Thursday, February 16, 2017

Lisbon from the River Tagus

 An old brewery now a museum
Padrao dos Descobrimentos
commemorating the discoveries of Christopher Columbus

 Moody, misty mid morning.
Our beautiful ship - Balmoral.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Some Merry Widows on Board
Christmas night -  the good part of the evening when we choose our wines and decide what we are going to eat.  We had the same two waiters and I became Mam Pat so have lost my previous  title.  The boys were very efficient and always charming.  My dinner companions were five widows - all totally different but excellent company and it was fun to let one's hair down.  Breakfast and lunch were also very enjoyable with two bachelors, a married couple and anyone who cared to join us.  I found it was relaxing always to use the same restaurant.  You are given a restaurant where you eat each night - you choose either first or second dinner and keep to it throughout but then you have 3 or 4 other places to eat the rest of the day.  You can eat throughout the day -some people do -  but I find sticking to three meals a day and sticking to my normal diet - their porridge is yummy - helps weight control.

A disappointment was that both at Puerto del Rosario and La Gomera the pilot declared the swell was too great to dock.  So that meant two extra days at sea. There was some mal de mer and a few empty seats at dinner.  I was thankful for the legacy from my sailing days.

Safely in the Canaries we went ashore and found a church which was quite normal outside
 but inside was so dazzling  I became emotional and was about to have a' moment.'

 Then over the tannoy came
'Yeah, you better watch out, you better not cry
You better not pout, I'm telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town.'
And I collapsed in fits of laughter.
 A nice bit of Gothic
 and a nice chap whose name I didn't discover.
 A Garden where we were served sweet little cakes and juice - or was it wine?

 Back to my haven.
Tea, coffee and more hanging space and drawers than I can use. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Day out in Casablanca

Day out in Casablanca
Please click on photos for best results
The beauty and spaciousness of the Mosque reminded me of the Taj Mahal.
Our gorgeous guide - GG used the space to demonstrate her daily ablutions and assured us that in her country women were free to choose how they dressed.

She talked a little about Ramadan and  explained that it was a matter of timing when you could eat  and drink and intimated that as far as sex was concerned the hours when it was permitted were not wasted.
 GG took us through this lovely market.  At no time did we feel uncomfortable or in any danger.  She told us that they loved their King and Queen who were kind and caring  and helped the less fortunate people.  She took us to an old, tall building in the city- which housed La Toque Blanche.
 Slowly with the aid of a tiny open iron lift - the like of which I haven't seen since visiting my agent's office in Cambridge Circus in the fifties- we reached the 5th? floor where we learned how to make Moroccan Fekkas, Bahla and Gazelle Horns.  And then of course we had to eat them.
 The School was owned by a young woman,  the women were in charge and we were waited on by sweet young men.  Delicious!  The cakes I mean.
 Gloria - one of us - was encouraged to have a go.
Then we were shown how to make Beef Tajine, Chiken Tajine and Couscous Tfaya with vegetables and chiken.
 Then we were taken even higher to a dining room.

   The silver tureens were removed and we were served with plates of divine food.  I had asked for a small helping so felt justified in going back and asking for more.  That pleased them greatly.
We all got a certificate from Mme Laila Lahlou, directrice de l'ecole de gastronomie La Toque Blanche to say Mackay Patricia (or whoever)  a participe au atage d'initiation a la Cuisine et Patisserie Marocaine en date du 24/12/2016.
After a little shopping a local man burst on to the coach - upset that he had unwittingly overcharged one of the passengers convincing us all that Casablanca is a special place.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Seasonal wishes to all blog friends and may 2017 bring health , happiness and peace to all

See you next year. Pat

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

An Imperfect Life                            Chapter 18


Half sick of shadows


“Which Ball are you going to?” I was making beds with Staff Nurse Harvey.  At Christmas we had two Balls – one before and one after Christmas.

“I’m going to the first – my boyfriend Jamie is coming up from Oxford.  He’s trying to get a lift- otherwise he’ll have to hitchhike. 

“Nurse Barnes ‘as got a boy friend an’ she LUVS ‘im!’

“Sit down in your bed Tommie Sargent and stop that row – you’ll wake the babies.Oh that’s the last clean draw- sheet - I’ll go and get some more.”

The draw- sheets were very wide sheets which went under the child’s body.  They were wide so that the excess sheet was tucked in at either side of the bed and if the patient wet the bed during the night the draw sheet could be quickly adjusted without disturbing the patient too much. There was a waterproof mat under the sheet. In theory this shouldn’t happen as the children were regularly pottied and bed panned but children make their own rules.

“Won’t he be at home for Christmas,” asked Staff Nurse?

“Well actually he lives in London but it’s his Final year so he has to spend most of the time in Oxford – swotting - poor lad!”

Actually it had occurred to me that he rarely goes home at all these days.

“Nurse can we see ya when yer all dressed up.  PLEASE Nurse.”

“Stop shouting Maggie.  We’re not allowed on the wards when we’re in mufti.”

Staff Nurse came to my rescue.

“IF you settle down and IF you stop shouting I’ll have a word with Sister and see what she says.  No promises mind!”

I loved our dances.  Jamie said he was definitely coming and I looked forward to showing him off.  I was so proud of him and as usual we were all rallying round making sure we looked our best with pretty ball gowns, evening slippers and sparkly jewels.  Just as well there were two balls as some of the more desirable accessories were working overtime.

Off duty I had just washed my hair when I got the call.

“Barnes!  You’re wanted on the phone!”

 “Thanks.  Male or female?”


  It was Jamie.

“Pat it’s not looking good.  I want to come but I’m snowed under with work.  I’ll do my best but be prepared in case I can’t make it.”

My hair was dripping so I told him not to worry and said goodnight.

By now I almost hoped he wouldn’t come.  At least I would know where I was.

Then at the last moment he phoned and said he WAS coming but could only stay for one night and could I arrange for us to stay at the Millers?  I didn’t feel I could ask them at this late date so I ignored his request.

  As soon as he arrived – resplendent in his DJ - I knew it wasn’t going to be a happy evening.  There seemed to be a great wall between us and I felt sick in my stomach with an awful feeling of foreboding.

Over supper he said,

“I don’t think the visit in February is a good idea.” I stared at him blankly.

“I shall be so busy revising and catching up on practical work.  If you‘re there I wouldn’t get anything done.”

I was struggling  - trying not to look as miserable as I felt when he rocked me on my feet by saying he might go abroad as no-one would miss him.

 Those words reverberated in my head.  Did he really just say that? It felt like I had been kicked in the stomach and I was so choked with emotion I couldn’t speak for fear of screaming at him.  With hindsight I realise now that he was far needier than I had ever imagined.  Maybe he too had heard whispers – Maddie’s husband had caused trouble before - and maybe Jamie had had doubts and uncertainties.

 I remembered telling had him that one night - fed up with having none of my set around - I went to see a film ‘The Third Man’ with a junior houseman.  It was totally innocent – like going to the flicks with my brother.  Surely he trusted me?

  Ginny was on night duty and I’d promised to take Jamie round to see her.  Both of us were relieved to get out in the cold evening air.  We had to be discreet and met her on the ward balcony.  I was thankful it was dark because she said:

“Cheer up Jamie!  It won’t be long now before Pat comes down to Oxford and then you’ll have two whole weeks together.”

Neither of us said anything.

  When we got home to Rossendale everybody was in bed and I suddenly felt deathly tired.

I asked him if he would mind if I didn’t get up in the morning.  There didn’t seem any point in prolonging this misery – but his face crumpled and I moved towards him.

“Please come and see me off Pat”.

He put his arms around me and clasped me close.  I could feel his hands pressing my body closer and closer until I could hardly breathe.

“Yes, yes - alright Jamie I will.  Let me go please.  I’ll see you in the morning. “

  For once I was grateful for Gran’s snoring which drowned my stifled sobs.

  Mum was just leaving for work when I got up in the morning.  She took one look at my ravaged face.

“Eeh what’s the matter Pat?”

I shook my head – afraid to start speaking and she said:

“If ‘e’s ‘ urt ya yer Daddy‘ll kill ‘im!”

That’s when I realised that despite family and friends, ultimately we are all alone

This was my mess and I had to deal with it.

Normally we would go to Manchester on the Ribble bus but for some reason we got the train at Waterfoot.  The carriages reeked of stale tobacco and the bleak landscape – cotton mills and gas works shrouded in a freezing fog did nothing to lighten our spirits.  Neither of us attempted conversation.  Walking through Manchester as we neared the Bus Station Jamie spotted a fellow student in the queue.  He turned to me,

“Don’t bother to wait Pat – it’s so cold.”

“Alright.  Goodbye Jamie.”

  As I walked away from him – I’m sorry there is no other way I can describe this – I felt my heart break


I didn’t know what to do.  The thought of going home or back to hospital was unbearable so I phoned Mrs Miller and she invited me round.  During the day with the children I was fine but after we had put them to bed we were listening to some music – I think it was Mahler’s Fifth and the tears started to flow and I had to tell them what had happened.  Maria told me later that Hector had been very upset and I realised that I had to get a grip or I would drive everyone mad – including myself.

I decided to end this unbearable state of affairs and wrote to Jamie telling him I still cared for him but if it wasn’t the same for both of us it wasn’t going to work.  A certain amount of pride was involved.  I had a letter back reluctantly accepting this and experienced the length, breadth and depth of misery.

  The worst part was the awful guilt I felt.  Most of us have been dumped at some stage in our lives but there was this feeling that I had been given something rare and precious and through my selfishness and bad behaviour I’d ruined it.  Typically as my closest friends came off night duty I went on and – feeling isolated the moment came when I – alone on the ward- in charge of the poison cupboard key found myself unlocking the cupboard door and taking out a small brown bottle of phenobarbitone.  The tablets were quite tiny and the bottle was full.  I could swoosh then all down with a glass of water.  I hoped Mum and Dad would forgive me in time.  But Gran?  Never!

She would never understand how I could let some man get me into this state.  I felt some of her steel enter my soul.  A child cried out.  I put the bottle back, locked the cupboard and went to check on the child.

Around this time there was an outbreak of typhoid.  The food at a large firm’s Christmas Dinner had been infected.  The Fever Hospital was in desperate straits and I went to Matron and volunteered to go and work there until the crisis was over secretly hoping I would get sick and die and be rid of this misery for ever.  She was very sweet but would not allow me to go.

 Jamie had loved my hair long so I chopped it off.

  Then I heard some shocking news that gave me the kick up the backside I needed.

I was in town – shopping with Maddie when she suddenly said.

“See that blonde over there?”

I looked amongst the shoppers and saw an attractive woman with bleached hair.

“Yes.  What about her?”

“She looks like the woman Jamie’s been seeing.

When I had got over the shock I begged Maddie to tell me all she knew.  She was probably regretting having said anything but gradually she gave me snippets of information so that I could piece them together and get some understanding.

He had met her sometime in the summer before our Lakeland trip.  She was a sexy older woman, married to a barrister with a young child.  She fell hook, line and sinker for Jamie; she knew about me and was aware of when he came up to see me.  She was a strong woman, determined to have Jamie, and left her husband and child to pursue him

For his part Jamie – just 22, was very vulnerable as far as sex was concerned and aware that it would be at least a couple of years before we could be married.  He was in debt and I earned peanuts.  I don’t think he stood a cat in hell’s chance to resist such a temptation.  Friends who had met me remonstrated with him but whether Maddie and Paul did I have no idea.  They obviously had known - hence the odd hints they had dropped which had unnerved me.  At one time they had jokingly suggested I ask Jamie why he would never play the trumpet again.  He was living a double life, drinking too much through stress and got into a fight which resulted in a broken tooth.

  It puzzled me that they took it so lightly.  As far as Maddie was concerned I was just her kid sister - not to be taken seriously.  Jamie had sworn me to secrecy and no-one knew of his proposal and my acceptance.

  It took me a while to absorb all this information and slowly I began to get angry.

I was angry with this woman for deliberately setting out to seduce Jamie knowing he had a girlfriend; I was angry with Jamie for being weak and allowing me to think it was all my fault and I was angry with myself for being such a stupid, deluded virginal idiot.  The anger was cleansing and eradicated the self pity and despair.  I thought of the strength of Mum and Gran.  No man was going to ruin my life.  I had been happy before and I would be happy again.  I decide to remove all conscious thoughts of Jamie from my head and try never to take anyone or anything for granted again.

  Meanwhile I was going to get on with my life- finish my training and plan the future.


Thursday, November 10, 2016

Chapter 17 Doubts and fears.

Chapter 17

 Doubts and Fears

“Quick Ginny – there’s one coming.  We can get it if we run.”
“Stick your hand out Pat then he’ll know we want it.”

Breathless and giggling we clambered up the steps of the double-decker bus.

“Did you have to come up stairs,” grumbled Ginny “I’ve been on duty all night and it stinks of fags.”

“You can see more up here,” I reasoned.

“Stunning Salford scenery- not quite the Lakes is it,” she snorted.

In spite of the badinage it was a rare treat for us to be out together so we were off for a morning in Manchester.

“What’s on your list Ginny?”

“I want to get a top that’s glamorous, colourful and cheap.  Ooh and warm so I can wear it at the Ice Rink. How about you Pat?”

“Actually a coffee at Sisson’s will be my limit.  You know that pretty silver grey beanie I bought?  I got a lecture from Jamie about spending – we are supposed to be saving.”

 I wished I could tell her – and all the family - that we were secretly engaged but I had promised Jamie to keep it between ourselves.  Later in Sisson's when we were sharing a delicious slice of Fullers Iced Walnut Cake Ginny asked me if everything was alright and I assured her it was.  I had lost my heart to Jamie but somehow he had got inside my head and our relationship was off balance.  It was that damned seesaw of love again but this time I was way up in the clouds; losing control and totally dependent on his smile or nod of approval.  We had to make do with fleeting visits when Jamie would try to hitch hike – sometimes with Paul who was back in Oxford.  These had to coincide with my days off. It was a long way to come for such a short time.  Things didn’t always go to plan – sometimes I was kept on duty and Jamie would be left twiddling his thumbs in Rossendale.  My next holiday was some months off in February and we planned that I should join him in Oxford then.

“When does Jamie take his Finals,”   Ginny asked.

“Next year and then just one more year and I’ll be through.”

“It’s a shame you have to stay on longer because you’re 6 months younger than everybody else,” commiserated Ginny.

“My own fault for leaving school at sixteen.”

We called in at a posh hairdresser's as Ginny wanted to know how much it would cost to have her hair cut and styled.  The Salon was named ‘Louis and Barnard’ and reeked of mink and Wilmslow.

“Who would Modom like to style Modom’s hair?”

“Oh - Louis or Barnard,”  Ginny drawled.  I exploded with giggles and we had to beat a hasty retreat.  How I missed the fun we used to have.  I seemed to just live for the next letter or phone call.  The only link was Paul and I received odd snippets of news from him via Maddie which - rather than being reassuring were vaguely disquieting.  Maddie and I weren’t getting on too well.  I realise now that life wasn’t too easy for her at this time; I seemed to be having all the fun whilst she was stuck at home with the baby.  She coveted a Prince of Wales check suit I had and wanted to borrow it for a trip to Oxford.  In return she would lend me her black suit.  Clothes were still very precious in the forties.  I kept my side of the bargain but Maddie changed her mind when it came to the black suit.  I think possibly the aunts didn’t approve but I was horrified and flew off the handle.  Maddie cried and I ended up in the dog house.  Normally this would be part and parcel of sibling rivalry but I earned Jamie’s disapproval and was shattered.  I knew exactly how Jane Austen’s Emma felt when she earned Mr Knightley’s displeasure.  I did behave badly but I thought I had reason to.  I have since learned to always ‘try to rise above it.’

Jamie was still very loving but I began to feel I was walking on egg shells and my spirits would plummet if I saw his frown.

  The monthly dances started and as my room was close to the phone room I answered it one evening and it was Andrew.  As Entertainment’s Officer of the Naval Camp he was phoning to liaise with one of our Dance Organisers.  I longed to ask him how he was but a shutter came down in my brain.  He said he was coming to the next dance in his role of E.O. so I reassured him that I wouldn’t be there.

“How are you Pat?  Have you changed your mind?”

I had enough problems – I couldn’t risk complications so I told him I hadn’t changed my mind and promised not to be at the dance.

  Over a week elapsed before I heard from Jamie and he said he was coming up.  I started to get pre-visit nerves.  I was at home on my day off and when I got violent stomach pains Mum got the doctor.  I remembered him from school - his sister had been in the same form and his father had put sutures above my eye when I was bashed with a hockey stick.

“Oh what are you reading,” he asked examining my poetry book?  Then he examined me and NAD.  Nothing abnormal was discovered.  Just part and parcel of Jamie nerves.  I was excited about Jamie’s visit but scared of anything going wrong.  My spirits alternated between elation and desolation.  I longed to be on an even keel once more.  Sometimes I would say something that made him laugh and he would look at me with love and I would be happy again.  I told him about Andrew- I told him everything – there had to be complete trust.  Maddie went down to Oxford to join Paul for her birthday and when she came back I asked her about Jamie looking to her for reassurance and there was none forthcoming- just vague worrying hints.

“He’s waiting for you to grow up,” she said dismissively.

Jamie’s birthday was coming up.  We had a colour that was special to us - a soft coral tan that was the shade of lipstick I used - Tangee.   Jamie had bought me a beautiful mohair scarf in the same hue and I found some wool in the same colour and as a real labour of love (I was a rubbish knitter) I decided to knit him some socks.  On four needles.  Maddie was an ace knitter- her needles would fly through the air whilst the garment grew at an alarming rate.  It was torture and everybody ribbed me but eventually the socks were finished with just one small hole where there shouldn’t have been.  Once I had darned it you would never have known.

  I took Jamie to meet the Millers whilst we were in Manchester and they were – as usual – very warm and welcoming.  That night Jamie wanted us to stay in Manchester but we couldn’t afford it and it seemed silly to stay in a sleazy B& B on a freezing cold night when we could have warm and cosy beds at home – to say nothing of Mum’s food.  Was I being selfish?  I could tell he wasn’t pleased and I sobbed silently in bed so as not to disturb Gran.

The next hospital dance I peeked through the windows and saw Andrew.  He looked a bit drunkish.  He didn’t come to another dance after that and it was the last time I ever saw him.

  One night Jamie phoned twice and didn’t get me.  When I got the message I phoned back and he wasn’t there.  I spoke to his landlord – who I had met – and he sounded strange.  Eventually I had a letter saying it would be better not to phone him as he had to be out a lot and he would phone me.  My state of mind was beginning to be affected.   Carelessly I put my hand in Oxalic which was very painful but did no lasting damage.  One of our long standing older patients was threshing about a lot whilst I was changing her and bashed my face with her fist.  She couldn’t help it of course but to my shame I burst into tears.  We all dreaded going to work in theatre for the first time and sure enough that was gong to be my next assignment.  The pressure was high and the two Sisters – excellent at their job - took no prisoners.  One was a sporty looking Amazon and the other was how I imagined an adult Violet Elizabeth Bott  of ‘Just William’ fame to look: slender, petite, curly hair, long lashed deep blue eyes and slightly protruding teeth.  She could totally demoralise you at six paces without ever raising her petulant little voice.  The first few days went well and then we had to autoclave rubber gloves to sterilise them.  The gloves were in the dangerous drugs cupboard and the keys were missing.  The engineer was called to break open the cupboard and there were the keys locked inside.  I had been the last person to have them.  I had been looking forward to seeing Matron because I had had an excellent report from Monsall Fever Hospital.  It was the custom for Matron to read reports aloud for one’s benefit.  Now I was going to see her for quite a different reason.  My health was suffering, my work was suffering – I couldn’t go one like this.  Something had to give.










Saturday, October 22, 2016


Today I've been clearing out the attic and came across this poem I wrote sometime in the nineties.
It was winter and we were staying in our cottage twixt Skipton and Keighley - a lovely little village with an old church, a pub , the canal and the river Aire.
When the moon shines silver on the river,
When the hills and trees are decked with snow,
When ice crystals crunch beneath our footsteps,
And our nostrils prickle, do we know,
How lucky we are? 
When the gales gust wild upon the moor-side,
The rain is relentless, and the Aire,
Bursts its banks and floods the fields and meadows,
Drenching sheep and cattle, do we care,
How lucky we are?
When his chair is empty at the table,
And nobody reaches for your hand,
And the only voice is from the wireless,
Maybe then we'll really understand,
How lucky we were.
Let us seize the day, count our blessings,
Forget dewlaps, aches and stiffening knees,
Make each day a day to remember,
Cherish, love and aim to please.