Last week was a trip down memory lane. For the first time in nearly 20 years I found myself at the site of the hospital where both my parents worked.
Prestwich Hospital is now home to Bolton, Salford and Trafford Mental Health trust, which I spent an informative day touring. Imagine my amazement when in my first meeting of the day, the trust's recently appointed director of nursing and operations Kath Moran told me she knew my mum from long back. Not only that, but on the very first shift Ms Moran ever carried out as a nursing student at Prestwich on Kersal ward in October 1977, she worked with my mum when she was pregnant with my younger brother.
Now tell me the world is not the size of an egg.
Her husband even worked with my dad on the local union branch.
She went on to tell me how that Christmas in 1977, she turned up to work on Christmas Day to find herself, an unqualified nursing auxiliary (my mum) and a nursing assistant in charge of a ward of 48 old ladies. The three of them had turned up under threat of pain of death from the hands of the charge nurse, only for him to call in sick along with half the staff.
Back in the present day I was surprised at how much land the hospital, now home to the trust HQ and its numerous specialist services, still occupies. Although the old wards are long gone, the forensic unit is still situated far enough away from the executive offices to necessitate a quick car journey if you are in a hurry.
One of the few things that seemed unchanged is the fact that most of the staff, particularly below senior-management level, are local. I found this when we left Prestwich to see services in Bolton and Salford, too. Living in London you get used to being surrounded by people who are not from London but at the trust I was surrounded by the accents of school days.
There was not much of the spirit of the old place left. But this has to be a good thing. Ms Moran told me how in 1977 the ceiling of Kersal ward was so full of holes that birds would fly in and take toast from the breakfast plates.
She told the same tale recently at an event when presented with a long-service award, having worked at the hospital ever since those far gone days.