Friday, January 04, 2008

Joan Wotton (nee Thomas) 1950-52

Joan ( centre) with Gwyneth (left) and Elaine

“Do you remember how we used to comb the nits out of our hair and collect them on newspapers and “click” them with our fingernails to kill them?”

We laugh. It’s over 50 years since we did this on the balcony of Ward 2 yet it only seems like yesterday that nit hunting was a recreational activity for us.

Joan Thomas was in Craig-y-nos at the same time as myself though she was five years older. For a time we were on the balcony together before , at 16 years of age, she was moved into the Six-Bedder.

Joan on the balcony

We share many memories.

“Do you remember the shooting lights?” says Joan.
“Of course!”
Joan is the first person I have met who recalls those strange lights that darted across the sky. Only last year did I learn that the Brecon Beacons was an area of intense “ UFO” activity during the early 1950s.

“And Joan Powell, the girl in plaster?”

“Yes she was in the next bed to me.”

“And the boiled eggs that always had a black rim around them?...
“Of course!"

“And the fried eggs that stuck to the plate? you could hold the plates upside down.”

“Yes, yes...” ( did not Dr Huppert catch me one day sending a fried egg back and ordered it to be returned to be eaten cold).

“ And cold pilchards for breakfast.”
“ I remember cold kippers.”

And the peculiar excitment of seeing my first kipper. This strange object lay there on a cold plate for breakfast, I pushed it around, sniffed it, tasted it, decided it was totally inedible so I resorted to my usual trick of dissecting food into tiny bits hoping to confuse the staff into thinking I had eaten at least some of it. To this day I cannot stand kippers for breakfast.

And so the memories come tumbling back.

Joan reminds me of the day:
“Your budgies escaped but they returned and sat on the balcony rail."

I tell her that after I left my budgies flew away, never to return.

Mary Jones
We both remember Mary Jones - but for very different reasons. Mary came from the Crickhowell area too and my mother used to give her a lift in her car.
Joan’s recollection of Mary is less happy:
“She knocked out my four front teeth- it was an accident though- she pulled the sheet from under me while I sat on a bedpan.”

Ann on the balcony
I tell her Mary remembers me as a “ shy, timid” girl.
Not so Joan.
“I hope you don’t mind me saying so but my memory of you is of an angry, prickly little girl. Always reading. Always with your head in a book and a big ribbon in your head. You had a little pixie face.”

Mmmm....I know I used to fight in my 4th year in Craig-y-nos when I was up and about. Because I was smaller than the rest of the girls I had to rely on other tactics to strength. So I developed a very nifty way with my nails and teeth. Yes, I do remember that....

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