Sunday, 5 June 2011
Storyteller Sunday.............The Hospital Ball.
As a student nurse, one of the grandest occasions we could attend was the Medical College Ball and in 1987, my flatmates, friends and I did just that. The actual event itself is not as memorable as the build-up to the evening and the evening itself which, if not for some kind neighbour's, police and an open window might not have happened at all.
So my flatmate and fellow nursing student PJ and I had got the tickets for the ball which was to be held in a posh hotel in Park Lane. My mu was roped into making the ballgowns and they were gorgeous. Jane had a full length black satin number and I had a shot-green emerald green taffeta gown. Both were fully boned and full length. My mum worked really hard to make them fit perfectly, and longevity wise mine is still looking amazing in her wardrobe at home., apparently. I bought myself some costume jewellery from one of the market stalls in Whitechapel and I still have my beautiful fake emerald earrings in my jewellery box, want to see?
If you've not seen shot taffeta this is the exact colours of my dress as modelled very beautifully by, let's face it a model. Mine was full skirted like this and fitted from the waist up with a strap over one shoulder and a flat bow on the shoulder too.................it was lovely.
PJ's boyfriend Bob was her escort and as I was sadly single my hunky cousin agreed to take me. The rest of our group was my friend Lou and her husband Mark.
The day of the ball came and we were all getting ready when disaster one struck. My cousin rang to say '' My car has exploded At Hendon and it'll take a bit longer to get to you!''. What he didnt say was he had no idea where in Hendon he was or how to get to the tube.
''Don't worry'' I said through gritted teeth ''Just get here''.
Everyone else was ready so I sent them off to the hotel with instructions to get me a glass of wine and make sure my meal wasnt eaten by someone else...............I'd been starving myself all day to fit into the boned dress of course.
Then I sat a waiting patiently for the cousin to get there. I have to say I was very calm as far as I can remember. Looking out the window I saw one of my ex-patients coming up the road with her parents and called down a ''Hello''. They knew I was going to the ball so I said I'd come down and show her my dress. Then disaster 2..............................can you guess? Yep door slammed shut, Jo has no keys, I mean remember Dr Who Christmas episode ''The Runaway Bride''? As Catherine Tate so eloquently put it ''When I went for my fitting at the bridal shop I should have asked for pockets!'' in sarcastic tone.........................whoops. So there I am in the middle of the East End in a full length ballgown pretending like I'm not panicking cos I cant get back in the flat. Anyway, good deed done, off they toddle and I'm standing there like a dressmakers dummy wondering what to do. So bright idea I'll knock on the neighbours door. They are very kind and offer to phone the police/fire/anyone really to get me back in. So there we all are in their parlour drinking sherry would you believe when screaming sirens can be heard. I swear they sped up there like the Sweeney (1970s cop show for the uninitiated among us) all the way from Limehouse our local nick (East End lingo for Police station). Mention the word ''nurse in distress'' and in those days that was the reaction. They were quite nice too. So a very nice policeman climbed up onto the next door neighbour's flat roof and climbed into PJ's room through her amazingly open window and came down to let me in. Yey for the Eastend copper I say. So in I go and not long after that the cousin turns up.
''What an evening'' he says.....................
''You dont know the half of it'' I reply with a knowing look on my face.
Looking back I remember little else about the ball really cos the story up until then was so funny and mad. All I really remember is on the way home in the taxi, there was no room for PJ so she had to stick her feet out of the window and lie across the rest of us. It was certainly a night to remember and a story worth sharing.