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Twists and Turns

 

 

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p<>{color:#000;}. TWISTS AND TURNS

 

THE LIFE AND TIMES OF A NURSE

 

1935 – 2015

 

Laurie Maddison

 

|

 

Copyright © 2015 by Laurie Maddison

All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

 

Printed in Australia

 

First Printing, 2015

 

ISBN 0-9000000-0-0

Wild Weeds Press

11 Old York Road

Greenmount

Western Australia 6056

 

www.kspf.iinet.net.au

 

Typeset by Chris Oakeley

Cover design by Judith Carr

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

table<>. <>. |<>.
p<>{color:#000;}. PROLOGUE

England

 

|<>. p<>{color:#000;}. 1933 |<>. p<>{color:#000;}.   | <>. |<>. p<>{color:#000;}. PART ONEMALAYA

1 The die is cast

 

|<>. p<>{color:#000;}. 1934 – 1942 |<>. p<>{color:#000;}. 1 | <>. |<>. p<>{color:#000;}. PART TWOAUSTRALIA

2 Refuge from the Japanese

 

|<>. p<>{color:#000;}. 1942-1946 |<>. p<>{color:#000;}. 11 | <>. |<>. p<>{color:#000;}. PART THREE - ENGLAND --ONE—

3 Homecoming: Family matters

4 Journey into the unknown: Boarding School

 

|<>. p<>{color:#000;}. 1946 – 1952 |<>. p<>{color:#000;}. 37 | <>. |<>. p<>{color:#000;}. PART FOUR - ENGLAND --TWO—

5 Crossing the threshold into a unique world

Student nurse Bexhill Hospital

6 Change of scene: Kingston Hospital

7 A balancing act: marriage and nursing

8 District nursing

9 Life moves on

 

|<>. p<>{color:#000;}. 1952 – 1965 |<>. p<>{color:#000;}. 97 | <>. |<>. p<>{color:#000;}. PART FIVEAUSTRALIA

10 Fulfilling a dream

11 Return to nursing: Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital

12 Royal Perth Hospital

13 Community Service: the Silver Chain

14 Chasing a Bachelor: University

15 The Mental Health System

16 Graylands Hospital: Primary Nursing Unit

17 Sow the wind reap the whirlwind

18 Twists and turns

19 Never take your mother for granted: R I P 2001

20 Alarm bells ring

21 Change to nurse education:

improved standards or muddied waters?

22 Father casts a long shadow: R I P 1980

 

<>.
p<>{color:#000;}. 1965 – 2009
<>.
p<>{color:#000;}. 209
<>. |<>. p<>{color:#000;}. Epilogue |<>. p<>{color:#000;}.  
<>.
p<>{color:#000;}. 361

 

DEDICATION

 

To my parents George Albert and Marjorie Evelyn Moser, my husband Howard, son Paul, diverse family members, friends, nurses, doctors and patients I have known, and all the wonderful dogs who were such an integral part of my life bringing unconditional love and joy into my world.

 

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

First I want to thank Shirley Perry PhD, Kate Dagg and Evelyn Redpath (deceased), nurses with whom I shared experiences, without whose initial persuasion I would not have spent a decade re-discovering my life.

I want to hugely thank Olga Blundell-Wignall OAM, JP, Joanna Capelle, Margaret Barnacle, Judith Carr, Jeanette Conacher, Gladys McGough, for bringing their incisive minds to my work, giving invaluable comment and Christopher Oakeley for helping me, in practical ways.

Mr Anthony Fowke, AM, Vice President of Association of Relatives and Friends of the Mentally Ill (Australia), President of Mental Health Carers (ARAFMI) W.A, Past President of the World Federation for Mental Health, Member of the Mental Health Council of Australia and of the Mental Health Expert Working Group appointed by the Australian Minister for Health and Ageing, for appraising the chapters on mental health and giving me counsel.

Leonie Bator B(App)Sc RMHN and Cecile Wainwright, RMHN both of whom nursed me through my time as a student with the Mental Health Service of Western Australia.

Dr A Lister, Psychiatrist Superintendent, Betty Munroe Director of Nursing and Gerry Lamers, Nurse Supervisor, for their courtesy and support of the Primary Nursing Unit, Graylands Hospital, Perth, Western Australia from 1984-1987.

The nursing staff of the Primary Nursing Unit for their resolute dedication to the Unit, to each other and their patients: the psychologists, teachers and ministers of religion who shared their expertise and not least the patients who made it all worthwhile.

Christine Alavi PhD, MA, Grad Dip Psych, BA and Professor Vera Erurita Acting Heads of School of Nursing, Curtin University, and those colleagues who supported me through a challenging time.

A special recognition of the late Jaye Radisich BA LLB MLA for Australian Labour Party, WA, Member for Swan Hills 2001-2008, and Bob Kucera, Minister for Health for Australian Labour Party WA 2001-2003.

And last, but by no means least, a special acknowledgement of my husband who put up with constant questioning about past events only to be told he must be wrong. He never once expressed exasperation – he just disappeared into his own world and left me to mine.

INTRODUCTION

 

Seldom, very seldom, does complete truth belong to any human disclosure; seldom can it happen that something is not a little disguised, or a little mistaken.

Jane Austen Emma (1812)

 

After my mother died it was reminiscences of the life we had shared that held me together. A year passed after that awful day before I was able to go through her possessions and find a box of treasures that included letters written by me over a period of thirty-five years. Reading the letters ignited curiosity about my childhood which led to an unravelling of events that metamorphosed into the re-discovery of a life which, like most, had its twists and turns, was often turbulent but never dull.

The places in this book exist, the events took place, the characters bona fide but I have used pseudonyms where prudent; in annotations about patients in the mental health segment some of the stories are amalgams of two or more people. As a number of events and conversations, especially those of my childhood, have been dragged from the depths of memory they may be skewed in the telling but the essence is truthful.

The chapters detailing my training in general nursing, as it was before hospital based programmes were replaced by university education, are evidence of the changes to the way in which nurses learn and practise their skills. These changes have, in the view of many nurses of my era, resulted in a negative effect on the overall delivery of patient care, while the demise of the Charge Nurse has created a chasm in the medico-nurse relationship that is such an essential component of hospital life. It remains to be seen whether these changes will promote better care in the long term, for change, like personal growth, takes time to be assimilated.

Psychiatric nursing was a different world, a world I found hard not to judge. My views represent, through my eyes, the situation as it was from 1981-1987 and my experiences are a record of what was happening at that time. In criticising the milieu I am not interested in revelation for revelation’s sake, nor in undermining individuals, for there were some truly dedicated nurses among whom were the staff from the now defunct Primary Nursing Unit at Graylands Hospital, Western Australia. They know who they are and how valued they were as colleagues and friends.

PROLOGUE

1933

London, England

Cupid’s arrow strikes

 

It all started on Friday; Friday December 23 1933 to be exact, and the weather couldn’t have been worse. George, aged twenty-eight, home on leave from Malaya, was miserable in the cold as he hurried along the Embankment fervently wishing he was back in the tropics. With hat firmly wedged on his head, scarf enveloping neck and ears, shoulders hunched against a wind so icy that tears instantly froze on his cheeks, and with gloved hands shoved into pockets, he walked to the office decidedly unenthusiastic about attending the Firm’s Christmas party.

Happily unmarried and unfettered the last thing he imagined was fate decreeing his future wife would enter his life on this day, but she did. This chance meeting developed into a full blown romance before he returned to Malaya where they married a year later in 1934.

The union of George Albert Moser and Marjorie Evelyn Chidgey set the stage for my entry to this world with a splendid mix of English, Welsh, Irish and German-Jewish blood.

PART ONE

MALAYA

1934 – 1942

 

1

Malaya

The die is cast

Julius Caesar 49BC

Bride to be

 

Marjorie sailed from England towards her new life on the P & O Steamer Corfu on her fiancé’s birthday, 27 October 1934, taking three weeks to get to Penang from where she telegraphed her parents:

Arrived Penang yesterday afternoon. George well. Staying with Grace and Charles Evans. Charles will give me away. Grace is to be Matron of Honour. George’s Best Man is Vivian Cox, a friend from Lodge. I like them all well enough.

They married at St Mary’s Church, Kuala Lumpur, on 23 November 1934 followed by a reception at the Evans’ home with a mix of European, Dutch and Chinese guests. In a photo, Marjorie, dressed in a form-fitting gown of white crepe de chine, is looking at the camera with a demure smile, her short light brown hair peeping from under a wide brimmed hat made by her mother who had been a milliner. Resting in the crook of her arm is a simple bouquet of white lilies. George, smiling pensively, is in a white double-breasted suit with an orchid pinned to the lapel of his jacket.

The honeymoon was at The Glen, Fraser’s Hill, a holiday location away from the heat of the tropical lowlands, from which lofty location Marjorie wrote:

 

We are at Fraser’s Hill in the rain forest well above sea level away from the humidity of KL, very peaceful and just cool enough for me to have to wear my warmest clothes. George and I spend our time reading, driving, walking and relaxing. Yesterday we visited Raub, 26 miles down the hill, and it was like stepping into an oven or entering one of the hot houses at Kew. Over lunch we chatted with an Australian who works at the Gold Mine. He offered to take us to see the workings and we went down one of the smaller shafts quite 250 feet into the earth. Feel sorry for the Chinese who have to hack the rock away for a paltry 2/10d per day. I was a bit disappointed as I expected to see great nuggets but the gold was only in tiny specks.

Later she writes:

The house here in KL is large, white, two-storey, standing in very pleasant grounds with lawns and palm trees. The view from the second floor balcony is spectacular taking the eye across tree tops to the distant hills.

We have Chinese servants, a houseman ‘Boy’, a cook, Hua, Syce (chauffeur), Amah (nanny) for when the child arrives and a Malay gardener Ajib. I am definitely expecting, and Dr Hardie seems to think I may have the child early.

 

Dr Hardie was right. I was born prematurely on August 1 1935 at the Bungsar Hospital, Kuala Lumpur, in the Jubilee year of King George V and Queen Mary and was named Evelyn Mary.

 

The way we were

 

The house in which I was to spend the first six years of my life was spacious and airy, comfortably furnished with a mix of English and oriental style furniture with ceiling fans throughout that kept the air flowing, and chandeliers with crystal tear drops that tinkled and reflected the light creating rainbows of moving colour on the ceilings.

There were two dining rooms, one formal for dinner parties with a table large enough to hold twenty visitors, high backed carved chairs in place and a sideboard that took up most of one wall showcasing various dining-room accoutrements, and one informal for family meals where I had a little table in the corner and ate with Amah until I was big enough to peer over the edge of the grown-ups’ table and eat without making a mess, learned not to speak with my mouth full and to speak only when spoken to.

A gong, engraved with a red dragon, lived on a table in the hall, and when my parents were entertaining Boy would strike it, the mellow sounds warning it was time to prepare for meals, and again shortly before the meal was to be served.

The kitchen was at the end of a covered way leading to the servants’ quarters and I was allowed to be with them and their children when my parents were entertaining. Noisy with chatter and gloriously untidy I was more than happy to eat with them, especially as I didn’t have to wear a bib, was allowed to use my fingers and talk with my mouth full.

From the entrance hall a wide staircase with a polished balustrade, which I used as a slide, led to a second floor, on the right of which was my parents’ and visitors’ quarters, and to the left was the nursery where I resided with Amah. I remember it as predominantly white with rattan blinds shielding the room from the sun, and Amah’s and my bed curtained by mosquito netting. I also remember a music box with a ballerina that twirled as the music played, a spinning top, a rocking horse, a cradle for my dolls and a box of toys, all to be lost to the Japanese.

Accessed from the space that divided our quarters was a balcony with views across tree tops to hills in the distance and where my parents read the morning papers, drank coffee and waited for Amah to take me to them.

Almost on a daily basis the sound of firecrackers, clashing of cymbals, singing and the smell of burning joss sticks floating in on a gentle breeze alerted us to a Chinese funeral wending its way through the hills. So I could see better, Pa supported me on the balustrade as Mother held an arm and a leg in case he dropped me, which he pretended to do as Ma loudly protested, bringing Amah running.

‘What you do Meester M. no funny,’ she would say. ‘You no laugh, me cross.’

Pa grinned. ‘You are too fussy Amah. Here, take her.’

Holidays were taken at Port Dickson, Klang River, Morib, or Fraser’s Hill. From a holiday at Fraser’s Hill Mother wrote to her parents:

This place is rather unique for the East in that it has electricity supplied from the Sempam Hydroelectric Power Station in Raub, built by the Australian Gold Mining Company. It also has long baths, hot and cold running water and is excellent for babies as they have every convenience for them and cook knows their needs. There are three other children here with Amahs, so Amah has company. The break will do us all good.

On holiday at Klang River, when I was about four, Mother decided I should learn to swim. Believing it necessary to keep the kidneys warm at all times she insisted my bathers were pure wool, which made me grumble continuously as I loathed them with a vengeance because they collected sand in the crotch, scratched and made me itch. Grumbling did no good; Mother was adamant, as she was with most things.

She had four absolutes when it came to my clothes: pure wool, pure cotton, knickers had to match my dresses, and shoes and socks must be worn or else ‘worms will get in your feet’, a mantra I was to hear many times during my childhood.

There were four European families with children about the same age as me living near-by. We took turns at each other’s houses for playtime, which included the Chinese and Malay children of the servants, teaching each other words in three languages developing a neologistic patois unique to us.

The Selangor Club, built in 1884 by the British, was the hub of social activity with a mix of European, Asian and Eurasian members. The Long Bar was exclusive to the men so they could be free from ‘female distractions’, and our mothers enjoyed activities that included tennis, swimming and golf ‘free from male distractions’. This is not to say there was never any outrageous flirting, illicit meetings or worse, when the gossipy tongues wagged ten to the dozen.

Special events were arranged for children, a time of dressing up and prize giving. Dressed in traditional costumes made by Mother and Amah, I won as Miss Holland in 1936, the prize a fluffy toy dog-cum-pyjama-holder named, with great imagination, Doggy, that became a loved companion for many years. I won again as Miss Hungary in 1938 when the prize was a doll dressed in traditional Hungarian dress.

In October 1937 we travelled to England on the SS Achilles where I met both sets of grandparents and other family members. After this trip I was not to see any of them again until 1946 when the war had ended, by which time I was eleven, and several exasperated me by saying ‘my word, haven’t you grown.’

What did they expect?

 

Winds of change: dislocation

 

In 1936, as Adolf Hitler started his bid to conquer Europe, Japan announced its alliance with Nazi Germany, which put the British in Malaya on notice about the probability of war in the Far East. In 1937 the Japanese invaded Nanking, the capital of China, committing atrocities so gross it was referred to as The Rape of Nanking (1937-1938). It was one of the pre-cursors to the Japanese attempt at territorial expansion based on the military conquest of East Asia and the Pacific that was to engulf Malaya and Singapore by 1942.

 

On February 9 1938 Pa returned to Malaya on the Glenfinlas and Mother and I followed on July 7 on the Sarpedon.

Life continued with subtle changes and as time progressed adult conversations contained ever increasing talk of war. Pa continued with his civilian employment, whilst engaging in military training, and it intrigued me when he started appearing in army uniform because I was used to seeing him in the white suit he wore for work or shorts or sarong in the evenings unless there was a formal engagement when he wore evening dress.

‘Why are you wearing this?’ I asked, picking at his army shirt.

‘I have become a soldier.’

‘Why?’

‘We might have to fight the Japs.’

‘Do we know anyone called Japs?’

‘No.’ He pushed his face into mine and hugged me, tickling until I was screaming with laughter; fighting didn’t seem so bad after all.

In late October 1941 the District Officer, Sir Shenton Thomas, decided it was time for wives and children to be evacuated, a timely decision as the Japanese were to land in northern Malaya in December. People had been preparing for the worst while hoping the British administrators would conjure up a miracle, a miracle that never came to pass due to well documented errors of judgement that lead to the misery and death of thousands of Allied, Eurasian, Chinese, and Tamil prisoners of war.

Hoping to save special items from looters I watched Pa pack them into tea chests, which were then buried in the grounds. He kept one of two photo albums they had of my babyhood, which was lost in the jungle sometime after he became a prisoner.

Mother packed two sea trunks and a large suitcase and, when I asked why, she said we were going away before the Japs came. ‘Where are we going?’

‘Australia, I hope.’

‘Where’s that?’

‘You’ll see.’

‘Is Pa coming?’

‘No. He’s staying. They’re all staying.’

I didn’t understand any of it. Nothing I said seemed to matter to anybody and suddenly everything was a real muddle.

In November 1941, after farewelling the servants and sharing special hugs with Amah, we joined a group of private vehicles headed for Singapore, the drive taking longer than usual because of heavy traffic. As we approached the Straits of Johore a Japanese reconnaissance plane flew low overhead and everyone turned into statues letting out sighs of relief when it flew on. By the time we reached the Causeway cars, trucks, bicycles and rickshaws crowded the Bukit Timah slowing the journey even more.

We located our ship, Centaur, berthed in Keppel harbour. Pa organised the unloading of our luggage and arranged for it to be taken on board. Holding me close with one arm, the other around Mother, he kissed her as she burst into tears, setting me off. He steered us toward the gangplank, more hugs and tears before a sailor took my hand and led us to the deck where I stood at the railings clutching Doggy, waving to Pa; everybody seemed to be crying.

Pa returned to Kuala Lumpur and resumed duties with the Federated Malay States Volunteer Force (FMSVF) 3rd Field Ambulance. The Unit mobilised on December 1 1941 when the Governor proclaimed a State of Emergency.

The Japanese relentlessly moved south and after heavy fighting Singapore surrendered on February 15 1942.

 

Escape to Paradise

 

MV Centaur, normally white with a blue and black single funnel was now battleship grey to blend with the horizon, sea and sky as protection against prowling enemy aircraft or warships.

We stood on deck looking toward the docks, the sound of people shouting and horns blaring carried by the breeze, as Centaur cruised into the Straits. Mother and I stayed on deck until the island became a thin line on the horizon finally disappearing altogether, then, holding hands, we went to register with the Purser and get our instructions, which included a caution:

Passengers are warned not to mention the name of the ship, destination, dates of arrival or departure at ports of call, either in conversation ashore or in correspondence. When registering in hotels the ship’s Agents are to be used as an address and not the name of the ship.

Formalities over, future uncertain, we went to our cabin and Mother unpacked.

Centaur’s usual passenger capacity was seventy, a number doubled for this trip. It wasn’t long before social groups formed and teachers arranged morning school divided into age-related classes. Games, supervised by the crew, included deck quoits, shuffles, or races around the deck.

On the second day a storm blew up; one minute the sky was blue with drifting white clouds and the next, with a rumbling that turned to a roar, black clouds raced in from the horizon blown by a wind that turned the sea into a bucking, roiling maelstrom lit up by flashes of lightning. We stood behind the windows mid-deck hanging on to anything that was a fixture and watched, enthralled and terrified, as the ship rolled from side-to side, waves breaking over the decks, sea-spray hitting the windows. It seemed hours before the storm abated, the ship steadied and order was restored. Thereafter it was smooth sailing and every day we were captivated by the sight of flying fish, dolphins racing beside the ship and porpoises rolling through the waves, their shiny black skin reflecting the sun.

En route we berthed somewhere, I don’t remember where, and loaded cattle. One evening we were playing when someone asked why the lower deck was being screened off, and one of the boys said he heard a cow was to be killed early the next morning. Ghoulish creatures that children can be, some rose early to watch the kill through a crack in the screen but all we saw were sailors hosing watery blood from the deck and stared in horror as sharks swam around. Mind’s eye running wild I went to Mother with tears streaming down my face.

‘What on earth’s the matter?’

‘They killed a poor cow and the sharks got it.’

‘Who did?’

‘You know.’

‘No, I don’t know. Oh Evelyn, really . . .’

‘What did the cow do wrong anyway?’ I sobbed as I blew into a handkerchief Mother held to my nose.

I developed a great attachment to Captain Murray whose first name was George. ‘Your name is the same as my pa’s so you can be my pa for a while if you like.’

He smiled. ‘I like.’

Once or twice he took Mother and me to the bridge where I sat in the Captain’s chair as the ship dipped, rose and rolled in time with the fast moving ocean. I asked if it was hard work to be Captain. ‘Yes,’ was the firm reply.

‘Then I’d rather play.’ Thus my attachment to the Captain abruptly ended and I developed a passion for the ship’s doctor, Dr Pickles, who had been very kind to me over the cow, soothing my tears as he encouraged me to eat breakfast. Not only that, he looked like Pa with his black hair and eyes and he always had a pipe stuck in his mouth.

‘You’ve got a funny name,’ I said.

‘Nurse says it suits me ‘cos I’m always in a pickle’, and he roared with laughter as we headed for the surgery.

‘What’s a pickle?’

‘A muddle.’

‘Oh, I know what that means alright.’

In the surgery Nurse let me help roll bandages and wipe down trolleys until they shone. Little did I know this was the first taste of what I was to experience as a student nurse some eleven years later.

Mother and I sat at his table in the dining-room, me firmly glued to the chair next to him keeping everyone else at bay. I asked him to wait until I grew up so we could be married. ‘Of course I will,’ he replied, rubbing his hand across my shoulders.

The only toy I had been allowed to bring from Kuala Lumpur was my constant adored companion Doggy and I managed to drop him overboard as we berthed in Fremantle. As I hung upside-down over the rails crying a sailor grabbed me, snagged Doggy with a grappling hook and handed him to me dripping wet; the relief was indescribable.

‘Thank you so much.’ I beamed my best smile.

As we disembarked all the children were given a mug with the Blue Funnel Line crest as a memento of MV Centaur. As a finale I received a special hug and kiss from my doctor. ‘Don’t forget we are going to get married,’ I said.

‘I won’t,’ and we walked down the gangplank holding hands.

He died when Centaur was torpedoed in 1943

PART TWO

AUSTRALIA

1942 – 1946

 

2

h1={color:#000;}.

Australia

Refuge from the Japanese

It is what we make of what we have, not what we are given . . .

Nelson Mandela 1918-2014

 

New directions, uncertain beginnings

 

We were met in the customs shed by members of the Red Cross and taken to a guesthouse in Victoria Avenue, Claremont where I was somewhat mystified at being greeted with hugs and kisses from people we didn’t know, not with the handshake and ‘how do you do’ I was used to, and the food was weird, like fish and chips with salad or meat pies drowning in tomato sauce, dishes I had never had, and for a time I missed the subtle flavours of Chinese food but not for long!

Mother and I spent days exploring, walking for miles along the wide streets admiring the lovely old houses, or dawdling along the river foreshore dragging our feet through warm water. Families of kookaburras perched in leafy trees watched us, then, apparently amused by what they saw, threw back their heads, opened wide their large beaks and laughed raucously as though sharing a joke. We walked the two miles to Cottesloe beach for a swim, would have some sustenance then walk back again. We walked and walked going to bed exhausted every night.

The major shops in Claremont were in Bay View Terrace with Bovell’s Bakery making the most wonderful pies and pasties, a bicycle shop where Mother bought me a Malvern Star, and drapers that sold everything imaginable for the home. There was a theatre where we saw our first film and were nearly deafened as the words and music shattered against tin walls before slamming into our ears. We went to the Post Office to post letters and a first food parcel to England, enjoyed rides round the Lake in a horse-drawn cab or took the ferry to Point Walter for picnics.

When accommodation became available in Broadway, Nedlands, Mother accepted and we went shopping for what she called necessities. Two days later we said goodbye to Mrs McMichael, the owner of the Guest House, thanked her for her kindness and moved to the flat that was to be our home for the duration of the war.

 

Bunking in and settling down

 

Stanford and Harford were two-storey blocks of flats with eight in each. Harford housed four families from Malaya, and Stanford the wives and families of Australian Forces personnel.

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Twists and Turns

  • Author: Oakeley
  • Published: 2015-10-13 05:35:17
  • Words: 143408
Twists and Turns Twists and Turns