Tag Archives: friends

Fuzzy and the Steam Room

I have posted about my good friend Fuzzy before (Fuzzy and the Traveler’s Divorce and Fuzzy and the Poet Scientist).  Here is another one in the Fuzzy series.

It was 1983 and we were a couple of young greenhorns; inexperienced and largely unexposed to the wide and wonderful world.  But Fuzzy and I were doing something to change that.  We had set off to travel across Europe as railway hobos.  Armed with a rail pass and a backpack each, we set off for the adventure of a lifetime.

Although we are great friends, we are quite different in temperament and in our preferences.  I like the countryside; Fuzzy prefers cities.  I like folk culture; Fuzzy likes high culture.  I dream of visiting Scandinavia; Fuzzy’s dream is the ruins of Ancient Greece.  I am a slob; he is always the immaculate gentleman.  You get the picture. Despite our differences, we complemented each other in many ways.   Furthermore, it was always fun hanging with Fuzzy cause amusing misadventures seem to just happen to him naturally.

Humoring me, Fuzzy agreed to the long trip to Norway and so we found ourselves arriving at a youth hostel outside Bergen one wet and cold autumn day.  The day long journey to Bergen from Oslo was a beautiful experience and the scenery exceeded my wildest expectations.  However, our journey started the night before as we traveled overnight from Copenhagen to Oslo and that was a nightmarish journey.

The railway cab had no heating and it felt as if the night time temperature plummeted to near freezing.  We took out every piece of warm clothing we had and wore it.  We ended up wearing so many layers that we could only waddle about while looking like Tweedledee and Tweedledum and even then we were shivering.

So when, we arrived at the hostel the next evening, we were happy but tired, hungry and cold.  Our priority was a warm shower and some warm food.  We went into our room and found that we shared it with three other single travelers.  In many of these hostels, there were no lockers or other means of securing our belongings.  While we would like to trust everyone, it was only prudent to take some precautions as we had money and cameras in our backpacks.  So invariably, we made sure that one of us would always stay with our belongings.

It was thus decided that I would first go to the kitchen and cook our evening meal of instant noodles fortified by a couple of sausages while Fuzzy waited in our room and read up on the hostel facilities and plan for our activities in Bergen.  I returned with two steaming plates of welcome goodness which did much to improve our disposition.

During dinner, Fuzzy told me that the hostel was actually a ski resort that doubled as a hostel in the off season.  He had read that amongst its facilities was a sauna room which we could use for free.  This was of great interest to us as neither of us have ever even come close to a sauna before and it seemed like a place of wonder.  We too wanted to be initiated in to the rites of steam.  Plus we reckoned that it would be a balm to our aching and cold bones.

This time, I offered to let Fuzzy to go first while I caught up with reading about Bergen for our adventures the next day.  Fuzzy was all smiles and practically shivering with excitement as he gathered his bathing gear and head off for the sauna and then the showers.

After he left, I actually spent a lot  of time talking about cameras and photography with a German backpacker that was sharing the room with us.  We talked for almost an hour before he left to seek liquid libations in town.  I looked at my watch and wondered where Fuzzy was.  I imagined with envy, Fuzzy enjoying his sauna experience so much that he had forgotten all about me.

At long length, he reappeared.  I scooped up my bathing gear while excitedly asking for his report on the experience.  He looked rather disappointed as he gave me directions to the place.  He told me that I would eventually reach a pine door with the sign “Sauna” on it.  “Going in through the door, you will find a very large room with a wooden bench running right round the room.” he said.

“I sat there for more than half an hour but I have to say, that it was rather disappointing.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Well, it was warmer than outside but it wasn’t really that warm.” Fuzzy replied.

I was puzzled by Fuzzy’s experience and it took out a lot of wind from the sails of my enthusiasm.  Still, I made my way to the room following Fuzzy’s detailed directions.  I found the marked pine door and entered into that large room.  It was as Fuzzy said.  It was warm but not really spectacularly warm.  One was beginning to wonder why people made such a fuss about a sauna. As I sat there, barely breaking into a sweat, I was beginning to think that the whole sauna experience thing was extremely over-rated.

I must have been there for about ten minutes when I walked around the room hoping to find some thermostat control and raise the temperature further but I could find no switch other than those for the lights.  But then I noticed that the source of heat for the room was some steam escaping from a smaller pine door in one corner of the room.  I went to the door and opened it.

That was when I discovered that Fuzzy had spent half an hour sitting in the changing room just outside the real and much smaller sauna room which lay behind the second pine door!  The legendary Fuzzy had done it again.

Run Nurse Run

“Jo Bune” PhotoCredit: LGS

Like stepmothers, I think psychiatric nurses have been given unfair treatment in the media. Just as not all stepmothers are evil witches busy concocting poisoned apples while preening themselves in front of magical vanity mirrors, then equally not all psychiatric nurses are oppressive, dictatorial demons as personified by Nurse Ratched in the movie, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”. In fact, although I have no first hand experience, I believe that few psychiatric nurses behave like Nurse Ratched. Overall, psychiatric nurses are well trained, compassionate and dedicated to help some of the toughest patients there are. This post is a tribute to them and to thank them for doing a very difficult and often thankless job.

This is my friend, Jo. She is a nurse. She is one of the sweetest and kindest persons I have ever known. I don’t know if she finally became a psychiatric nurse but as a student nurse, she had to do a period of on-the-job training at the high security psychiatric ward of a local hospital.

Once, soon after she started, I noticed that she had cut her hair short. It didn’t really suit her and I asked why did she do it. “It’s funny, really” she said with her characteristically pleasant drawl. “One of the patients tried to strangle me with me own hair.” And then she laughed. I didn’t think it was that funny to be strangled by your own hair but that was Jo; she laughed these things off and they became unimportant compared to the work, the good that she was doing.

On another occassion, a few of us were invited to a friend’s apartment for dinner. When I got there, Jo and a couple of other student nurses were already there. They were seated in the living area and were laughing so hard that tears were rolling down their cheeks. Always looking for a good laugh, I sat down next to Jo and asked what was so funny.

Jo took a couple of deep breaths and dried the tears with a hankerchief before she related the tale to me. “Well, I started on the high security psychiatric ward this week on Tuesday, you see.” I nodded as I knew about that.

She continued, “We had been briefed thoroughly on safety measures and I was all pumped up, you know. Adrenaline was rushing as they opened the security doors to let me in.”

“I hadn’t taken two steps in through the door when I came face to face with this big naked bloke. He stared into my face and I was too surprised to do naught else but to stare right back. Then I heard the voice of the matron yelling, “Stop him!”

“I looked pass the man and I can see a couple of the big male nurses running towards us with the matron behind them. But before I knew it, he slipped past me, through the security doors and was out in the general hospital area.”

“I’m sure like me, you’d been rooted to the spot too, uncertain what to do. But suddenly, the matron shouted again for me to stop him and that jolted me into action. After all, if I have learnt naught else on this course, it is to snap to when the matron shouts an order.” The other student nurses nodded their heads in agreement.

“So, what did you do?” I asked, captivated by the excitement of the tale.

“Why, I ran after him. I chased him down five flight of stairs, through the cafeteria and we were running along the walkway that runs around that small central garden; the naked bloke in front, me just a few steps behind, much further back a couple of burly male nurses and the matron bringing up the rear, still shouting. What a sight for all to see.”

I was visualising it in my mind’s eye. It was quite a busy hospital and this must have been quite a commotion. “So what happened next?” I asked in anticipation.

“Well, we were really running. Belting along in that order when suddenly it hit me; what would I, what could I do if I caught up with him.”

“So what did you do?” I asked enthusiastically.

“So, I pretended that I got the cramps.” she said jubilantly and with that all three nurses broke up into hysterics once more.

As I said, it takes a special breed to do this work. Thank you, Jo and all the others working with the mentally ill. Your patience, resilience, compassion and sense of humor is much appreciated.

Parting of Ways

Come friend, sit and rest awhile,
Share a drink, a toast or two,
Regaling tales that bring a smile
Rejoicing in a bond proven true.I could not tell when it all began,
With those first faltering steps of youth,
That long would be our run, my friend,
Our journey and our quest for truth.

And in that time, we bravely faced,
The beating sun and stinging rain
Through muddy mire, we kept our faith
And faced dark monsters on the plain.

Looking back where we have trod,
We can smile with a twinkle in the eye
Rejoicing at the fruits our labor brought,
Beneath the rainbow in the sky.

We placed our backs on to the plough
And our youth with fervor did we spend
We had no knowledge of where or how
Nor mercifully what lay beyond each bend

Oh what fun it has been and no regrets,
That we had done all this together
Triumphing over both danger and threat,
My comrade of the road and my brother.

Yet now there is breaking a dark storm,
Against which we cannot hope to stand
Farewell my friend, live happy and long,
Way beyond this, our journey’s end.

Helen – Greek Goddess

Helen of Chelsea (photo by LGS)
This is Helen K. She is Greek (funny enough) and she is known to many of her friends as the Greek Goddess. We got to know each other at University and have remained friends ever since. Today she is married with two kids and is a respected and popular teacher but back then………. hah!

Back then I was staying at the Ingram Court Student’s accommodation for my final year at Chelsea College. The University guarantees one year in student accommodation and a few of us all independently decided to delay taking that offer up until the final year. The idea was to be closer to college and the libraries and not have to commute in the final year. The idea was to be more focussed on studying. That was the idea but……..hah!

Well, there was some studying but there was a whole lot of other things going on too. For one thing, the place was populated by all kinds of whacky and eccentric characters. A high percentage of them were also known to lurk the corridors late at night on clandestine missions to play pranks on unsuspecting fellow residents.

The place was organised into corridors with about 12 rooms each corridor sharing common toilets, bathing facilities and a kitchen. There were 2 corridors per floor and several floors. Most of the pranks tend to be played by residents of one corridor on residents of another corridor in some form of reverting to a primitive tribal spirit. My corridor did no such thing. It was very happy to play pranks on anyone even those on the same corridor. Heck, we even had friends come round and join the fun.

In the midst of this chaos, Helen was our corridor’s mother hen. She took care of us. She was the voice of reason, “Umm, don’t you think you should leave Kate alone for awhile cause she’s having exams and play your pranks on someone else for now?” She was the one that kept the peace as best she could or at least reminded everyone toplay “nice”. She had a lot of Greek guys coming by to visit her.

Strangely, it seemed that none of them had a sense of humor and they frowned on the going ons at that place. Perhaps they felt that their Greek Goddess was being sullied by contact with us.

There was one time when I had had a very bad day and was in the showers late at night, unwinding under the stream of hot water. Unfortunately, two groups of residents decided to have a water balloon fight and stray baloons and buckets of cold water came flying over the shower room walls and drenched me. I was in a funk and in no mood to be blasted with icy water. I grabbed my soaking towel and to avoid the water fight in the corridor, made a bee line to Helen’s room. I had a towel round my waist and a wet t-shirt on. I knocked on the door and said, “Helen, I need sanctuary.”

Helen, bless her, took me in without a thought. She fussed over me; gave me a towel for my hair and placed a mug of hot coffee in my hands. I told her I was going to just sit in her room until the ruckus died down and she said that was fine. Not long after, there was a knock on the door, and Helen opened it to find one of her Greek suitors had come over to visit. She denies that they were suitors. She says they were just friends…..hah!

Anyway, this Greek guy walks in and sees me with my towel round the waist and another round my head and with a wet T-shirt, sitting in Helen’s room in the wee hours after midnight. Can you imagine what he was thinking? Well, I did! I was imagining the Greek Mafia (is there such a thing?) being informed about this Malaysian guy who shows no respect. No respect to our Greek Goddess. I was imagining getting real pally with the fishes of the Thames River.

As it turned out nothing happened, no Greek mafia appeared on my doorstep. I think Helen, bless her, managed to convice him I was harmless. Anyway, Helen, if you read this. Thanks for being the sort of friend who was willing to accept me for who I was. I was always comfortable being me with you. Thanks for staying friends all these years. Thanks also for forgiving us for all our pranks.

Helen K is our Greek Goddess…….a personification of grace and patience, of calm amidst chaos, of the mother goddess. The picture above shows further proof of her special qualities. If you haven’t already noticed it, revisit the photo and see if you can find the evidence of her magical powers.