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01 Aug 2021 -
Mabel Part 2


Mabel Part 2

We two boys were now so exhausted by events of that terrible day we both went to bed without any protest, although I certainly hadn’t had any food since dinner time. Our Ted led us upstairs, the only illumination given by the flickering candle Ted held. Mabel, we knew, still lay in the room at the top of the stairs, its door tightly closed, for in those days it was unheard of for the dead to be taken away immediately. Past that door we went, knowing that in there Mabel would be laid out and bathed, ready to be brought down in the morning for Mr Stanion to measure, probably being piggy backed as the stairs were too steep for a coffin.

My over active imagination was already working overtime, and I grasped Ronnie’s hand tightly as I tried to block out, without success, what lay in there. Our Mavis and her ghost stories again! My state of blind terror lay just below the surface and at just eight years of age I could not reason that Mabel, who would never ever hurt me in life, most certainly would not hurt me in death.

 
Death was the bury hole, and ghosts and haunted houses; death was now Mabel and so all of those things. I was in an impossible irrational situation that my disturbed childhood had put me into; a situation no child could be expected to cope with. I was without, and had been without for as long as I could remember, the one prop that every child needs and has a right to; a father. This was a fight I couldn’t win.



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30 Jul 2021 -
Mabel Part 1

Mabel Part 1
School had finished for the day. Although it was understood we had to go straight home to make poor Mabel a cup of tea, and I was usually the first one home, I’d been distracted and started playing with my friends. Suddenly remembering Mabel’s needs came before anything or anyone else, I raced in through the back door some ten minutes later than I should, but was still the first in. The drill was to make a mug of tea for Mabel using her mug and no other. I was ever mindful of the strict instructions drummed into us all, ‘Don’t drink out of Mabel’s mug; it’s the one with the red cotton wrapped around the handle!’ in the same vein we always knew which was Mabel’s knife, fork and spoon as they also had red cotton wrapped around the handles.
Mabel was very weak by now and Mam spent hours trying to get her to eat more, for in those days appetite was equated with getting better. Now at dinner time today, weak as she was, Mabel had asked,
‘Mam, that rabbit gravy is lovely; is there any left I can have?’
Of course, the gravy would have quickly been cleaned up but today, what Mabel didn’t know, was Mam hadn’t had her own meal yet, so the little extra gravy Mabel received came from Mam’s plate. As Mabel had been too weak and fragile to come downstairs for the last week or so, she missed Mam’s sleight of hand but Mam was thrilled to bits and went back to work to tell the girls all about Mabel’s returned appetite. Years later Mam told me,



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Onward Christian Soldiers
Our pal, Wag, was a Roman Catholic which meant very little to us except for his stories of how the teaching nuns in his school could swing a really vicious, stinging strap when some brash youngster (Wag) failed to toe the line. As I remember, the nuns had a house on the Mere Road close to Dale Street.
Wag served as an altar boy. Religion was never discussed but if all Catholic mums and dads were as kind and caring as his lovely Mam & Dad, then I was all for the Catholic faith! (Although when the mood was on her, Wag’s Mam had a tongue like a wasp sting!)
Periodically, the local Sacred Heart Catholic Church held a procession which was well worth seeing, in fact people came from near and far to witness it. It was one of the highlights of the social, as well as church calendar and the streets would be thronged along the processional route.



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Part II Groby Road Sanatorium

Sister and Nurse Gilbert were on duty that Saturday afternoon in 1935 and another nurse, Nurse Carr, who stabbed me in the wrist drawing off what seemed to be gallons of black looking blood. After this I was handed over to Nurse Gilbert whilst Mam and Sister went off into another room to effect the handing over of yours truly into Sister’s care. It was at this point Mam paid off the first instalment of my keep. I knew belts would be tightened in the Hastings’ household for the next few months.
Nurse Gilbert took me first into the ablutions block. She filled the largest bath I’d ever seen with hot soapy water and then, without even a by your leave, I was stripped and dipped and thoroughly scrubbed! I can still smell that rich, soapy, steamy, carbolic smelling hospital bathroom to this day even though most of my time in the bath was spent with me telling Nurse Gilbert Mam had already washed me down thoroughly only that morning! Cleaner than clean, I was then rubbed dry with a coarse hospital towel until blood was very nearly drawn, and then finished off with several big smacking kisses. I decided then that I was going to like Nurse Gilbert.
Years later Mam told me that besides having a large cavity in the top of my lung, they’d found neither lung was drawing properly and both were in a near state of collapse. (Trust me to go the whole hog!) Not to put too fine a point on it, a lot of expert chest doctors were shaking their heads and ‘tut, tutting’ over yours truly’s chest X-rays!
Frankly, had I known, I wouldn’t have been too bothered because:
a) I felt very well thank you very much and
b) I was madly in love with dear Nurse Gilbert.



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