The teenage girl is down on all fours on the pavement outside the pub, a look of anguish on her face, her long hair hanging perilously close to the splatterings of vomit beneath her; she looks like William Blake’s Nebuchadnezzar, but given a Miley Cyrus makeover: fluorescent yellow micro-skirt, crop top and – in the hands of her boyfriend – a spangly bag.
‘The taxi won’t take her,’ he says, swinging the bag like a lure and casting his eyes up and down the street. ‘We’ve been here an hour.’
Suddenly a woman appears at my shoulder.
‘Just look at you,’ she says, her tone surprisingly affectionate.
‘Are you a relative?’
‘You could say that. I’m the mother.’
‘Do you know what’s been going on?’
‘I know exactly what’s been going on. She’s had too much to drink.’
‘The problem is the taxi won’t take her in this state.’
‘She can stay with me, then.’
‘Okay. Sounds good. Where do you live?’
She jerks her thumb behind her. ‘Over the pub.’
When the grandmother has made herself comfortable on the trolley, I hand her the four month old baby.
‘I don’t think this SATS reading’s accurate,’ I tell her. ‘He doesn’t look like he’s short of oxygen. But just in case, let’s give him a little bit extra, shall we? I won’t use a mask – I don’t want to upset him any more than I have already.’
I take the tubing from the pack, uncoil it, plug one end into the oxygen spigot.
The grandmother and the child watch me, equally wide-eyed.
‘Now. What I want you to do is just hold this end of the tube and waft it in front of baby’s face. Like that. Just to give him that extra little boost.’
I smile reassuringly and hand the tube to the grandmother.
She sticks it in the baby’s ear.