Near Death – Week 45 of the 52 week short story challenge



‘Hello? Can you hear me?’

I’m pressing the button on this pendant I wear around my neck but nothing happens. Usually when I press it I get a crackly voice from the other end telling me that I have come through to the ‘We Care Service’ and what did I want?

I don’t use it often because I have difficulty hearing what the woman is saying and now, when I really need it there is nothing.

Not even the reassuring beep that tells me that although the line is busy, they will get back to me as soon as possible.


I can just see the clock from here. It’s still early; six o’clock and the time when I would usually be up making my first cup of tea. something to set me up for the day as I sit and listen to the news on the radio.

I could watch the news on the television that my granddaughter bought me but I prefer to listen early in the morning. I don’t want the intrusion of strangers in my house yet.

Today I would welcome anyone to my house.

Today even the lad who has been burgling houses in our area would be welcome. I would tell him where to find my money, my wife’s jewellery, my medals even, if he would call 999 as he leaves.

The floor in the hallway is cold. I should have had carpets fitted but my wife was always proud of these tiles. Minton she said they were and she wouldn’t dream of having them covered up with some old carpet.

I could have had the carpets fitted when she died, when there was only me to think of but every time I look at these tiles I think of her.

I see her as the young girl I carried across the threshold of our house; as the mother of our daughter, tired but proud in her hospital bed, and then I see her bringing our baby girl home to the bedroom I had so lovingly painted pink in her honour.

She did us proud our girl; married well and presented us with grandchildren. I had never thought of our daughter as being traditional but she named her children after her mother and me. Keeping the memories going she said. A legacy.

I never thought I would outlive her, and her mother.

When I came home from the war my lungs were useless; poison gas, cheap tobacco and a cough that never really went away. As if to remind, I cough now and the pain from my legs wracks my body.

I used to have people who came in to check on me. Cheerful young women who did my washing and made me meals. Someone to talk to four times a day; not as good as my wife, who never seemed to stop talking but at least they filled a part of the void when she was gone.

Now they are gone too. Cuts in social care.

A brisk young woman came to visit me, and decided that my care package was too large for my needs. I didn’t need all this help as I was obviously self-caring. I didn’t need to go out to lunch clubs; the transport was very expensive and they were closing down the day centres anyway. She gave me this pendant but was at pains to tell me that I would have to buy the new batteries for it.

I have batteries in the fridge but I can’t reach them.

I can’t reach the telephone.

I can’t reach the door.

I can’t go on.

I can’t.

I can’t give up.

Today of all days.

I look at my coat, hanging out of reach on the coat hook.

I can just see the poppy.

I should be getting my breakfast and making myself presentable so that when my granddaughter comes to fetch me for the parade, she will be proud of me and the part that I played.

So tired.

All I want to do is sleep.

To sleep and have the pain go from my legs.

What legs?

I can’t feel them.

I should be able to feel them. To feel the pain that has kept me awake at night for over seventy years. There is no pain. Just cold.

I look at the clock again. Where has the time gone? I don’t remember being asleep but four hours have passed since I last looked.

I want to sleep. It’s time for me to join the people who I love and miss. This is no place for old men like me – we may have been seen as heroes once but now we are just a burden on the state – a burden that the taxpayers can’t afford according to that brisk young woman.

So tired.


The sound of her key in the door pulls me back from the place where pain has gone and there is just a soft glowing light that draws me in.

‘Grandad? Hang on in there. I’m calling an ambulance. Don’t leave me Grandad.’

It isn’t time yet. Her hands are warm as she tucks a blanket around me. Her hands are warm like her mother’s and her grandmother’s, and while I long to feel their touch again this beautiful girl pulls me back to the present.

I open my eyes and focus on her face. She looks tired and worried so I do my best to smile as if I was okay. The poppy on her coat is close to me and I reach out to touch it.

‘Not yet then?’ I ask.

‘Not yet. Not today of all days. Love you Grandad.’


At Sea – Week 32 of the 52 week short story challenge


It was the first Tuesday of the month and just after eight o’clock in the evening, so the venue had to be Simon’s Wine Bar, because that was where Jo, Lea and I met up. We had been meeting here since the wine bar opened three years ago, and before that we had frequented a number of different bars and restaurants on a reasonably regular basis – holidays, childbirth and objecting partners excepted.

We had been friends from schooldays; Joanna, Leanne and Georgina, shortened to Jo, Lea and Gina over the years. We met for the first time, when standing in serried ranks in the school assembly hall, we were sent to our allotted form tutor and marched off to the classroom that was to be our base for the next five years.

Situated in the older part of the school, parquet flooring, dark wooden cupboards with sliding doors and piles of dust in the deepest recesses. We didn’t realise it at the time but we had been lucky enough to acquire Mr Beck as our form tutor. Out of all the first form tutors, he was undoubtedly the most human and easy-going.

At the time there were only four male teachers in our girls-only school; lovely Mr G who taught chemistry and was considered too scatty to have a form to look after, Mr Beck who taught physics and technical drawing, and the two religious education teachers; the Rev and the Perv. They only worked part-time and it was always a relief to walk into the classroom and find that the Rev was on duty. He at least was a real vicar whereas the Perv was a Methodist pastor who liked to massage the shoulders of girls that were too afraid of him to object.

Needless to say, he never laid a hand on me, Jo or Lea; according to our other friends we exuded an air of arrogance and rebellion. Whilst some teachers did their best to split us up we always managed to be sitting together for the next lesson like three magnets. This only changed when we had to make choices about the future and select our options for the final two years of school. Lea was artistic and creative, so art, pottery and needlework were easy options for her. Jo was the scientist, and whilst she had been known to connect up the Van Der Graaf generator to the classroom door and shock her less observant classmates – or student teachers – she was Mr Beck’s favourite and could do no wrong in his eyes.

I was used to the teachers looking at me in a funny way. My brain and I had the capacity to stun when sufficiently motivated  but I was always a rebel in my own lunchtime. No cissie uniform for me; I stalked the halls in jeans and Doctor Martins, daring any foolish teacher to reprimand me. It’s hard to be a rebel when there is no challenge though. I was the writer, the historian and psychologist. I was one of the first students to tackle the social psychology course and it was partly due to my high marks that the course – together with philosophy and sociology – was added to our curriculum.

Jo and I stayed on for sixth form but Lea went off to study hairdressing and beauty techniques. Her mother ran a couple of salons across the city and it was a given that Lea would step into her mother’s shoes one day. Had she been as much of a rebel as me, she might have objected but she was always the most compliant of us – and the most elegant and well-groomed. When her classmates were suffering from greasy hair and adolescent acne, Lea, having access to an endless range of beauty products and being blessed with clear skin, sailed through her school days with unnatural poise.

Jo went on to medical school and became a GP. I chose a university up in that London and lived a Bohemian lifestyle that resulted in me being left with two small children, a heap of debts, a pile of half-written novels and a deep spiritual wound inflicted by my poet lover who went off to the US to find himself. Fortunately my parents welcomed me and their grandsons home and I managed to scrape a living for the three of us by writing articles for women’s magazines and promising myself that I would finish my novels one day. By the time my boys were in their mid-teens, I had bought us a tiny terraced house laughingly described as an ‘artisan dwelling’, Lea was still single but had expanded the beauty salon chain and Jo had married a police sergeant and given birth to twins very shortly after. Family planning was never her thing – but then it hadn’t been mine either.

The three of us kept in touch throughout the years and once we were all back living in the same city, the monthly meetings began in earnest. As befitting her role, Lea remained elegant and beautiful, I had streaks of grey at my hairline – a  consequence of being disorganised and leading a life bedevilled by constantly having to unearth football boots, chemistry books and clean clothes from the  dark caves where my boys could be found, so that they wouldn’t get into trouble at school. They still got into trouble for their rebellious attitudes and a refusal to conform but I knew who to blame for that. Jo’s face was etched with worry lines even before the twins turned up; I commiserated with her over the posset stains on her shoulders and the fact that none of her pre-pregnancy clothes fitted anymore.

It was Tuesday and the three of us were sitting at our favourite table with a bottle of red wine breathing and three glasses ready. It was a few minutes before Jo and I put our own worries and thoughts aside in order to notice that something was wrong with Lea.

She poured out the wine and took an unusually inelegant gulp before squaring her shoulders and taking a deep breath.

‘I have a problem, girls.’

Jo and I looked at each other, mentally assessing which one of us would ask the question. Under the table we did rock, paper, scissors. I usually beat Jo by wrapping her rock with paper but on this occasion she pulled a sneaky scissor trick and so it was me that put on the sympathetic face and asked. ‘What’s up Lea? How can we help?’

Jo kicked me under the table.

Lea put down her glass. ‘I think I’m in love.’

Double relief for Jo and myself. We started to smile and formulate congratulations but something in Lea’s face stopped us.

My turn to ask the questions again.

‘Who with? Do we know them – him – her?’ I hedged my bets. Lea bristled.

‘Him of course! No you don’t know him. He’s offered me a job too.’

Jo and I did a double take.

‘But you have all the salons. You don’t need a job. What kind of job?’

Lea looked at me pityingly. ‘I have good managers in all my salons. I need a change. I’m SO bored.’

‘What kind of a job?’ Jo echoed my questions. ‘Who is he?’

Lea took another gulp and another deep breath. ‘His name is Daryl. He is the entertainments manager on the Ocean Princess and he has asked me if I want to take on the beauty salon concession. It means signing up for a year and although the money isn’t wonderful, it would mean that I get to visit Florida, Italy, Spain – the itinerary is vast. The chance to get a real tan, evenings off, dinner at the Captain’s table, what more could a girl want?’

‘But, you’ve never been abroad Lea. Do you even have a passport?’

‘I know. I’ve always been too busy. I want to do something else with my life. You and Jo, you have children, Jo has a husband. I need a change. Can you sign my passport form Jo?’

‘Daryl? How did you meet him?’ I was a little miffed that she hadn’t asked me to sign her form but then I wasn’t really that much of an upstanding member of the community really.

Lea looked a little guilty. ‘I caught him trying to poach my staff.  He was a bit embarrassed and took me out to lunch to apologise. We got talking and well … you know.’ She finished lamely.

‘How old is he?’ Jo had the bit between her teeth now and the inquisitorial GP in her took over.

Lea blushed. ‘Twenty-five.’ she muttered.

‘That’s ten years younger than you. He’s a toy boy!’ I knocked back my wine and emptied the rest of the bottle into our glasses.

‘Are you really in love with him Lea or is it just the idea of sailing off into the sunset?’ Jo was still in her professional guise.

Lea looked at her watch. ‘I asked him to come and meet you. He’ll be here at nine o’clock.’

This was sacrosanct. Tuesdays were for the three of us. No exceptions. Ever.

I ordered another bottle of red and we didn’t bother to let this one breathe. I was the wordsmith and mine failed me for the moment. Jo concentrated on scratching a patch of posset she had discovered on her leggings. Lea was silent.

‘When will you go?’ I said eventually.

‘I haven’t signed any contracts yet but the next sailing is from Southampton at the end of the month and they need to have a manager in place before they sail. I think I want to do this girls, but I need your help. I trust you more than anyone else and if you think – well – if he isn’t the right one for me…’

This was a new element to our friendship. Lea had always been very choosy about men and neither Jo or I had ever sought an opinion on our partners – although I often wished I had.

Daryl arrived exactly at nine o’clock. He was handsome – in a theatrical way – he had good dress sense, an immaculate hair style and a tan that hadn’t come from a machine. He was charming, attentive and nothing like any man Jo and I had ever met before. He didn’t exactly sweep us off our feet but we could understand how he had captured Lea’s heart. The wine and the shock made us both dull and sleepy. Lea sparkled in Daryl’s presence.

Lea and Daryl went on to a club. Jo and I went home to our families in a taxi; we both felt old and boring.

By the end of the month Lea had sorted out her salons, signed up for a twelve month concession on a cruise liner and organised both her work and social wardrobes. Daryl continued to be the love of her life and though we cried on our last evening together, Jo and I wished them both well.

Lea was a great success as the manager of the beauty salon.

Daryl turned out to be less of a success; they had only been at sea for three days when Lea discovered him snogging one of the dancers backstage. He protested that he was just comforting her because she was homesick but the dancer told a different tale and within a few hours Lea had testimony from a parade of young girls who had fallen prey to Daryl’s charms.

He was offloaded in disgrace at Fort Lauderdale after breaking a few more hearts, by which time Lea had come to the attention of an aging but handsome millionaire who had signed up for a cruise to take his mind off the death of his wife. He signed up for another cruise when that one ended and carried on cruising until Lea finally agreed to terminate her contract and sign up to being his wife.

Lea sends us letters from her homes in the US. She never forgets our birthdays or those of the children. We think that she is happy. We hope that she is. We try to meet up on Tuesdays Jo and I, but it isn’t the same. Now it’s us that are at sea.



‘The End of the Pier’




Thirty days of blogging.

Stories, memories and a very small poem that crept into my head in the night.

Dominated somewhat by the saga of the Krappy Kitchen and the process of acquiring the food preparation and dining area of our dreams.

Over the past day and a half we have watched the last vestiges of the Krappy Kitchen disappear.  I let out a small cheer as the lump hammers hit breeze blocks that have dominated the middle of the room for the past fifteen years.

The electrician was the last of our visitors to leave today, having drilled out the holes for my brushed chrome spotlights (I had a choice between white, shiny or brushed chrome).  My mind scurried back into virgin kitchen mode when asked to make that choice.  Then I asserted myself and after opting for brushed, was strangely proud to be told that I had made the right choice.

Hub and I wandered around after our visitors had left today. Our kitchen is an echoing shell now, with dangling wires and the huge double RSJs lurking in the ceiling.

We have found out a few things about our house.

It’s a miracle that Gap Boy hasn’t fallen through the floor when stropping in his bedroom because the existing RSJ only went across half the ceiling – the bit where he sleeps, not the bit where he regularly shouts, guffaws and giggles on his computer.

It’s another miracle that we haven’t all been killed in our beds due to the shoddy wiring put in by the first owner – who was (surprisingly enough) a qualified electrician.  Perhaps he trained st the same establishment where the subsequent owner did her artexing course. There will be no more skin scraping artex in our kitchen either .

The builders have sorted out the dodgy building bits and an inspector is coming to check it all  out tomorrow. Another stranger at the door.

The nice electrician is going to have a look at the rest of the wiring when he’s finished in  the kitchen.  He very gently told me that progress will slow down a bit now because the plasterer is coming in and it will take a couple of days for the walls and ceiling to dry out.

I smile that silly smile and remind him that after waiting fifteen years to be able to afford this kitchen a couple more days won’t worry me.

Talking of compromises, the work top won’t be quite as sexy as planned.  With the wisdom of Solomon I had to make the choice between waiting another three weeks for the Star Galaxy worktop or cancelling the order and getting the slightly more down-market black granite with just silvery bits in it which can be delivered when the builders need it because it has been sourced locally.

It is still a sexy worktop and with any luck, my kitchen will be done much quicker (and a bit cheaper too!)

Washing up in the downstairs bathroom is a bit challenging but having the temporary kitchen on the dining room table is easier on the legs.

After rebelling about the use of plastic cutlery and paper plates, we bought GB a set of his own cutlery and unearthed some plates.

More compromise.

I was in a bit of a quandary about the old gas cooker yesterday.

It had to sit outside all night until the big lorry came to collect the rubbish. I really should have given it a bit of clean before the builders came but it is being junked anyway and we ran out of time.

Trouble is, it sat in the garden in full view of the manic mothers on their school run (they slowed down to have a look – not quite to 20 miles an hour but not bad).  Now they all know what a dirty  cooker I had.

GB has been quite sweet today but that goes hand in hand with his lecturing and hectoring about every single subject under the sun.

My idea of snoozing gently with Scoob whilst Martin and Lucy wax lyrical about three-bed semis in Clapham has been shattered  due to the fact that GB cannot sleep upstairs whilst all that banging is going on. So he talks and talks and talks.

Mind you, he told me about the hose incident last night.

Apparently one of our elderly neighbours was watering his garden yesterday evening when someone drove up the road at speeds in excess of 60 miles an hour (I doubt it) , so my neighbour remonstrated with him.  The neighbour remonstrated back and my neighbour hosed him.  More naughty talk and another shot of hose.  I expected to hear the our neighbour had been bopped but apparently the drive chose to zoom off instead.

Perhaps it was the sight of my neighbour’s hairy, brown and extremely pregnant-looking belly that saw him off.

I know it’s been warm over the last couple of days but that belly would certainly frighten the horses. Put it on!

Poor Scoob had just got used to the chaps who chipped of the seventies brown and white tiles  yesterday when there was a change of personnel and he had to come to terms with three more of them.  Luckily the poor young boy in the hoodie who got so badly wuffed at yesterday was off on another job today.

They are a smashing bunch though.  I can hear their conversations through the wall and the range of topics is impressive and very informative.  GB asked me if I minded all the swearing. I hadn’t actually noticed it.

The kitchen singing is even better than the banter though.  The lads brought along their old, dusty, paint-spattered ghetto blaster and they sing along to Radio One. – although they may have wandered into Radio Two yesterday afternoon when I heard one of them singing falsetto to ‘Too shy, shy’.

My attitude to our builders is very positive therefore.  They don’t seem to mind the awfulness of the tea I make them (being allergic to tea makes this a very hands-off process and the fumes make me retch a bit). The biscuits I sent Hub out to buy have been a great success, and the fact that I really don’t mind them using the downstairs toilet also went down well.

“I don’t mean to be cheeky but can I use your loo/have a cup of tea/ smoke in your garden/ eat these lovely biscuits?”

They are such polite boys.

I have a feeling that today’s blog won’t really be the end of the pier as planned thirty -one days ago.

Making the effort to write something every day is a discipline I learned when participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) which is held every November.

It may not be easy to stop now although I’m not sure if I’ll continue to blog every day.

I have a kitchen to dress in the next week or so (that’s what they say on DIY SOS isn’t it?)




Only 9 hours in A and E – The Duke of Edinburgh isn’t the only one on hospital food

Sunday 3rd June; more jubilee stuff and the heavens have been pouring down on the celebrating masses since the early hours.  Lovely hub is home from his night shift , College Boy has eventually gone to bed and I will be on duty at nine o’clock.

The morning is busy with a couple of complex cases that require long phone calls to sort out. Twitter provides a welcome distraction and I don’t feel at all deprived because I can’t watch endless newsreels about the Jubilee and the Flotilla.  Up here in the North we are not a part of the damp jollity going on in ‘that’ London – phew.

By mid afternoon lovely hub is up and College Boy is not. I have decamped to the bedroom and whizzed through the channels on the TV to find something un-Jubilee.  I cooked up a load of Manchester sausages on Saturday and lovely hub is going to pop them over to my Dad this afternoon to see if they will tempt his flagging appetite.

I know that Dad has been undergoing a series of tests and by what he hasn’t been telling me I know that it is serious.  Whilst College Boy uses the word ‘whatever’ to express his contempt for the rest of the world, my Dad uses it in a vague ‘Ooh I can’t remember the word – well actually I can but I don’t want to worry you’ kind of way whenever I ask questions.

When he came over for a barbecue last weekend he had shed his customary jacket and I was shocked at how much weight he seems to have lost suddenly, how frail he looks and the difficulty he had getting down the step to the patio.

He got sick of my asking questions and went into total vague but I made him promise that if he really felt unwell or needed anything at all he would call me.

The house phone went in the middle of the afternoon a week later and lovely hub rushed up the stairs to tell me that Dad is on the phone and needs to speak to me.  Sod’s Law that I am already on the work phone and writing furiously but I manage to call him back within five minutes and it doesn’t sound good.  Not eating or drinking, still in his dressing gown and feeling dreadful.

No point in getting the OOH GP – who I know is rushing round like a loon on the bank holiday weekend.  No point calling an ambulance for the same reason. Lovely hub is putting on his shoes as I soothe my Dad and tell him help will be there soonest.

The scary thing about emergency work is that even when it is one of your nearest and dearest that is in crisis, the years of ‘get on and deal with it’ kick in and you only start shaking hours afterwards – when you can – safely.  So I spend the next  hour updating my records, throwing things into a suitably large handbag and putting on clothes that are practical for a long wait in A&E.

I phone family members and give them as much information as I have, promising to update them as and when.  College Boy is awake now but  oblivious due to his headphones and being in the midst of a virtual battle with someone on the other side of the world.  He gets a brief update and his first question is ‘Can I still have my party next Saturday?’  I kiss him but would prefer to strangle him right now.

My wonderful colleague relieves me an hour early just after I get a text from lovely hub to say that he has booked my Dad in and is on his way back to get me.

I still can’t panic and in truth, I don’t want to anyway.  When we get back to the hospital lovely hub goes in search of the cash machine for taxi fare for me later and to get change for the ever-present vending machine in the waiting room (change that I forget to ask for but manage to find enough in the bottom of my bag to get a KitKat).

Dad is there, looking small and ill; his poor hands are purple and swollen.  I want to jump up and shout at someone but this won’t help him and I don’t want him frightened even more. The waiting room is full of hopping people; slippery conditions  due to the rain or clumsiness brought on by too much jubilee cheer?  Within 15 minutes though a nurse comes out and bless her, once she sees how frail my Dad is she rushes for a wheelchair and we take him through to minors.

Within five minutes we are moving to resusc – assured by the nurse that we shouldn’t worry – we are only going there because majors is full.  Lovely hub and I leave for a while and sit in the waiting room holding hands whilst the nurses undress my Dad and wire him up to various machines.  When we return he is tired but resigned to whatever it is they will do to him, and my stiff upper lip wants to loosen but that won’t help anyone so we continue with the kind of inane banter  that relatives resort to in A&E.

The weather  is dreadful, bitter cold and torrential rain. A motorcyclist is brought in , wrapped in silver foil and with their head immobilised.  You don’t want to listen but you can’t help hearing and a little bit of someone else’s crisis takes the edge off our own.

Without having to use thumbscrews (fortunately) I learn that my Dad has been feeling unwell since I last spoke to him Friday night but hadn’t wanted to bother me.  He’s had nothing to eat or drink for two days and as a consequence at least five different members of staff fail to get blood out of his poor collapsed veins. The sweet and apologetic junior doctor finally squeezes enough blood out for tests and they set up a drip to get fluids inside him.  A drip that goes very slowly.

I sit back and let him do the talking; it’s a slow process but I need to curb the instinct to step in and take over because it is important that the staff to get his history from him.  I supplement when asked and the doctor goes off to hunt up the results of the tests that my Dad has been having over the past month.

Another biker is brought in and I nearly crack as his teenage daughter; long blonde hair, daisy dukes over black leggings and an ‘OMG’ tee shirt, sobs heartbreakingly; he too is wrapped in tinfoil and immobilised.  The grief of other people always seems so much worse than your own.

The doctor comes back. She draws the curtains round us and pulls up a chair.  My heart sinks.  They can sort out the immediate crisis and will be admitting my Dad once the medics have come down and had a look at him. In the long-term however, the test results that he wasn’t due to get for another couple of weeks state the bad news baldly.  The evil c-word that no one ever wants to hear.   The doctor is so kind and apologetic and as I write about it now I can cry but I couldn’t then.  I held one of his hands and she held the other and he took it in the stoical fashion that he always has, except for that one occasion  when I had to explain to him that my Mum was dying two years ago.

Life intervenes; I have had a text from Uni Boy and I text back in his medical terminology, knowing that he will understand just as he did when we looked at his Grandma’s CT scans together after her stroke.  I update my brother and he offers to disseminate so that I can get back to my Dad.  Lovely hub has to go to work and College Boy phones to say that he is hungry and are there any shops in the hospital where I can buy him something nice?  I tell him that I love him but again I could cheerfully strangle him.

Lovely hub leaves us and the staff turn the lights down to give my Dad a chance to rest.  he is now on his second bag of fluids but his heart rate is all over the place.  There is a glut of possible cardio admissions in majors who later turn out to have indigestion from Jubilee overindulgence.  An old man with a chest infection and much confusion sings hymns beautifully despite his daughter trying to hush him up.  the old lady opposite shouts endlessly into her oxygen mask and sounds like a fighter pilot.

The nurses doing half hourly obs on my Dad are unfailingly cheerful and kind; managing to persuade a surly security guard to steal a bed so that they can transfer my Dad off the uncomfortable trolley and let him get some sleep whilst we wait.  They grumble about the fact that all the wards are allowed to put up bunting and flags but not in A&E.  I stifle my Republican principles for a moment to commiserate.  It isn’t just my world after all.

The medic comes down to see my Dad, waking him from a fitful sleep; I have been alternately dipping into my Kindle, looking at research papers on overconfidence in identification (thrilling) and catching up on Twitter and Facebook.  Who needs the telly when your virtual chums are happy to update you on the damp flotilla and the subservient celebrities.  This is why I follow people who make me laugh with their acid observations.

At half-past one we hear that a bed is ready on the acute medical ward.  The porter, Jane the nurse, and I gather up my Dad’s belongings and take him on a journey through the dimly lit corridors, up in the lift to a ward that I know from memory will smell strongly of urine at this time of night due to the high number of little accidents and the low number of staff on duty.  Nevertheless the corridor is well-bedecked with bunting and our jolly porter dons a Union Jack bowler and does a little dance in the corridor for our amusement.

My Dad, having had three bags of fluid, medication for pain and to steady his heart, is quite wide awake and chatty now, so though I am hungry, thirsty and dog-tired,  (the Diet Coke and KitKat went long ago) I laugh with him and make jokes about his ‘hotel’ accommodation.  A surly man, fully dressed and fully mobile sits on the bed opposite, only disappearing once I draw the curtains for privacy.

A young nursing assistant patiently helps an old man off the commode and when she comes back from emptying it, calls my name.  She smiles and identifies herself as the daughter of someone I used to work with.  We exchange memories and she shows me a pictures on her phone of her nephew and niece.  Before she leaves she promises me that  she will keep a special eye on my Dad at night.  My eyes fill at this spontaneous act of kindness but I am determined not to crack.

Dad’s ‘special nurse’ comes in and with a line in gentle teasing banter, manages to get more information out of him in five minutes than I have all evening.  Once he’s settled I kiss him good night and after a few words with his nurse and a promise to call in the morning, I make my way back to the lift.

The surly man emerges from the lift and as I step in the smell of fags and booze is overwhelming – no prizes for guessing where he has been.  It’s now two o’clock.  I go back to A&E where the kind receptionist offers to get security to call me a taxi.  I thank her, as I have thanked so many people this evening.

I text my lovely hub at work to say that I am on my way home, then phone College Boy who has managed not to eat the sausages that I have been craving for the past five hours.  The young girl with the long blonde hair kisses her Dad as he is taken up to the ward; luckily he only has a fractured collarbone, his ruined leathers and crash helmet saved the rest of him.

My taxi arrives in five; a jolly young Scouser who chats sympathetically and wishes my Dad well when he drops me off at home.

College Boy and whingy cat are still wide awake and I have texts to respond to from lovely hub.  The indigestion-giving sausages taste wonderful.  I try not to get cross with College Boy’s unsubtle probing and finally get to bed about three o’clock.

I get up when lovely hub comes home at seven; he looks desperately tired and although for a very brief moment when I first woke up  my thoughts were merely of bunting and all that crap on the TV, reality came back again and I remembered that it hadn’t been a dream.

I had breakfast, phoned the hospital and was happy to hear that Dad had a good night and was tucking into porridge.  did an update on Facebook for far-flung friends and family and was touched by the speedy and loving responses I got.

We visited in the afternoon and the horrible smell was gone.  Dad was looking much better – all the drips had vanished and he was has a post-prandial doze having feasted on veggie soup, cheese sandwich, fruit cocktail and ice cream.  We took orders to collect his mobile phone, charger and to get some shortie biscuits in case he fancied a nibble with his tea.

College Boy was persuaded out of his pit for the evening visit – he evening took his earphones out and stood solemnly next to his dad at the end of the bed.  Dad was sitting out in the armchair clad in ver smart red pjs.  His hands and feet had returned to a normal size and colour and he was wearing what looked like a pair of fluffy knock-off Ugg boots – NHS issue. Phew!  The surly man’s bed is being cleaned and his name has been wiped off the whiteboard – another phew!

It’s Tuesday now and we’re visiting this afternoon and I’m on duty tonight, back to work tomorrow.  Doubt if we’ll get College Boy to visit again but Uni Boy is coming home on the train after his last exam on Thursday, family are coming up towards the end of the week and by that time my Dad should be on a long-term medical ward for assessment and we’ll now a bit more about what the future holds.

Next time College Boy asks about his party I must bite my tongue because at eleven am on Monday 4th June I was on Sarah Millican’s weblink getting tickets for her new material show next Sunday, with the crisis on the back burner.  So I am just as much in the self-centred NOW as he is (that’s where you get it from my son, I too was a truculent teenager – ask my poor Dad!).  I got the tickets and have two spare tickets (ladies only) up for grabs too.

Thank you lovely family and friends – for being there and understanding – things are going to be easy for my Dad but my aim is to  keep him comfortable. pain-free and loved while we can.  Lovely hub and I are off up the monument for some fresh air before visiting but I’d better get dressed first 🙂

Not such a perfect weekend

Working from home yesterday – or trying to.  The laptop decided that it didn’t want to connect to the network  so I had to use the alternative method of connecting.  It’s a pain because the usual method gives me three hours continuous access at a time whereas using the other way only gives me an hour before I have to reboot.

Out of an eight-hour shift only two calls were genuine emergencies; the rest were the result of people  acting like dipsticks.  Lovely hub was working and boys were both asleep.  Whinging cat slept once fed but came up to the office  three times during the day to wail at me for more. Usually good conditions for working from home.  Ha!

Low lights of the day –  hospital staff who can’t be bothered to call when they should, leave it several hours and then complain when it’s too late to do anything because the person was sent home hours ago – oh yeah – that’s a real emergency.

The prize for total dipstick goes to a paediatric nurse who I spent nearly an hour chasing only to find out that she had no medical or parental consent to make her request anyway.  The first contact number she gave me was for an operating theatre recovery room, the second was for the path lab.  In between I tried to find her through the switchboard and she cut me off three times because she didn’t know how to use the phone.  They let this woman loose on sick children?  My son was on this ward a couple of months ago!

It took me another hour after my shift ended to get everything recorded and I went into our bedroom and pulled the duvet over my head. Go away world.

Lovely hub came to the rescue with a glass of sherry and a mild exhortation to come out and get some fresh air.  I could very easily have stayed where I was but  he was right to cajole.

Suitably booted and in warm coats we headed for the monument.  There’s something very levelling about watching the sun go down from the top of a hill.  All the idiocy fades into the background as the world just goes on doing its stuff whether you are there or not.  The irritations of the day faded away eventually.

Sunny again today though and as hub was on a late shift we headed down to the Mersey (our bit – not the Liverpool bit) to get some more fresh air and watch the river run.  We were just about to go home when we bumped into an old friend who’d brought his mum out for an airing.  An impromptu half pint at the Ferry Tavern – and we’re talking decent non-fizzy cider here – and we depart for home so that lovely hub can go off to work and I can get on with some work.

Four hours later I keep being seduced away from E-prime experiments and analysis by Twitter, Facebook and my blog.    Uni Boy has pulled another all-nighter – he does this every now and then in order to get his body clock stabilised (?).  His theory – not mine.  College Boy is shooting BBs all over the garden and has subjected the cat to a combing.  Said cat is now flat-out on the floor and totally traumatised.  I hope the sun is shining on Llandudno where my Dad is having a weekend away.

Back to work in the morning.  No more prevarication.  E-Prime here I come.