Reelin' in the Years

Sheila Newton By Sheila Newton, 11th Oct 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/3deewhti/
Posted in Wikinut>Humour>Funny Stories

This is a true story about my twenty-first birthday in 1971. It was a tough life being a Student Nurse in the 1960's and 1970's. And it was even tougher trying to get some off duty time away from long hours on the wards to have some fun.

Happy 21st Birthday!

It was my 21st birthday – January 29th, 1971 – and the postal strike was on. No post for me, then, from my folks in Cumbria, waiting in my own personal docket in the nurses’ home: no curiously-shaped envelopes or brown paper parcels gummed up with sealing wax – nothing! I’d moved to Newcastle the previous September to train as a nurse and, much as I loved it here, occasional butterflies of homesickness invaded my stomach. No emails either, or texts – or mobile phones for that matter in the seventies.

At 7am that day, I was rudely awakened, as ever, by the deep clanging of a big brass bell – home sister’s pride and joy! I jumped out of bed, nerve-wracked and confused. “I’ll never get used to that damned bell!” I remonstrated, hurriedly donning a dressing gown, heading for the showers. I opened the door of my tiny room, bare-walled, sparsely-furnished with bed, dresser and wardrobe, like a nun’s cell ... and ...

“Happy birthday to you ...”

... a gaggle of my fellow nurses yelled in discordant harmonies – inundating me with cards and presents galore, some from my ‘happy birthday’ choir and some passed on from the girls and boys still slaving away on night duty.

“Come in, you lot!” I screamed over the hilarity. “Get some cake!”

I had stashed away my beautiful 21st cake – the one my nurse friend’s mother had lovingly made for me - under the bed, hoping it hadn’t caught an infestation of cobwebs during its stay in my unique storage facility.

Sticking avidly to the motto of nurses everywhere – ‘work hard, play harder’ – ‘the gang’, a round dozen of us, planned to set the town alight at ‘Change Is’ nightclub to celebrate my coming of age. No such thing, in those days, of getting the ‘key of the door’ at 18. You were still a kid at 18 then – couldn’t even vote!

I looked at the clock – 7.30. 7.30!! – I was on duty at 8.

“Bye girls!” I called, running to the showers, breathless like an Olympic athlete who’d just won the 100 metres gold. I showered quickly - uniform on, starched cap and collar in situ, hair pinned up, all in the blink of an eye. Wrapping my cloak around me, I was just in time for hand-over on the ward.

Getting Ready to Paint the Town Red - or Purple!

Lolling in Sister’s office, with a petulant frown creasing my forehead, bearing a mammoth grudge, I glared at our villainous sister.
“Good morning, nurse. Happy birthday!” she said, glowing with pride because she had remembered!
“Thank you, Sister,” I replied with the greatest respect. It wasn’t how I felt, but in those days you didn’t ‘diss’ your superiors – unless it was under pain of death!
She had refused my timely request in the off-duty book for days off around my birthday – and not only that; she’d rewarded me with two split shifts, that’s what – malevolent old cow!
‘Cow’ was a gross profanity back then – yes, really! We weren’t the hippy, drug-taking, ‘disrespectful-to-our-elders’ generation that the media said we were - and ‘real’ swearing was left to the terraces of the football ground, despite rumours to the contrary.
My afternoon off on my split shift was dedicated to a bubble bath, hair wash and laying out my glad rags on my candlewick bedspread. My outfit for the occasion was a shiny, purple satin ‘A’-line mini-dress – just below my knicker-line – and a pair of stack-heeled boots, purple, to match the dress.
Fab, I thought, humming happily to Freda Payne’s ‘Band of Gold’ on my transistor radio.
I was back on duty in my pristine uniform from 5.30 to 9pm for a hectic evening shift – then out with the girls for my ‘happy 21st’.
Was I feeling tired? Yes!
Had I got one over on that nasty old ward sister? Definitely!
Was I raring to dance the night away? Oh, yes!

Tags

21St Birthday, Boots, Hospital Ward, Mini-Skirt, Nurse, Nurses Cloak, Nurses Uniform, The 70S

Meet the author

author avatar Sheila Newton
A retired nurse and teacher, with two cats, a husband and a grown up son, I write short stories, articles - and I'm an ardent blogger. Catch up with me on my blog at: http://sheilanewton.blogspot.com

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Comments

author avatar Sheila Newton
11th Oct 2011 (#)

Thanks, Mark, for moderating this page so QUICKLY. I'm amazed at such speedy work.

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author avatar Songbird B
12th Oct 2011 (#)

Sheila, you are a talented story teller, this is wonderful, and so vividly descriptive.. There must be so many other memories of your early nursing days that you can share with us.. An excellent read, and really well written..I love your work my friend..\0/x

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author avatar Sheila Newton
12th Oct 2011 (#)

Thanks for such great comments, Songbird. The feeling is mutual, believe me.

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author avatar Buzz
12th Oct 2011 (#)

Vivid recollection of your 21st, my friend, and I love the humour. Wow, that was years ago! It's nice you're now retired and spend time lazing around blogging and wikinutting. Hope to visit your blog. Thanks for sharing.

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author avatar Sheila Newton
12th Oct 2011 (#)

Wow - yes it WAS years ago. Don't rub it in, just 'cos you're still a young buck!!!! Yeah, come visit my blog -
http://sheilanewton.blogspot.com
...and read about my life now (lazing about blogging and wikinutting!!) You're such a cheeky so-and-so - but I love ya to bits, Buzz! And what a talent you are. Your comments always tickle me to death.

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author avatar jayababy
12th Oct 2011 (#)

A wonderful experience for me to read this article....so lively.

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author avatar Sheila Newton
12th Oct 2011 (#)

Thanks, javababy. I'm touched.

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author avatar Retired
13th Oct 2011 (#)

Thanks for sharing...nice post. :)

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author avatar Sheila Newton
13th Oct 2011 (#)

Thank you so much, Rama.

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author avatar Tony Barnes
13th Oct 2011 (#)

Loved your article...it was neat to read some British colloquialisms again. I was stationed in the UK from 1989 -90 in the US Air Force and miss your country greatly.

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author avatar Sheila Newton
14th Oct 2011 (#)

Thanks. I like that you liked my colloquialisms.

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author avatar Delicia Powers
13th Oct 2011 (#)

Love your wit and wisdom but most of all your FUN, we are the same age but I think of you as that young girl, marvelous outlook, love reading your pages:0)

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author avatar Sheila Newton
14th Oct 2011 (#)

What super comments, Delicia. I'm thrilled - and touched. Thank you.

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author avatar johnnydod
15th Oct 2011 (#)

Great story Sheila

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author avatar Sheila Newton
16th Oct 2011 (#)

Thanks so much, Johnny. Lovely to get a great comment from you. You are my hero, sir - and a grand moderator too.

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author avatar Ivyevelyn, R.S.A.
17th Oct 2011 (#)

Sheila: I enjoyed your story. Thanks so much.

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author avatar Sheila Newton
17th Oct 2011 (#)

Cheers, Ivyevelyn.

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author avatar Tranquilpen
20th Oct 2011 (#)

Thank you Sheila for that walk down memory lane. Us Baby Boomers did have some of the greatest times in recent history. Just think of what we could do with the little money we had back then.I hit the Big 60 0n the twelfth of Sept. Not so big after all. Got loads of stuff still to do in these exiting times! Thanks once again:-))

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author avatar Sheila Newton
20th Oct 2011 (#)

Thanks, Tranquilpen - I so enjoyed your comments. Thank you for enhancing my memories of the 60's and 70's

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author avatar Retired
22nd Oct 2011 (#)

this is super writing.Birthday stunners are such joy and they make your cup overflow with joy and love.laughter and humor were your pals ..didnt you miss us all....in retrospect....grins

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author avatar Sheila Newton
23rd Oct 2011 (#)

Thanks for those super comments Shishir. Love ya loads.

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author avatar ppruel
25th Oct 2011 (#)

Lively written. Memories of the past sometimes make us young remembering them...

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author avatar Sheila Newton
25th Oct 2011 (#)

Lovely to hear from you, ppruel.

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author avatar vpaulose
5th Nov 2011 (#)

Lovely memories.Thanks.

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author avatar Sheila Newton
5th Nov 2011 (#)

You're welcome, my dear friend.

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author avatar richardpeeej
13th Nov 2011 (#)

Great memories Sheila I remember these times myself so well. Thanks for sharing your story I really enjoyed reading it,

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author avatar Sheila Newton
13th Nov 2011 (#)

Thanks, richardpeel. I'll have to look you up. Your name's new to me.

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author avatar Rathnashikamani
30th Nov 2011 (#)

All I can say
is "Happy Birthday"
either its 1971
or 2011
and on every Jan 29
as you shine & shine!

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author avatar Sheila Newton
30th Nov 2011 (#)

Oh, Rathna, what a lovely comment. So do you - shine, that is, my friend.

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author avatar Md Rezaul Karim
18th Dec 2011 (#)

Memories normally make me nostalgic. Good writing.

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author avatar Sheila Newton
18th Dec 2011 (#)

Thanks Md - you're lovely!

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
5th Jan 2012 (#)

You really felt blessed still, Sheila! One does not need a lot to be happy; the little mercies will do. It is the attitude that matters, whether to be happy or otherwise. A great read, transporting me back to my younger days - siva

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author avatar Sheila Newton
5th Jan 2012 (#)

Thank you Siva for such a wonderful critique.

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author avatar Steve Kinsman
8th Jan 2012 (#)

You are still just a spring chickemn, lovely Sheila.

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author avatar Steve Kinsman
8th Jan 2012 (#)

What I mean is - you are eternally youthful.

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author avatar Sheila Newton
8th Jan 2012 (#)

Thanks Steve. I love that you think I'm eternally youthful. Fab compliment, kind sir.

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author avatar 1Faithmorgan
8th Jan 2012 (#)

*chuckles* I love it, very narrative and has a real life humour we can all connect to :)

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author avatar Sheila Newton
8th Jan 2012 (#)

Chuckles back atchya!!! hahaha!

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author avatar Retired
4th Feb 2012 (#)

The title caught my eye Sheila because I'm a big fan of Steely Dan. Loved the story. You caught the ambience and humour of the time perfectly. Ah yes, the 1960s and 70s ... such an agreeable age, in comparison to today.

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author avatar Sheila Newton
4th Feb 2012 (#)

Thank you so much lewis. And it's nice to know my title was inviting too!

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author avatar Steve Kinsman
22nd Feb 2012 (#)

I just read this for a second time, because it's so brilliant, as is all of your writing.

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author avatar Sheila Newton
22nd Feb 2012 (#)

Wow Steve - thank you. What a lovely tribute from such a wonderful and diverse writer.

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