Sunday, 25 March 2007

The Monkey’s Paw Writing Project

The Night Duty

It was a cold winter’s night as I trudge along the little path that led to the hospital from the Night-Nurse’s Sleeping Quarters. “Wonder who will take the “role-call” tonight”, I thought.
Standing in line in the middle of the hospital corridor, the hospital clock pealed out the hour of eight-o’clock. Stretching my arms out in front of me,like the rest of the line up, for old McKecknie,the night Superintendent, to inspect if we were spick and span ,clean and tidy. “Turn around” was the next order.Old McKecknie was very particular that our aprons were correctly tucked and straightend around our waist and wow-betide if it were not! The line-up check was usually completed in about fifteen minutes flat and having received our allocated ward, off we trotted for the night’s work. “Ward 13”,”lucky for some”.I thought to myself as I headed in the direction of the ward. Most of the wards were “staffed” by a Staff-Nurse and a Student Nurse. The Staff-Nurse was our mentor and our boss for the duration of the night. Each Staff-Nurse was known to the lowly slaving-order of the Student-Nurse. My Staff-Nurse has the reputation for being a chatter-box. “just my luck”,I thought,”all I need when I feel least like chatting in the middle of the night” !!

The ward was shaped in the style of the Florence Nightingale Ward, beds either side with a corridor running throught the entire length of the ward with a table,chairs and a dimed night-light for the night-duty staff. How unappealing it all seemed to me to be spacing up and down in the dreary darkness all night long! The ward was a busy ward and was nicked named “Emergency Ward 10” after a television programme about an Emergency Ward. Road Traffic Accident Patients were admitted to this ward and was known for its intensive work load.

“How on earth will I survive this!”,were the thoughts circulating in my head. I was also preoccupied with thoughts of looming disaster concerning my State Finals Exam which I had taken a few weeks before and the results were due out any day now. If I failed the exams I was doomed to the lowly ranks of the untrained nurse forever and I was wishing and praying in alternate measure that this would not be my fate.

After a few nights on the ward I was well into the swing of what my duties entailed and had found a way of avoiding the Staff-Nurse’s chatter by giving the impression that I was the eager-beaver student who read her study-books during the night. This I thought was quite an ingenious ploy and effective in curtailing the Staff-Nurse’s attempts to engage me in her chatter.

My nights on duty were very wearisome to me, and I truly felt I was not cut out to be a night-duty nurse and I had a very definite loathing for the dark winter nights that seemed to me interminable. I was quite happy when the ward was busy and the time seemed to go by much quicker but on quieter nights I found myself watching the clock and wishing for the night to end. When it was quiet I felt ill-at-ease and found myself touring the ward more frequently than was necessary. I was very happy to answer the patient’s call for the odd bed-pan, chat to a patient,make cups of tea,rearrange pillows, whatever as long as I was not stuck in the chair thinking about the time. The ward could also be very spooky and the dim-lighting only heightned my fear of the dark. The darkness played tricks on my senses and sometimes I would think I saw a shadow where it should not be or hear sounds that were dubious.

Meal break times were taken in the Nurse’s Main dining Room between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. Since there were usually only two nurses on duty in each ward this meant that there was always one nurse left behind alone on the ward when the other nurse took her meal break. Old Mckecknie had insisted “that all break-times should be taken “off” the ward” never mind the inexperienced student nurses who were left to sink or swim in the Staff-Nurse’s absence!! The Senior Nurse’s attitude being that nurse’s who were about to qualify were more than capable,or should be,of “ manning the fort” alone.

On such a night being left alone I was doing my usual tour of the ward when I heard the main-door to the ward open. I hastened down the ward and as I approached the night-nurse’s night-table I saw a nurse standing in the dimness of the light. “Oh! Hello!” “Can I help you?”,I asked.
The nurse made some sort of greeting and said something like she was “just passing by” and thought to come in and say “Hello!”
We stood,talking about nothing in particular, and it was not unusual for nurses to drop in on other wards to say hello. I talked mainly about how busy the ward could be and how quiet it was at present and mentioned my concerns for a new patient who had been brought in from a road traffic accident earlier in the day and although stable, the chances of her surviving were slim. Before the nurse left I remember asking her name and she left promising to come and visit some other night and I told her the nights I would be on duty.

Staff-Nurse returned from her break and I fed-back to her “that all was quiet on the western front” and mentioned about the nurse’s visit. “Hmmm”, said the Staff-Nurse, “who was that?” “oh! I think she said her name was Mary Hodgson” “Mary Hodgson” shrieked the Staff-Nurse, “No! No! Not! Mary Hodgson!!” she said in an excitable state… “you must have got the name wrong!!” “ Mary Hodgson is Dead!”, “What do you mean Dead!” I asked incredulously. “ Mary Hodgson was killed in a road traffic accident,Oh! about a year ago”. I felt the colour drain from my face as the Staff-Nurse asked me to sit down. “Are you quite sure that she said her name was Mary Hodgson?” asked the Staff-Nurse. “Well, yes! where else and how would I know that name?” “ My God!,said the Staff-Nurse, “this is very strange indeed!” Just at that point a scary feeling decended on the two of us sitting there in the gloom of the ward and I had a rush of thoughts, “I have been talking to a Ghost”,”Oh! my God!,” “What if she comes here again?” “What will I do?” and felt myself wishing she would not come to the ward again. At a great speed the Staff-Nurse was interrogating the visit “What did she look like?”, “How did she talk?,” “What did she have on?,” “What did she look like?” “What is the colour of her hair?”, her eyes, her height, the shape of her body. “Did she look ghostly?” I could only answer that Mary Hodgson looked perfectly “normal” to me, yet ofcourse,it was not normal and the thought I had actually been talking to a ghost was rapidly dawning on me.

“Oh! you poor dear, this must been a terrible shock for you” said the Staff-Nurse and was up and out of her chair reaching for the telephone,
“I must tell Old Mckecknie about this!”

The story of the student-nurse on Ward 13 meeting and talking with a ghost went round the hospital like wild-fire and I was thinking there would be many people who would find the encounter quite unbelievable. I actually wished that I had not met this ghost-nurse as I was feeling decidedly “off –colour” since our meeting and if the ward seemed dreary before it was now positively haunted!! not to mention that half the hospital would have considered me quite mad!!

Shortly after my encounter with the ghostly-nurse some things happened that were quite inexplicable.The patient whom I thought had a slim chance of recovery made an incredible recovery and, miracle of miracles,
I passed my exams. Was the visit from the ghostly-nurse a visit from an Angel? I thought to myself. I never saw the nurse again, nor did anyone see or hear her. I had wished not to have a repeat encounter and I had wished to pass my exams. Now I wished I could see the nurse again, perhaps one day.

Monday, 12 March 2007

Hogarth as Britain's first modern artist:

Hogarth:the shock of the New:

In the Spring edition of the Reader's Digest the above article "Hogarth: The Shock Of The New" was written by George Kent. It is a short piece of writing which uses successful concision to described a brief history of the life of William Hogarth. In this article we are informed of David Hockney's view of the 18th.century artist, " He had a very human eye. He understood mankind's follies and had a soft spot for them,but his work shows a certain delight in condemning low life". The curator of the Hogarth Exhibition,Christine Riding says: "No other artist's work has come to define a period of British history so powerfully and enduringly". The Hogarth Exhibition , currently showing at Tate Britain, will be on until end of April,07.

Sunday, 11 March 2007

Conversation Piece

The conversation piece was a genre of painting that evolved in Northern Italy during the Renassiance. Later this genre became a vogue in the seventeeth century in the Netherlands and from there was transplanted into Enland.
These conversation pieces depicted family members, and on occasions, other relatives. The purpose of the conversation piece was partly to celebrate the standing of the family,the families intimate life, and the happiness that this supposedly brought.
William Hogarth's conversation pieces were quite theatrical in his attempt to simulate the vivacity of actual life. Hogarth was very successful in this genre of paintings and took commisssions from the gentry and the new "up and coming " entrants to the life of the gentry,i.e. the tradesmen classes,etc.

Hogarth was so successful that George Vertue,a critic of the day, wrote in 1730, "Mr Hogarth's paintings gain every day so many admirers that happy are they that can get a picture of his painting...(he has painted many) family pieces,& conversations consisting of many figures done with great spirit a lively invention & an universal agreeableness".

Conversation Piece

A Short History:

William Hogarth was born on the 10th.November,1697 in the house of his maternal grandparents in Bartholomew Close,near the church of St.Bartholomew the Great.
His father Richard came from the North of England to London around 1680 and in 1690 married Anne Gibbons,the daughter of his landlord. Richard was a schoolmaster and a classical scholar,although poorly paid. To supplement his earnings Richard opened a Coffee House at St. John's Gate. Unfortunately, in 1708 the venture failed and he was confined to the Fleet Prison for debt. Richard died in 1718 and William Hogarth felt his father's business failure, and the experience of his time spent in prison ,for a total of four years,had hastened his father's death. William resolved not to fall into the same predicament of his father. In 1713-14 William Hogarth started his apprenticeship as a Printer. Following this he worked for six years developing the various techniques involved in printing. In 1720 William set up his own business in Printing and Engraving. In 1729 at the Old Paddington Church ,Paddington Green William married Jane Thornhill settling initially in Covent Garden but later moved to Chiswick.