In last week’s blog, I explained about two of the three rooms in the school sick bay. The room called Firefly was better than the one called Bluebird because it had a radio. But the other room was far less pleasant than either of them.
The third room was called Britannia, and was the worst to be in. It was the furthest from the entrance and so always felt isolated and out of the way.
For all that, I do have one good memory of that room.
I was down there on one occasion and a friend came to visit. She busied herself tucking the blankets round me and then remarked, “If I do all this for you, what would I do for someone I really liked?”
(By this she meant, I think, a Manchester United football player.)
That story aside, I really didn’t like Britannia, and my feelings about the room were not helped by one of the older girls telling me that the room was haunted.
Nowadays, of course, I would find that really rather interesting, but at the time it made me very uneasy. Alone in Britannia one night, I thought I heard the springs creaking in one of the other, unoccupied, beds. I lay there in fear, wondering whether I had been joined by the ghost of a former patient, perhaps one who had not made it out of the sick bay alive.
I can’t tell you how relieved I was when daylight finally started to shine in through the curtains and revealed that I truly was alone.
According to schoolgirl legend, we had a number of ghosts at our school. As the main building had been a 17th-century manor house, this might not have been all that surprising, but all the spectres were, in the stories I heard, of much more recent vintage. There was The Grey Lady, for instance, who was reputed to wander the corridors at night.
For some reason, I never met anyone who had actually encountered her, though.
Then there was the legend of Stella.
We had an impressive entrance hall and rising up from it was an oak staircase with a shiny brass handrail. There was a dent in the rail near the bottom. The story went that a girl, Stella, was so unhappy at Chorleywood that she had thrown herself from the top of the oak stairs, hit her head on the rail at the bottom, and subsequently died. The tale was entirely fictitious but this didn’t stop it being handed down from year to year. In fact it was remarkably enduring for a piece of fake news.
But returning to the subject of the sick bay, I ought to mention that we were well provided for, in that there was always a qualified nurse in charge, and even those who stood in for her when she was off duty generally had some nursing training. My friend and I would often sit in Surgery, after the evening rush had died down, and talk to the nurses, one of whom has remained a friend to this day.