Wednesday, June 13, 2012

tip top

Mrs Swanley answers the door on her way from the living room to the kitchen.
‘Hello,’ she says, immediately turning away. ‘I’m on a hunt for the dog lead.’
‘Is there a dog on the end of it?’ says Frank.
‘No!’ says Mrs Swanley. ‘If only. He’s gone off on another one of his foolish excursions. Phil next door says he’ll fetch him back and look after him whilst I’m in hospital, but I’ll need to give him the lead before I go. You can’t see it anywhere, can you?’
We go into the house to look.
It should be easy to spot. The place is as spare and clean as a show home; a biscuit crumb would probably trigger an alarm. Mrs Swanley may be eighty-eight, but she still has enough energy to keep her house set to an invisible grid of perfection, and everything in it, from the perfectly plumped, fancy cream cushions on the scallop-backed sofa to the waxy curves of the dining table orchid – everything conforms perfectly to the pattern.
A carriage clock snicks away between a display of ceramic figurines, more like a pacemaker than a timepiece.
‘Found it!’ says Mrs Swanley, shuffling back into the room. ‘On the bread bin, would you believe? Definitely not the full ticket.’
It’s difficult to imagine a dog in this house.
‘What sort of dog is Cecil?’ I ask her.
‘A Jack Russell,’ she says. ‘And a very naughty one. Let me just drop this round to Phil, then we can be off.’
‘When the doctor came to see you, Mrs Swanley, did she leave a note?’
‘No. She said she’d arrange the whole thing by phone. Is that a problem?’
‘No, no. It’s just nice to have a little information beforehand. All we’ve been told was that you’ve been suffering with a headache for a few days.’
Mrs Swanley smiles bravely and drapes her free hand across the top of her head.
‘I wouldn’t say headache so much as fuzziness. And when I look up…’ she looks up… ‘and side to side…’ she rolls her eyes dramatically… ‘I see double. And feel dizzy. Like now. Urgh.’ She sways, and Frank steadies her.
‘Are you sure you ought to be running around like this?’ he says. ‘Here. I’ll give Phil the lead.’
‘You must think I’m an awful fraud,’ she says. ‘There are so many more deserving cases for you to see. I don’t want to take any more of your time than I can help.’
‘Can you give us a quick rundown of the problem, Mrs Swanley? Your past medical history?’
‘Yes, well – the fuzziness has been going on for five days or so. I called the doctor because I was just getting so sick and tired of it, feeling nauseous much of the time, not sleeping. She seems to think it’s worth investigating at the hospital, so I’m sorry to drag you out like this but there you are. As far as my past medical history is concerned, nothing much to report, really. I’ve done remarkably well, considering. A touch of arthritis. You know. Old lady stuff. A certain tendency to drift – the dog lead, for example - but , well… this is hardly front page news. Don’t get old, that’s my advice to you both. It’s no fun. The best thing is just to keel over in the garden when you’re watering the plants, or go to bed and not wake up. But what happens of course is you have to go on and on with everything running down. Ever decreasing circumstances. Sad, really.’
But she smiles, and shakes the lead in the air.
‘Here you are then,’ she says, handing Frank the lead. ‘Phil knows what to do with it.’
I help her on with her coat.
 Just before she takes my arm to walk out of the door, she pauses and touches the top of her head again.
‘Oh yes. And I had a cerebral aneurysm last year. Apart from that – tip top.’

12 comments:

Bobbi said...

No significant medical history then - nothing relevant, nothing worth mentioning... On a brighter note, what a lovely lady she sounds! :)

Alexia said...

Stunning. Such courage and fortitude.
Good choice of dog breed :)

md said...

Such a contrast from yesterday's episode ...

jacksofbuxton said...

Apart from that,tip top.

I knew you wouldn't let me down with the punchline.

Amazing isn't it Spence,I read these wonderful pieces of yours and Mrs Swanley and her generation just soldier on.Always sorry to call you out,whereas my generation are a pain in the backside.

Anonymous said...

It's amazing how often the most important pieces of history are an afterthought, occasionally dropped on scene but mostly landing on arrival at hospital while mid-handover. :-)

Alan @ It's not work, It's gardening! said...

I would love to be neighbors with Mrs. Swanley. She sounds delightful!

Starblade said...

Heh that last comment must have set the alarm bells going from "quiet chime" to full-on cathedral array at 10 paces!

Spence said...

Bobbi - I know - drops the most significant detail in right at the end...

Alexia - Def a very brave woman. I loved her self-sufficiency and chutzpah! Jack Russells are great dogs, too (I esp. love terriers - we've got 2!)

MD - You're right about the contrast. Such a relief.

Jacks - Tip, Top - if that's an acronym for 'Terrifying Intracranial Pressure / Take Out Promptly'. But I have to disagree with you maybe being a pain in the arse patient. I think you'd be a model patient. **coughs and says Airfix**

Anon - It is especially embarrassing when they come out with theses phrases in front of the Charge Nurse. And then it happens so often you'd think the Charge Nurse would let you off the hook - but no, they give you the look...

Alan - Yep - I think Mrs Swanley would pretty much be your ideal neighbour. Phil was extremely pleased to help. And he knew which way up the lead went.

Starblade - It def made me do a double take. But I still wasn't able to stop her rushing around.

Thanks for all your comments! :)

~BB~ said...

It's interesting to read about the people who constantly ring for the ambulance, with no need for it other than attention - and then to turn around and read about the ones who really do need it, but hate to cause 'trouble'. Such is the life, I imagine. She sounds like a very interesting lady.

Spence said...

Hi BB
You get to see so many different types of patient - and the good news is that I think for the most part they're genuine. I think on the whole people do treat the service properly and only call when they need to. Even though I've written a lot about 'frequent flyers', that's probably because they stand out more than the fact they're numerous. So there's a danger that I give a rather skewed impression about the spread of work. I think it is fair to say that social deprivation is a significant factor, though, for lots of reasons!

Thanks for the comment, BB.

Mike said...

I've said it before and I'll say it again; they don't make them like that any more.
At least folk like that make your job bearable Spence.

Spence said...

She's def one of a remarkable breed. Sometimes at work you do wonder how the human race ever got this far with some of the trivial or lack of common sense jobs we go on, but luckily there are enough cases like Mrs Swanley to reassure you that the gene pool still has potential...

Cheers Mike.