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  • Ann Russell

What took you so long?


I have Mr Hayward, my English teacher at senior school, to thank for putting me on the road to writing, even if I have taken somewhat of a detour. I loved english and creative writing and he inspired and encouraged me to continue this into adult life. My career advisor teacher had other ideas. I didn't actually say I wanted to be a writer as even to my fourteen year old ears it sounded pretentious. A journalist, perhaps on a music paper, is what I had in mind (music being my other passion). I remember that teacher, she didn't give me a second glance, head bowed at her desk as she shuffled papers. I had a clear view of her wide grey parting. She said, "with your predicted grades it's nursing for you." It was not meant in a good way.

You have to remember this was the 1970's, I'm from a working class background, failed the 11 plus and at a secondary modern school. Plus I was a girl! By and large, the boys had apprenticeships to go to. So, I ended up at sixteen 'going on' to a local college (while most of my friends entered the world of work - earning a wage), to undertake a two year Pre-Nursing course: City way college, in Rochester for the first year, and Fort Horsed near BlueBell hill, for the second year. Neither college exists any more; knocked down and turned into housing estates. The aim was to achieve at least 4 more 'O' levels (I attained O level english at fifteen - a year early), and if I could get an 'A' level as well then, lucky me, I might just be able to train in London. Achieving a coveted place at a central London hospital was the pinnacle of student nurse success back then, or so it seemed. It was a few years down the line before I realised that, as much as anything, it was your father's occupation that determined if a central London hospital would accept you for training or not (assuming the minimum 5 'O's and 2 'A's). There was actually a space on the application form for 'fathers occupation.' Can you imagine? Sounds so implausible today.

Part of the aim of the Pre-Nursing course was to spend time on a real ward with live patients. A hands on dogs body in fact, working alongside 'proper' nurses to get experience and a taste of the NHS. The only experience I gained was being shouted out for being a nuisance, which seemed to echo down the three years SRN course. Only this time it was the Sisters yelling at me for something I'd done, not done, not making a bed properly or, god forbid, talking to patients.

So life takes over and I went on to become a midwife, and in time a health visitor too. Married, divorced. Worked overseas in Australia (I kept a journal of that time and I had a peak at it recently. Hmm, there might be a story hidden in those pages)! Nearly remarried. Kept a roof over my head and food on the table (just about). Still dreaming of being that 'proper'writer, while dabbling about. Until now that is. My NHS career, including forays into lecturing, has served me well, but now it's my time for a change of direction.

The seeds for Baby Be Mine were sown during my time as a health visitor working alongside extraordinary women in adverse circumstances (colleagues and clients if truth be told). It's taken a little while to grow and nurture this story, and now I need to cut the cord and deliver it out there.


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