Sunday, May 07, 2006


Nora has a strangely immobile face, a slack expanse of cheek falling to a cupid-bow mouth. She wears a headscarf and a heavy blue overcoat, and walks very slowly, hunched over two sticks. She speaks quietly, in an East European accent.

The ride in the ambulance upsets her. It is too bumpy, and she complains about feeling sick.
'How much would one of these vehicles cost? Is this the best they can do? I find it criminal that they cannot design something better.'

When we pick Nora up from the day centre she demands that we take her back 'for the bottle of water they promised me.' The nurses smile at us when we tell them what Nora has said. 'Buy her some from the shop', they say, and exchange a confederate look.

In the shop Nora demands that we buy her 'sweeties' as well as water. When I say that we don't have time as there are patients on the ambulance waiting to go, she makes a brush-aside movement and says 'That doesn't matter. I had to wait, didn't I? It won't kill them.'

On the vehicle she starts complaining about the bumpy ride, so to take her mind off things, I start to ask her some questions.

'Where are you from, Nora? Your accent.'
She looks up at me suspiciously.
'In 1986 I was in St Paul's, Minneapolis. Is that far enough back for you?'
'Were you working there?'
'I was in education.'
'Higher or...'
'All education is "higher"'
'Were you in research or something?'
'Why do you want to know these things about me?'
'I'm just curious.'
'Well maybe I won't satisfy your curiosity.'

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