‘Do you want your bag emptying before you move off?’
‘No thank you. I’ll do that myself in the bathroom once I’ve got my clean pants on.’
His wife is sitting in the living room with her swollen legs raised.
‘I’d help you but...’ she smiles and taps her bandaged legs.
‘No. You stay there, Mrs Walsingham. We don’t want another casualty.’
‘I’m afraid that’s all we are these days,’ she says. ‘A couple of old casualties.’
‘Nearly there,’ says Mr Walsingham.
We approach the study, a boxy room with an unmade bed along the right hand wall, a bookcase, a tidy stack of clear plastic crates, and a table at the window with a laptop and in/out tray. On the door of the study is an A4 piece of card, with a No Entry road sign carefully drawn out in silver and red pen. Underneath the road sign is some careful writing: Important work going on in here. Do not disturb on any account – AND YES! THIS MEANS YOU!. And then in brackets underneath: This is meant to be a polite notice, by the way.
‘I like that,’ I say to Mr Walsingham. ‘Your No Entry sign.’
‘Jessie, our youngest did that for me one Christmas. She must have been about eight or nine. She didn’t have any money to get a present so she made me this.’ He grips the zimmer, leans forwards and reads the notice again. Just before he begins the laborious effort of forward movement again, he says: ‘She’s in her fifties now, of course. Head of something overseas.’
Just above the bed is a large framed photo of his wife as she was in the sixties - hyper-colourised, coiffed and golden – a woman in a council chamber or boardroom, awkwardly posing by an ornate chair.
‘Could you fetch me a pair of pants out of that box, there, please?’ says Mr Walsingham, lifting a hand from the frame to point and almost toppling over backwards.
I hold one up.
‘Which is the front?’
I’m reminded of the disposable nappies I used to put on the kids, but that feels like ancient history now. I seem to remember it was something about the pictures, but this is the adult version, and don’t have any.
‘Here. This way,’ says Mr Walsingham.
Between us we manage to get him changed.
‘Where do you want to go next?’
‘The bathroom, to empty my bag, if that’s all right, then bed. This whole business has worn me out.’
‘The out of hours doctor says he’ll pop by later on tonight to dip your urine and see about a prescription.’
‘That’s kind of you. I really don’t think I could bear another trip to the hospital.’ He stops, and smiles at us. ‘I’ve had enough of them, and I’m damn sure they’ve had quite enough of me.’He straightens, takes a breath, then begins the awful business of turning the frame around.