My daughters; you are such lovely children. You’re intelligent, witty and good-mannered (better than those awful kids we saw today whilst trying to watch a movie at the cinema, running up and down the aisle, shouting and swearing their heads off. But it’s okay, because your mother is world-class at the art of complaining to management, we got free tickets to go again another time. I’ll teach you how to do that one day. It’s a gift, but I see greatness in you so I know you are worthy of being handed down this power). But you are probably wondering by now how you came about. What amazing freak of nature brought your mother and father together to create such wonderful beings as you. Well, I’ve been waiting for you to ask me that question. Here’s how it happened.
When I was much younger, I worked as a staff-nurse in a Hospital. It was the lowly sort of job one has at the beginning of one’s career but there is only one way a nurse can learn the fundamentals of her trade, and that is on the wards. In those days, I was subjected to working things like weekends and night-shifts (I know, I know; your mother wouldn’t be caught dead working at the weekend or on a night-shift these days but I was young. I needed the money). Anyway, as ward-work went, I had landed a fairly good job on the Observation Ward. This was a place people came after a stint in A&E – very often after a head injury, or taking an overdose or getting completely shit-faced whilst out on the town (don’t judge, it can happen to anyone – not you though, I’ll bloody kill you if you ever drink so much alcohol that you need to be hospitalised). We were there to observe these patients overnight and either discharge them the next day or transfer them onto more of a long-stay ward.
Us nurses did night-shifts on a six week rotational basis and my night-shift stint had come around again all too quickly. But luckily for me, this night was a particularly quiet night. As my vital-sign observations, drug round and settling-down had been done, my patients slept peacefully and I was left to sit and stare out of the large bay-window at the nursing station down onto a field swathed in darkness below. This was the field where the helicopters would land to bring the seriously ill to Casualty. But since there was no such excitement tonight and the other nurse and health care assistant and I had finished our chat and put the world to rights, I could sit and read my book. Or at least I could for an hour or two before a call from A&E came to announce that we would be receiving a new admission *sigh*.
A short time later a porter and a male staff-nurse arrived on the ward pushing a stretcher-bed between them. And there he was (the male staff-nurse that is, not the porter. He was pretty old). Our eyes met over a sick patient. I apologise, but I have no memory of what was wrong with the patient but I’m going to plump for an overdose because we got an awful lot of those. As the other nurse on my shift and the healthcare assistant transferred the patient to bed, I proceeded to take a handover from the male nurse from A&E. I had seen him before somewhere, yes I remembered now – scooting by on a skateboard on his way to work (yes I know, I thought that was odd for a grown man too). He had a slightly tousled look about him, a five-o’clock shadow and an affable smile that I liked. Before we could make inroads on the handover, he noticed and commented on my abandoned book on the desk (I apologise, I forget what it was called). “Ooh, I’ve read that. Do you like it?” he asked. “S’alright…” said I in my very best nonchalant manner (yes girls, this is another thing you are going to need to perfect. The art of being impassive and unaffected. It’s not easy to master but I can teach you that as well. And you’re in good hands, I’m world class in nonchalance). ‘S’alright’ was really about the best I could say of the book if I’m honest. I don’t remember much about it but the narrator was the male protagonist who was a complete misogynist who didn’t really have any redeeming qualities, and I didn’t care greatly if he lived or died. But the cool thing was, I was actually discussing literature with an attractive male. Albeit literature I don’t remember. And okay, ‘s’alright’ wouldn’t really be classed as a ‘top book-club critique’ but it was better than pretending to rave about a book I didn’t care for.
Anyway, even somebody as completely clueless as me noticed a spark; a short-lived spark because our handover then proceeded and the male nurse had to go, but I knew by the way his eyes glittered and the warmth of his smile that there was indeed a spark. And I’d seen precious few of those. Girls, as you’ll have surmised by now – I’m not easy to get to know. I’m typically English really; rather cool and reserved at first but once I trust you, I’m a friend for life. And I was even more reserved in the ‘dating game’ department. No man was ever quite good enough; you know – horrible taste in clothes, poor grammar, unsophisticated (or complete lack of) sense of humour. These are things no self-respecting girl can be expected to put up with (and I’m certain you won’t either, I’ve taught you all I know). So I’d pretty much given up on romance at this time in my life but it was nice to meet an intelligent and attractive guy. Even if briefly.
And then there is a hiatus in our story. This was because I went off to bum-around around Australia until I’d pissed all my money up the wall and had to come back to England three months later. On my arrival back home, I was still not at the pinnacle of my career; I became a bank nurse (a locum nurse if you will) at my old hospital until I could decide what to do with my life and recoup some funds. I was seconded to various wards, and more often than not I did night shifts (because they paid time and two thirds which meant I could work less and still cover my bills in the flat-share where I lived. Clever, ey?). On one particular night shift I was assigned my old stomping ground of the Observation Ward. And who should be joining me on the shift but the good-looking male nurse (now even I knew that fate was playing a hand here). Oddly enough, he had taken my job when I’d quit to travel around Australia. It was another quiet night (I know, I was lucky to keep landing these dossy jobs). And the male nurse and I (after completing our jobs – I mean, we were at work after all) spent the majority of the night at the nurse’s station, staring out of the bay-window at the helicopter landing-pad area, chatting about life and all that we had in common (which was quite a lot). Yes, the spark hadn’t been a figment of my imagination; it was still there three months later. I hadn’t liked anyone quite so much in…well, ever.
After that night, I knew things could get tricky. So now we have a guy I liked but we didn’t really work together, and there was no opportunity to see him but for happenstance and maybe accidentally ending up on the same shift. But I knew where he lived, just a few streets away from me, so maybe another accidental meeting could occur? Maybe. One weekend my sister came to stay and I took some time off to take her around the place I called home. It was Saturday night and I thought I’d show her the delights of my local, ‘The Dolphin’ for a few drinks. As we sat chatting and laughing at the table I had a funny feeling I might see him. So I was pleased (if not exactly surprised) when he came in the pub alone. Was fate putting its meddling ore in again? I’d been telling my sister all about this good-looking male nurse, so when I spotted him I insisted that she and I pretend we hadn’t noticed him (don’t worry, I’ll teach you the ‘hard-to-get’ trick too, it’s infallible if you do it right). But he had spotted us and ventured over to ask if he could join myself and my sister. And of course that was fine by us. We three chatted merrily until closing time and then joined him back at his flat-share around the corner. We spent the evening laughing about his flat-mate, Steve (an IT guy at the hospital), who owned the flat but was totally weird. For one thing – he had erected a wall of old, disused TVs on one wall of the lounge. To this day, I still do not know why. My sister fell asleep on the sofa and the male-nurse and I conversed on into the wee small hours.
Nothing happened that night other than our friendship was established. We now had each other’s phone numbers which was a start. The next day, I was discussing the night before with my sister. She wasn’t easily hoodwinked and could see I was interested in the male-nurse. But I insisted that he seemed like such a nice guy, that I wouldn’t want to ruin a potentially rewarding friendship. Even now I remember the brief but sensible council my sister gave me, “but you have enough friends”. She was very wise, my sister. I did indeed have enough friends. After that, he called me to go out on a date and bish-bash-bosh, here we are today; seventeen years and two gorgeous children later.
So my lovely daughters, there’s an awful lot more to it than that, but that is an abridged version of how I met your father. We’re older, wiser, different people now – and even though we tell you off for leaving your crap all over the house, I guess some of our former youthful exuberance still remains. As you grow up, you are going to kiss a few frogs before you meet your prince (that’s if your father allows you out of the house to go on any dates because I can’t guarantee that he will). But once you meet ‘the one’, you will know. When you meet your prince, it won’t be all ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and tears and angst. It will be light, it will be fun and it will be easygoing (well, if you’re anything like me [and I hope I’ve seen to it that you are], it should be easygoing). And it’s entirely your choice of course, because I can’t live your life for you – but if I were you, I think I’d give the frogs a miss altogether. Save yourself some time.
NB: I have been reliably informed that the book I was reading was called ‘The Magus’…if you were interested. But you’re probably not.