so seventies................

somewhere in the mid to late seventies…………. went to Vidal Sassoon Salon in Toronto, my sis always went there, when she wasn’t going to the House of Lords (which believe it or not, still exists somewhere on Yonge Street). The stylist told me that golden wasn’t really moi, so I let him dye my locks dark ash blonde………………… I think it lasted perhaps 3 days, then I bought a box of light golden blonde dye and went back to being what I feel is me….workI suppose I kept it long enough to go to work…

oscarOscar is the plant behind me (a chefalure…?? that my sis and bro bought for my mum on mother’s day not long after we emigrated to Canada.  I still have Oscars great-great-great offspring). Back to golden blonde with roots, and bleached eyebrows and little denim piny…chrisitoine& cat

Yes it is an awful wig.  I bought a couple of wigs in the 70’s – experimenting with new looks, including a brown very curly (not quite afro) wig. 


browny curls..

My sis and I were playing around with clothes and taking photos of each other.  She is wearing my awful light ash blond wig.  Ahem, we both loved Cat Stevens…

funky robert&xtinebthis is a cute shot of my brother and sister also fooling around with photos.  She is wearing a sou’wester that my bro bought during his year in England…

xtin&meOMG … this is a pic of me and sis on a new year’s eve in the mid 70’s.  I don’t know if she went out to party, but I remember I did, hoping to hook up with a certain guy!  Acht, he was with someone else, as was my other hope, (his bro).  Horrible new years eve for me!!  Please excuse the ‘orrible flashy belt I am wearing.  I borrowed the striped cross-over top from sis.  She is wearing a Miss Selfridge top.  The biggest store in Canada in the last century was EATONS.  They had the wisdom in the 70’s to add a Miss Selfridge (from pre TOPSHOP Selfridges) to their YouthWear department!!  We bought quite a bit of Miss Selfridge gear back then…

My BiBa diary

bought in 1975 or early 1976.

inside page

the inside page…the gold fading.. but it does say 1976

It is a 1976 diary and it is full of magical graphics, special days, even a directory at the back of trendy London cinemas, clubs, hairdressers to visit. Those back resource pages contained gold writing on a black background. Unfortunately the gold has worn off over the years leaving barely legible works….but I love my BiBa diary and used it too!

ahem....... an angry young woman here...

ahem…….looks like an angry young woman here…

Approaching the Seventies

cute supercarol 69

1968, 1969… I really haven’t the foggiest when I see these pix from my teens? I quite liked my hair like this…. the aftermath of growing out a home perm. Back then fun branded tees were a biggy in fashion:

Mr Freedom Tee from

Mr Freedom Tee from

Mickey Mouse, Superman, Batman, Donald Duck etc… I stole took one of my dad’s Penmans undershirts and with a paint brush and a cup of bleach, I dotted, splashed, drew on it. I was pleased with the results, but the more I wore this tee, the more the bleached designs turned into holes! This might have been a good thing today with the ‘destroyed’ look, but back then it wasn’t so good! Oh yes, I am wearing a ‘man’s’ watch that was on my Christmas list, hipster jeans and an old German leather Belt that my MuM had brought home for my little brother, years ago after a trip to Germany to visit relatives. I am standing on our 23rd floor balcony where we lived in Toronto.

Paediatric Nursing ~ Poor Michael

March, 1979 (I was still single)

I remember when I returned to work on a new ward from one of my maternity leaves.  There was a young man who was about 18 suffering from Duchenes muscular dystrophy.  I had never nursed him, in fact I didn’t even know him.  The nurses on 5F knew him well and had been treating him for various complications for quite a few years.  The MD had wrecked his body and was slowly but surely destroying his ability to use his respiratory muscles.  He apparently got so bad that he had to be transferred to ICU, because he could not breath on his own.  Michael was a favourite of one of my colleagues, Jessie.  Jessie was a registered nursing assistant.  She was perhaps in her early 50’s when I first met her.  She and her hubby had emigrated to Canada from Scotland when she was only 17….. and she still had her Scottish accent.  Jessie had a wonderful sense of humour and a canny, motherly personality that appealed to our young patients.  Most of the other staff loved her too.  She visited Jason in ICU every day she worked, as did other 5F nurses.

I always listened with interest when my colleagues would report on Michael’s progress, which sadly continued to deteriorate.  I wasn’t back more than a week when I heard that Michael was being given continuous IV morphine to make him more comfortable.  The poor young man was on a ventilator and it was obvious that he would never come off it to breath on his own again.  He had the more severe form of MD and was never going to get better.  A day or 2 later, Jessie told me that Michael and his parents were now being asked subtly about a ‘do not resuscitate’ order.  She told me that as she was stroking his forehead, he lifted his heavy hand and put it to his throat in a slash movement.  She said that he had made his wishes known …. that he wanted to let go.   His poor parents were in agreement with Michael and so he was ‘snowed under’ slowly with morphine until he passed away.  Many of the 5F nurses went to his funeral.

Jessie unfortunately is no longer with us.  I was told last year when I visited my former colleagues at HSC that she passed away from a cancer in the early millennium.  God bless her.  She helped so many hapless little souls during their suffering.

Adventures in W. Germany via the Harwich-Hook Ferry


In summer 1976 when I was living in London with Ty, I got a letter from my MuM.  She was going to visit her stepmother, Clara, in Bickeburg, West (its was still divided then) Germany.  As I was relatively close to Europe, as opposed to North America where I usually lived, MuM asked if I would be able to join her there for a few days.

It was tough to arrange, especially with my low JJ wages, but luckily for me, MuM and DaD wired me some money.   I managed to arrange my holiday time at work and then it was on to a travel agency to find out how to get there.  It turned out that the cheapest way was to take a ferry and then a train.

hey, I found this recently showing the travel agency .information for this trip! and the name of the ferry...

hey, I found this recently showing the travel agency .information for this trip! and the name of the ferry…

Ty was okay with it all, even though there was no way he could afford a trip, he was pleased for me.  I packed lightly (quite a task for me, believe me), and took a train to Harwich in the morning where I got onto the overnight ferry.  I cannot  for the life of me remember the name of it and I am usually really into sailing vessels, but look what I found………my itinerary…it was called the Queen Julianna and from looking at the above post card, I had a berth #628 for my return trip…live and learn

the other side of the postcard...

the other side of the postcard…

As I had purchased the cheapest ferry ticket, I would not have a berth, but there were lots of seating areas, so that would be fine for me.  Later in the evening, after I had eaten, I decided to get a liqueur at the bar to make me sleepy.  Of course (not vanity… just life when you are a twentysomething blonde), a youngish guy tried to strike up a conversation with me.  He was Dutch, decent looking and told me he was delivering goods in his lorry which was in the ferry hold.  He spoke reasonable English and was quite nice and we chatted for a while as he bought me another drink.  He was knocking them back, but remained pleasant.  I cannot remember his name… but he asked me if I would like to see his lorry?  I was pleasantly buzzed, and said ‘sure’.  Looking back on it, I know I was dumb, dumb, dumb, taking a risk, but I had had (miserable, soul-destroying) one-night stands before if that was his game (if that was his game???!) and despite Ty at home (deep in my heart, I knew that my relationship with Ty would never survive longerm, and when I strayed, it was almost like a ‘there asshole’ – for all the times you poured your alcoholic shit on me)  I still had this overwhelming need to be seen as normal, desirable, and thus sometimes, fueled by booze, I stupidly took  risks.  I guess you could say, I decided to go with the flow with  the alcohol in my system providing Dutch courage (oh please excuse the pun).

As we finished our drinks and started to head out, a ferry steward grabbed my arm, pulled me away from the lorry driver, and said:  “Are you mad, if you go with him, you may never be seen again…the ferry hold is big and full of cars and lorries… young girls have disappeared forever down there”!   Oh my, oh my my my, I had not really thought of the (Looking for) Mr Goodbar (a book and movie made in the seventies with Diane Keaton highlighting the swingles scene and a psychopathic rapist/murderer) connection.  He led me away from Mr. Dutch, to a kitchen galley and said “I’m going to make you a cup of tea”!  He was a short, much older than me, about 40 or 50ish, and not a handsome man.  As he made the tea he told me “I’m going to find an empty berth for you so you can stay out of trouble”.  Wow I thought …. I told him that I couldn’t afford the cost of a berth, to which he replied “it’s okay, it’s empty anyway, there’ll be no cost)”.  Hey, how great was that.  I thanked him profusely. When I finished my tea, we headed down the corridor toward the berths.  When we got to the intended door, he put his arm around me and tried to pull me close … was then I could smell booze on his breath!  I pushed his arm off, and said ‘I am very grateful to you for doing this for me…..but no!………. luckily for me, that’s all it took for him to back off.

He knocked at the door, quietly ‘shouting’:  “it’s the steward, I am bringing in a passenger for the empty bed.”   We heard a muffled okay, and he unlocked the door.  As the cabin was in total darkness, he turned on his flashlight and pointed it to the upper bunk of a bunk bed affixed to the wall (of course).  There appeared to be a young woman sleeping on the lower bunk.  She mumbled ‘hi’.  The steward pointed to a night light, which I turned on so that I could see.  I thanked him again as he closed the door.   I quickly locked it……. phew!!

I told the young woman that I was sorry to have disturbed her.  She introduced herself, and I mentioned  the wolf situation to which she replied “yep, I know, that’s why I always get a berth”.

Talk about a double-edged sword!  I lay in the  safety of that berth, thinking how ridiculous it was that the steward  who ‘saved’ me from danger,  had the nerve to try it on himself!!!  Maybe the ferry staff were told to watch out for any sign of trouble with women?? I don’t know how come he stepped in and stopped me in the bar, but one thing I am quite sure of is that staff were not allowed to drink on duty.  Perhaps Mr. steward tried his luck all the time,  but backed off quickly when rebuffed, not wanting to lose his job.

Happily when I got up, ready to disembark at the Hook, I didn’t see either Mr Dutch or Mr steward at all.

Finally in Holland, I managed to find the train to take me to Dusseldorf.  I honestly don’t know how I did it, not speaking any Dutch… I remember trying to use a Dutch payphone, probably to call my mother in Bickeburg to let her know of my progress, Dutch coins, more buttons to press than the A and B buttons on the old British pay phones… I can’t remember if I succeeded or gave up on that telephone call.

me at a train station in Germany ... maybe on my journey, I shouldn't have worn this tee, which said "Easy Jeans"!!

me at a train station in Germany … maybe I shouldn’t have worn this tee on my journey!  it said: EASY JEANS!  The jeans are from JJ, and the golden plastic belt whose buckle says MISS LONDON I bought by mail order from the free weekly mag of the same name!

I got on the train and snoozed for a while.  The first stop before my destination was the Dutch – West German border.  The next thing I know, there are 2 burly armed German border guards in uniform walking through my carriage randomly (I think) checking passports.  They said ‘passeport bitte’ to me, and then spent a while perusing it, looking at each other, and whispering!  I was beginning to get alarmed, when one of the guards asked me something in German… I said ‘ich nicht spreche zie Deutsche’, one of the only phrases I know… they smiled and then the other guard spoke in English saying, “we were wondering why if you were born in Germany, did you leave??”  (I was born in Rinteln, an RAF base in Germany).  Then they started laughing and thankfully handed my passport back to me!  Whew, they had me going for a while…

see the man in scrubs at the window a minute after this photo was taken, he came out and told us that no photographs were allowed on RAF property... Lucky for us, he didn't ask for film when we told him I was born there!

see the man in scrubs at the window ~a~ minute after this photo was taken, he came out and told us that no photographs were allowed on RAF property… Lucky for us, he didn’t ask for film when we told him I was born there!

At last we pulled into Dusseldorf station …  yeahhhhh, there was my dear mum waiting for me.  It was so wonderful to see her after my experiences traveling there.  We went into a little cafe and she bought me some breakfast.  It didn’t taste so bad, but there was a feather in my scrambled eggs!! yuch

town hall in Oberhausen?

town hall in Oberhausen?

My stay in Germany was fine.  I got to meet Clara, mum’s cousin Gerda, and my uncle Gerd who was also visiting from Australia.  He was my mother’s brother, and had emigrated from Germany with his wife and young son in the late 1940s.  We also drove a lot on the autobahn… really fast!!

On my way back to London, I guess you could say I had become a little more of a seasoned traveler.  I paid extra for a berth, and stayed away from the bar…

Buckingham Palace Frizzzies..

Buckingham Palace Frizzzies..

c: 1975    omg…………why, why, why??? those perms…

Here is my dear friend, Di, who came over from TO to visit me.  That awful perm that I have (left) was of course NOT what I wanted.  I looked through the free weekly mag, Miss London that you could pick up in tube stations, for a ‘trendy-type’*salon to freshen up my old perm.  For some reason, I loved perms in the seventies.  My excuse for those perms is that of course my hair was straight, and I had always wanted curly hair…. just like a lot of curly haired folk would like to have straight hair.

I had loved my previous perm (in post) and have no idea why I did not go back to that salon.  I found that trendy*ad for SCISSORS Hairdressing in Chelsea, and thought I’d give them a try!

I know that I asked for loose wavy curls on my shoulder length hair.  Somehow, I ended up with rows and rows of perm rods.  A waiting customer mumbled ‘wow, what’s that gonna look like’? as I sat for what seemed like hours with the stinky perming lotion penetrating into my hair shafts.  When my ‘stylist?’ finally took out the rods, I had a mass of waves alright, but they were neither loose or pretty!  Instead of the oval shape I had asked for, I had a massive triangle of frizz.  The fact that it was a perm on top of a perm on top of bleached hair, you would have thought a decent hairdresser would have advised me to wait.  I hated it.  I asked them If they could layer it a bit,…. but that didn’t make much difference and it was close to closing time, so not much thought or design was put into it…. I am sorry to say that timid me did not outwardly complain that I hated it.

I left the salon, my permed hair still wet, as I had already been there for hours and couldn’t wait to get outta there.  I left a small tip, which I am sure was noted by the ‘stylist’, but fuck you I thought in my head.  Sitting on the tube on the way back home, it was rush hour, and I thought, what must people think?  Most likely nobody cared, but you know how you feel with REALLY BAD hair day!!

I learned to live with it, and had frequent trims……. It took a long time before I could like my hairdo again…

Memorial Hospital & the hell that is geriatrics

Halfway through my first year of training in London, I was sent to the Memorial Hospital, which was associated with the Brook, to do my geriatrics training.  I must have bussed it from my room at the Brook Nurses Home, as it was not very far from there, … in fact it was on the same road, Shooters Hill Road.  Interestingly enough, this small hospital only had 3 wards (I think).  Male geriatrics, female geriatrics, and  a gynaecology ward where (among other common ailments were investigated and treated??)  therapeutic abortions were performed!!  Strange, I know…

Geriatrics must be one of the most difficult disciplines in a nurses training.  You get senile, or physically infirm or both, end up on an open ward with 40 beds and exist there until you die!  Listen, it could happen to anyone of us!  Working in the female geriatric ward in the Memorial, had me acknowledging a constant song in my head which back then when I was 20, stirred up the same sentiment………..“hope I die before I get old”! by the good ole Who.  Of course, now that I am 61, I sometimes think: how old is old?  I guess as long as you can keep going by yourself ‘old’ happens when you cant!.Hospital-wards-A-nurse-sw-010


Anyway, I did my best, but one of the worst part of geriatric nursing is that the patient load is very heavy and the staffing is woefully inadequate!  I didn’t mind the patients.  It was not their fault that they became frail or senile, just like it is not the fault of a patient suffering from kidney disease on a medical ward.  Unfortunately and understandably, many of the patients had given up in body mind and spirit, and no longer took much responsibility for their remaining time on earth.  There was a lot of heavy lifting, feeding, cleaning, adult diapers, changing soiled clothes and beds, but the worst single incident I came across concerned a lovely old lady, Ivy who suffered from senile dementia.  She would have her lucid moments, but these were few and far between.  I don’t remember if she had any visitors, in fact all those years ago, the presence of any family visitors on that ward are are a blank in my mind.  Ivy must have been a beauty, because she still had her delicate features and very few wrinkles.  Her episodes of dementia were not loud or vicious, like so many other of those who suffered this awful part of the aging process.  One morning I was starting the morning routine, of giving the patients, most all of whom were still in their beds, a quick wash to the hands and face, and getting them sitting up with the bed-table ready for the breakfast trolley.  When I got to poor Ivy, my heart dropped, she was lying there in her bed, awake, and she was eating her excrament!  Yes, I was disgusted, but I knew it was not her fault.  It was quite the task getting her cleaned up…. her hair, her hands, under her nails and all over her face.  I could not help but wretch as I tried to figure out where to begin…images

There was the Sunday morning, when the 2nd year pupil nurse I was working with, told me with dismay, the two nursing aides scheduled to work with us, had both called in sick, and that the matron was trying to find us another aide, but did not know if and when this would happen, at least for the morning.  So there we were, 2 of us, to care & feed forty mostly bedridden souls.  The breakfast trolley had arrived and we had barely begun setting the ladies up to eat, or feed!  Yes, I would say that at least half of our patients could not feed themselves!  Needless to say, it was a hellish morning, where we barely finished handing out the breakfast trays, let alone cleaning up the ladies!  We did of course change up a few urgent adult diapers, and don’t even think about taking your morning break.  Later that morning a relief aide showed up, but our whole day shift remained hours behind.images (1)

It was easier and yet more heartrending when some visiting family members would place a framed photo or else a photo stuck to the bedside table with sticky tape, of the women in their younger years. … To see past pictures of them, a lot of whom were now forgotten and left in a home, when they were young and vibrant, with their babies and everyday life really makes you realize these a lot of these women most likely lived a full life, just as ‘us younger women are now’.  They are not nameless old people who did nothing in their lives, and ended up in the geriatric unit… although it can be hard to remember that they were once just like us… walking into a ward of elderly people, unresponsive, or staring into space, unable to care for themselves lost in their thoughts or their minds…  Oh human frailty!

I must say  a couple of times I was mortified at the behavior of some of the aides… a lot of these women were decent and caring and good, then there were some real bad eggs… earning a minimum wage I believe, you get all sorts.  Some would have been better working in a laundromat, for all the compassion they showed..  One morning I witnessed on awful incident !  There were 2 nurses aides showering Ivy, who was sitting on a commode, basically unable to do much for herself.   They actually lifted up her aged floppy breasts and then let them fall back down, saying ‘what are these things Ivy, do you need these Ivy”?  When they saw I was there, they went back to talking to each other, and started to dry Ivy.  What indecent disrespect.!. I should have said something, but I was too timid.  I still had half my rotation to go, and thought it would not be a prudent move.  I was not close with any of the ward staff, so I couldn’t even discuss the situation, let alone report it to the Sister, who I don’t even remember to this day!  Not that it is any excuse, but I don’t believe Ivy noticed what was going on, thankfully for her.  These 2 aides were permanent workers on the geriatric ward, so I tried to keep out of their way, whilst getting my work done.  What I did notice about the terrible two, is that they both seemed to have enormous ‘chips’ on their shoulders, and became somewhat surly when I would ask them where something was, or had Mrs Smith had her lunch…

Oh I was so glad to get back to the Brooke and away from that big understaffed ward of sad lost souls. and those cruel caregivers!


I found this on GooGle…. on all about LOST HOSPITALS OF LONDON.  Actually it states that the Memorial Hospital is still up and running as it has been designated as a historical site, due to it’s services to soldiers. I just cut and pasted the more recent history..  Even though it doesn’t mention the gynae unit, I swear there was one... perhaps it was temporary,  maybe it was a short stay unit for T.A.’s !!!?

It sure looks nice in photographs… hell, I wish I could remember it!!!

Although originally dealing with general cases, by 1965 the Hospital began to specialise in surgery.   It had a Casualty Department, but it was felt that its facilities were too limited to deal with the increasing number of road traffic accidents in the area.  In 1969 the Department closed when the new Accident Centre opened at the nearby Brook General Hospital.  The acute wards were transferred to the Brook General Hospital and St Nicholas’ Hospital in Plumstead.In the 1970s  the Memorial Hospital became a geriatric hospital, with 128 long-stay beds.  A Day Hospital was built in 1975.St Nicholas chapel opened in 1986 following the closure of St Nicholas Hospital; fittings from that Hospital were installed in the chapel and a window in the chapel – the Golden Window – was transferred from Goldie Leigh Hospital. The tondo from the British Hospital for Mothers and Babies, which closed in 1984, is also displayed here.
Present status (July 2009)Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust now owns the site.Although this huge Hospital appears closed, the buildings are still partly used for a day care centre and out-patient facilities for pschiatric patients.  The main building is currently undergoing renovation and will eventually house a new day centre for the elderly. Originally scheduled to finish in autumn 2007, the building works are still going on.The ward blocks at the rear of the site were demolished in 2006 and replaced by two modern wards.
Entrance gatewayHospital buildingThe entrance gateway and the Hospital building on Shooters Hill.Hospital buildingfront elevation from the eastThe Hospital building from the grounds (left) and the front elevation from the east (right).

sink or swim NHS student nurses

Learning the hard way…

To illustrate the ‘sink or swim’ method of being a student nurse in a British hospital in 1972, here is the tale of the stoma. I don’t remember much about how we were assigned patients during the day and evening shifts or if we were given particular tasks in order to broaden our ward experiences?

.A staff nurse told me to change Mrs. X’s dressing.  I guess I might have tried to ascertain information about my patient’s chart or maybe not.  More likely I was directed to change a dressing on a patient I knew nothing about!   We already had been taught how to do a basic dressing in class. So I gathered up a disposable dressing tray and headed to her bed. She had an abdominal dressing, so I proceeded to take it off following aseptic technique.  To my utter shock, under the dressing was a dark pink fleshy bulge protruding out of her skin! I quickly told the patient that I had forgotten something and would be right back.; of course I covered her ‘wound’ with a couple of sterile swabs, before I left.  I had never seen anything like it and had no idea what had happened to her. I found the staff nurse and expressed my concerns. She looked at me as if I was a nincompoop and stated that Mrs. X had had a colostomy and that meant part of her bowel was exposed and that is what her ‘wound’ was!

4 weeks of classroom training had not prepared me for that!  I had never even heard of a colostomy!   Well, live and learn.


Student nurse in Toronto, 1973

The psyche rotation was another matter!  One month at Queen St Mental Health Center, also known back then in 1973, as 999 Queen Street, or even just nine, ninety-nine !!  A Toronto institution with an ominous reputation, for decades thought of as the ‘loony bin’.

queen street mental health centre back in the 40/50s

queen street mental health centre back in the 40/50s


dont know the time period of this photo?


I believe the main entrance looked like this in 1973…….. I could be wrong… of course there definitely were no recycling bins back then!

Interestingly (to myself), I have no clear memories of how the hospital looked when I did my psych rotation there in the 70’s, however this is the one image that did stick in my mind along with these  lyrics of Pink Floyd…


All in all it was all just bricks in the wall.
All in all you were all just bricks in the wall

My group of about 6 fellow student nurses were assigned to a ‘Day Hospital’ setting.  There were about 12 patients, most indigent, living in ‘half-way houses’, who came in Monday to Friday from 8:00am to 4:00pm.  These poor souls were so dysfunctional, tattered and torn that one wondered if these were day patients, what were the in-patients like!!

The Day Hospital daily routine included group therapy, a social worker who spoke with each patient and would ensure they had transit tickets, dealt with disability funds and residence issues,  psychiatrists who checked in once a day re the condition of the patients and regular consultations at set times,  a rest period, individual counseling, an hour of crafting and the availability of a TV and a record player for social time in the afternoon.  Staff could also refer patients who had medical issues to MDs in the building (social medicine offered more in those days!).

I remember how awkward the group therapy sessions were, as most of the time none of the patients offered any words, and the room would be heavily silent.  One of the patients, a 6Oish woman, who looked more like 8O, and never spoke, sitting all day in an armchair, smoking a cigarette (patients were allowed to smoke in hospitals in the 7Os), well she would take a couple of puffs, and then continue holding the lit cig in her fingers, while it burnt down to her fingers.  She must have done this for many years as she had horrible scars on her knuckles of these 2 fingers.  At least in Day Hospital, we could attend to this issue and put out the cigarette or remind her to either smoke or extinguish it.

Yes, I am sure a lot of these patients were in a state of sonambulance due to the medications they were prescribed.  The alternative to not being medicated I am sure would have been worse and probably negate the essence of the Day Hospital function.  I am not saying that it is good for patients to be too doped up,  but what a conundrum.  I believe that the psychotropic drugs were prescribed in ‘good faith’ in earnest efforts to help these patients function.

the only good things about our psyche rotation were

  • we were allowed to wear our civvies
  • We had the most amazing instructor, Milly B.  She was empathetic, compassionate and had a sense of humour.

There was many a day where you could pass Milly’s assigned office on the day hospital unit and find one of us crying our eyes out.

We of course were each assigned a patient.  Mine was Mary D.  She suffered from a plethora of psychiatric ailments, including paranoid schizophrenia.  Mary was about 35 and alone in the world. She had never been able to keep a job and had often ended up living on the streets.  She had suffered many physical injuries and had been raped more than once.

Mary was of small stature, thin, and pale with stringy, greasy long brown hair.  She looked like she had given up as she paid no mind to her personal appearance, and often smelled of urine, body odour and worse.  She frequently wore the same wrinkled stained clothes from day to day looking like she had slept in them.  It was extremely difficult to talk to Mary.  She would never look me in the eye and often ignored or did not hear my questions.  This was the common scenario and the reason my colleagues and I found this experience so depressing and left us feeling inadequate and hopeless about helping our patients and making a difference in their lives.

One of the obvious functions of the Day Hospital, was that we would administer their medications during the 8 hours they were with us.  It seemed difficult to imagine that most of these patients in various states of lost and fractured minds could regularly remember to take their pills.  Patients were offered hospital meals of breakfast, lunch and an early supper in Day Hospital, for some of them, probably the only good food they had access to for the whole week.  They also had access to showers.  Mary never wanted to take a shower and I often needed Milly’s help to persuade her to wash or take a shower.

I had read in Mary’s chart that one of her phobias was hair.  Apparently once, she had shaved off all her hair, and plucked out every hair on her body, including her eyelashes!

The last day I saw Mary nearing the end of my rotation, she continued to be uncommunicative, but did agree to a full shower, took her meds for me and ate a little from the meals offered to her.  We (the students) left, as always, 30 minutes before the end of the Day Hospital day which closed at 4:30pm.  I said goodbye to Mary, who was sleeping, sitting up, at the end of a couch, not an unusual occurrence in this unit.

The next morning, arriving at Day Hospital for our shift,  I was thunderstruck to hear that Mary was dead!  At the end of  yesterday’s shift, when staff had tried to awaken Mary to go ‘home’,  they discovered that she had no vital signs.

OH MY GOD………………….Mary was my patient!   Was it my fault? Should I have checked that she was breathing, felt for a pulse when I said goodbye to her????  She didn’t look any different snoozing that afternoon than she did snoozing at any other time.  Her lips were not cyanotic, she did not feel cold to the touch, when I patted her hand.

I was relieved when Milly told me it absolutely was not my fault, and that Mary was most likely alive when I last saw her… but still I felt so guilty and inadequate!


Such was the psychiatric rotation at Queen Street in 1974…

Ty’s brother

I had heard a lot about Thomas Brown, Ty’s only brother!  Ivy had often talked about Thom and his connection to musicians.  He had made it quite successfully in some kind of a  rock promotion company.  Supertramp was apparently one of the bands his company handled.


He was Ty’s only brother, unmarried and he was the oldest son.  As often seems to happen in families, Ty looked up to his brother, but he also wanted to be as successful if not more so … which in his downward slide into alcoholism was a difficult goal to attain.  I had met Thom a couple of times at Vic Park, while he was visiting his mother and deigned to pop in on his brother too, and was not particularly impressed by the kind of person he was.

One day …. surprise! Ty and I were invited to dinner at Thom and his partner’s home in some impressive part of London (of course I cannot remember which borough).  Thom’s girlfriend Amber was about my age, 24, 25… and had a sweet little daughter, Berry, from a previous relationship of hers.  Berry was about 6, I remember and was a slight little girl.  When we were at the table enjoying a nice dinner, Berry picked and picked at her food and barely ate a mouthful.  I gathered from the conversation around me, that Berry was a poor eater.  Thom, I could see, was somewhat controlling of Amber as well as her child.  He kept telling Berry she had better eat up!!!  Then he turned to me and said:  Jane is a nurse in a kiddy ward, then he turned to Berry and continued, if you don’t eat your dinner, she is going to give you a big needle that will hurt!!!!!

WAY TO GO BUD………….!!! not just taunting a little girl with threats, but dragging me into it as a bad guy, and not to mention possibly instilling a fear of nurses and hospitals into the mind of a young child….. I wish I’d had enough guts to say something smart, but I hate to say it, I may have sat there and swallowed my words with a gulp!  Needless to say, my opinion of Thom took a further hit downward after this episode!!   Hell! I don’t even remember what he looked like, this brother of my idol!

We barely had any more contact with Thom… Although, I remember coming home one evening to a screeching, lunatic drunken Ty, who was throwing stuff all over the place on the first floor!  Apparently, Ty was downstairs visiting his mum, when she had told him that Thom had wed Amber, and of course had not invited his brother to the wedding!  I don’t think Mrs B would have gone, but apparently all her daughters had been invited!  Hopefully Ty held his rage in until his mum was out of earshot (she was quite hard of hearing)…  There was nothing I could do to calm him when he was in these drunken episodes… I guess I just tried to keep out of his way.  I heard him slam the door, and figured that he had gone over to Bills, maybe to get more soused or God forbid to another pub from which he would no dobt get chucked out and mp doubt be barred!!  Who knows……… I really cant remember!

Of course, a few months later, when Thom & Amber had their own baby, Holly, needless to say, Ty was not invited to her christening either………….

Of course, I cannot say that I blame anyone for not wanting to invite a ticking time bomb to a special event!!!