Sunday, 24 September 2017

Wimmen Doctors!

 
Amongst those volunteering for service during the Great War were a large number of relatively newly qualified female doctors.  These were of course refused by the British Army as being female they could not be reliable nor capable with dealing with the situation ahead. 
Te women, especially Scots women, knew the answer to that!  They had already met much resistance from all sides but had succeeded in qualifying as doctors and indeed surgeons.  The Scottish Women's Hospital movement led by Elsie Inglis applied to the French authorities who were unsure about these women but nevertheless accepted them and under control of the French Red Cross allowed a hospital to be developed at the former Cistercian Abbey at Royaumont some thirty kilometres from Paris.  From January 1915 until March 1919 the hospital operated very successfully and from a slow start became recognised as the best hospital the French or indeed anyone else operated.  The French were totally unprepared fro the number or type of casualties that would arise during the war, the British and German better prepared but even so all were lacking in relevant experience, medicines and qualified staff.
  

The Abbey while attractive and restful was totally unsuited for hospital work.  Sanitary arrangements were never satisfactory, accommodation required huge manpower efforts to amend and living accommodation for the staff appalling and worse in winter when it froze!   Conditions were never great no matter how hard the staff strove but nonetheless they managed to save life, avoid amputation where possible, much more than other hospitals managed, and became much loved by the French soldiers.  
The soldiers were mainly French although these included many Senegalese who had different habits that had to be taught and North Africans, mostly from what is now Algeria, all of whom came to respect and admire the Scots lassies.


The staff were led by Doctor Francis Ivens and Elsie Inglis, Inglis herself left to set up a  similar hospital in Serbia where Typhus was common and her hygiene improvements cut the causes of many illnesses.  In 1915 she was captured and repatriated but instead of sitting around created another hospital for work in Russia.  This began in 1916 but cancer caused her to return home in 1917 when she died on arrival in Newcastle.  Edinburgh honoured her with a hospital named after her, much reduced now to being a mere children's clinic I believe.  She also appeared on a Scots £10 note 'Clydesdale Bank' I think.
Francis Ivens was another strong willed suffragette who had attained medical qualifications.  When Elsie Inglis moved to Serbia Ivens was left in charge at Royaumont and how well she did her job!  Running the Abbey hospital, operating, checking patients, ensuring the staff, Doctors, nurses, orderlies, chauffeurs, kitchens and all else required to keep the Abbey running were happy in the difficult circumstances of war and also ensuring the French authorities trusted the hospital and offered support while also keeping the committee back in Edinburgh aware of the needs of the Abbey Ivens had no time to herself over some four years of work.  The fact that few fell out with her, almost all trusted her implicitly and she, like several others at the Abbey, received the Croix de guerre from the French government speaks volumes for her abilities.  One major achievement was the work on 'gas gangrene' which early in the war killed many or led to amputations of limbs.  Her work at the Abbey contributed mightily to finding success in dealing with this comparatively new problem.


All staff throughout were female.  Occasionally a mechanic was employed to keep the vehicles working but the drivers remained female.  Some patients were able to help with the daily duties and willingly did so as part of their rehabilitation yet all the daily grind, which included carrying patients on stretchers upstairs to the wards and moving bags of clothing and linen to the top floor was undertaken by the women.  The desire to show the men they could do the job had a big influence on these suffragette influenced lassies.  Many were highly qualified, others less so, some middle  class others not, yet they worked together with the usual bitchiness occasionally breaking out but usually dealt with by Dr Ivens or another staff member with tact and firmness.
During major offensives such as the Battle of the Somme work was unending.  Doctors and nurses, drivers and orderlies worked until they dropped and then carried on.  Some three thousand men came through in a few days, these were checked, X-rayed, early path lab work carried out and the result was highly successful.  Over the years which included The Somme in 1916, the battles of 1917 and the 'great push' of 1918 saw over 11,000 patients came through the hospital and of these only 159 died.  An excellent result for the work of Dr Ivens and her staff. 


Elizabeth Courtauld belonged to this area.  The family were famous for their contributions to society and 'good works' and eventually Elizabeth qualified as a doctor and headed for Bangalore where many women found medical experience unavailable at home.  Elizabeth was the oldest of the doctors at 50 years of age and her work included the smaller casualty clearing station at  Villers- Cotterets including the emergency evacuation under shellfire and bombing from the air at night during the German push in 1918.  This was an experience few forgot!  After the war like many others she returned to India to enjoy her work there.




Saturday, 23 September 2017

So Quiet


So quiet just now.  The TV is off, the radio is off, and I sit in silence awaiting six O'clock.  This is important as at six BBC ALBA will offer the full game between St Johnstone and Hamilton Accies hence the silence.  Anything I listen to is likely to offer the score inadvertently so I sit with no noise, scared even to play You Tube in case it appears there.  Ah Radio 3 Jazz!  That fills a gap.
Had the weather been better had my health been better then I would be outside avoiding radios and observing the world, instead I linger here reading books and burning chicken for tea.


I took some objects to the museum early on for the next exhibition, something about the 60's, 70's and 80's which appear like yesterday to me but ancient history to some.
I remembered today the men I worked with when I left Edinburgh in 1975, several were in their late 50's and early 60's and it was interesting to consider that if they still lived they would be around a hundred years old.  In my mind of course they remain as I remember them, fit, healthy and bossing me around.  The women who threw themselves at me, or at least threw some things at me, will no longer be lithe young slips of girls, grandmothers all and yet here I am just as I was then, youthful, handsome and ........  *fill in as appropriate. 
Nostalgia is not what is was and that is why we are having an exhibition covering the Christmas period (note Christmas is less than 100 days away) and offering something many in the town will wish to remember.  They will also wish to visit the photos I am about to steal from them to offer for the exhibition!  Photos of people, places that no longer exist and then they can mutter and groan how "It was better back then" even if then they spent the time grumbling as to how it could be improved!  This they deny!  
Now, where are my Hippy beads...?

  

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Autumn


Autumn has definitely arrived.  The leaves are yellowing, many falling, the rain ensures many more will fall and bring delight to those who have the job of clearing them from paths, roads, pavements and so on.  I remember that job well, finish one day and start again the next.  
Not that the rest of the weather has varied much, darkness falls earlier, the rain comes and goes, and people pass smiling and happy - yeah right!

 
Nothing else happened.
Politics is still sick.
The loss of William G Stewart who's death was announced today is a sad one.  Producer of many programmes and presenter of 'Fifteen to One,' an excellent quiz show now ruined by the presence of a failed 'celeb' as presenter.  He was excellent in this show and this became one of my favourites when he presented it.  It ran for a long time but now hides away in one of the obscure channels.  No wonder!
Nothing else happened again...


Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Monday, 18 September 2017

Stuck Indoors


I have been stuck indoors for days this not for an eagerness to hear the words of Boris Johnson on the news nor for fear of ISIS terrorists, if only the 'Tube' came this far out!  None of these things have moved me much and instead I have merely loitered here unless the desire to feed my fat face moved me elsewhere, elsewhere being Tesco or Sainsburys.  Those places, and one other now found in this town, offered me a glimpse of the creatures that have recently left school and a re pursuing a career in supermarket rip-offs.  One featured a disinterested gayboy who will not see out the month as he clearly finds work in the real work not to his liking.  It appears school has not taught him about reality and while one or two others who joined alongside him are making the most of things this one will not last.  The newer shop, B&M has in the few occasions I have been in been staffed by incompetents and wee girls with an attitude suitable for a poor soap opera, it is however unsuitable for work.  The boys do the job but the girls, including some well past adolescence, fail in every way.   The allure of a life as an 'Essex girl' may be drawing them, I suspect they watch 'TOWIE' and see it something to live up to.  Give me the elder regular checkout staff who for the most part are grown up, well most of them.


Much of my time has been taken up with catching up on things begun years ago.  A woman asked one day for information regarding a local village and we had none, no surprise there as there many villages in our area.  I decided to write out a handout for the village, and others also but never got round to it because of the interference of the war exhibitions.  Recently I managed to pick up some of the forgotten links, those not lost in the death of the old laptop, and have begun once again. 
Some villages here go back into the Iron Age, others appear to have begun just to till the fields of a Lord of the Manor, especially in Norman times, and hovels that once housed farm labourers after their long day in ploughed fields now sell for half a million or more to residents who never meet one another unless they collect the kids from school or lower themselves to get drunk in the one remaining pub, a pub the few remaining locals avoid.
It s no surprise men took to trades of any description if it took them off the land or flooded into bigger towns for work in unhealthy factories where wages were higher and rough conditions better than frozen fields.  It is no surprise also so many left voluntarily for war when the chance came, excitement, comradeship and a chance to see the world was not something a young fit man could wish to miss.  There are fifty or so memorials to those who did not return from their adventure around our district, not counting the ones in the bigger towns.


In days of old things were tougher.  If dad was working the fields the kids had to walk two or three miles on occasion into school.  Fun probably in summer but not so in winter.  Most of these kids were local but others had a long walk in to education.  I do not think most teachers had any qualifications, I am unsure when that became a requirement, but certainly on some census returns clever lassies of 16 years were noted as 'teachers.'  What did they know?  I suggest they were however more capable than the local young checkout staff of today.



Thursday, 14 September 2017

Sell!


In spite of my knee giving me billy-O yesterday I hobbled manfully down to the museum at one to aid the lass in charge.  She would be on her own all afternoon as a variety of excuses meant no-one else was about.  So without a word of complaint I faltered into my place.  
Immediately the manager arrived having decided to change his routine and indicated with a sly smile I could have remained at home.  Too late for that I thought and cheerful as always settled in to do almost nothing all afternoon.  It was a quiet day fortunately and only a couple of people entered or passed in and out.  


In between studying books I examined the shelves to see what had been moved since the day before, I knew after I left yesterday she would shift things about, and then I came upon the bottle opener.  Good grief these used to be lying about everywhere and sideboards and kitchens abounded with such things (especially in Glasgow) as most beers until the 60's came in bottle, kids drinks did also think Coca-Cola for instance.  Now so many come in tins with 'ring pull' tops.  
This bottle opener which once was given free by manufacturers of drinks now costs £7.  Jings!  Certainly it will last a lifetime and your grandchildren will inherit the thing in years to come but £7 for that.  The bird, made out of light wood I think may be decorative but what would you do with such an item?  I often find myself asking such questions and later that day selling the thing I was confused by.  You can never tell what will sell and what will fail, it is a strange business retail.



Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Point to Ponder


OK, we sell them but why do people buy them?
"There are so many beautiful reasons to be happy"
What?
If we put "There are so many reasons to be miserable" would it sell?  Would either change your life? I ponder on this as on facebook I am constantly receiving such sayings in poster form.  Some make no sense and appear to be from those who dwell in the land of fantasy others are instantly forgotten.  Do such sayings ever change a persons life?
Some put up biblical sayings or quotes from biblical authors, all good and well but what if four people post and the quotes blot out each other?  Do they fit my day or anyone else's day?  Are they thought out or just found interesting?  Have they changed my life?
You see written signs in shops, pubs, restaurants and elsewhere sometimes written on T-shirts or jackets for no good reason, some tattooed onto a back or leg belonging to those who's brain fell out at birth. 
I like reading, I used to read sauce bottles at table as mum would not allow anything else but really must we have such slogans that mean nothing everywhere?
(I have not shown others we now sell, you just would not believe them!)



Monday, 11 September 2017

Now I'm Not One to Complain...BBC Alba!


Now I'm not one to complain but there are many reasons why this is possible.  Kids going back to school has indeed cleared the shops of the dear little brats but however the mums with pushchairs and no consideration remain.  The rain continues to fall when I put my head out the door and the wind continues to blow in the window and unsettle the dust in the room.  The telly continues to rouse an attitude of miffed and on Saturday it once again offered one of my favourite grouses, football coverage!
Now to use TV to cover a football match ought to be simple.  A large area of grass surrounded by lots of people, simple enough.  The players kick the ball and one another back and forth and the camera swings back and forth following the action while the needless commentator, and friend, prattle rubbish alongside.  Simple enough so why is it on Saturday while watching BBC Alba's excellent idea of showing us football some of us cannot reach at 6pm why must it be spoiled by employing what I take to be a woman with no knowledge or interest in football to direct the action?
If I wish to see four or five lingering needless close ups of the Heart of Midlothian's manager I will buy a photograph of him, I don't wish to see either him or several close ups of the Aberdeen manager, a shock indeed is that.  I want to see what is happening on the large green area not what is not happening on the sidelines.  
The fascination with nothing continued with a view of two men wearing what looked like kids sunglasses, funny perhaps but not while the game is in motion, they are not on the field and that is where we ought to be looking.  I consider directors with an understanding of the game and the way it is run also important but I do not wish to see the camera lingering for an age on the Aberdeen chairman and acolytes I wish to see the game.  Our own dear chairwoman is better looking but why we look at her while the game is in play is beyond comprehension, she can see the game why not us?  
Of course TV folks always find spurious excuses for their incompetence and I would like to hear those from the final fifteen minutes of the game.  The Heart of Midlothian were piling on the pressure and a ball was abut to be crossed into the goalmouth and suddenly we found ourselves staring at a ball boy sitting on his stool immersed in the game we could not see!  Why?  A mistake, fair enough, but with five minutes to go and pressure and excitement building as the Hears attack we suddenly are offered a sweeping slow sight of the entire ground for no good reason and are unable to follow what is happening.  
Top this with constant close ups of the back of players heads long after the ball has left them and while the crowd are reacting to things we cannot see and I begin to wonder whether the woman has a fancy for the players or is just incompetent?  This happens in all games these days and in spite of their experience built up over the past few years BBC Alba continue to be the worst at ignoring the game and watching nothing at all during it.
It's time for change!


Friday, 8 September 2017

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Work!


I shuffled into work half asleep this morning.  An air of quietness permeated the building, the kids are all back in school!  Add to this the girls were out 'ten-pin-bowling' last night there were a few hangovers draped over desks this morning.  I assisted by adding my cheery personality and was immediately shown the door and the way to Tesco for milk, an operation even I could manage.
Wrong!
I found the milk, checking for the furthest off date, and headed for the self service checkout.  I put the item through and it all stopped.  I stopped, the machine stopped, I did it again and stopped with the machine not even bothering to start.  Then as I realised the price was showing I placed the bottle to my right as you do.  It was at this point the young lass came to my aid, indicating the bottle ought to have gone to my left, not the right where an old basket was left and "You can't get the staff" was muttered under her breath.  I paid my money, eventually as the brute asked several questions about bags and cards first before my change arrived and I headed for the door, the lass pointing me in the right direction in the fashion women have when dealing with men.



Naturally with the kids being away I expected a quiet day of gossip with Peggy, however she was unavailable today and instead of sitting sipping tea and meeting a few visitors I was kicked out once again!  Laura sent me out to take photos for a project she is working on.  Naturally I could not refuse her, she would break both my legs if I did, so off I jolly well went, uncomplaining, unfed, and without any tea. 



A trail around town for kids has been prepared to reveal to them the things they see everyday as they pass by.  Or something like this.  Pictures, descriptions, all written in language kids understand will enable them to know their history better, or at least this is the intention.  So I had to take appropriate pics here and there.


How come when wandering through the town daily I never meet anyone?  Today while on a project I met several off the better classes!  This thankfully hindered my work and allowed me to rest for no good reason.  This Lane was once a road which has lain here for many, many years I sometimes wonder how many and was home to many works of various kinds.  Now it houses a fancy shopping centre, that's progress.  


The kids will know the church dates back at least 800 years, possibly much more and the fountain with the gay looking chap playing with fish was built to improve the area, the slums that once stood here being demolished in the 30's.   You will notice there is no water in the fountain, too many have been putting washing up liquid in the water where the detergent has damaged the pipes.  Now they complain it does not work but as soon as it does some berk will once again have it flowing with bubbles.



Something schools ought to consider is the 'Cage' or 'Lock up' once all villages in the area had one, many still stand happily, this was where folks, usually drunk, were locked up for the night in one of the two six foot cells therein.  Once the police station was built they lost some of their usefulness.  The much changed road on which this stands contained several public houses of dubious reputation, we know they were dubious as three had nicknames, 'Little Hell,' 'Big Hell,' and 'Perdition!'
It was better in the old days...


If they make it this far the kids will find on one side of the street 'Courtaulds' final mill.  The firm had been in the town and in many towns round about for over two hundred years.  Factories abounded and offices were found all over the world.  Sadly during the period after the war all this died away and the company was sold and resold to various businesses and this mill closed in the early 90's.  
What cannot be seen now is the number of houses that once stood in front of the Mill along the wall on the left.  There were several there until improvements were made for the motor car.  It is almost difficult to believe that houses would be there but pictures exist and somewhat downtrodden they looked.

  
Right opposite the very busy road lies the Silk Weaving Mill, two large white wooden buildings with sheets of window all the way along.  Once 'Warners Mill' was engaged on making robes and decorations for royal coronations and now it has also died away, foreign competition, from whom we stole the silk worms in the past many years ago, claimed back their dominance of the industry.  This building houses both offices and flats, the other offices and the 'Warner Textile Archive,' part of the museum and useful for women interested in courses on all sort of wool, silk, thread and such like hobbies.  Many courses take part here through out the year. 



Then it was off home to fiddle with the pictures and by the grace of God I worked out how to do this properly for once.  Then I sent the boss the pics by email and limped back to work.  Here I found myself totally out of routine as I had been out an hour and a half and (still without tea) returned to the usual confusion.  
However an attractive young lady came in and immediately caught my attention, my tea was forgotten especially as she came in to check on one or two of the Christmas items (that's Christmas!) and by the time she had left she had parted with almost £42, I say almost as she got a penny change. Soon after she sent her friend in who also paid £20 for one of the events.  I took more money in ten minutes than some days I take in a week!  
The problem came when she asked if she could pin up a notice, we let folks do this, and I took this and looked for a space.  The notice concerns a book reading group that meets in a pub once a month, hmmm...  However I looked for 'Blu Tack'  to attach the notice to the only space left on the wall and not one blob of the stuff either blu or White could be found in the drawer, and I raked the entire drawer.  Mentioning this to the boss she looked in said drawer and produced the entire packet of 'Blu Tack' that sat their in front of me.
They sent me home after that...


Monday, 4 September 2017

'Wipers'


The 'Wipers Times' was a series of newspapers produced by men of the 12th Battalion 'Sherwood Foresters' Regiment stationed at Ypres in Belgium during the Great War.  Searching for material to make and secure dugouts they came upon a printing press and commandeered this as an aid to regiment, indeed Divisional moral.  One of the men being a printer got this working and his boss Captain (later Lieutenant-Colonel) F. J. Roberts (Frederick John Roberts) who was to win the Military Cross decided to go with it.  The captain became editor, rank pulling and Lieut J.H.Pearson DSO. MC, who also later became Lieutenant-Colonel sub edited the paper.  The 12the battalion belonged to the 24th Division and spread copies of the paper throughout.


These were men who volunteered during the patriotic days of 1914.  By late 1915 these men were becoming used to trench warfare and learning the cost of war.  By February 1916 serving at Ypres (called Wipers by the British as they refused to speak in the manner of the locals) and having already lost men to the war some satire/sarcasm re the war found an outlet.  
The salient in which they served was under constant fire.  Artillery often hindered the printing, men often went to work in the line and did not return, casualties continued and so the requirement for satire grew daily.  Adverts such as the above were common in the paper.  Ads for houses for sale along the 'Menin Road' (the centre of the battlefield) mentioned noisy neighbours and 'good shooting.'  


The British encouraged officers to be 'offensive.'  We were not here to sit and wait but to attack and push the Hun out of Belgium.  The cartoon above speaks well of the type of officer available to the division I fear.  'People we take out hats off to' section included 'The person who introduced the order forbidding company commanders to go beyond their front line trench.'  Also a point regarding the press 'Whether the London papers are aware there are a few British troops on this western front.'  

 'Pop' was Poperinge a nearby town of rest.

The press was not something the troops respected.  Full of patriotic bravado long lost among the men at the front they detested and spoofed the works of Hillare Belloc and William Beech Thomas who wrote it appears in a manner not to the liking of the troops.  While the fighting men had no desire to give up they also had no false understanding of the war.  Patriotic ill informed nonsense led to the items by 'Teech Bomas' and 'Belary Helloc.'  Both claimed to know how to win the war, Bomas had been in the front line defeating the enemy and of course neither were anywhere near it, the troops despised such men.  
   

Poetry was abundant among the officer class, who mostly sent in items for use.  And far too much appeared in the paper.  While it filled space not enough prose arrived and the editor often asked for contributions other than poetry.  It still arrived however.  Much was humorous, some poignant, most just acceptable.  It is fair to say none appeared amongst the great poetic works after the war.


The letters pages appears realistic in that only people grumbling about something appear to communicate.  Here they complain about the road, under constant fire, and the smell in the air, chlorine or Mustard gas.  All the while these men were fighting and suffering from a very unhealthy war.  Many obtained medals, many never returned.  The unknown contributors who cheered their mates may still lie as yet undiscovered somewhere under the salient.

The end of the war brought no celebrations among the division, they were just glad it was finished.  These men had fought a good fight and won.  The cause they entered the war for was a different cause from that which enabled them to win it, they endured and won and the survivors could return triumphantly but to what?  Having suffered the damage of war, often grumbling it was from their own artillery, they returned to 'Blighty.'  As a successful editor Frederick John Roberts tried to join a newspaper on his return but was offered only the post as a crossword compiler!  Work even for officers was scarce, we had a Conservative chancellor with an 'austerity' budget in power, and Roberts moved to Canada where he saw ought his life unheeded.  Rather a sad end but many heroic men endured much and returned to nothing whatsoever.  A reasonably happy family life with mixed emotions was the lot of the majority though those with bits missing may have found it harder going. 
The 'black humour' found in the trenches is with us still and is an important part of keeping us sane and stable in everyday life, I hope that never changes.

Some more from yesterday.