Sunday, 26 November 2017

Susan And Harry

The Prof is a noise maker. He walks heavily, talks loudly and verbalises his thoughts constantly.
I, on the other hand am used to quiet.
I even hate radio music, especially in the morning.
This morning, after playing in the kitchen, I sat down in the armchair with an old silver plated water jug which I had " found" in the back of one of the old kitchen cabinets.


I must had had it over thirty years and had long forgotten where it had come from, but I thought I would give it a buff up as I sat in the quiet.
" What are you doing?" The Prof bellowed from his office, obviously worried that the silence from downstairs meant that I was up to no good
" I am polishing a silver jug" I called back
" More TAT !" The Prof replied
After half a hour the jug didn't look too bad and seemingly making a silk purse out of a sow's ear impressed the Prof quite a lot as he conceded a brief " oh that's nice "as he sashayed past.


Polishing the jug reminded me of Susan And Harry. In the early 1980s they were inpatients at the old West Cheshire Hospital in Chester and had been incarcerated there for most of their lives. Both were in their mid sixties. Both were what we used to term as burnt out schizophrenics and both were as devoted to each other as a platonic, mentally fragile Darby & Joan

The West Cheshire Psychiatric Hospital

As student nurses, we used to see the couple hand in hand, ambling around the hospital grounds in their hospital issue drab clothes that seemed decades too old for them, and both would offer us well thumbed bags of sweets that smelled of loose tobacco, bought from the hospital shop in the main building.
They were a welcome sight in an otherwise austere world.
Now one day we were told that Susan and Harry were to be married and as our group had placements on long stay a few of us were asked to attend the service in the hospital chapel
The nursing staff from Susan's and Harry's respective wards had done this drab little couple proud and both had been given a make over for their big day. A second hand wedding dress had been altered professionally for susan and her usual tight hospital perm was softened by the usually sullen hairdresser who had been given strict instructions by the ward sister not to give her a half arsed job.
Domestic staff had clubbed together to buy the bouquets and corsages and the Occupational therapy department had decorated the usually glum little chapel with flowers and garlands as well as sprucing up the ward dining room which had been converted into a function room complete with a running buffet provided by the hospital cooks.
Of course try as they might, the nursing staff couldn't quite remove the yellow nicotine stains on Harry's fingers or desguise the fact that susan had no teeth on her upper palate but the event proved to
 be a rather magical moment in my nursing career and one that made me grow a little older after I had witnessed it.
The Welsh terriers sleeping as I type this post 



66 comments:

  1. Another touching story (Susan and Harry). Beautiful forgotten teapot. I'm not necessarily quiet but bellowing from room to room makes me uncomfortable -- and is how Jerry lives. "MITCHELL, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" "i'm on the pot..."

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  2. This brought back memories for me of training in an old Victorian mental hospital , my mother was horrified when I told her where I was going to train .
    We never had a wedding but I did spend hours in the workshops with the patients putting little light bulbs into car parts for which they were paid I think a pound a week . Some of the staff were battier than the patients .

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    1. Ruth Ellershaw7:34 pm

      I work in mental health and often wonder which side of the counter some staff belong on!!! I get more logic and sense from the service users, most of the time x

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  3. The most astute and clever person in the mental hospital I worked in for a year as a management trainee in 1982 was the gardener. He had patients out working with him, the gardens were immaculate,the patients loved it, and then NUPE stopped it because they said it was a violation of their human rights and they sat in the day room smoking after that in a fug of smoke and the gardener never had any help anymore. I never saw a wedding but many patients had been there long term for little or no reason since the 1930s.

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    1. Yes the gardens and farm had just wound down when I started my training

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    2. The hospital I trained at originally had a brew house and a bakery all closed by the time I started . So much better for patients to wander around aimlessly or sit in the smoke lounge . When I was pregnant I worked on a long stay word and I was sure her first words were going to be can I have a fag nurse .

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  4. The position of that jug on the blue fishes makes it look as though it is on a jet-ski.

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  5. what you did with that tea pot is magic!

    it's lovely the way people will pull out all the stops to make a wedding day special, no matter the circumstances of the couple.

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  6. Anonymous12:24 pm

    What Lovely story! My Grandmother was in the state mental hospital where my father took her just before he left for good. She had Huntington’s and there was no room in the local nursing homes. I went to visit her with my Mother. It was not a nice place to be. It left a huge impression on my 16yr. old self.
    Debbie

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    1. Huntington's chorea ...I remember those patients very well

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    2. We had a locked ward for Huntington's patients. Great medical progress, they can be treated at home with medication.

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    3. We have recently found out My DIL will develop Huntington's. It must be terrifying to live with that prospect

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  7. Will you use your shiny jug now John? Nice story about the devoted couple and how everyone pulled together to make the day as good as possible. :)

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    1. No, I think I shall put it on the top shelf and just look at it

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  8. There is beauty and shine in all of us.

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  9. Now that is a wedding story. The jug came out really week too.

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  10. great story. I tend to prefer the quiet myself though my husband says I stomp around. I don't stomp but I do have a solid step.

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  11. I love the quiet of the morning. No radio for me, no banging of dishes, the loudest sound is the kettle whistling and that is put to a stop quickly as well. The jug is fabulous. Nobody wants silver anymore. Second-hand places are filled with it. It was always the standard gift for a 25th wedding anniversary. -Jenn

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    1. It's going on the top shelf of my three open shelves on the opposite side of the kitchen

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  12. Lovely story, lovely water jug (the polished version is smiling).

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    1. Yes...very Beauty and the beast!

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  13. Lovely !

    cheers, parsnip and manadbles

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  14. So lovely that Susan and Harry were given a 'golden moment' in their otherwise drab lives. A 'growing' moment for all involved I should imagine.
    Quiet is a lovely thing isn't it John? Tell the Prof to zip it.

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  15. Silver polishing can be so satisfying. It always reminds me of my mother, and that's a good thing. Your jug turned out beautifully.
    Love the love story. How nice to be able to participate in something so positive in such a sad setting.
    You've got so many great stories to tell, John!

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    1. Mindless work settles a person

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    2. I used to have my patients in LTC polish silver, usually before Christmas, the staff could bring items from home. As you say peaceful, and an opportunity for quiet sometimes meaningful conversations. I expect if admin had known they would have stopped it. They got rid of the cat which was pretty heartless.

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    3. I was a Candy Striper in a rehab hospital when in high school .. my parents worried that it would upset me .. I came home every day full of stories about the amazing men and women who were overcoming the most awful injuries and life long changes in their bodies .. a man who trained horses, neck broken when thrown and landed the wrong way ... lying there making the other paralyzed men laugh .. those were days that made such a differnce in my life.. or seeing life ..

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  16. My uncle spent the middle fifty years of his life in a "mental institution." He was an amazing, self-educated, simple man. The staff didn't seem to do that much for the population, but "the boys" took care of and watched out for each other.

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  17. Nice jug. I see it's also helpful when it comes to taking selfies.

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  18. Lovely story. You will have to keep polishing the jug!

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  19. Awe what a nice story John, I’m like you, I love music , but relish the quiet in the mornings, won’t have the radio or TV on. I was always very interested in Psychriatric nursing, but having seen one poor soul receive ECT without her consent and peeing all over the trolley it put me off as a mere 18 yr old “ general “ student nurse. Wish I had done it later, but then went on to focus on children and family community health. Must admit the psychy staff were as mad as the patients ! But what did I know as a mere girl at the time.

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    1. I never saw a patient forced into ECT and although I was always against it , I saw it work

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  20. Everyone deserves whatever happiness they can find. That's a lovely story about Susan and Harry. And what a stellar job you did on polishing that silver! I hate polishing silver. That's why I don't own a single piece. Too much work.

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  21. The combination of tarnished jug and kitchen refurbishment reminded me of a story (not sure how true).

    A family lived in an old cottage and were installing a new kitchen. Dad knocked loose a piece of plaster and discovered a hollow space inside the wall. Sticking in his hand he pulled out a blackened goblet. Upon polishing it up it turned out to be silver! It was an old cottage, maybe this was an old stash hidden years ago.

    He enlarged the hole and pulled out several more tarnished objects. At that point there was a loud yell of "what the bloody hell are you up to?" coming out of the hole and peering in he saw his neighbour peering out. He'd knocked a hole through the adjoining wall and into the back of one of the neighbour's kitchen cupboards....

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    1. That made me LOL ... so funny !

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  23. You did an impressive job on that pot. It's funny how getting started at re-organizing or cleaning seems to spur a person on to doing all the jobs put off for years. At least that's what happens when I finally get started.

    Ah, sweet dogs. Is that Mary sprawled in front?

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  24. There was a lot of unnecessary incarceration in those days. Thanks for sharing Harry and Susan's story. A sunlit clearing in the dark forest.

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  25. Lovely story, thank you for telling that about Harry and Susan. Beautiful jug: easy way to clean silver - line a bowl with kitchen foil, shiny side up, put in hot water and 2 tbs of bicarbonate of soda per litre of water, leave for about 5 minutes and rotate object until all sides done, rinse and dry. Works a treat.

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  26. A lovely story.
    I like countrygal's hint, and may try it later. (on my very, very small silver stash).
    Learning all the time. Forgive me John but I had thought that you were the loud one of the couple.

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  27. Anonymous8:33 pm

    I also worked in a psychiatric hospital for 20 years in the 70s and 80s.

    An in-patient called Dorothy was only there because she was the illigitimate baby for which her mother had been admitted by her parents. Dorothy would have been in her late fifties, early sixties when I first started working at the hospital. There wasn't, or didn't seem to be anything 'wrong' with her and I found it all so sad. She would never be discharged because she had become institutionalised.

    Joan (Devon)

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    1. They were known as moral defectives

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  28. The way you italicized "incarcerated" jumped out at me. I get the sense you feel it didn't have to be that way.

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    1. Of course it didn't but that was then and things were done differently

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  29. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  30. Curly Club9:45 pm
    What a perfect blog post. The glimpse of happy, lively companionship of married life in your house and the nuthouse.The restoration of a beautiful object and a gentle bride. The sweet ending of a curly cosy terrier pair.

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    1. Some.would.say.its boring

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  31. Was that the silver pot you were soaking in your new sink in the plastic tub? Is soaking hard on the wood handle and finial? What kind of wood is that? Do you then oil it?

    lizzy

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    1. Yes it was . The handle is bakerlite and

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  32. Well, I'll say it for the Prof: beautiful job on that silver pot.

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  33. Yes, nice looking tea pot! Good job!
    Loved the Susan and HArry story.

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  34. After seeing what you did to the jug and knowing that you heal the sick I would like to ask if you can raise the dead, also? Wow!

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  35. Husband is way too noisy in the morning, crashing cupboard doors, radio on too loudly but I get a cup of tea in bed so can't complain. I make his coffee at the weekend and he gets to sleep in and I am nice and quiet in the kitchen with the cats and dog.

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  36. I like peace and quiet in the mornings too, if anyone bellowed at me they would most likely not survive to see many more mornings.

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  37. Wow, that pitcher really polished up nicely! I like quiet in the mornings, too. Fortunately Dave is not a morning-talker. I love the story about the wedding of the couple in the psych hospital. So nice that their lives were moving forward despite their residency there. The dogs look so cozy!

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  38. I love the story of the wedding. It reminds me of my friend, who was in a mental institution as a teen. The staff decided these kids needed a prom and got dresses and suits and a disco ball for the dance.

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