THE NOB NURSE
As a 50’s Baby Boomer I was an early beneficiary of the newly created Welfare State.
Certainly the country was still in the arms of post-war austerity and as a whelp I caught the tail-end of rationing and will have gobbled down my fair share of powdered eggs and Ostermilk.
But of the many upsides were the provisions of the 1944 Education Act which cradled me through infant, junior and secondary schooling to university.
On the periphery of its mainstream benefits and in conjunction with the likewise newly formed NHS was the school nit nurse. “Nitty Nora” would visit the school periodically to rummage round our heads. To be found to be lousy was a matter of shame and pompous parents would blame its spread to their little darlings on the scuzzie kids. I was one of the scuzzie kids.
Looking back I wonder what extensive medical training a nit nurse would have had to have undergone to become qualified in her field. Surely not the rigorous and long-term education of, say, a G.P. or a dentist?
Likewise I now wonder what motivated mature women to join the ranks of school nurses whose sole function seemed to be checking the retraction of the foreskins and cupping the balls of adolescent boys. It makes you wonder, doesn’t it?
One of my early memories focuses on the time my colour blindness was diagnosed. I’d have been about seven, I guess. Parents were invited to sit in on these examinations and my dad had taken a day off work to be with me.
As you will know, colour blindness tests comprise a series of coloured dotted circles in which a preponderance of specific coloured dots traces a number – 17 or 53, for example. Some are unnumbered and serve as controls. I worked my way through these calling out the numbers or telling the doc that they were blank. On one blank my dad nudged me and gave me a look as though as to say, “Go on then. Tell him!”
At the end of the test the doctor explained that I was colour deficient to red and green, something which affects a surprisingly high minority of men “Thank God for that” said my dad. “I was going to belt you when we got home for being stupid”.
He was more impressed some years later when I told him my reaction to the nob nurse.