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Sunday, 13 March 2011

1958 January-March

The Diarist undergoes a hellish stretch treatment for sciatica. His successor at Henley "a twerp."

Wednesday, January 1st
   This is the first time I have really been exposed to television. It is a great evil! Our manners, speech and morals have been sapped by American films. Now the films have got inside the home, for 75% of the television material is American - hour after hour of crooners, variety and gangsters. Maud complained, but still she looked. There was a rather pathetic expectancy about her, as though something good or interesting might be round the corner. It never was.
Thursday, Jan 2nd
   Went into Exeter for the second time and called on Wilfrid. He was sitting up and seemed better, but much too fat I thought. He said his brother Bernhard in De le Rue's had made a million last year in Formica. But they sometimes slipped up. During the war a Czech refugee tried to interest them in a pen. The experts said it would never go and there was nothing in it. His name was Biro!

Sunday, Jan 12th
   Came down to Droitwich. This tile in rooms at The Mount. A Victorian house full of draughts.

Sunday, Jan 19th
   A bad week! Aunt died last Wednesday after months of misery. The lawyer forwarded the will. It was pretty stupid. Aunt had divided her one third of the estate, given the South African one half and divided the other half between Molly and me. For some reason the lawyer had told me the house had been left to Molly and me, so I was very disappointed. Molly gets father's one third anyway; I get half of half of one third!
   Then my leg! By Monday evening I could hardly get upstairs. I rang Dr Dawson and told him what had happened, but he told me to go on till Wednesday. Had a bath on Friday and by Saturday was in a state bordering on 1942. For the last 48 hours have been living on aspirin every hour or so. A cheerful outlook indeed.

Thursday, Jan 23rd - Mary on day visit
   At lunch time the taxi I had ordered drove Mary to the door. Oh, I did want to see her so badly. We had lunch together and then I lay on the settee and she sat beside me in the armchair so we could touch one another. We were both tremendously happy and had so much to talk about that it was soon tea time and an hour later it was time to say goodbye. It was so satisfying and worthwhile, her physical presence, her womanhood, her voice, her warmth irradiated the room and made everything different.

Friday, Jan 24th
   Molly arrived from Longhope to discuss Aunt's affairs. She describe the journey to Luton Parish Church*, the arrival of the Rolls Royce with Aunt and three men from Watford, the massive stone vault in the now disused churchyard, the procession across the road and the placing of Aunt as she wished with her parents and her twin brother, who did not survive. The last time the vault was opened was in 1914. Aunt neither went with her mother to see the Harley St doctor when her cancer was diagnosed nor to the funeral. She always avoided anything unpleasant. Mother had to do both poor dear. She told me how ghastly it was driving from Watford to Chatam behind the hearse.
Sunday, Feb 2nd
   A dreadful night! Leg got worse. Doctor came round about 10.30. He was very kind as by this time I was liable to cry at any moment. He told me to take the aspirin every two hours and gave me some new yellow pills to take very four hours.
   Mary C told me Lipscombe did not bother to come to the choir competition, from which he excluded the Fifth Form, because, forsooth, he had to see an accountant about a pass book. He is an outsize twerp, that man. Marjorie W says he never looks at you when is talking to you. He has sacked Mrs Loader, who first knew this when she read it in the Henley Standard! Though not very bright, she was a good sort, so I wrote and said that I would act as a referee if she wanted one. Mary C is applying for three jobs and wants testimonials, and also Wilk. The best testimonials are those you write yourself, so I drafted two and sent them to them for corrections and additions.

Monday, Feb 3rd
   Another frightful night. By time dawn broke I was completely exhausted and defeated. Doctor thought I should go to an orthopaedic surgeon, but in the meantime he was going to stick needles in my buttock this afternoon.

I take up my pen to complete my Diary two months later.

Tuesday, Feb 4th
   Sat for over an hour in the Birmingham bus to New Street. By the time I got there I was completely crippled, but with aid of a stick shuffled slowly the 150 yards to the taxi rank and drove to the surgeon's. Dr Dawson suggested I should go in to the general ward of the Woodlands Orthopaedic Hospital.

Wednesday, Feb 5th
   First the almoner - my religion? None! Next of kin? Mary. Phone number? Cyril. Lady? Fiancée. So Mary was let into the ward with me. "We've said goodbye in queer places, but never before in a hospital ward," I said.
   Put into bed like a board and a small hard pillow put under my back. From then till 11 that night had ample time to contemplate the company. On my right was a low spiv-like type called Tony, whose main occupation seemed baiting a jowly, elderly navvy-like man opposite. The discussion of football and betting went on endlessly. I thought how advanced education and membership of the middle class separates one from the majority of the population!
   A noisy night followed. I was given something, but slept little and woke about 5 a. m. when activity started in earnest. Later when the sister came round, I discovered there was a private ward and asked to be moved there. I had had enough of the noise, farting, belching and straining. Privacy was cheap at £18 a week I thought.
   Most of the beds were wheeled out to the physiotherapy department and last of all I went to a small room where my legs were bound mummy-like from hip to thigh with elastoplast. Then about 12 o'clock, with my arms round a nurse's shoulder, I hobbled down to my bed in room no. 5, a mirror was fastened over my head and I was given dinner. Later weights were attached to my ankles and the foot of the bed raised so I slipped against the drag of the weights. This was my position for three weeks. "Do not upon the rack after this harsh world stretch him out longer."

Friday, Feb 7th
   My first night "on traction" was a horror. I was given two shots of morphia, the last of which knocked me out completely till near lunch time. I had placed Mary's photo on the ledge over the radiator by my bed. I was so miserable with the pain and the morphia that when one of the nurses asked me if it was my wife I burst into tears. She was an angel in disguise and told me about her husband and how for years he thought he was going to die till I felt much better. Little Irish Nurse Brinsley then explained the treatment and what I was supposed to do. Two real understanding women - "the little unrewarded acts of kindness and love," as Wordsworth would have said. Nurse Harris, plain though you were, you had a heart of gold and I shall not easily forget you!

Sunday, Feb 23rd
   Sister Reilly did not appear for the first three or four days and was away for one whole week. She was an Irish Roman Catholic of poor education  with much powder and paint and a soft but nagging voice. She made up for what must have been a sense of inferiority by a pompous manner and an evasive eye. Like Molotov, she believed in saying no on principle, even to the simplest requests, and denying responsibility. Not an intolerant person naturally, I grew to detest her.

Feb 28th - April 1st
   I had been in traction for three weeks, so I was taken up in bed to be plastered. You were suspended from your shoulders at one end a steel bracket between your fork at the other. The plasterers worked as a team with extreme speed, and it was worth coming up to see the plastering sister, who in her operation coif concealing her hair looked most beautiful. For two days you dried out in a cage with lights and hot bottles. This was most unpleasant. I passed the morning of March 1st lying flat on my face sweating like a bullock and feeling sick. After a few days the pressure of the bracket and the hardness of the plaster produced a sore on my tail which was painful and difficult to get rid of. Sister Reilly lost face because the night nurse noted it on the report and vented her annoyance on me. The patient was always wrong!
On March 8th I was got out of bed. A large chair was produced and I was left sitting on it for for two and a half hours because Sister Reilly had everyone spring cleaning. When I was finally got up I was in agony and received a definite set back. Wrong again; I was told, though swathed in blankets and on a slippery floor, I should have got up and walked around the room!
   After three weeks of this I could stand in the plaster room for a second closer-fitting one to be put on. I feared more sores from pressure but though uncomfortable none arrived. After I got my legs a bit I could get over to the w.c. and let myself down cautiously by handles in the wall and gradually my inside started to work again regularly, but it was extremely difficult in my plaster to wipe. This was one of the many minor frustrations with which one was beset, among them feeding, washing, writing letters.
   Nurse Willis order an ambulance for Tuesday, April 1st. It was supposed to arrive at 10 but with typical hospital perversity it arrived at 1:15. Reached Droitwich between 2 and 3 o'clock. While in Woodlands I saw Mr Allan, the surgeon, about twice a week. Sometimes he came in before operating in his theatre gown. He had himself been in the next room with the low back pain on traction about a year ago, so he knew what it was like. He stayed and chatted to me several times because he knew I had few visitors. I told him I felt deeply grateful to him for freeing me from the awful pain in January.

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