‘Your chap’s about a thousand years old. He was the driver of a car that ran into the back of a young girl’s motor – low speed – not much damage, no airbags, nothing exciting. She’s okay and doesn’t want anything to happen particularly, but we were a bit concerned about him. Could you have a look?’
The policeman leads us over to the front seat of a battered old Hillman Imp. Sitting very correctly upright is an elderly man, who still has both hands on the steering wheel as if he expects to move off any moment. I crouch down beside him and introduce myself. He tells me his name is Mr Breedon.
‘I’m perfectly all right, you know. I don’t know what all this fuss is about. My brakes failed, is all.’
He seems strangely distant, like he’s been cast in wax and sat here in this car as some kind of display. After we’ve determined that he has no pain, no injuries and no untoward feelings anywhere, we carefully help him out of the car. He straightens and looks around him like he’s been asleep and woken up somewhere unusual.
‘Where are we going?’ he says.
‘Just to the ambulance, first of all. We want to run a few tests, see how you’re doing.’
‘I’m absolutely fine. Thank you. I just need to get going.’
‘Where are you off to?’
‘I’m picking up my wife. We’re going to Spain.’
‘Where is your wife?’
‘Okay. Oops. Mind yourself.’
Mr Breedon shifts his balance precariously from step to step and would fall if we were not either side of him. I lean in to catch a discrete whiff of alcohol, but all I can smell is camphor.
‘Are you feeling dizzy, Mr Breedon?’
‘Well, yes, a little. But I saw my GP yesterday and he gave me a clean bill of health.’
We help him in to the back of the vehicle. I persuade him to lie on the trolley rather than sit in a seat, even though he protests that this is all too much. Rae helps him out of his blazer and rolls up his sleeve. He rests his head back as if he’s suddenly very tired.
‘How old are you, Mr Breedon?’
‘And what’s your date of birth?’
‘5th of the 5th, nineteen twenty two.’
‘Mm. I think that makes you eighty six.’
‘Yes. That’s right. Eighty six.’
‘Do you know what day it is today?’
‘Do I know what day it is today?’
‘What day is it today, then?’
‘You tell me.’
‘Well I’d rather hear it from you.’
‘If you must.’
He shuts his eyes.
At this point, the policeman knocks on the door. Rae opens up and he looks inside.
‘How are we doing?’ he asks. ‘I just need Mr Breedon’s keys so I can move his car out of the road.’
‘Did you hear that, Mr Breedon? The policeman wants your keys.’
‘Yes. Fine. Here they are.’
He reaches into his trouser pocket, pulls out a piece of white plastic cable, and hands it to me.
‘My car keys.’
‘I think it’s a computer modem, Mr Breedon.’
I smile at the policeman.
‘Rae, could you see if Mr Breedon’s keys are in his jacket pocket?’
She pats his jacket, locates the keys, and passes them out to the policeman.
‘Will he be going to hospital, do you think?’ he asks.
‘Oh yes, I think so. Definitely.’
‘Hospital? I can’t go to hospital. I’ve got things to do and it’s already late. I’ve got to pick up my wife and go to Spain.’
Mr Breedon seems to be running a temperature, and it’s a fair guess that with everything he tells us, his confusion and loss of balance, that he may have some kind of urinary tract infection. We make him comfortable and prepare to set off.
‘Are you visiting anyone out in Spain?’ I ask him, as Rae jumps out and slams the door to.
‘Yes. My son.’ He turns and winks at me, a procedure that seems to take a full minute. ‘But ah! He doesn’t know it yet.’