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Sunday 26 December 2010

A Christmas with Long Arms

Some of you will know from past posts that at the age of five I was whisked into hospital with pneumonia in both lungs and pleurisy. I don't recall anything at all of the illness and nothing of the treatment except that it involved two large bell jars, one filled with a coloured liquid, the other empty and the two connected by rubber tubing. Another length of rubber tubing was equipped with a mouthpiece and using this I had to blow all the liquid into the empty jar.

Apart from that, I remember the deep snow outside and seeing my parents trudging through it to visit me. I remember too, the nurses bringing in large bowls of snow for each child so that we could play snow balls. Still in bed, we threw them across the ward at each other. (Imagine that in the NHS!) I also remember (This being the time of my earliest connected memories.) the Christmas tree in the ward and the presents piled round it - all brought by Santa during the night whilst we all slept, of course. My present was a large Noahs Ark with two each of all the animals - all made from wood. And I remember the photograph, taken by the photographer from the Mitcham News and Mercury, of me being held by my favourite nurse beside my cot in front of the tree. The Noahs Ark was in the cot. I remember the photograph so clearly because my grandparents bought a large copy of the original, and it did the rounds for years afterwards.

I am not sure how long afterwards it was that we were visiting my dad's parents in Wandsworth and had gone to the shops. I had been left outside one particular shop for a moment. There were two women close by who, like me, had been looking in the window, but now one took a newspaper cutting out of her bag and showed it to the other. I cannot remember - or didn't hear - what was said, but they both looked at it for a few minutes before the first one returned it to her purse.

When my parents and grandma returned I asked who the women were. They didn't know - and it seemed quite obvious that the ladies concerned didn't know me. That being so, I always thought it odd that they should be looking at my photograph, for there were no other people in the photograph, apart from the nurse.

Roll on ten years or so and I am in Northern Italy, cycling with some friends. We go into a small wayside church in which some candles are burning. One of my companions lights one for a relation - I think a cousin - who is unwell. All the candles have small cards in front of them, each with a name and a date. Some with a message. One though - are you yet ahead of me? - has no card, just a newspaper cutting. No name, just a date - seven years earlier. It bears the same photograph of me aged five in hospital. Now is that eerie or is that eerie? One last thing: the cutting from the newspaper is printed in Italian. Does that make it more creepy, or less?


Titus said...

More creepy!
The great tradition of Christmas ghost stories well-represented here; even more unsettling that it is true.
On the non-paranormal side of things, something of your face, or the ark, must have captured people's imaginations. Internationally.

David Cranmer said...

I don't see it as creepy (maybe I missed something) but that someone was thoughtful enough to pray for you. Seven years later is quite a length of time and a bit out of the ordinary. Still, a great Christmas story, Dave. One I won't soon forget.

Gerry Snape said...

Dave ..I too see it as wonderful that there were people who cared enough to cut out the newspaper cutting and keep it and even pray for you in Italy. My goodness how amazing!

Unknown said...

It is amazing that your story should make it all the way to Italy (but you know there's never much news at Christmas! :0)) and I'm with Titus about it being more creepy. I suppose it's similar to today's TV hospital visits at this time of year, which can be so affecting. And those, we can readily imagine, could be seen around the world. Knowing that someone has been praying for you must bring a good feeling.

Shadow said...

more creepy! your story, however, have the makings of a good book...

Jim Murdoch said...

I don't think this is a creepy story either - I just want to know what the paper said.

BTW I got Carrie a Noah's Ark for Xmas this year. She's always had a thing about them it seems.

CiCi said...

Not creepy, more interesting that people were genuinely caring about a child who was in hospital over Christmas. Just think of how many people may have been carrying your picture or just saw your picture and were sending you hugs. That is a wonderful story.

Conda Douglas said...

Dave--the newspaper in Italian is even more odd...really adds to the coincidence. And huge coincidences happen in life--just not in fiction. Great story and happy season to you.

Unknown said...

A hospital worker or a nurse may have been worried about you, maybe one of your family members visiting the hospital was kind to a hospital worker or nurse (it was Christmas after all) and they in turn knew of a shrine in Italy where they asked their relatives to pray for you. Your story made the local Italian news. The coincidence of you finding it there years later is odd and creepy. But maybe it was a real miracle that you recovered and the good Lord wanted you to know that peoples prayers were answered. You recovered well enough that you had strong enough breathing to cycle through Northern Italy. Isn't it mountainous? It's a wonderful story, Dave. Happy Christmas.

Dave King said...

Mmmm, not sure about my face - or the Ark. A friend who worked for a local paper told me once that suchthings can get syndicated and pop up almost anywhere in the world. I didn't think that the spooky bit. What I can't get my head around is complete strangers taking cuttings and having them in their handb ag or whatever. And what about the date, seven years before, which had no relevance that I could see?

Well, yes, but the relevant time would have been 10 years before. Thanks for the reassurance, though.

Well, yes again - amazing enough to be spooky, I thought.

You are right in that at the time it gave a boost to the good feelings. It was later that it began tpo feel spooky. As I thought more about the why, I suppose.

I think it does, yes - but for someone else to write. Thanks though.

Sorry, I don't knw what the paper said. I doubt I ever did. I only remember seeing the photograph, the print my parents bought from the paper, and I don't have that now - it didn't come to light when we cleared their bungalow.

You - and my other friends - make it a beautiful story. Thanks.

Thanks Conda and all good wishes to you for the rest of the holiday and the new year.

Yes, you are right about the recovery. In fact, I took up cycling in part as excercise to help me recover physically - though the doctors weren't too sure about it and made me promise not to indulge in cycle speedway, something that was a great craze at the time.

Kat Mortensen said...

I had to read this to my husband and he instantly said (after we reworked the time-line) it had to be connected to the nurse. She must have been Italian, or had Italian relations. I guess if she sent the cutting, the Italian newspaper could have redone a story with the photo included.
It sure is quite a coincidence, mind you.

I don't know about anyone else, but I'd like to hear more about your adventures in Italy.


angryparsnip said...

I think it is a lovely story.
I am a big believer in the lighting of candles in any church I come across. From our hearts to Gods.

I see pictures in the paper from all over the world, so your photo must have just tugged the heart strings of the copy editor that day.

cheers, parsnip

Dave King said...

Well, thanks to you both for the effort you've expended on this. I must say I was mighty impressed with the scenario you've arrived at. I have long thought it might be something to do with the nurse, though I never did think of her having a connection with Italy. I am sure she was not Italian, not that I remember her that clearly, but she was my favourite, I even asked my parents to bring me in a box of chocolates for her, and my mother often spoke about her. I am sure she would have mentioned her being of foreign extraction. Still, she might have married an Italian. But the difficulty I have are the time lapses: this was 10 - 11 years later, but the date scrawled on the cutting was 3-4 after my hospitalisation. Thanks again.
P.S. My Italian trip was an organised affair with a cycling club. I may get round to posting about it, but it would be like looking at someone's holiday snaps, I'm afraid.

Thanks for that lovely comment. Much appreciated.

David Cranmer said...

Yeah, but these older ladies that pray faithfully would carry that every Christmas she got. I've heard of folks doing that. She has no way of knowing how you turned out and so the prayers keep rolling in.