More bookish synchronicity as I start reading Courage by Gordon Brown alongside Sisters in Arms British Army Nurses Tell Their Story by Nicola Tyrer and that in turn makes me get Grey & Scarlet : Letters From the War Areas by Army Sisters on Active Service back down off the shelf too. Quite a nice matching set now I look at those covers.
Gordon Brown (yes that Gordon Brown) 'explores the lives of eight outstanding twentieth-century figures, in order to better understand courage' and the list is part predictable and part eclectic and unusual, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Raoul Wallenberg, Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, Nelson Mandela, Cicely Saunders, Aung San Suu Kyi and the one I was immediately interested in, Edith Cavell.
Edith Cavell trained at The London Hospital in Whitechapel, as in part did I, and where I had the dubious pleasure of living in Cavell Home in East Mount Street. It was ancient back in the 1970's, tiny rooms, lifts with metal cage doors, all men signed in and removed by the Home Sister at 10pm sharp. I knew little about Edith Cavell beyond the film version (Anna Neagle?) but I now see that she was made of very stern stuff indeed and to be honest you'd expect nothing less of anyone who trained under the formidable Matron Luckes (Luckes Home was yet another spartan nurses' billet)
'Her courage at the moment of death, when she forgave her executioners, is perhaps the best-remembered aspect of her life, yet everything beforehand can be seen as preparation for that one moment, her courage springing from a dignity and strength of character demonstrated again and again through a life lived in the service of her principles.'
Edith Cavell born in 1865 certainly following in the still visible footprints of Florence Nightingale, Eva Luckes had been in correspondence with Florence and continued to maintain the high standards now being established for nurse training.
I feel certain 'uncompromising dedication to duty, vocation and pride' in the profession still echoed around us back in the 1970's and perhaps that's why I still strive but struggle within the constraints of NHS 2008 to adopt anything less than best practice. We were trained in the unwavering belief that second best was most certainly unacceptable and would be potentially damaging somewhere along the way if not life-threatening.To this day I just can't do it.I always imagine Sister Beech is waiting round the corner to swoop and come in for the kill.
I've tried to forget that Gordon Brown is the Prime Minister and may be trying to offer any covert message or ideological stance about his own governing principles with this book, cynics might argue that it's an attempt to gain more gravitas, reap some political kudos by association, but I'm not quite a hard-boiled cynic yet and so am reading the book on its merits alone.
Royalties from the book go to The Jennifer Brown Research Laboratory (the Brown's first child who died soon after birth) and I am trying to extract the essence of what Gordon is saying. Indeed I think it will be along the lines that second best wasn't good enough for any of these lives either and courage was and is about standing up and saying so and staying true to your principles along the way.
More soon about Sisters in Arms where second best most definitely would not do, and don't miss Romanov Day on here all day tomorrow, with Helen Rappaport chatting in comments about her latest book Ekaterinburg.
It's blinis I've got to cook apparently... where's Cornflower when you need her?