What a momentous few weeks it's been here at dovegreyreader scribbles and time to roll out this picture again and have you all laugh at 'that' hat once more.
Egged on by Bookhound I'd been building up to The Decision and somehow a trip to France with clear thinking time in the sunshine clinched the deal, so on the Monday that I returned to work I handed in my resignation. Even posted the letter Special Delivery which cost £4.50.
After thirty years trained as a Health Visitor and eighteen plus years on this contract, I am fifty-five tomorrow and in a few weeks time to be a Health Visitor no more. Well, other than the occasional 'locum' shift here and there (really ' in my spare time' for once) next year perhaps, but first I'm going to have a few degrees of separation from the recent turmoil that has been the government-directed 'modernisation of the profession'.
You might recall that particular resignation Monday and perhaps you wondered what was really behind the mega-collapse of the world's financial markets, the downfall of Lehmann Brothers?
Yes well I hadn't intended to cause quite such a stir and many thanks to the friend who questioned my sanity at throwing in the towel on secure employment the day we all thought we might not be able to afford to eat the following week.
Sometimes though you reach tipping point and the moment is exactly right to get out while your heart and soul remain intact and you haven't compromised your standards; quit while you're winning in fact. So I finally draw a line under my NHS career.
We have had a very special family moment out of it all.
It was The Tinker (father of dgr) who delivered me as a student nurse to Great Ormond Street and into the hands of the NHS on this very day, September 25th 1972 and so it seems meet and right that he should be the "member of the electoral roll but not your spouse" who signs my pension forms to rescue me at the other end and some thirty-six years later. Now of course wishing I hadn't drawn out all that superannuation, as it was then called, to buy a stair carpet when the word pension seemed light years hence.
In the way that these things often happen, yesterday, on the day that I finally convinced everyone that I really meant to resign and I now have a finishing date, I had another piece of news. I received an e mail from a member of Sister Beech's family to tell me that they had found a mention of her on here and that sadly she had died a few days ago. When you look back over a long career in nursing there are bound to be many memories, some of them stick like glue because you learnt something from them and many of my most memorable 'learning' moments involved Sister Beech.
Sister Beech was of the old school, as I think am I these days, but taketh not a short cut and expect to get away with it if Sister Beech caught you out. It was Sister Beech who caught me sloshing Milton by guesswork into the baby bottle sterilising tanks as I did a locker round, and then accompanied me around the ward to taste each one just to demonstrate the error of my ways. I was a very strict and accurate measurer and diluter of Milton to the millilitre everafter.
But there was another lesson never forgotten. One junior nurse task was to make the children's afternoon teas, I doubt this is in the job description of a student nurse these days but Marmite soldiers were de rigueur on Sister Beech's ward and again I was a bit profligate with it all. The summons wasn't long in coming,
'Nurse Chester, to the kitchen please!'
It's no good being sentimental about all this, at times it really was awful, no question, and fear did by this time grab my very entrails because once Sister Beech had caught you pulling a fast one she kept a most watchful eye on you. Expect her to pop up in the sluice just as you were slopping something unsavoury out in the wrong sink, ('scoop it out nurse and put it where it belongs') or perhaps the Treatment Room as you by-passed washing down that trolley or caught you with your head in the linen cupboard eating a dry Farley's rusk (we were always starving, I've drunk a bottle of Cow & Gate baby milk before now).
This time I quite thought it was going to be about the wodge of ice cream I'd just bolted down behind the fridge door, (hospital ice cream for some strange reason absolutely delectable) because now I'm completely convinced that Sister Beech is also capable of seeing the semi-digesting contents of any passing stomach, but no, it was the soldiers. As she surveyed my plate of lovely sticky lavishly blessed Marmite soldiers Sister Beech looked me in the eye, fixed my gaze firmly on hers and uttered the immortal words,
'Nurse, these are a disgrace, think of the sodium content...the children's kidneys, the Marmite should just say hello to the bread.'
I was too terrified to laugh and Marmite has done no more than say a very brief 'hello' to anything in my hands ever since. I will always be thinking of your kidneys when I offer you a Marmite soldier.
Looking back I know that I have much to thank Sister Beech for including the fact that a jar of Marmite can last as long as five years in this house, but joking aside I learnt another invaluable lesson; that it would always be inexcusable and unforgivable to compromise the high nursing standards that I learnt at Great Ormond Street, no matter how I was called on to use them, no matter where I worked or what job I was doing, because it could cost lives and that would always be a huge stain on my conscience.
As I said, quit while I'm winning.