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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 8, Number 4, December 2014

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Patricia Prime
Auckland, New Zealand


The Grove

boarding the ferry
clutching bag and teddy
the school child

My mother took me with her to Ireland when I was about seven. I don't remember much about Dublin apart from standing on the bridge overlooking the Liffy and meeting my uncle Paddy, who was a fisherman. Going aboard his boat was an exciting adventure and seeing his exotic parrot in its cage that could repeat what one said, a revelation. Unfortunately I came home with scarlet fever, which the doctor said might have been picked up from the boarding room we stayed in.

In 1893 the Metropolitan Asylums Board purchased 22 acres of land for its last infectious diseases hospital. The porter's lodge contained a waiting room, where patients who were leaving could bathe and change from their hospital garments to their own clothes. I was taken to the Grove Fever Hospital, which was only a stone's throw from my home. Here I was placed in the isolation block with its own stairway to a covered walkway. It contained 20 beds. Sometimes our beds were wheeled out into the sunlight and air and we could wave to passing visitors or see our parents arriving. I tried to make friends with the girl in the bed opposite and gave her an orange, but she threw it back at me . . . perhaps thinking it was a ball, as no-one had seen oranges since before the war. But one of my uncles was a greengrocer and had a good supply of exotic fruit such as oranges, bananas and grapes.

The hospital later became an asylum for patients with mental illnesses. We used to see them taken for walks to the park dressed in their hospital gowns and linked with a rope. An alleyway ran beside the hospital, which was a short cut to get to the bus stop, and we'd hear the laughter, crying and shouting from behind the thick walls that surrounded the building.

kissing gates
we run pell-mell
past the asylum

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