Friday, November 30, 2012

never say never


If twelve hours is a long time, by the end of the fourth shift, it feels eternal.
We’ve managed ten and a half, and the end’s in sight, but the prospect of a prompt finish diminishes as we take a call to a non-injury fall at home. As we make our way over to the address, we hear several other calls going out for jobs with no vehicles to assign.
‘We’ll have to pace this one,’ says Rae.
But everything’s fine. I’ve been to this address before. Errol, ninety-eight, a charming old man in a little cottage overlooking the sea, set back from the cliff road amongst a huddle of laurel and hawthorn, dark steps from the gate to the patio door, the key safe on the wall by the flagpole, a strew of interesting drift wood, holed stones strung on lines, weathered wooden sculptures. It’s been an unsettled day; the night has settled in with a scrub of cloud across the moon and a salt chill to the air.
We fiddle with the key safe and let ourselves in.
‘Hello? Ambulance?’

Errol’s mobility has decreased since I saw him last. He’s no longer able to manage the stairs, so the OTs have set him up with a sweet little electric bed in the living room. He’s lying on the floor at the foot end, and gives a little wave as we put our bags down and go over.
‘I’m fine! I’m fine! I haven’t hurt myself – and I can confidently say that everything works as it should. I just can’t blasted well get up. Sorry for the language.’
We help him up, and make sure he’s okay walking to his tilt-armchair in the middle of the room.
‘Would you like a cup of tea, Errol?’
‘I would love a cup of tea. That’s so kind of you. And please – make one for yourselves. Are you all right with Assam? And I rather think there may be a biscuit or two in the tin by the folders. Please, whatever you’d like.’
I settle myself onto one of his carved mahogany chairs and prepare to write out the report form in immaculate – and slow – detail.
He watches me, and smiles when I look up.
‘These wretched legs,’ he says, crossing them. ‘Can’t do a thing  with ‘em. You wouldn’t believe I used to swim for the county, would you? Before the war, of course. Before the war.’ He scratches his forehead, as if the thought was a perplexing itch.
He looks up again.
‘That’s how I met my wife.’
‘In the water?’
‘Sort of. She was... erm... she was on the beach.’
‘She liked the cut of your jib?’
‘Something like that. She was rather cool about the whole thing, actually, but that’s what they’re like, you know... erm... from the Black Forest. They don’t like to give too much away, you know.’
‘Probably just as well.’
‘Of course that’s one of the reasons we got married. They were rounding up all the Germans over here and patching them off to the Isle of Man. I wanted to make sure she was protected before I went off to fight. So we got married. That wasn’t the only reason of course, but it was one of them. And to think I didn’t see her again for another five years.’
Rae comes in with the tea, and a plate of chocolate biscuits.
‘I don’t know if it’s exactly true or not,’ I tell him, dunking my biscuit, ‘but the family story goes that my uncle John went off to fight, got captured and put in a POW camp in Italy, escaped, and ended the war fighting with the partisans. But in the meantime, auntie Ollie was told he’d been killed. So she made the best of it, took up with a GI, and got engaged. But then a day or so before the wedding, John turned up.’
‘Oh my goodness! She must’ve thought it was a ghost!’
‘I can’t imagine! So there was this big reunion and everything, except the GI wasn’t too pleased. Apparently he climbed up on the parapet of Westminster Bridge and threatened to throw himself in. Don’t know if he did or not. Probably not.’
‘Well. It just goes to show. Never give up hope. Never.’
‘Never say never.’
Errol takes a shaky sip of his tea, then rattles the cup back on the saucer.
‘It’s like I’ve always said,’ he says, ‘when you find yourself a good woman, you hold onto her no matter what.’
Then he glances over at the faded black and white picture on the wall just across from him: a young woman in a panama hat, tipping the brim of it, frowning playfully into the lens.

7 comments:

Miranda said...

Bless him, he sounds like a lovely old chap.

Loved reading your e-book, it was one of the first I bought when I got my Kindle.

jacksofbuxton said...

I hope he copyrights that story Spence.He'll make a fortune out of Eastenders,Corrie etc.

Spence Kennedy said...

Hi Miranda - He's a lovely guy. And it's great to spend time with him, esp. when it's cold / busy outside and you need a break!

Thanks v much for reading FLC. Glad you liked it. The next one's coming out in a day or so. The plan is to make it free for a few days (and then only .99c after that). I'll be keen to know what you think. It's a standard novel (whereas FLC was more the novelisation of a blog). I'll put a notice & link up on the blog when it's out there. :)

Jacks - It does read like a soap (which is probably where my lot came up with the GI on the Bridge storyline...)

PaperTigger1 said...

So glad to hear the new book is ready - congratulations! Perfect timing as well, for me. I start my final exams this week then will have a long holiday break and your book goes to the top of my list. I really look forward to seeing a different side of your writing skills but please don't forget you have very devoted readers here!

Corina said...

Another wonderful story Spence. IS your new book only going to be in ebook editions?
I have been watching "24 Hours in the ER" on BBCAmerica here. It is interesting. It seems like a look into your world.

Spence Kennedy said...

Thanks v much, Corina.

So far I haven't really thought about producing hard copies of these books, but it would be nice! I know there are ways of doing print on demand - I just need to read up about it. I'll let you know...

I never did see 24hrs in the ER, but I heard it was good. I must admit I tend to avoid those 999 real-life dramas ('cos it feels too much like work), but I ought to give it a look. I used to like watching ER, though. Poor Romano - helicopters, eh?

Corina said...

I loved ER the first couple of years, but when they started making too many story lines, and straying from the original characters, I stopped watching. That, and George Clooney cut his hair too short for me. True story! lol Yes, I imagine it's not time off if you watch what you just went through. We also have an interesting show, Untold Stories of The ER. Doctors and nurses tell the weird stuff in the ER, usually playing themselves. Sometimes the patients will be on there, too. Interesting, to say the least.