Tuesday, May 16, 2006


'My husband was only fifty three when he died. He had a lovely life but it wore him out.'

Emily gives me and the other patient on the ambulance another of her emphatic nods, a curious sideways bob of the head that waggles the folds of skin beneath her chin.

'I'm eighty four now,' she says. 'I've lived most of my life on my own.' The other patient gives a small nod of her own but says nothing. I guess she's not as old, or as healthy.

'We met during the war at the De Havilland factory. He was one of their top engineers. I just worked in vibrations.'

'After the war, Arthur got a job as a ship surveyor. Sent all round the world fixing ships. It's so expensive, when they're laid up in dry dock. They just have to get someone out to get them going again. He was sent all over the place - Japan, the Philippines, India. I was looking at a photo of him the other day, standing outside a shipping office in Manila in a loose white suit. He looked so - bright. You'd never think that just a little way down the street there was such terrible poverty. Japan's the same. You'd never think a place like Japan would have slums - but it does.'
'Then we lived just north of Philadelphia for about nine years. Arthur had got talking to a man in a hotel and ended up working for General Electric, something to do with the Space Race. Re-entry. Then Nixon came in and it was all that stuff about the Brain Drain, and Arthur had to go. But he was offered a job as a Special Systems Engineer for a diesel engine factory in Michigan. Then he died. So I came home.'

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