A special day in London last Saturday and one that usually only comes around every ten years but as we get older is now happening every five, the Great Ormond Street October 1972 set reunion.
Thirty five years since forty of us, eighteen years old and very nervous, pitched up with our trunks packed full of sensible things.Very sensible things, black K Skip shoes, a hot water bottle and textbooks such as Modern Nursing by Winifred Hector ( ours the edition after leeches went out of fashion,) equipped to embark on our nursing careers.I think we've probably been good value for money because I don't think our training can have been that costly. We were a pair of hands from day one, very cheap labour at £10 a week and, apart from occasional weeks back in the School of Nursing, we were members of staff, rostered in, vital cogs in the running of the
hospital and learnt on our feet.
We quickly learnt one basic fact which we all agreed has underpinned our working lives ever thereafter, the hospital motto Children First and Always and the pride I felt the day I qualified and collected my silver enamelled hospital badge remains undimmed.
We went through hell and high water together all those years ago and the reunion always takes the same format. We meet somewhere in the hospital and there's a strange ten minutes or so as everyone remembers names and recognises each other. We get the original set photo out and quickly it's as if we have never been apart, the chatter levels rise and the laughter begins.
Then in small groups we are whisked off around the new hospital to see how it's all done nowadays.
Gt Ormond Street now an absolutely state of the art children's hospital and should be the pride of the nation and set to become even more so with massive building plans in the offing.We learnt that many millions has had to be spent bringing in power lines from outside the city, London's grid apparently sapped in its efforts to cope with the demands of a hospital where you meet an MRI scanner at every turn.
We were delighted to hear that the old Guilford Street nurses home is soon to be demolished and hopefully that will deal with the pigeons one girl in our set found nesting under her bed, to say nothing of the dancing cockroaches. Even in 1972 my friend and I took one look at our rooms there, said no way, and opted to share a room over in an outpost across Russell Square in Bedford Place.I can't believe it's still standing.
We hire a room in a favourite restaurant in Southampton Row for the afternoon and sit down for a special lunch, toast absent friends, two of our number have died and we remember them and then the memories start pouring out.Two of my three flat mates there and so we went at it non-stop...
Remember the time you (as in me)arrived back off a late duty carrying a "borrowed" and still lit road lamp to provide mood lighting for one of our parties and tucked it under your gaberdine raincoat? (Raincoat N206A in fact)
Walked in and produced it with a flourish, like a rabbit out of a hat?
Wondered why no one said anything because we'd been after one for weeks?
And my (as in flatmate's) new boyfriend was sitting there quietly?
His uniform gave it away and you'd failed to notice the Panda car outside, introduced himself as a policeman and very seriously got his notebook out?
Then it's the customary set photograph as we try and get into the rows we were in all those years ago, a selection of words to get that co-ordinated smile and this year it was flatus tubes, enemas and things just got worse after that. I'm afraid you can expect no better from a group of nurses,
Then just time to say farewell and good fortune to everyone until we meet again (Deo Valente) for our fortieth in 2012, London Olympic Games year.