Thursday, April 05, 2007

Bubble and Squeak - 1951

If you look carefully at this photo you will see the birdcage behind Mari Jenkins. I am leaning on the bed. Date: 1953

I wonder how many remember my budgies?

They were a curious addition to Ward 2 and only many years later did I learn of their real reason for their unexpected arrival on the Christmas visiting of 1951.

Mother walked in with this birdcage containing two budgies, one male and blue and the other female and green.

I burst out crying.

“You can’t bring them in here!” I said . “ I shall get the most awful row from Sister Morgan and Dr Huppert.
Take them away. Quick. Before they see them!”

Mother shook her head.

“No its all right you can have them.”

I stared at the birds. What could it mean?

Why did I have budgies? living things were unheard of in the ward.

After all we were not allowed to touch living things incase they caught something from us.

Once I tried to stroke Sister Morgan’s cat. He had strayed into our ward and crept up on to my bed.
I had only been in a few weeks and the cat reminded me of home, of life on the farm with its half a dozen cats.

I wriggled down the bed to stroke it only to find that Sister Morgan rushed in, grabbed the cat and took him away.
”You must not touch the cat!”

Yet here were budgies... true I was not allowed to touch them, just look at them.

That winter in Ward 2 was difficult.

I was already having rows from Sister Morgan and Dr Huppert daily cause I was not doing what they told me.

I had been brought in from the balcony for the winter, away from my friends and placed in this huge,cold ward with older girls.
No longer was there anyone close to talk to, no-one to confide in.
The blocks had been removed from my bed and I was told to sit up, except I didn't want to sit up cause it made me feel all dizzy. Anyway it was cold, so I would slide down into the bed again as soon as Sister Morgan had left the ward.

Dr Huppert tried to make me do exercises like moving my legs around. She told me to pretend I was riding a bicycle .

She even gave a demonstration with her arms and I watched fascinated as this strange, short, fat, foreign woman gave a demonstration of riding a bicycle - with her arms instead of her legs.

I was not convinced.

I did try it but it was impossible to carry out the exercise cause the sheets were tucked in too tightly, the only way I could move my legs was to lie on my side.
And pretend to be on a bike. I soon gave up on that. It was boring.

Instead I retreated more and more into the world of books. I would slide down under the bed clothes and read all the time. Day after day.

This was my escape from the cold, inhospitable world of Ward 2 in winter.

Until Christmas and my budgies....

Dr Huppert named them Bubble and Squeak.

Those birds marked a turning point for me in Craig-y-nos. Somehow those little birds with their bright colours chirping away daily gave me an interest in life again, and I adapted to life in Craig-y-nos, to the institutional way of living.
I learnt to survive.
Thanks to Bubble and Squeak.

Myself with Bubbles on the balcony in 1953.

Years later mother revealed she had brought those budgies in cause she had refused to accept that I was dying , that I had lost the will to live.

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