Mr Abbott has already had an ambulance out to him in the morning. Then, as now, his neighbours found him on all fours, staring at the carpet, unable to get up.
‘He’s been heading this way all year,’ says Geoff, one half of the elderly gay couple who live in the flat below. ‘Won’t see his doctor, won’t have any help, won’t look after himself. Isn’t that right, Alan?’
Geoff stands in the hallway, an inflated parka of a man, plump shopping bag in either hand presumably to stop him floating away. The enormous clear plastic frames of his glasses give him a stupefied look – unlike his partner Alan, gaunt as a monk, smiling benignly over the scene with a mouthful of crooked teeth.
‘We do what we can,’ says Geoff. Don’t we Alan?’
Mr Abbott is looking quite comfortable in his mothy old armchair, one leg crooked jauntily over the other, his unwashed hands laced happily round the knee. He has one of those any-way-up faces, the wrinkled dome of his head emerging from a great wraparound beard like a brown and yellow muffler.
‘How are you feeling, Mr Abbott?’
‘Ah! You always say that! You’ll never change, will you?’
I bob down beside him and pat his hand.
‘I don’t think I’ve ever met you before, Mr Abbott…’
He pats my hand back.
‘I like that! Never met me before! Hah! You always say the same thing. You’ll never change.’
‘What’s the matter now?’
‘Everyone’s a bit worried about you. You’ve got a temperature for one thing. And I don’t think you’ve been taking enough care of yourself just lately.’
‘Enough care? I like that. Isn’t that just like you?’
He looks up at Geoff and nods in my direction.
‘He’ll never change, will he?’
Geoff goes to say something, but adjusts his grip on the bags instead.
Alan widens his smile an inch.