Matron

I refuse to wear a little white hat on top of my head.

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Copyright © 2016, Michael M Wayman

“This week's podcast comes from a home that is not a home.”

“Matron, I can call you Matron, can't...”

“Yes of course, everyone calls me Matron, not my idea, but I don't mind. I s'pose I look like a matron, black pleated skirt, white blouse, glasses. But I refuse to wear a little white hat on top of my head.”

“So why is this house a home, yet not a home?”

“I run this house together with the girls as a home for the girls. And I mean home with a small H. It is not registered as a Home, it does not receive public money, it is not registered as a charity, I cannot accept donations. And no. I will not answer the question where does the money come from.”

“Who are the girls, Matron?”

“They are mostly young women, who have problems with two and two adding up to three or perhaps fifteen. I call them ‘the girls’, because ‘the women’, ‘the ladies’, ‘the patients’, ‘the clients’ all sound wrong.”

“No children, no men?”

“No, you have to have a special licence for children and also I don't have the qualifications. I have no qualifications, no nursing qualifications – I've got a degree in metallurgy, but it don't help much.”

“No men? I don't like men. We had a girl once who insisted that she was female, though she wasn't, not bodily any way. She was ever so pleased when I took a piece of old bed sheet and a kilo of rice and sewed her a pair of falsies...”

“Yes, I know what falsies are, you stick 'em in your bra and you look...”

“...more like a woman. But otherwise, I don't like men.”

“Are you lesbian, Matron?”

“No.”

“You are pretty picky about who you take into your house?”

“Yes, I have to be. No alkies, no druggies, no smoking, no violence, no demented, no bed-bound. I don't have the qualifications, I don't have the necessary staff, there's just me and the girls. It's pretty good being so independent, I only take the girls I want, I don't have to take just anybody the Social Services Department wants to dump on me.”

“So how did it start, Matron?”

“About ten years ago I inherited this house from an aunt, a big house, perhaps it had been a small school or a hotel or a sanatorium. I came here, I liked the place, lovely countryside, hills and mountains, skiing in winter and skating on the lake. I don't go down town very much in the daytime, it's full of day trippers trying to empty the souvenir shops. But it's good in this part of the world, good cooking too, close to the French border.”

“Any way, I wanted to try it out. I renovated a few rooms on the ground floor and moved in. It was great. But then something happened. A young woman came to the door with nowhere to go. Another one came in the following week.”

“It had started, I had a home from home. More girls, I had to renovate more rooms. Ten rooms, so max ten girls. I learnt a lot about young women and a bit about older women. But then something bad happened, I had an invasion of socwoks.”

“What are or is socwoks, Matron?”

“Social workers from the Social Services Department. They said that I needed a licence, the rooms must have a minimum size, I had to have qualifications, I must have so many staff, the patients must be documented and assessed by qualified experts. And so on and so on.”

“I said NO! This is a private house, this is my house, whom I choose to be in it is my business. No licence, no qualifications, no staff, no payments, no paper work. The only paper trail is gas bills and insurance payments and such like.”

“The socwoks were angry, they took me to court, the judge asked me three questions. Was I taking public money to run a Home (as defined under paragraph 39) that was not properly licensed and registered? No! Was I running a Home without the minimum number of qualified staff? No! Was I taking donations as a registered charity to run a Home (as defined under paragraph 39d)? No!”

“The judge threw the case out. A week later I was raided by the Inland Revenue. Was I running a hotel and not paying taxes? They asked all the girls what they paid – most of them had no money – how could they pay?”

“The police raided the house. Was I running a brothel? Some hope with those girls. Then came the fire brigade.”

“They all wore such nice uniforms – they made good suggestions about fire doors, a fire escape, extinguishers and all sorts of safety stuff. They stayed for tea and biscuits.”

“The socwoks had another idea – they brought me all sorts of people – men, children, alkies, druggies, smokers, vegetables, even some young women. I took a few girls, but mostly I said no. I said that I could choose.”

“The socwoks did not like that, they did not like it when I accepted girls and refused to sign any papers. And no, they could not visit the girls in my house. And no, nobody who was violent or suffered from violence. That last bit was hard, but I can't protect the girls from violent boyfriends, and there is a safe house for women on the other side of town.”

“One day I was looking out the window when an ambulance arrived. Two paramedics lowered a hospital bed out of the back doors and wheeled it to the front door. I could not see the patient – just loads of bandages and IV drips. They stopped at the front door – big confusion – it was not wide enough for the bed. They pushed the bed back into the ambulance and drove away – typical socwok incompetence.”

“My relationship with the socwoks got better – they accept that I'm choosy.”

“So Matron, what is your magic formula for your girls as you call them?”

“I look after them, lots of tlc, I provide a room for each one, nice food, I buy 'em clothes, clothes that fit them and make 'em look good. I don't mind if they spend hours looking at the wall in their room, especially to begin with. However I encourage them to help around the house, I teach 'em to cook and clean and so on. I have to, with up to eleven bodies in the house, I can't do it alone.”

“I get 'em educated, some can't read or write when they come here, but fortunately the local college runs second and third chance courses. I try to get them to learn a trade and get a job. One of my girls went to university, I'm proud of that.”

“My real magic is that I listen to them, whatever they have to say. And I wash them, I like doing that.”

“You wash 'em?”

“Yeah, you know, with water, the wet stuff, and soap, and shampoo for the hairy bits.”

“Isn't that a bit perverted, Matron?”

“Oh yes, definitely.”


“The interview ended abruptly at this point. I couldn't think of anything to say – how could the conversation continue? Matron left the room suddenly – a girl had called out:”

“Come quickly, Matron. Mary is having another fit; she's lying on the floor kicking the air with her legs and arms.”


“I had arranged to stay the night and interview some of the girls. Matron told me:”

“The house is full, you will have to sleep with me.”

“That night I lay in bed with Matron wrapped firmly round me, I was thinking that in the morning Matron was going to wash me.”



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