Jane Bates: A rude reminder of my student self

Jane Bates recalls a surprising use for the tough loo rolls of yesteryear

Jane Bates recalls a surprising use for the tough loo rolls of yesteryear

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What is the greatest invention of modern times?  It has to be toilet tissue. When I was a nursing student the loo paper in our nurses’ home and at the hospital was harsh and brittle, not at all fit for purpose.

To minister to such a tender area one needs gentleness and absorbency. Believe me it possessed neither of these qualities. It was like wiping your bottom with a spiky plastic sheet. The decline of the bidet after the introduction of soft bog rolls tells its own story.

But to give it its due, it was excellent writing paper for a poor student nurse who had run out of money. Clearing out our loft, I found a lengthy screed I had written on one of these loo rolls, a ranting tirade about how I hated nursing and intended to leave.

Furious scribbling

I felt totally out of my depth, and dreaded my next shift as though I were going to the gallows. The writing is hardly legible now, because it has been screwed up in the bottom of a box for decades and the ink has succumbed to the damp. But I get the idea, and recall my furious scribbling only too well.

I feel sorry for my student self, but at the same time I remember how therapeutic it was to pour out my heart onto paper, and to form my feelings into words and sentences. It was not only a kind of self-counselling but also helped me to evaluate situations, to make sense of what was happening in a way that worked for me. It was my coping strategy. And it did the job, because I’m still here.

Nowadays this would be called ‘reflection’, but without the restriction of a model framework.  It would be discussed, analysed and used as evidence. Back then it was just me, a pen… and a toilet roll.

Jane Bates is an ophthalmic nurse in Hampshire



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