Older Than Dinosaurs…

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The Big Day

October 9th dawned and as usual I was up at the crack of dawn even though I didn’t have to walk the dog, (I’d taken her to kennels the day before). Our rooms weren’t available ’til 2.00pm and the estimated journey time on the sat nav was 1.45 hours so I had all morning to get myself sorted. That meant all morning to become more and more excited and anxious at the thought of meeting some people I’d known so well at one time but hadn’t seen for over 40 years. Would everyone turn up? Would I recognise them? Would everyone think the lounge area I’d checked out was OK?

Finally, it was time to set out and I felt better once I was on my way. I made good progress on the journey so stopped for some lunch as I didn’t know what the situation would be when I got to the Holiday Inn; when I did my recce the receptionist had told me that lunch times were quite busy during the week. I got there about 1.00pm and sure enough the car park was crammed and it took me a while to find a space, miles away from the entrance. As I walked back from the car, trundling my case behind me, I spotted Kay who, jammy devil, had managed get a parking space just outside the front door; she looked just the same as the last time I’d seen her in 1976.

We went into reception which was really busy with conference bods sitting around at tables with their laptops; we checked in, took our stuff to our rooms as we were allowed in early, found a seat in the lounge area where we could see the front door and took up station watching for the others to arrive. Gill arrived; Carol arrived; Ruth arrived.

That’s when things started to go wrong. According to Kay’s agenda, we should have all assembled by about 2.00pm to start giving our news but by 3.00pm Jean hadn’t arrived and Carol who’d checked in and gone to her room, hadn’t re-appeared. Finally, Jean arrived but still no Carol, Gill and Kay had gone down to their rooms earlier and shouted through the door to Carol who replied she’d be there shortly, I now went down to her room and when she answered she said she was OK but wouldn’t come back to the lounge with me. The five of us continued to sit around, drinking coffee and chatting generally, until finally Ruth went down to see Carol and returned saying Carol was having some problems and we should go down to her. While the other four went down to see Carol, I stayed to keep our corner space in the lounge. At long last, Carol arrived with Ruth and it became clear that she was having some major mental health issues.

It was quite a shock to see her so ill; I’d last seen her five years before at her brother’s for her 60th birthday and my contact since then had been by occasional telephone calls during which I got no idea that she had problems. We managed to whip through everyone’s news but I for one didn’t really take in what anyone was saying because I was so conscious of Carol’s mental state and the fact that the staff started moving tables and chairs in the lounge ready for a conference evening session. When evryone had had their say we went to check out other seating areas and one of the Holiday Inn staff kindly took this photo of us all.

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Dinner was booked for eight and it was something of a relief to go back to my room to get changed. I sat on my bed just thinking about Carol. What had happened to her? Would she be able to cope with dinner? What could we do to help her? Should I ring Colin (her brother)? I couldn’t come to any conclusion so determined to enjoy the evening, got washed and changed and went back to the bar for a pre-dinner drink.

As I entered the bar, I could see everyone was there and Kay was standing with her back to me apparently wearing a black cloak, as she turned to greet me I was astonished to see she was wearing her nursing uniform which she’d found in her attic! It was great to see it and as we all had a good laugh, it helped to lighten the mood. We sat down with our drinks and Kay then presented me with a gift bag that she said was something she should have given me many years ago! I was intrigued and opened the bag to find my old District Nurse hat, (my name label carefully sewn inside) that Kay had also found in her attic! Kay had also brought old work books, (‘Tray and Trolley Setting’ was a blast from the pas)t and old exam papers; this provoked a lot of “D’you remember when……. from everyone.

Over dinner the reminiscences continued; Carol coped and then left early to go back to her room. After dinner we sat around chatting until we had to admit defeat and go to bed.

We all met for breakfast, more reminiscences, outside for more photos and again Carol coped; then it was packing up and back to the lounge feeling sad that it was all over. We’d agreed to meet in the lounge to make our farewells but, as in the previous afternoon, Carol didn’t appear. As the time went on, we began getting more and more anxious; Jean had offered to drive Carol and Ruth to the bus and train stations in Nottingham; Gill needed to leave so she didn’t get stuck on the M25 on a Friday afternoon. Finally, Jean said she would go and find her and we had to leave.

It was sad to say goodbye and it hadn’t turned out as I’d imagined but overall it had been good to see everyone and catch up on all the news.

As a postscript, when I got home I tried to ring Carol to see if she was OK but got no reply from either home or her mobile. I tried again the next day with the same result and wondered if she had gone to Colin’s instead. On the following day, I contacted Ruth who said Jean had dropped them both in Nottingham as arranged but that Carol had been in a state at the Holiday Inn and Jean had had to pack for her. I was more concerned now, tried Carol’s home number again and then after no reply tried her mobile one more time. Carol answered and told me she hadn’t got the bus but had wandered around Nottingham, been picked up by ambulance and been admitted to the Psychiatric ward at the Queens Medical Centre. It was such a relief to know she was safe and since then she has been transferred to St Lukes Hospital in Middlesborough, where she had been an in-patient on a couple of occasions previously and where she is now making good progress.

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November 1, 2008 - Posted by | Reunion

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