It was 1984, a significant time for classic sci-fi fans. However instead of George Orwell and a doublethink culture, we had Boy George and Culture Club. No-one saw that one coming. Doubleplusgood indeed..

On his 21st birthday Andy had made the switch from being a cheeky, spotty young suit working in a bank in England, to a new career of helping people with severe mental health problems. As he entered the Broadland School of Nursing that Winter he reflected that it might not be all that different. The pressures in the world of Banking could be brutal.

The second clinical placement was Psychogeriatrics (as it was known then) - not a place for the faint-hearted or the nasally sensitive. Andy was currently enjoying one of the traditional welcoming rituals of the ward, from outside the ward. Actually, from one of the first floor windows of the ward. To be more exact, from the inside of a soaking wet laundry bag which was suspended from the ledge of said window.

"We'll haul you up in ten minutes.." the deep Wurzelly (as in Gummidge) voice of the burly Charge Nurse boomed out of the window, "That's if you don't manage to escape all on your own. Or fall.." he added with a snigger. Big Ian was the the nurse-in-charge and Andy had been no match at the hands of Ian and his equally wrestler-esque Nursing Assistant, Spike.

The laundry bag creaked a bit at the seams as the rope tying it to a radiator inside gave a little; but it held strong. Andy shivered from the bath (fully clothed of course) he had received prior to being stuffed into the bag, carried up the stairs and rolled out the window ledge. Apparently the exercise was a test. Of character. A 'survive or die' kind of thing. If you passed, you were in (and presumably cured of any latent claustrophobic, hydrophobic and acrophobic tendencies in the process). Efficient and cost-effective. In the business its called flooding or 'Implosion Therapy'.

Andy reflected on his time on the ward as his laundry bag gently swayed in the breeze. By its very nature the work was very, well manual as only a fully-occupied twenty five bed psychogeriatric ward with an incontinence rate of 85% can be. Lots of mouths to feed, arses to polish and piss to squeegee.

Naturally a clean set of overalls was essential and Andy had already suffered the ignominy of arrriving at work and donning his white nurse's coat, only to find the arm sleeves sewn up or the pockets full of wet talcum powder or the buttons all cut off. And being tied to a wheelchair for a speedy blindfolded two-wheeled 'ride of death' through the wards had been a thrill too.

The bag lurched, pulling Andy from his reverie. He thought he heard the sounds of muffled sniggers above and then the rope gave way and the laundry bag plummeted..

..about twelve inches and landed on the grass.

Andy fought against the severed bag ties and jumped out. As the bag fell from around him he stood and found himself face-to-face with the window and the grins of Big Ian and Spike beaming back at him. The "let's get you up the stairs" bit had been a bluff and he was still on the ground floor.

The lesson-for-the-day: This is what it's like to shit your pants. Remember how it feels, when you're wiping someone's arse. A brutal if memorable lesson in humility and empathy..


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