My mental cutting room floor has a few discarded ‘likes’ lying there this morning–rock music (Cream; Yes; Hendrix; Captain Beefheart; Jeff Beck: Clapton…); afro hairstyles (sings the theme for ‘Hair’ :-))…. But, to the surface, floated the following. Don’t seek rhyme or reason.
- Both of my parents were trained nurses, though in very different branches. My mother was a general nurse, who later specialised in midwifery. My father qualified as a mental nurse. My mother took a chance by leaving Jamaica to pursue her career in England (joining a stream of migrants from the West Indies); she left my father and me behind when I was six years old. My father started his career in Jamaica and was holding a senior position at Bellevue Hospital, when he decided reluctantly to follow my mother to England, several months later and to take me with him. He never worked as a nurse again: on the face of it, a great tragedy, given all he had sacrificed and strived for earlier in his life. However, my father used his training and experience with mental patience in many ways in his daily life. My early years in England were very much about my mother working as a general nurse, often working shifts that would let her get home not long after I came home from school. She moved into midwifery, and as time went on worked night shifts much of the time, so that she was around most of the day time. That way, she could cook and look after our home, and see me after school. I remember the pride and joy she showed as a midwife, delivering (dare I say) hundreds of babies. As a general nurse, she worked for several years at Hammersmith Hospital
, as beautiful a symbol of Victorian architecture as you could wish to see. She also worked at Perivale Maternity Hospital (which I learned closed in 1986). I remember her time there for many reasons, including seeing her pictured with gleeful mothers and their bundles. I also remember my going there as a teenager with my father to pick her up sometimes, when my father would let me drive as a learner. I was later able to drive on my own to pick her up, once I was a qualified driver.
- I learned Russian. As I sat in church last night, awaiting the Ash Wednesday service, I got into conversation with a nine year-old girl, who is not my child. I hadn’t seen her for several weeks and asked if she’d been travelling (no) or sick (yes). I asked if she’d been happy while she was sick: yes, she got to watch lots of TV–she shares my daughter’s liking of cookery programs (“I get recipes for my mum to make”). We talked about things she liked to eat (brussels sprouts, fried spinach, and kale) or make (guacamole). We talked about things she did not like to eat (fish). (My own daughter reacted to my telling her this by saying “We’re almost opposites on the food we like.”) I explained how my first-born came to like fish later in life and now cannot get enough of it. After she told me that sardines were small and yucky, I told her about the real surprise awaiting if she ever gets to eat fresh, grilled sardines. Her mother told her that she had eaten some fish, but she’d been told it was chicken–good old parent trick :-). Then, for reasons not clear to me, I asked her if she spoke Spanish: “No, but I speak Russian. My Dad’s Russian,” she told me. We then struck up a little conversation in Russian.
She asked me if my mother, father, or grandparents were Russian; I told her no. She raised her eyebrows. I told her that I had ‘learnt it myself’. Her mother joined in our Russian chit-chat; she did not speak much Russian. Who would have thought that my decision some 20 years ago to ‘invest in myself’ to help my career and take daily Russian lessons in my office, with a Lithuanian engineer acting as my tutor who explained to me the true meaning of ‘three dog night’, would lead to my having a random conversation with a nine year-old on Ash Wednesday?
‘And me, of course’ spent the day at home, not feeling too sorry for herself. I did not see much writing taking place. She read, watched some TV and had time on one of those i-devices 🙂 She was in her jammies till early afternoon; essential part of the healing process. We agreed that choir practice was not going to happen, and the bruised wrist took karate off the schedule. We did not get to go to church at midday–she was still fragile, and I knew I could go in the evening. When I came home after church, she was still reading. I tucked her in and gave her a little of my ashes.