So I felt tense and excited when a call came for me to go to a certain address and do treatment. Nurse will know what, the message darkly stated. All right. I should not be caught out. I would be prepared for any emergency. I stuffed my little bag with every imaginable dressing, application and dressing I could find. I put in all my apparatus - both of them, the Higginson’s syringe and the thermometer. Lastly I gave myself the once-over and decided that my appearance would inspire great confidence. My apron crackled professionally and my storm hat, worn well down on the brow, looked rather like a bishop’s mitre giving me a grave somewhat ecclesiastical look.
After I had picked myself out of the gutter twice, I finally managed to remain uneasily in situ on the bicycle. Then I wobbled along and with great cunning threw myself clear of it at the right address. I knocked and was admitted by a white haired old lady with a haughty and intimidating demeanour. I could see it was what district nurses call ‘ a nice home’. This means that there is a best front room with chairs standing frustratedly against the walls. There is an upright piano with a plant atop it, and there is invariably a daguerrotype of dad in sailor’s uniform gloriously decorated with the flags of the Allies 1914-1918.in heavy guilt frame above the fireplace. It was all there.
But what was this? Set dead centre in the room was one of the frustrated dining room chairs and draped all around it on the floor were bath towels. A huge china bowl stood defiantly on one of them sort of daring me to guess what it was going to be used for. But suddenly I felt affrighted. Perhaps I was going to be called upon to do just the one thing I’d never done in my training - but what? An enema, a rectal, bladder or colostomy washout, a high colonic or stomach lavage, a douce? I could manage all those treatments. The old lady interrupted my agitated ponderings. ‘The water’s in the kettle over there’ she informed me seating herself regally on the chair. ‘But what’ I asked, kettle in hand ‘what am I to do ?’ Wash me feet and cut me toenails of course,’ she retorted snootily. I was so taken aback I nearly dropped the kettle of water. But I got down on my hands and knees and made what I thought was a really nice job of them. I surveyed them with pride. But the old lady seemed to be waiting for something. ‘Haven’t you bought your razor?’ she asked sharply. ‘No ,’ I replied nervously, ‘what for?’ ‘ to cut the skin off me feet of course.’ well, I took my shilling payment and I slunk out of that house deeply humiliated. A failure. So my training had been incomplete after all.