Friday, 27 August 2010

When it comes to the crotch...

Dan and I were in the car on the A30 to Penzance when he reached over, squeezed my fleecy knees and said Happy Anniversary. I'd had a wardrobe crisis earlier in the morning, brought on by the big knickers I knew I was going to have to wear post-surgery to keep the stomach together after lipo-modelling. I kept looking at them and thinking how tight they were; I needed something loose and comfortable to wear over them, but what? Everything I looked at promised to make me feel horribly constricted. In the end I kept on my leopard print pyjamas, matching dressing gown and added a pair of gold birkenstocks: think Wilma Flintstone meets the happy wanderer. I even had a knapsack on my back as I walked into St. Michael's. The backpack let the side down a bit — it was covered in dried mud because Dan had put it down in a cesspit at Port Eliot festival without thinking (oh darling! Happy Anniversary!) — but thankfully, my fashion cred was cranked up a notch by the addition of ted stockings and a delightful cotton gown, which on me looked like an NHS maxi dress. I was smokin'.
A nurse took me back to the F ward (I'm not swearing — it really is called F ward), the same one I'd been on six months ago when I had my mastectomy. I remembered the lovely lady who I'd met back in February; she used to work for Bishop Bill, as she called him. She told me stories about retired churchmen with extraordinarily long beards spending their spare time knitting, and about the nuns who used to work at the hospital until relatively recently. It had made me want to explore the history of the convent, the hospital and the nuns; I thought I might write a sort of Hayle equivalent to Jennifer Worth's Call the Midwife, her account of nuns looking after women in London's East End. I've since turned to writing about fruit and female self-esteem, but there's always the nuns on the table for later. 

What I had appreciated so much about my stay last time — the people that I met in the hospital — was what held me together this time. I saw my favourite cheeky nurse; the Gruesome Twosome; and smiley Margaret to name a few, and also met some new characters, who told more great stories. I think my favourite is the one about the elderly auntie who used to have a weak bladder in the days when pants-to-the-knee were the norm. She cut holes in the crotch so that she wouldn't have to muck about with too much elastic when she needed a wee. The thought of customised bloomers drying on the line on a windy day is a vivid, if not exactly pleasant, one. I'm going to be drying pants-to-the-chest Victorian undies on the line soon myself. But I will be keeping the crotch intact.

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