Friday, 30 November 2012

Alice grandmother

Alice Ellen Redshaw 1911 -1996

My maternal grandmother was born into a mining family in Lamesley, County Durham. Her first job was in a bakery in Chester le St when she was 14, and then when she was 18 she moved to London, accompanying her younger sister, where they both found jobs “in service”. Alice lived in London for nearly 70 years....but home was always the north east, and she never lost her beautiful geordie accent.

Alice met my grandfather, Thurlo Basil, who had also come to London for work. He was from a large family ( 13 children) in Herefordshire, and he found work in London as a window cleaner.

Alice got pregnant......they married in July 1931...... and Joy, my mother was born in December 1931.
Frail Alice Ellen with her new husband Thurlo

Life was tough for Alice, window cleaner/ painter and decorator/odd job man Thurlo was a gambler, a womaniser and a heavy drinker. There were several occasions when Alice came home from work to find her few pieces of furniture had been sold to pay off gambling debts. Thurlo was also a violent man. Alice suffered back eyes, swollen cheeks and once, a broken arm.

Roal Navy Deep Sea diver, Thurlo Basil Dawes
The outbreak of war in 1939 was a bit of a blessing for the little family. Thurlo joined the Navy, and left home for 5 years. Alice and Joy, who was nearly 8 when the war began, had a few years of peace and quiet on the domestic front. Joy, evacuated from London to her paternal grandmother’s house in Hereford, returned to London and to her mother, when she discovered she hated her grandmother nearly as much as she hated her own father.
Alice on the right, with Joy, my mother.....happy days when Thurlo was at war.
( about 1943 )

Alice had been pregnant again when Thurlo left for the war, but baby Beryl died before she was 6 months old, from meningitis. I don’t think Thurlo ever saw his youngest daughter.

Alice started working in a school canteen, as a dinner lady, and by the time I was born ( 10 years after the end of the war), Alice was canteen superviser. Alice was the first person in our family to have a “ superannuated” job......meaning she got a pension. Alice was incredibly proud of her kitchen, her team of dinner ladies, and the meals that they produced. At Christmas she went into work at 3am, to put the turkeys on for Christmas dinner......all fresh ingredients, cooked on the premises. She saved 3d and 6d pieces all year round, to put in the Christmas puddings ( no Council health and safety issues in those days), and she was always so proud of the Christmas cakes she and her team produced.
Alice in the centre, surrounded by her team of dinner ladies.

Alice's school Christmas cakes....children at the counter, waiting to dive in. 
Alice put up with being beaten up,  and with her few possessions being sold off periodically. Her daughter’s Christmas presents even vanished once on Boxing day, when Thurlo needed cash for an unpaid debt. Then, as she approached retirement, and receipt of that pension she regarded so highly, she discovered that he was having yet another affair.  In 1970, when she was 59, after nearly40 years of marriage, of beatings of drunken brawls and countless affairs, she finally had enough. Alice divorced Thurlo and came to live with us, until she managed to set herself up in a little flat a few miles from where we lived.
my favourite photo of "Nanny"....grandma Alice...this is how I remember her, wearing one of her great home knitted cardigans.
When she retired, she spent her “lump sum” on a 6 month trip to South Africa to see her favourite sister-in-law, and then she returned to live in her lovely little flat, where she was finally safe and very happy.
Alice in South Africa.....a free woman, at last.
Alice made the best cakes, knitted the best sweaters, and was a perfect grandma. Her life was tough from the start, and she soldiered through to make the best possible life she could for my mother.
oh, the cakes she used to make.......her pastry was to die for, and she loved nothing more than cooking for parties.

Thurlo was diagnosed with lung cancer in the mid 70s...... Alice looked after him until he died, and she always let him think...that if he was well behaved.....she might take him back ! ( I don't think for one minute, she would have taken him back but she always said she had never loved anyone else, and it didn't hurt anyone to let him hope).
Great grandma ( still referred to as nanny) and my daughter Jessie

A photographic collage I put together a few years ago, from top left:
Mary Esther Sumner, mother of (top right) Alice Ellen Green, mother of (centre) Alice Ellen lovely grandmother, who was mother of (bottom left) Joy, who was mother of (bottom right) me......mother of (centre bottom) a very much younger than she is now, Jessie, whose middle name is of course, to keep the name going......



Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Back in touch

Facing major surgery as the start of what hopefully was going to be curative treatment for cancer, I kept one thing in mind.

Post operative pain relief has developed quite a way since my appendix operation in 1964.

The infamous PCAs ......patient controlled analgesia, means that patients can give themselves doses of morphine as and when they need it, without any risk of overdose. If there was one thing that I was “looking forward to” about the surgery, it was being able to give myself morphine..... it seemed so outrageous, even illegal....but perhaps a slither of a silver lining to this cloud of being ill.

So.... there I was, lying on my amazingly modern electric profile bed, hooked up to various clearly life supporting fluids..... and I reached for my PCAs button..... I found the profile bed remote control, the TV remote control, the emergency button to call a nurse and the light switch...... but no PCAs control. I could see the PCAs machine, with its tube of morphine locked in place..... where was the button ??????

I pressed the button to call a nurse.... and she explained that I had been very sensitive to the morphine administered during the operation, and had spent a long time in the recovery room.....recovering. So, the bottom line was that I couldn’t have any more morphine. My blood pressure and oxygen levels were very more morphine ! They did give me something slightly stronger than paracetemol, but nothing really exotic or exciting.
So, there it silver lining.....removed.
Hospital band : "Mad reaction to morphine in surgery".....Mad ??????
Since then ( my "successful" surgery was actually 3 weeks ago today), I have made a good post op recovery, discharged after 3 days, but then a few days later, readmitted to hospital with a probable infection. 6 days later, I was discharged again, and this time, I am really making progress.
Being admitted to the ward I used to work on was fascinating. I always had incredible respect for the nursing team on "my" ward, but being on the receiving end of their skills and care was something out of this world. They are an amazing team of professionals, I could not have wished for better care. Nothing was ever too much trouble, and their ability to make me feel safe ( and pampered) was wonderful.

dont you just love those pressure socks?
So, now, I am home, preparing to start chemotherapy at the end of next week. I am feeling stronger every day. I can now concentrate on a crochet pattern, visitors' conversations, TV programmes which last more than 25 minutes, novels that are slightly more stretching than the latest Jodi Picoult.....and catching up on blogs I have missed, or skated through during the last few weeks. I also, cant wait to blog about something other than being ill.
I am planning a blog about my "less than loopy" grandmother, as opposed to my "loopy" grandmother, and intend to fill my days with things that do not neccessarily revolve around cancer.

Alice Ellen, my not so loopy grandmother.
Basically, I feel as if I am back. I have missed blogging, but have been thrilled to have received so much support from blogging friends. So thankyou all, and I'll be dropping in to see what is happening in your worlds regularly from now on.