Nursing bits and bobs by Hannah Foley. All rights reserved (www.owlingabout.co.uk)I’m in a funny period of waiting. I have a provisional start date for my job but nothing can move forward until the wheels of officialdom at the university have cranked out a proclamation of fitness to practice. In the meantime I continue to work away on various writing and illustration projects, and have been looking through my old nursing bits and pieces. Is there a word for these symbolic things that go with particular professions? Items that act as signifiers as well as having some sort of function.

In the picture above you can see my pin badges from when I first qualified and an old name badge. There’s my notebook of ‘Vital Information’ for quick reference when I couldn’t remember the difference between Prothrombin Time, Partial Prothrombin Time, and Activated Partial Prothrombin Time at 2 o’clock in the morning. It also contained all those random but essential bits of institutional information which no one ever taught you but you were some how supposed ‘know’, perhaps by osmosis, such as the times of the pharmacy delivery rounds. You can see my precious artery forceps there too. They look innocuous, but got me out of some real scrapes.

In amongst my own, I have some of my Nan’s things. She qualified from Barts in the 30s, later working at the prestigious Moorfields Eye Hospital. I can’t imagine what it must have been like working as a nurse pre-NHS. You can see her nursing dictionary, held together with bandage tape, and her belt buckle. It’s funny to think how many times in one shift I must have repeated the same tasks as she had, separated by decades.

And so I continue to wait, glad of precious time to get ahead on edits or even start a first draft of a new book (!), all the while eyeing my provisional start date with an uneasy mixture of excitement and trepidation.

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Coming or going?

hannah foley, illustrator, writer, children's author, allotment, gardening, leucanthmum, children's birthday, children's fiction, elections, pond, Wilder Future, RHS, Wild about Gardens, ponds, Wildlife TrustsI can’t tell whether I’m coming or going this week. At the weekend we hosted thirty eight of Finch’s friends in our local church hall for his fifth birthday party. There was a bouncy castle and a face painter and lots of food. I’m still reeling but he had a blast. Then school was closed today in order to host a polling station for the local elections. I took the kids over to a nearby garden centre to order a small half barrel to make a little pond in our garden. It’s going to be located in the middle of a dense flower bed so that Wren can’t accidentally drown herself in it. We have been inspired by the Wilder Future campaign from the Wildlife Trusts and the Wild about Gardens pond campaign from the RHS, asking people to take small individual actions where they are to help wildlife. If it goes well we’re may even expand and create a second at the allotment! I know, I know, getting ahead of myself again!

These Leucanthemum have appeared out of nowhere on the allotment and just settled themselves perfectly in a big bunch between my bug hotel and the weed bin. I wish more of my uninvited plant incomers were so polite.

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A single spear

I hope you all had a lovely Easter and got to enjoy some of the sunshine. We headed up to Yorkshire and sweltered in our woolly jumpers, entirely unprepared for the heatwave. We had a great time but at the back of my mind I couldn’t help worrying about was happening to my seedlings in the greenhouse at the allotment. I imagined them all limp and scorched. My dad kindly nipped over and gave everything a water so that in the end I only lost a couple of pea plants. And look what else came up over the bank holiday…an asparagus spear!

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Underground squirrels

Little Owl was wondering aloud over dinner, who was in charge of our house. Apparently they had always thought it was mummy, but then mummy got herself locked in at the allotment and daddy had to rescue her, so it couldn’t be mummy after all. Daddy then? Ha, no. God? The government? Finch frowned with concentration. This required deep consideration. Suddenly he leapt out of his chair. He had it! The underground squirrels!

He was absolutely, deadly serious, so we all stared at him for about ten seconds. Then Big Dreamer rubbed his chin, and conceded that sometimes a curveball would come your way in life, and who was to say it wasn’t thrown by underground squirrels? So there you have it. Underground squirrels everyone. If you’re ever in doubt, blame the underground squirrels.

I shall leave you with that thought and wish you a very Happy Easter.

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A peaceful lull

The children have finished school for the Easter holidays and I have handed in my last assignment for my course. I have the promise of a job with the district nursing team I have been working with, once I get my results and my registration comes through. It seemed as though I might be embarking on a peaceful lull in proceedings. Ha! Well, we can’t have that now, can we? Goodness, a lull? I might start to get complacent that I had this whole ‘life’ thing all wrapped up. I had better get myself locked in at the allotment just to shake things up a bit.

So that is what I did. I had walked over to the allotment precariously ladened with plants. There are high metal fences, topped with barbed wire all around the allotment site. It sounds awful but it really isn’t. It’s such a big site that once you’re inside you barely notice it. It’s a real shame that some people see an allotment site as an opportunity for vandalism and theft but there we are. Don’t talk to my dad about it or he’ll splutter about amputation serving as a useful deterrent. Anyway, back to the story…

I put my plants down and realised the allotment key wasn’t attached to the rest of my bundle. Big Dreamer had forgotten to put it back when he had dropped off a load of manure (of course it wouldn’t be me who had forgotten). Fortunately, someone was coming out of the gate and they let me in. There were plenty of people about and it was a lovely spring evening. I thought I would easily be able to find someone to let me out again when the time came. I went merrily on my way and got engrossed in what I was doing. When I looked up, the evening had darkened and the air had grown chilly. I suddenly realised that there wasn’t another soul on the site. Everyone had gone and I was the last one left!

Well, you can imagine my panic. My phone was on the charger at home and as I walked the perimeter I realised how high those fences really were. Just at that moment a couple of teenage girls, dolled up to the nines with false nails and eyelashes, walked past. Did either of them have their phone on them and could I use it? They looked at me with absolute incomprehension. I could tell that my predicament hadn’t registered with them at all because they were still so gobsmacked at the idea of someone wanting to grow things in. the. ground (OMG!). They had no credit it turned out, but, if truth be told, they didn’t want to get too close in case this gardening thing turned out to be an infectious condition.

I began wondering what it would be like to bed down in the shed, and what time of the night Big Dreamer might notice I hadn’t returned when a saving angel jogged past. The angel was in fact a lycra-clad, middle-aged lady called Lou, who also happened to have a very dry sense of humour. She held up the phone to the fence so I could speak to Big Dreamer and said she would be running back that way in twenty minutes. If I hadn’t got out by then, she would get me out somehow, or else feed me morsels through the wire so I didn’t starve! Thankfully, Big Dreamer turned up not long after. The wonderful Lou text later on to make sure I was alright and hadn’t been eaten by wolves. Big Dreamer reassured her that I was fine, and they proceeded to text back and forth, imagining with great hilarity, all the ways I could have potentially saved myself, including bribing the resident allotment rabbit to dig me out. How glad I was to be such a source of entertainment (I hope you can hear the sarcasm).

Here are tulip photos from my mum’s birthday outing. The displays were gorgeous and looking at them is helping me get over my allotment key trauma.

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Sounds in the dark

One of the things I love about getting up early and heading out on my bike of a morning is the sounds I hear. The change in the clocks meant it was dark again when I set off this morning but the air was alive with bird song. There is something about hearing sounds in darkness. They seem so much clearer and more vibrant, don’t they? All along the river anonymous creatures scurried and scampered amongst the vegetation, birds sang, and the tails of baby rabbits bobbed. A sliver of pink moon hovered low in the sky. Then, all of a sudden, there was a loud growly snorting, and out of the undergrowth burst a badger, his white stripes bright in my bike light. Caught in the wonder of it, it was all I could do to hang on to my handlebars, swerve and avoid him. Over my shoulder I could see him glaring at me down the path, just like Badger from Wind in the Willows. And just like Badger, I could imagine him shaking his walking stick and shouting, “Blasted humans!”

Here is a photo of a misty Dartmoor on Mother’s Day.

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Daffodil meadows

The allotment is a Brexit-free zone. On Saturday, one of the volunteer coordinators was fiercely enforcing it.  As I planted my potatoes, I could hear her shout periodically, “I can hear you. None of that Brexit stuff round here please!” We escaped up to the fringes of Dartmoor on Sunday to a valley where there are meadows of wild daffodils. The kids splashed in the river. It was a glorious spring day, filled to bursting with sunshine. We heard a woodpecker drumming out its rhythm across the still sparse treetops. There were even butterflies amongst the daffodils.

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Flying man

The old Rule of Three myth worked out well for us. Finch bumped his head again this week and for the fourth time a giant egg swelled on his forehead. It was in the same spot as the very first, so maybe that does still count as three. Anyway, that should definitely be it for now. How did you get on with Storm Gareth? A bit blowy wasn’t it? A fence panel blew down in my parents garden so my dad decided there was no time like the present to fix it. Now being still in the middle of gale force winds. Off he went to the garden centre up the road and selected his panel. Would it fit in the car? Oh no. What does dad decide to do? Carry it home.

There is a steep hill in the town where my parents live. The garden centre is at the top, and it goes right down from there, through the town and down to the sea. On a clear day you can see Torquay. Off dad went, out of the garden centre and onto the hill. And behind him, giving him a nice little shove, came Storm Gareth. Then it gave him a bigger shove, and a bigger one, and dad felt the fence panel lifting. It’ll be fine, he told himself, but then he felt the panel take off, and it was all he could do to not take off himself. He was pretty sure he would have been over in Torquay within the hour, or worse might have been blown askance and ended up in Paignton (no one wants to end up in Paignton). Wisely he put the panel down and got it delivered.

Here’s my little character for the KidLit4Climate campaign last week. Children’s authors and illustrators all over the world gathered together to organise an illustrated protest in solidarity with the children and young people’s strike on Friday. We went along with Wren and her tiny banner to the march held here in Exeter. It’s impossible to be involved with children either through work, or because you have children and grandchildren and not be concerned about the environment. From climate change through to biodiversity collapse (7 out of 10 species in the UK facing extinction according to the Wildlife Trusts), and oceans full of plastic, it’s not a good picture. It’s hard to get your head around the evidence for all this if you haven’t been trained to read primary research, and even then, how many of us have access to peer-reviewed journals? I find Inside Science useful on Radio 4. Adam Rutherford can veer off into having a partisan edge to his questioning but I love being able to hear directly from researchers themselves and make up my own mind. There was a great one the other week looking at why methane levels (one of the greenhouse gases) have increased in a way few had predicted (it involves swamps). I look at little Wren, currently busy trying to master potty-training, and hope with all my being that we can find the solutions to make the change we need.

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Early tomatoes going in!

The rain is pouring from the sky in torrents. On the allotment I lost a compost bin lid and the downpipe on my shed to the wind, but thankfully the greenhouse has come through with no ill-effects. Upstairs Finch is asleep in our bed. He knocked himself out cold at school last week in a collision with a child on a scooter. His teacher described the scene turning to slow motion as she ran towards the crash site and saw him briefly go airborne. I was called away from my placement to collect him, a bump of Easter egg proportions bulging from his forehead. He recovered no thanks to my regular neuro obs, pen-torch in hand to check his pupils were equal and reacting to light. Then on Saturday the wind smashed the garden gate shut on his thumb leaving him with a mighty blood blister under his nail. It perfectly matched one my dear old dad had. When we suggested they were thumb twins Finch fixed me with a firm look and explained patiently that it was not possible they could be twins because twins are people who are born at the same time. That told me! Then this morning he managed to fall off his chair backwards while eating his breakfast. Another egg bulged, this time from the back of his head, and only of crème egg proportions. I try not to think about all the things I’ve read about the long-term effects of concussion and have kept him off for the morning. We watch the rain tracking down the windowpanes and decide that these things always come in threes so he should be accident free for the next little while…!

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Every by Wendy Cope

Every by Wendy Cope

Wren turned three at the weekend. I have been packing away her old clothes into bags to be passed onto my niece but goodness, I did feel funny about it. With each passing year the clothes get bigger and she’s not a baby anymore. With my last child a phase of my life is passing away. I happened to read this poem by Wendy Cope this week and I thought, yes that’s it. Even though life can feel like it’s flying by, it’s about treasuring each and every moment, even packing up the baby clothes.

You’ll be pleased to know I finished my essay and we also bought a peach tree last week. It’s an espalier and we hope to grow it up the garden wall. The wall is south-facing so you never know, we might actually get some peaches. Potatoes are chitting on the windowsill but I am resisting the urge to plant seeds. Just a couple more weeks…

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