Sunday, January 18, 2009

Friday 3rd December 1943

Colonel Houghton-Kerr (T.D. M.D.) strikes again! Descends savagely upon all wired-in wards! No patients allowed out!

There was a tangle up of red tape re red ties a week or two ago here, as reported. Eventually it was arranged that inmates of the compounds could go out upon their lawful occasions – ie to the library, post office, therapy department and cook house to fetch food – by consent of the MO and Sister i/c the ward. Red ties not to be worn, thus cleverly distinguishing the ordinary patients from the very crazy inhabitants of the compounds.

Now, however, all is chaos again. The Colonel met two tie-less men this morning near the canteen, and stopped them for questions in his usual fierce manner. “Where are you going?” he demanded. “To get tea sir, at the canteen sir,” they replied like good soldiers. They might have added that hey were just slipping across the road from the Therapy department as is often done, but being good soldiers, they just answered his bellowings literally and did not volunteer any additional statements. “What ward?” snarled the Colonel, a little mollified. “Three, sir.”

Satisfied, the Colonel let them proceed. Unfortunately he met the genuine tea-fetching party, armed with buckets, a few minutes later. “Stop! Stop!” They did. One was Jock in the kitchen and the other was sleepy Hardy. “Where are you going?” “To get the tea for the ward – from the canteen sir.” “What ward?” “Three sir!”
“Impossible!” snapped the Colonel, “I've just seen the official tea men! Come back to the ward!” Hardy was gazing at him sleepily. “Come on, now!” cried the Colonel petulantly,and brought them back, with empty buckets.

He bounced in with a curt “Good morning!” and found Joe Meek in charge, as the orderly was engaged elsewhere and the Sister was off duty. Joe seemed to appease him alright; he explained that Jock and Hardy (with buckets) were out with permission to collect the “elevenses” tea for the ward and that the other two patients (with mugs) were doubtless two of the three patients of this ward who are allowed to go to the OT department.

“Can anyone go out as he likes then?” asked the Colonel stupidly. “Only those who have permission of the MO or Sister,” I heard Joe tell him patiently. “What about that patient who opens the gate? How does he know who has got permission?” asked the Colonel, with great astuteness. “He asks the Sister before he lets anyone out, sir.” The Colonel seemed satisfied at that and said that the two men he had brought back, could go out again and fetch the tea after all.

(All this seems very trivial, but it's a big event in this uneventful compound world. Besides, the Colonel always gets interested in trivial things – like the loss of a pair of scissors in OT a couple of months ago.)

After a few hours of confusion and doubt, a Written Order, from Colonel Houghton-Kerr (T.D M.D.) arrived, which stated laconically that no patient was in future to leave the compound under any circumstances... How we shall get food if that order is obeyed, I don't know! There's not a big staff at the compound – usually only one Sister and two orderlies on the two wards – and it will be impossible for two orderlies to fetch the food for nearly 80 men at each meal time...

Besides, what might happen in the compound whilst they were away? Even the staff think the Colonel is a bit crazy sometimes. Just now I heard the 2 Sisters and an orderly arguing angrily about this latest order. Needless to say, I didn't go to OT this afternoon! A Sister boldly “took the responsibility” for letting me fetch tea from the canteen just now – with an orderly in charge of me.

The orderly was glancing around uneasily as we slunk down the road. “Hope we don't meet the Colonel,” he said, apprehensively. “Why?” I said, amused, “Surely I'm alright – with an escort?” “No,” said the orderly, “His chit said, not under any circumstances. It's all very well for her to say she'll take responsibility, but the Colonel will go mad if he sees us.”

However we got back without hearing any howls of rage or encountering any demented Colonels.

A bright evening for starshine. Located Alpha Piscis Australis (Fomalhaut) and the constellation of Cetus. The two bright stars (or planets) are quite noticeably altering in their relationship to the nearby stars. Now the brighter of the two rises soon after sunset, almost level with Capella.

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