Wiping tears from my eyes, I picked the next envelope from the pile—
The messages of condolence with their sincerity had touched me and I braced myself as I examined this card’s neat handwriting —
“Dear Marilyn and Richard,
I hope you don’t mind me writing to you and trust you are both well—
Last week, several of the Nurses, including Tina, Jean and Sheila, were talking about days gone by — your name was mentioned and we all wondered how you and Richard are……”
My gaze skipped over the rest of the message as I looked to the bottom of the page for the signature:
“……Hoping to hear from you, Lesley.”
Suddenly, I was transported back to 1966 and our home at that time; the Spa Nurses Home in Bath.
At seventeen, we were too young to be enrolled as Pupil Nurses at St. Martins Hospital so shared rooms in the Cadet Nurses’ wing for the year before we could enter the following intake at the Pupil Training School to embark on an SEN course—
The room I was allocated was just across the corridor from Lesley and Tina’s—
Oh, the memories that came flooding back! Being fitted for our mauve-and-white striped uniform dresses, starched linen caps, wonderfully warm navy-blue capes with their red fleecy lining and cross-over straps and heeding the advice to equip ourselves with sensible, flat, lace-up shoes— Meals taken in the grand dining room— a coach ferrying us to the hospital at 7.45 each morning and returning us at 5pm each afternoon, Mondays to Fridays. Duties we were proud to be a part of on the wards as we were initiated and prepared for our future roles as Pupil Nurses when uniforms would change to green-and-white stripes and work rotas would include split-shift patterns and night duty.
Once we had been upgraded to the ranks of Pupil Nurse, we were delighted to find that the friendship which had developed between Lesley, Tina and myself in our junior posts had been recognised and we were allocated a three-bedded room on the first floor of the Nurses’ Home.
I read the rest of the message with its snippets of news —
How had we lost touch in the years since we completed our training and went our separate ways? I remembered Lesley coming to see me when my children were very young and my return visit to her after her son was born—
When was that—?
It wasn’t long after I’d passed my driving test (— I recalled feeling nervous about travelling from Somerset to Wiltshire so soon after being awarded my full driving licence —) so that made the hunt through my personal journals easier — 1984 — Eureka! October 23rd — a Tuesday!
I put pen to paper and the words which flowed from the nib spoke of my delight in hearing from her, how my spirits had been lifted in the sadness of this period of my life, how well I remembered all those she spoke of in her reminiscences, how the thirty-two years since we last met seemed to have melted away, how I reflected with fondness on those good times, fun times— Proper nursing. With proper thermometers!
Off to the mailbox, post-haste —-
Last night, the phone rang —-
“I can’t tell you how excited I was to hear from you!” Lesley’s voice trilled—
An hour-and-a-half of catching-up later, I asked when she had written her letter as the postmark was illegible and it had been forwarded to me, together with a batch of Sympathy cards, by the occupiers of my previous address—
“I wrote it a few weeks ago,” she replied, “—and what you’ve just told me has given me goosebumps!”
“Why?” I queried.
“Well, I’ve got friends staying with me for a few weeks while they’re waiting to move into a new house. Since they’ve been here, their son, who lived abroad, has tragically lost his life. This morning I picked up a bundle of mail from the doormat — it was mostly addressed to my friends and consisted of more Sympathy cards. Your letter to me, though, was nestled amongst them—-“
Having pledged that we will ever more stay in touch and arranging to meet up soon, we ended the telephone call—-
—and I was left pondering that life is full of mysterious occurrences that cannot be explained — No matter, though— long may there be those little twists and turns and things that make us wonder—
—and the venue for our get-together—? It’s got to be the former Nurses’ Home, now the 5-star MacDonalds Bath Spa Hotel although the tariffs for the sort of full-board we took forgranted in those memorable days may be out of our price-range so we’ll just settle for coffee and cake— 😉 xx