The Guinea Pig Club and Liz Byrski

This Marie Kondo phenomenon where if something you own “doesn’t spark joy”  then it should be “tossed out”,  peeves me no end. And that’s being polite.

People, if it doesn’t spark joy, simply don’t buy it. How hard is it?

I do admit to culling some books over the weekend, though few were from my own collection. Being a local depository for preloved reading material seems to be my current Job Role: there are boxes in the garage I have been gifted for the Little Community Library or to sell at the local Car Boot sale for fundraising purposes.

Recently I offloaded a handful of military/history books on social media. Giveaways to friends with an interest. All went within a couple of hours to sons and daughters of a previous generation.

One of the books is a personal favourite, and in the end I couldn’t part with it : In Love And War : Nursing Heroes by Liz Byrski.

Liz Byrski is an English born writer who came to Australia in the ‘80’s. Her career has included stints as a Freelance Journalist and as an Associate Professor in Professional Writing and Media Ethics. She has authored numerous women’s fiction books aimed at the demographic where pressure stockings, walking frames, and mobility scooters feature highly. Although she writes well I refuse on principal to partake………

Liz was born in East Grinstead in 1944 and In Love And War:Nursing Heroes was precipitated because of nightmares she experienced as a child featuring disfigured bodies.

You see, East Grinstead was the location of the Queen Victoria Hospital where Archibald McIndoe undertook experimental reconstructive cosmetic surgery and facial reconstruction surgery to aircrews burned during World War 2. At the time the treatment of such serious burns was in its infancy, and thus McIndoe and his patients became known as The Guinea Pig Club.

A large part of the treatment included assisting the patients on a social level and the townsfolk were encouraged to take the veterans into their homes, reintegrating them into normal life. The author’s nightmares as a child were in fact a reality.

Byrski returned to East Grinstead many years later and interviewed a number of the nurses who had assisted these men during the recovery process. The nurses were expected to aid their patients in social situations and many partnered them at dances, visits to the country, and in life. Their stories are both fascinating, positive and in some cases, devastatingly sad

The Guinea Pig Club continued as a support system and for comradeship for its members for over sixty years, finally being disbanded in 2007.

This is one fascinating tale and a slice of life that most of us could not comprehend. I’m off to find more about East Grinstead, and yes, Byrski has a permanent spot in the bookcase.

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