Thursday, July 13, 2006

Fangs For The Memory.

When I was a girl, and no that was not in the days of gas lamps and horses and carts thank you, I enrolled on a pre-nursing course. This involved part of my time at college and part working in a hospital. The idea was to give us some experience of nursing and to allow us to complete some of the academic work required before we reached eighteen at which age we could apply to train as nurses.

I was placed at a hospital in the next city to ours on the male medical ward. It was, as many still were in those days, a very large sprawling old Victorian hospital with gothic arches and turrets. The wards were still then very much as they had been in Victorian times, large, long rooms with very high windows and ceilings and wooden floors. Each ward had about twenty beds running down either side. At the entrance to each ward there was a sluice room to one side and a kitchen to the other, then there would be the store room and opposite Sister's office. The nurses had a work table in the centre of the ward. This was in the days when Sister ruled the ward and Matron ruled the hospital.

As the 'baby' on the ward I was assigned the tasks that were befitting my station in life. Flower arranging, taking temperatures, help with feeding, bedpans and bottles and last but by now means least the dreaded ritual of the nightly cleaning of the false teeth. Oh how I relished that task. In the evening just before I was due to finish and it was lights out, I would go around the ward with my little trolley and collect the pots from the bedside cabinets with the false teeth in them. Then it was off to the sluice room to give them all a lovely brush and polish so that everyone would have nice shiny gnashers ready for doctors rounds the following morning.

Well that is how it was supposed to happen. It was nearing Christmas and I had arranged to meet my new beau, his Lordship, we were both seventeen and of course we were both the only thing on each others minds back then. So as the clocked ticked ever closer to 7pm and the end of my day, my mind began to wander. I was in a hurry and so I dashed from bed to bed collecting the little pots of goodies and stacking them onto the trolley. We had a lot of toothless chaps on the ward back then and there were a lot of pots. My mission complete I raced back up the ward, trying to hurry but without directly running, Sister would have had my guts for garters if she had caught me running on her ward.

It was now 6.30 and as I stared at the mound of pots , the realisation dawned on me that I was going to be late. How was I going to get them all brushed and polished and back in time to leave at 7.00. Then I had an idea! Back in those days we didn't have disposable bedpans, they were metal, we did however have a whizzy bedpan washing machine. It consisted of a sink with nozzles all around that sent high power jets of boiling water into the pan. Hurray, my salvation. And so without further ado I set about emptying the contents of the twenty nine little pots I had acquired into the bedpan washer. With a satisfied smile I put down the lid and turned it on. A few minutes later I lifted the lid to find lovely gleaming teeth. A quick polish with a cloth and they were all safely popped back into their pots. Happily I skipped back down the ward delivering them back to their owners bedside. Now I think I should at this stage point out that I was a mere child, who in those carefree days of youth knew very little about false teeth, they all looked very much the same to me.

His Lordship and I had a lovely evening together and with a warm glow that only young love can give I meandered into college the following morning. I was greeted with a note on my locker telling me that I should report at once to the Senior Nursing Tutor. So as the dutiful student that I was I made my way to her office. I knocked and was summoned to enter. At once I could see that she was flustered, the red face and hand wringing might have given the game away. She told me that she had received a telephone call from Sister, it appeared that none of the patients ate their breakfast, they were all experiencing problems with their teeth. I was flabbergasted, I assured her that I had cleaned them properly, in fact I was so impressed with my ingenuity that I explained the new and time efficient way I had discovered to clean the patients teeth.

Suffice to say that neither she nor Sister were as impressed with my problem solving abilities. Apparently it took several days of swapping and testing to match the right teeth to the right owners. One old boy had a permanent grin for three days until another patient's wife realised that he was wearing her husbands teeth. I left the course shortly after that and decided that both nursing and I would be better suited on different paths. It was the right decision, I would never have experienced the wonderful variety of work that I have if I had taken the time to brush false teeth instead of using a little lateral thinking.

16 at confession:

The Poodle's Friend said...

EEP! False teeth!
I was walking past a bakery today and noticed they were selling marzipan sweets shaped like false teeth, selling for 6 Euros each. Now that's what I call imagination.

Beki said...

I'm with Ann Widdecombe on this one - Bring Back Matrons!

I want Hattie Jacques lookalikes pounding up the wards, able to spot a speck of dust at a 100 paces. Scaring doctors and patients back into health!

I love a good false teeth story. When my Mum ran a dental practice a gentleman came in and handed over his elderly mothers falsies, she having died the day before. He thought someone else may be able to make use of them!

St Jude said...

TPF: it's good to have you back

Beki: Urgh, you see I'm not alone.

Charlie said...

So. You are in the dentistry field, then? It would explain your rather odd clientele and the need for a swipe card for security reasons.

WBS said...

OK - prepare to groan:

Eee by gum, denture be so hard on yourself, with your wisdom the tooth is you'd make a fine nurse.

Sorry, couldn't resist, welcome back!

joss said...

Fangs a lot for your memories St Jude. I enjoy such enamelled stories of times gone by.

EmmaK said...

Very funny story St. Jude. It is true, nursing probable would not have offered you much in the way of creativity.

Christina_the_wench said...

OMG, hilarious! Excellent writing.

Zanna_x said...

Like your blog, it's really funny.

Nikki said...

Wonderful story St. Jude!

Here's grinning at you!

St Jude said...

Charlie: Dentistry... I wish with the money they earn.

WBS & Joss: You're right, groan.

Emma, Christina & Zanna: thank you, it's lovely to meet you.

Kate said...

hee hee, this is so funny. I have this mental image of all these poor old chaps sitting up in bed grinning :-)

St Jude said...

Nikki: grinning right back at you ;0)

Kate: at least they were brilliant white and stunningly clean.

Chris Pittock said...

What a fantastic story, it certainly cheered me up this evening.

When I was 19 I tried to impress my girl friend by cooking for her. All was going well until I couldn't get the cooked pie out of it's foil tray.

The solution, so I thought, was to turn the pie upside down on my hand to make it easier to remove.

Unfortuantly, I'd forgotten that it was full of very hot gravy!!!

The burns soon healed and the afore mention girl friend have been married for 12 years in September.

However, she still can't cook so I do it all.



St Jude said...

Chris: ouch, but at least it turned out right. Welcome it's nice to hear from you.

doris said...

What an hilarious story. Of course I wouldn't like it if I had false teeth being washed in the bed pan washer or having others try them on to see if they were theirs and hope that the Sister and Matron could eventually see the humour!

In the 80s I worked in a hospital where one of the old style Sisters was being edged out and was retiring. I had immense respect for her and indeed, ended up being the one who voluntarily organised her retirement party even though I was fairly new. Sadly, the new breed of super nurses with XX qualifications didn't have the compassion to at least give someone from the old school a good send off.

You have some great stories on your blog... this is my first visit :-)

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