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Back in the day, every self-respecting hospital had a nurses' home. A safe place for the dear hearts to live while they were working hard on the wards. It was originally a somewhat cloistered life with a resident warden/matron who would keep an eye on things and maintain decorum and curfews and provide support.

Well, that was the theory.

Imagine then rooms full of young ladies, most subject to the hormonal excesses of youth, many away from home for the first time. I think the warden had her work cut out..

As time went on, nursing became less religiously influenced and things gradually got a little...looser. As the curfews started to disappear, the hushed stories of climbing in and out of the ground floor window belonging to the 'gate nurse' started to fade.

Enter the Eighties and although things were much more relaxed, there was still Much Fun To Be Had. Especially when males began taking up the profession and also started 'living in'.

Our Nurses' Home was called Drayton Old Lodge a 1914 manor house with an ancient 15th Century monument looming in the grounds. And it was awesome. There was the original part, looking all grand and austere (containing the best rooms) and a more modern wing with dozens of smaller bedsit rooms. To get a better room, you had to wait for someone to move out and then work your way up. The grandest rooms were inhabited by three Philippino nurses who had come over in the 70s and definitely weren't budging! I didn't blame them..

Working in the psychiatric hospitals had its quirks and stresses so as we worked hard, we also played verily. Room 'visits' were de rigueur and corridor parties cheered us as much as they infuriated hospital administration (something about extra vacuuming, empty bottles and candle wax in the carpet). If you wanted to socialise there was always someone around or you could just stay in your room and blast out some music.

Of the numerous jolly japes which routinely occurred, some honourable mentions come to mind. One hot Summer's day spurned a spontaneous water pistol fight, starting inside, moving outside. Weaponry gradually escalated (as things tend to do with a bit of alcohol on board) from hand-squirters (!) to Fairy Liquid bottles to my own customised M16 water gun, modified to carry two extra tanks of detergent bottles. Thought I'd won that one until the firehose came out..

One year we organised a mediaeval fayre for Lodge residents and serfs. Ancient attire was the go. The games were a variation on a theme. The opening blindfolded three-legged egg-and-spoon race went down well, as did the contestants. A sideshow of stocks and wet sponges provided ongoing punishments for various misdemeanours (real or invented).

I made up a couple of papier-mache horses' heads. Two helmets (made from buckets and foam) were fashioned, with suction cups from a couple of sink-plungers screwed to the tops. Two 'knights' piggy-backed and guided the horse people (who couldn't see out) and had to try to knock a ball from the suction cup on top of the opposing warrior's helmet, using makeshit 'morning stars' (the sink plunger handles with rope and a ball on the end). I don't know what hurt more, our aching sides or the heads of the competitors - probably should've used a bit more foam inside them buckets.

The final contest involved two teams seated opposite along a lengthy table. Blindfolded, they had to feed the person opposite a bright green porridge using very long spoons. The light was fading (no electricity in the Middle Ages) so my mate Ady brought out his XJ750 which offered an eerie headlight glow to the proceedings. I can still see in my mind's eye the utter mayhem as globs of luminous porridge flew in and out of focus across the gloom in the ensuing food fight. I could barely catch my breath for laughing.

More to come..

 

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