Florence Nightingale Museum review
I'm going to see if Florence can do something with my knees. I can't even hobble to a coffee shop this morning so I end up sitting inside the little cafe at St. Thomas's Hospital (that's where the Florence Nightingale Museum is). Lots of glum chats going on in here, lots of depressed relatives staring out the window. One guy is obviously a patient because he's wired up to a wheeled machine and his wife has got her hand clamped around his gown so it doesn't blow open at the back.
I think they should let me into the museum for free because I'm practically a patient -- I might try that at the door. That will be seven pounds fifty, please. "But I've got a limp!" Don't care, seven quid fifty. "Florence Nightingale would let me in for free." She would show me some sympathy. If all you've seen are her sepia-tinged photos from the 1850s then you probably think she was quite fierce and unforgiving, but she was actually quite fun when she was younger. She travelled the world, had a couple of suitors on the go, had a couple of proposals, but once she got the calling that was that. It was nursing or nothing. The only men she was interested in after that were the ones covered in blood and lying on a stretcher.
Her story gets a lot more interesting when she finds herself in the Crimea. The facilities and conditions were so bad over there that she bombarded the politicians with hand-written letters to beg that something be done. Isambard Kingdom Brunel was then commissioned to build a field hospital which seemed to keep her happy, and coupled with her strict hygiene rules she managed to drop the death rate down to 2%. By the time the war was over she was one of Victorian London's most celebrated names -- the famous Lady with the Lamp -- and wrote a big book on nursing that still stands up today.
The museum has lots of objects from her war years, lots of books with faded pages, lots of brown bottles with cork stoppers in the top. Plenty of reminisces from the soldiers that she saved as well.
It's quite interesting to see how famous she became in her later years. They've got a little exhibition of pictures, paintings and porcelain figurines of the Lady with the Lamp -- they remind me of the pottery saints my grandmother used to pray to on her mantelpiece. You can see a few posed photos of her in her eighties as well, all old and crippled and propped up in bed, and looking a lot like Queen Victoria.
I’ve been here before…
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