Writing these books has taken me on trips down memory lane – I’ve pulled things out of a filing cabinet stored away in my brain I thought I had long forgotten. Not only have I pulled from my own memories, but those of friends I nursed with over the years. I am very lucky to still be in touch with some of the nurses I trained with and I am so looking forward to picking their brains again for the next book.
Lovely Lane is a real place in Warrington. On Lovely Lane is situated what used to be known as Warrington General Hospital. There was once a nurse’s home on Lovely Lane, and on the other side of the hospital – a much less glamorous sounding destination, Bewsey Road – there was a second nurses home, situated right next door to the funeral directors. This was where I lived and laughed and survived my nurse training.
I have made St Angelus a collage of all the hospitals I worked in during my twenties. The Northern, The Royal and Myrtle Street Children’s Hospital in Liverpool all influenced my thoughts. As I write each hospital-based scene, I am back in the Florence Nightingale layout of the wards in Warrington General and Warrington Infirmary, walking up the concrete stairs late at night towards children’s, or tying bed pans on to the cars of visiting medical students with another night nurse. No one ever did find out who the culprits were. I think we are safe now!
I began my training in November 1975, and during that time visited many cottage hospitals and wards where both the equipment and methods of nursing hung on steadfastly from the 1950s. Ornate, molded drip stands, wards full of flowers, sash windows, starched hats and aprons and ashtrays on bedside lockers with patients puffing away during a ward round. Visiting hour was the big event of the day, heralded by the brass hand-bell that lived on the long, polished table in the middle of the ward.
Nadine as a nurse in the 1970s
In the 70s, things were to change dramatically, in a way that would remove all semblance of what nursing had once been like. I was lucky enough to have spent some time working with ward sisters who had trained in the thirties and forties, before the days of the NHS, and they were still resisting change in the 70s. In those days, wards gleamed, nurses trembled and patients did as they were told.
I think it’s important that we share the past. Nursing today is a million miles away from how it was when many of us trained. As well as a lighthearted and fun novel, this is also a way of recording the culture of nursing and the many anomalies and arcane rules and regulations that existed back then.