(OLD) NEWHAM MATERNITY The receptionists’ job criteria required crease crossed eyebrows bent so angry eyes were sheltered doubly (perspex sheltered their brilliance physically) They expected lateness, no appointment, or appointments not today. No English either. Done on purpose, to annoy Then you’d to sit policed by stares for hours. Until a hornet-faced nurse demanded which patients were guilty of their names on her list? She guarded, guided the unfortunates through closed doors into secret caverns with prison lighting as if underwater: blood pressure, piss samples, weight were checked. Nurses circled, shark-like, toddlers were hungrily eyed, unless kept from under their important feet. They were so busy! Rainbow-vivid anti-smoking posters threatened us with death. Reminded how lucky we were, we made mental notes - should we survive, escape into daylight, breathe Forest Gate fresh air - the first celebration owed our self respect would be pulling out those battered packets of Sovereign or No 6, and sparking up a cigarette!