Sunday, 28 June 2009

Jane responds to Judith's postings

I've been watching your postings unfolding with great fascination - and huge envy that you were encouraged to keep a diary of your experiences through the school work. They make a really valuable new contribution, and I've just emailed an early contributor (Yvonne Farrer) about it. Some time ago she expressed disappointment because no one seemed to have any detail about her time at Thorp Arch (yes, we did all call it that, didn't we). Maybe these pictures and the list of names will help.

In fact, after two years of the blog, I realise that, whilst we are all jogging each others' memories in all kinds of ways, actual 'direct hits' of memory of each other from those who are writing are very rare. As far as I know, the first one of these is Colin Welbourne's memory of me after all these years - and it was a real and rather peculiar thrill to read it.

I wonder how many contributions we'll need to accumulate before chance throws up another of these. The chances of such hits are further decreased by the way the lives of boys and girls seemed to run on parallel lines for such a long time. Colin remembered me mainly because for a while I was on 'small boys' as it was then called. So it's interesting to read that in your time there was a mixed ward. That might increase the chances of overlap.

I found your account of your father's views on the whole experience absolutely fascinating - we don't have too much information on parents' reactions, but they're so important. My own parents told me, many years later, how they had tried to object to the rigid visiting arrangements, all to no avail, of course. Like your father, mine had strong views. I found your father's resolute refusal to believe what doctors rather moving - it must have made it difficult for him to deal with your absence and treatment. However, his letter about the daft design of the lockers seem entirely reasonable - though I was interested at the ways round the problem you managed to find!

Your memory of being told by Mr Clark to ‘go and be normal’ almost reduced me to tears: I can almost hear Mr Broomhead telling me I could finally be released from my spika in similar words: “Go home and lead a normal life”. I was so excited I rushed out to where my parents were waiting, and promptly fell flat on my face – such was the stuff of normality.

As you say, being in hospital, immobilised and separated from home, must have affected all of us in some way. For a long time I was a very fearful child, though thankfully I grew out of it. I was also unable to see the joke in things like the operation sequence in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, which starred Danny Kaye as a man always dreaming of himself in great roles. In this sequence, he was performing an operation, involving knitting needles and spaghetti, and I got so upset I had to be taken out! Only later, when a student boyfriend took me to see it again, did I realise how funny it really was!

I also wonder whether those of us who were immobilised during years when children pass important developmental milestones did actually manage to catch up on them, especially since we all seem to have retained a few physical limitations. For instance, I’m particularly bad at directions and can’t imagine even quite well-known routes if someone explains them to me. If anyone knows, could they please tell us?

At least they did us proud with the schooling – nearly everyone comments on how easily we were able to fit into normal school. So I’ve always been one for the quiet pursuits – and though I suffered terribly from homesickness at school (I was sent to boarding school about 2 years after I got home from hospital) I’ve now got a terrible travel bug (which still induces homesickness when I’m off on work travel alone!

I was interested that you’d become ‘a sort of medical ghoul’ who could relieve people’s pain. For a long time, I toyed with the idea of becoming a nurse – I wasn’t good enough at sciences and maths to be a doctor – but the Walter Mitty problem didn’t bode too well for that, and it faded away gradually. But it would be interesting to see how many of us went into jobs with some sort of social service element to them.

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