Please listen to me read this excerpt from my Work in Progress on
Write Club The Podcast Episode 17, and then leave me feedback to tell me what you think!
The camellia had produced the first waxy pink flowers of the year, a child’s scribble of tightly wound petals. The exotic pompoms bouncing among polished green-black leaves were the first things Grace noticed when she stepped into the airing court. The air, laced with sweet cordite and a scent of burnt wood, testified to recent bombing close by, but, at the sight of the blushing orbs, Grace felt lighter, almost carefree.
She, Eddie and Peggy gossiped and smoked cigarettes, alternating warm smoke with the cucumber-crisp air, before the nurses called them for work. Linking arms, Grace and Peggy strolled under the vaulted ceiling of the corridor, part of the morning parade of women heading to the sewing rooms, kitchens or laundry, stepping easily around pedestrians moving in the opposite direction. Where the green edging tiles changed to grey the passageway turned and ran along the outside of the building. To their right were a series of doors, most firmly closed to prying eyes but some open to show brooms and buckets, bottles and bedpans, sheets and swabs. One displayed the plaque ‘Restraint Equipment’.
To the left were windows, interspersed with scuffed whitewashed walls, offered glimpses of the world beyond ‘Female D’. Doors to the outside appeared at regular intervals marked by a crenulation of the coloured tile edging. Today they were propped open and the fetid stench of slowly decomposing minds had escaped and been replaced with a fresh-perfumed optimism.
They passed the square nurses’ home which stood squat and square, imprisoned by thick hawthorn and blackthorn. Stray tendrils wandered around the opening where a gate once stood, waiting to trip or scratch the legs of hurrying girls. The hopeful sky was reflected in some upper windows where blackout blinds remained closed to shroud sleeping night staff from the day.
Through an open door they glimpsed a single storey building with tiled roof and bay windows either side of a large porch. It was adorned with uniformed men perching on window sills or sat astride the low brick wall to the front. They were too far away for their banter to reach the hospital but heads were thrown back in laughter as two young men began to wrestle. To one side deck chairs were angled towards the morning sun. Bandages the colour of condensed milk flashed through the blue haze of tobacco smoke which floated over the discarded wooden crutches. Grace noticed one man stood apart, looking skyward. She imagined he was watching for faces and mythical creatures in the clouds that made their progress across the powder blue above him.
Peggy gave an appreciative whistle. “Injured soldiers,” she announced. “Commandeered the old reception building for them. Canadians. Long way from home and banged up here with a load of looneys – and that’s just the nurses. Poor lads!”