Evidence that Fran's Granny could, at any point, be asked to shove over and make room

I've always wanted to live in an institution. I don't know why this is.  I guess one day I might get my wish (and sooner rather than later, perhaps, judging by the strange looks my kids give me and the way they say, 'MoTHER!').

I think it might have something to do with all the Enid Blyton books I read about boarding schools when I was a kid, such as 'The Twins at St Clare's' and 'Upper Fourth at Malory Towers'.  Life in our house wasn't short of chaos (think 'Eastenders' and double it), and I found all the stories about those daily routines like prep at 6 and breakfast at 8.30 and French with Mademoiselle at 10 really appealing.

Then, in my early 20s, I went into hospital to have my first child (yes, hospitals were invented then, although I seem to remember giving birth under the influence of ether and a bash on the head with a mallet). And I realised just how much I loved being in hospital.  I'd dilly-dally for ages over the menus, thrilled to be asked to plan what I wanted for the next day's breakfast, lunch and tea.  I revelled in the routines of lights out, the tea trolley, the medicine round and the doctors' visits.  And I remember being so disappointed after my week there to be sent home.  Now THAT'S how you can tell how long ago this was - a whole week in hospital for a first baby!  These days they hope that mums give birth in the taxi on the way there so that they can just cut the cord, then turn the taxi round and send them home again.  Anyway, I sobbed and sobbed when I got home, much to the disappointment of my poor husband who had cooked me roast pork and apple sauce and thought I'd be pleased to see him.  All I really wanted, though, was a bowl of cold custard and a nurse asking to check my blood pressure.

I've been to see my Gran in hospital today.  As nurses shuffled backwards and forwards through the ward, and as the ladies with the tea rattled past, it was all I could do not to rip off my clothes, demand to be given one of those gowns which don't tie up at the back, and shout, 'Admit me! Admit me! Then bring me the menu!' before leaping into a spare bed and pulling the covers up around my neck.

All this institution-love is probably what makes me the kind of teacher who wants all the kids sitting bolt upright, having underlined their title twice with a ruler, and reciting names of descriptive techniques in a monotone.  It's not exactly Malory Towers, but I'm doing my best to live the dream.

Fran was trying her best to read quietly, but the lady under the blankets whose bed it was
 was being really annoying and wouldn't keep the noise down.


  1. mmm! after the week we've just had I fancy one of those old fashioned sanitoriums. The ones for people with TB, where you seemed to get pyjamas and a dressing gown; a wicker chair and a nice country house with a view of the Devon countryside.

  2. Charlotte - I actually SALIVated at your description. I am in serious need of help ...

  3. Me too..... It is all because of all those Enid Blyton books.My parents used to threaten to send me to boarding school if I didn't behave as a child, but once they realised it was an obsession and that I couldn't wait to go, it changed to "If you do not behave you will NOT be going to boarding school." I never went. Sigh. Routine. Structure. Predictability. And not having to do anything but order meals. Oh yes. Bring on the institutions!

  4. There is a lady, she is well known to the psychiatric team at a certain London hospital, who hangs around A&E and leaps into patients beds when they temporarily vacate them to visit the loo. It's the job of the medical students to persuade her to get out of the bed and give it back to it's original owner.

  5. During my infrequent (fortunately) hospital stays I've found that no matter what you've ordered, they bring you crap! AND I NEVER SAW CRAP LISTED ON THE MENU! Thank heaven for my husband who would bring me the occasional life saving pastrami sandwich & milkshake!!

  6. I worked for ten years at a nursing home for the elderly and we never once had midnight feasts. I had to clean a shitty carpet at half three in the morning once though. That certainly took the romance right out of it.

  7. So it isn't only me who has harboured a lifelong feeling of missing out, from never having been to boarding school?
    If it makes you feel any better, my first daughter was born so long ago, they kept you in for TEN days. And the night before you were due to go home, they looked after the baby for the evening so you could go out and spend time with your husband! Just imagine...

  8. You could start new blog called Fran's Gran. But can a plan for Fran's Gran exist without bed-pan? Nurse! Nurse!

  9. The closest I've come to boarding school is watching Harry's adventures at Hogwarts. I grew up attending public schools in California and the only thing I remember is huddling under my desk to protect me from nuclear destruction from Russian bombs. Like a plywood desk was going to save me! Love your post. An interesting perspective.

  10. Linds - by the time it comes to actually getting into one, what's the betting we've gone off the idea? Still, if not, let's book into the same one. We're obviously like-minded. We can reminisce over Enid together.

    Anna - bum! rumbled!

    fishducky - I'm just not that fussy. Not when it comes at 12.30 on the very dot.

    Steve - Enid left all those details out. You can see why. Those kids went on holidays for weeks and weeks and never once went to the toilet or got headlice.

    Sharon - I remember them taking my first child away for the first night so I could get sleep. Bliss. But 2 years later, with the second, not a chance in hell.

    Martin - Fran's Gran. Fran's Man. The possibilities for libel cases are endless.

    Stephen - Ah, Hogwarts. More fantasy! All those wooden staircases. TAKE me there.

  11. I must be a lot older than you because I was in hospital for TEN DAYS with my first baby. Wonderful. But I was never allowed Enid Blyton as a child as my mother thought she wrote so badly. The result was that I did everything I could to lay my hands on her books.

    Ah. Happy days...

  12. Frances - you and Sharon, both ten-dayers. These days, you have to have beri-beri, TB and a leg hanging off to get ten days in hospital.

  13. I never had the pleasure of the maternity stay, but I do recall waking up after some surgery or other to a huge and varied breakfast. I hadn't had the menu the day before so they sent me everything. I was thrilled!
    So, yes, I know what you mean. Except that nasty lights-on-all-night-in-the-hall part, so you can't sleep.

  14. Can we all just agree right now that when we go we'll let Charlotte choose? And they acted like the epidural was the "treat of the day"! I suppose the mallet only came with one of those special rooms.

  15. I was trying to imagine children not sitting up to attention in your lessons Fran, but now I've read other comments I realise I should say something about institutions instead: I got 5 days for c-sections and it wasn't nearly as much fun as 8 years in boarding school... but then that wasn't all gymslips and midnight feasts either! I'm sorry to report that St. Clares and Hogwarts are much more exciting than the real thing. Though I can absolutely see the attraction of no decision making.

  16. Just had a night in hospital, and I must admit I enjoyed it - nothing to do all night except doze comfortably propped on pillows and be plied with cups of tea. I've actually lived in three different boarding schools as a teacher's wife and it had some compensations but no midnight feasts! Daughter actually went to boarding school and loved it.

  17. Eep! I love the Mallory Towers series - ive read each one at least twice, and would quite happily sit down and read the series again! (aged 13, dear lord help me) and i love hospitals...something about how clean and serene it is, and also the smell. soemthing about the smell..

  18. I LOVED those books!! In fact I'm having a midnight feast RIGHT NOW (although I don't think they had whiskey.... ahem) although I'm a little early so I may have to have another later.
    Never been hospitalised and the thought's a bit scary - MRSA and having the wrong leg off etc etc

  19. I was ushered in and out when I had my babies. I can totally appreciate lying in bed, though. Having someone wait on me. If I'm sick, my family of men just shut the door on me -- so I can get my rest. And starve.

  20. June - I can sleep through anything - lights included. I quite liked the lights thing.

    I'm Crayon - I think compared to giving birth, the epidural WAS a treat.

    hausfrau - I refuse to believe you about boarding schools. You are in danger of shattering my illusions.

    Jane - a teacher's wife? You poor thing. I can't even remember what my husband's name is ...

    broken biro - I bet they DID have whisky ...

    Midlife - I had my own experience of the 'ushering in and out' with the second and third. I was horrified.

  21. I'm tempted to re- read St Clare's and Mallory Towers, to see if I could now bear to give them to the little folk. I couldn't have done without them, but would I be challenged by EB now?

    Fran, only two underlines? Are you getting lenient in your old age?

  22. Yes I am quite fond of institutions myself and remember how when I was in hospital - 20 years or more ago - I became totally institutionalised within a few short days. The big thing back then in Thatcher Land was that the hospitals couldn't afford to replace light bulbs in reading lights when they failed and I distinctly remember hobbling across the ward with my drip stand to steal the bulb of a recently departed patient.

  23. speccy - Actually, re-reading those books sounds like a great idea for the holidays. I must do that.

    Alan - That scene just HAS to be a sketch in a comedy show. You must write it up and send it somewhere. I can see this patient going to the bed of everyone who dies and pinches something else until, in the end, he has made his own bed into some kind of luxurious boudoir. Brilliant.


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