chapter 1

Simon was at university, training to be a nurse. He didn't know why he'd been attracted to the course. Maybe it was the thought of working with a female based workforce! Money was tight. If it wasn't for his girlfreind's income paying for the bills, he would have had to give up nursing altogether.
They rented a Victorian flat with only basic facilities and cut down their expenditure to the absolute minimum.
He thought attending lectures was hard enough, but when he eventually started doing placements he entered a whole new world. On his first ward he worked five, seven and a half hour shifts in a week. Some days he started work at half seven and finished at half three, other days, he started at half one and finished at half nine at night, but they usually let him go home half an hour early.
Nevertheless, it meant that sometimes he would get home at somewhere around ten and have to get up the next morning at six.
He was not a natural early riser. Not having central heating in the house made it even more difficult. He'd put out everything he needed the night before. Lie in bed until the last possible minute, then run into the living room, grabbing his clothes as he went.
He'd put the gas fire on immediately, keeping all the doors closed. He'd fill the kettle and switched it on. While he waited for it boiling, he'd go to the toilet, breathing out smoking breath in the cold, his whole body trembled, trying to keep warm. There was ice on the inside of the windows again, he noticed.
Then he'd get washed and shaved with the water from the kettle in the bathroom. He didn't have the time to wait for the immersion to heat the water up in the tank and they could not afford to heat water 24 hours a day every day. They did not have the luxury of a shower either.
He'd then rush back into the living room to get dressed by the fire and make himself a cup of strong coffee with the water left over in the kettle.
Once the was washed and dressed, he didn't have time to hang about. He had to be out to get the bus at half past six. Sometimes the bus was early and he'd missed it, meaning he had a fifteen minute wait for the next one.
The bus driver always drove super-slow at this time in the morning. Sometimes he would stop and read his paper for five minutes before continuing on at no more than twenty miles an hour. Still, the bus was warm and Simon could defrost a little before his walk up to the hospital.
At weekends there were fewer buses. He could rake the risk of being late on the bus, or he could walk, but he hated arriving to start work, already hot and sweaty from the early morning exersise.
When he finished late, he'd often save his bus fare by taking a leisurely walk home. He had the luxury of a hot bath waiting for him, then he could snuggle up to Jenny on the sofa in front of the fire before they went to bed.
When he was on placement, he was not included in the official staffing levels on the ward. He worked with a qualified nurse, observing what she did, then helping her when he felt confident to, with her watching him. The practical skills he developed were many and varied, from how to do a bed bath to how to take a manual blood pressure recording and document it. The proper nurses made it look easy. They worked at an incredible speed so efficiently. Simon doubted if he could ever do it like that.
His doubts were cemented when he opened his ward assessment that his mentor had to pass. He had so many competencies that sounded so complicated with their use of medical jargon. He was convinced he was going to fail. Then his mentor broke it down and explained what the sentences actually meant. Now he was not so scared! He was already doing half the things he needed to do, but he'd not realised because it was dressed up in such fancy words.
A feeling of dread passed over him at the same time. He had an assignment to complete in less than a month. He had research to do. His parents had bought him a laptop when he started his course, so he did not have to go to the library, he could do some research online at home. However, after working for seven and a half hours on the wards, he wanted to spend some time relaxing with Jenny.
He did not have time to eat anything if he was getting up early. However, if they had time, the nurses would stop to catch up on patient progress after the ward-round and they would take the opportunity to have a cup of coffee and eat and toast left over from the breakfasts.
Simon enjoyed his toast, warm, half soggy half crispy and dripping with butter. White toast was best, from a cheap sliced loaf. The brown tended to be dry and hard to swallow.
If there wasn't enough leftover toast, they could make some more quickly enough. In fact, it was often his job to make the morning toast. The toaster was not a pop-up one. It had to be watched constantly in case the bread burned, which would be detected by the smoke detectors. The smoke detectors would set off the fire alarms and the fire alarms would automatically call the fire brigade out on an emergency call. They always had to send two engines out to the hospital. The trust would be charged �200 for each fire appliance sent to a false alarm. �400 for each slice of burned toast was an expense that they could do without. One trust had banned toast being made!
Simon found that if he was on toast duty, he could sneak at least two slices into his starving mouth while he was watching and preparing the bread for the patients. Then he'd have another two slices when he was with everyone else... at least!
Then it would be back to the back breaking washing, dressing, bed making, patient monitoring routine before the patient lunches arrived.
Simon's stomach often protested as he handed out the lunches to the patients. He sometimes had to sit and feed those who could not manage themselves, spoonful by slow spoonful. All the while, his tastebuds were tempted by the smell of the vegetables, the texture of the meat as he cut into it. Then there was the disappointment when his patient turned his head away, leaving half the meal still on the plate. He had to return the half eaten plate to the trolley. If he was caught helping himself, no matter how tempted he was, he risked being thrown off his course.
After the patients had finished their lunches, the teas were given out and the trolley cleared away, the nurses could start their lunches. Half the shift would go for the first half and hour, followed by the rest when the first lunches returned.
Half an hour was not long, but his mentor encouraged him to take a proper break away from the ward. The problem was, it was a five minute walk just to get to the canteen, five minutes walk back, five minutes to stand in a queue, with the general public to be served and pay for his meal. That left fifteen minutes to finally sit down, relax and eat. The general public were in no hurry. They were waiting for friends or relatives. They had attended out patients and they would gave a leisurely coffee before they headed home.
Simon was frustrated with them. He was hungry. He didn't have much time! They were in the way!
He was not organised enough to prepare a packed lunch the night before, which would work out to be cheaper. He often planned to just have a sandwich, but was tempted by the shepherd's pie, or battered fish & chips, or cherry pie with custard.
He would have to calculate if he could afford the luxury of a cooked meal, but if he walked home after work, he could spend his bus fare now.
When he eventually sat down, he would have to eat quickly. He would load his fork with as much food at it would hold and push it into his wide open mouth. He'd spent so long in the damned queue, he didn't have long to eat. He shovelled the food in, mouthful after mouthful, barely chewing before he swallowed and prepared for the next mouthful.
He'd leave the table as soon as he had finished. It had hardly been a relaxing half hour, but he fuelled up, ready for a more relaxed afternoon.
19 chapters, created StoryListingCard.php 7 years , updated 5 years
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Badhansel 7 years
Thanks for the great read!
Katkatkatkatkat 7 years
Would you be so kind as to translate stones to pounds for us Americans?
Aquarius64 7 years
Chapter four successfully deleted! Not what I wanted at all! Delete button too close to the edit button. Has happened before. I'm sure you used to get a warning before it was actually deleted. Now I have to get back into chapter four's mindset and rewrite