Mrs Eldridge is sitting in her wheelchair ready to go, an imitation snow fox blanket over her lap and a furry, zebra print poncho over her shoulders. Her hair is gathered up and gelled into an extraordinary beehive, a silvery sculpture so perfect it could be a comedy wig, with a sheen like the gloss on a giant sugared almond. Her expression is as sweet as the hair – a contented, confectionary glaze to her face, as if some current of sweetness was rising up through her, up from the luxurious pillows of the chair, focused by the cone of the poncho, lifting the corners of her mouth, pushing up her eyebrows and gathering in the beehive.
‘She’s been off her legs these past four years,’ says Mr Eldridge, bringing the last of the bags through. ‘But this last week she just hasn’t been able to do a thing.’
‘Has the doctor been out, then?’
‘Oh yes. He said for her to go in.’
‘Did he leave a letter?’
‘A letter? No.’
Mr and Mrs Eldridge are both ninety three, married at twenty one, the world gone to hell, but the two of them making a stand together outside the church, laughing happily into the camera, the bride leaning forwards as she struggled to hold down great layers of white lace and crinoline with one arm whilst keeping the other firmly threaded through the arm of the sailor groom by her side.
‘I see you were in the navy then?’
Mr Eldridge puts a bag down by the wheelchair and straightens up.
‘Escorted the Russian convoys through the war,’ he says, then adjusts the blanket across his wife’s lap.
‘Blimey,’ says Frank. ‘That must have been a tough time.’
‘Well it was fucking cold, I remember that much. But we made it through. Didn’t we Grace? We made it through.’
He lightly fetches on his jacket, and it seems to hang directly down from his shoulders without touching any other part of his body. I pick up all the bags and Frank takes up his position at the back of the chair. As he makes to go I ask Mrs Eldridge if she’s comfortable enough, but she says nothing, smiling exactly as she did before, without the least change of expression.