AUGUSTINE CONVENT, WATERLOO, LIVERPOOL
What a frightening day it proved to be the day I was put on the train at Leicester for Liverpool! I carried a small dress basket with my few clothes.
The nun who took me to the station looked all along the train to find someone who was going as far as Manchester where I was to change trains for Liverpool. Yes, there was a gentleman who said that he would see that I got out of that train at Manchester. The nun thanked him and said Goodbye to me.
There was just this gentleman any myself in the carriage. It was not a corridor train. He did just ask me where I was going, then got on with reading his paper. When we arrived at Manchester he said "Here you are. This is where you have to get out. Ask a porter which platform the Liverpool train is". This I did and was told to get in quickly. It was just about to start off. At Liverpool I was told by the nuns at Leicester I would be met on the station by the nuns from the convent to which I was going. I knew it would be easy to spot whoever came by their habit (clothing).
Liverpool station was a dead end station and I looked hard among the people moving about until finally I saw a policeman standing around and I had the good sense to tell him my story - where I was going and where I came from and that I was to be met at the station and no one was there. He took me to the Ladies' Waiting Room and told me to sit there while he looked to see if someone came for me. After a while he came to say no one had come, and had I the phone number of the convent I was going to? Yes, I did have a letter in my little old-fashioned handbag and gave it to him. After a while he came to say there had been some mistake and I was to take the electric train at Exchange Station, which would take me the few more miles on to Waterloo, and the nuns would be there to meet me.
Now this Exchange Station was right across the town and the policeman told me to go with a man he was talking to. He would take me to the station. I had to pay the man 6d. He told me he usually charged 8d. Now I am older I realise the policeman must have known this man to be trustworthy. He may have been an outporter. He carried my little dress basket and I followed behind him down a very busy road until we reached this little station. Here he left me, telling me to get on the first train that came in, and I stood on this little station platform feeling so alone and bewildered that I began to cry.
There were not many folk around, but one lady came to ask what was the matter. She said "Well, I'm going to Waterloo. Here comes the train". I sat with her until we reached Waterloo. It wasn't far.
When we got out of the train she said "Now dear, I'll hold your bag while you look around for the nuns." The station soon emptied and again no-one was looking for me. I began to be really afraid. The lady asked me where I was going and she knew the convent well. "I'll take you" she said, and she did. It was quite dark by now. As we were going through the big iron gates someone called out "Are you for Park House?" This was the name of the convent. I said "Yes". I thanked the lady who had befriended me and went with two nuns into the convent to be met by the Mother Superior. There had been some real mix-up about meeting me, which I never knew. I was greeted by the Reverend Mother inside the hall of the convent. I remember her saying that I must be tired. She told one of the nuns to take me to my room and said "We'll send a tray up for you".
My room (if you could call it a room) was part of a square room which had two windows on one wall. There were heavy dark curtains across the room both ways, making four sections. Two elderly women who also worked in the convent had two sections - one each with a window each. The door came into one of the four sections and my 'room' was the other section with no window. The only light I had was from over the top of the curtains. I had a bed, a dressing table, and a mat by the bed. I didn't go down the stairs till morning, when I was to begin my new life here.
The convent was a Private Nursing Home where sometimes a doctor came in to perform an operation. There was a nun who was qualified to help the doctor. One of my tasks was to wash the operating room floor, etc., with strong "Lysol" - a disinfectant which is not known much now. I had no rubber gloves to save my hands. Other work I had was to make the fires in the bedrooms of the patients (all women by the way). There was also carpet-sweeping, and dusting.
The nuns prepared the meals for everyone. I had to take trays up to the patients and collect them, and wash the dishes after the meals.
A priest came in each morning to say Mass and everyone went to Holy Communion each day.
The priest also came in once a week to 'hear confessions'. We had to try to be very, very good because one cannot receive Holy Communion with a sin on one's soul unconfessed, and we must be seen receiving Holy Communion.
I lived in this convent for twelve months, never going outside. However, I could walk round the grounds in my 1/2 -hour recreation period. Often I had not finished all my work or I had a letter to write to my father or my aunt. On these days I did not get outside.
Once a week it was my job to clean the big brass name plate which was on the convent wall some yards down the road at a corner where the tram stopped to pick up. On one of these days the lady who had befriended me when I was 'lost' on the little Waterloo station was waiting for the tram and asked me how I was getting on. How pleased I was to feel someone knew me, if only slightly.
One lovely summer day I was dusting in one of the patient's room and as I shook my duster out of the open window I heard a 'hurdy-gurdy' or barrel organ playing. This reminded me of home and Leicester. It made me very sad, so that when I wrote to my father I told him I'd love to come home, although I hadn't a home, but I knew Leicester and many people.
I was pleased to get a letter in return from my father saying I was to give a month's notice and my aunt would have me to live with her until I found somewhere else. This month seemed eternity.
I have forgotten to mention that my salary was two shillings a week plus my keep. None of this pay I had given to me until I was coming home.
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