Charnwood Forest Children's Convalescent Home, Summer 1950 - a Memory of Woodhouse Eaves.
It was July/August of 1950 when I was sent here from my home town of Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent at the age of eight, to convalesce after a serious post-operative infection.
My first impressions were of a grim-looking, foreboding building, but those first, gloomy impressions were soon dispelled by the kindliness of the staff, and the camaraderie that grew between us - a group of boys and girls from toddlers to, I would guess, teenagers of 14 or so..
The matron at that time was an impressive woman in her dark blue uniform and crisp white cap; impressive not merely because of her appearance, but because of the way in which she tirelessly carried around on her shoulders a young boy of 12 or thereabouts, who, it was said, had lost the use of his legs through polio.
It was a long, sunny summer that we spent on the edge of the forest - with daily exercise in the shape of games organised by the nurses and walks in the forest attended by swarms of stinging and biting, uninvited companions. It was on one of these walks that I experienced my first wasp sting. Howls of pain and surprise from me, but soothing words and a hug and swift application of a damp blue bag to the neck from one of my favourite nurses soon stopped my sniffles. She was my first true love, but I was only eight then and sadly the intervening years have erased both her name and looks from my memory.
Memories crowd in as I think of that distant time: the piles of comics that I devoured whenever I could: the Dandy, Beano, Radio Fun, Film Fun, Sunny Stories and more: the "sun room" sessions under the huge ultra-violet lamps, with darkened goggles to protect our eyes. No mention then, or awareness even, of any possible risk of skin cancer: the dormitory balconies onto which the beds of the bed-ridden convalescents would be pushed on sunny days; the writing of the weekly letter home, with a stub of pencil and sheet of paper, trying to find an even patch on the rough-surfaced tables that stood beneath the bedroom balconies right next to the enormous prams that posed a hazard to little uns weaving in and out of them at top speed as we played "tick, you're it". I had my share of bumps from those behemoths that summer, and my share of telling-offs from disapproving nurses. I was once sent to bed in the dorm one sunny afternoon as punishment, but I soon found a stash of comics and settled down quite happily for the afternoon.
My second "punishment" came about one lunchtime. I'm sure that the food on offer was both nutritious and well-cooked, and served piping hot, but I had never had much of an appetite, and found a plateful of beef and veg. totally overwhelming. As usual I pushed my plate away after a couple of mouthfuls, but this time there was no escaping matron's beady eye - so I was made to sit there for an hour or so with my plate in front of me, on the promise of being allowed to leave if I ate just a couple of mouthfuls more. Eventually the attraction of playing outside with my new friends as opposed to sitting in front of a plate of slowly congealing gravy became too hard to resist, so I gave in, and learned to eat just enough in future to save face.
I still have a copy of our group photograph, taken on the lawn in front of the building - featuring me, centre front, with my beaming, toothless grin, wearing the ubiquitous uniform of charity-donated shorts and pullover, some much darned and mended, but always immaculately clean and fresh, and although I can no longer remember the names of all those boys and girls captured forever in that photo, their faces and the laughter and camaraderie of those four weeks in summer will be with me for ever.
A memory shared by on Aug 14th, 2015. Send Eric Brass a message
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