After a couple of minutes, Marla the live-in carer opens the door.
‘Come in, come in befah you freet to det,’ she says, then throws the door wide and shuffles back. Generously packed into slacks and slippers, one bra strap halfway down her arm, she waves a cloth in front of her like she’s cleansing the air of nuisance.
‘Ya nah, Papa Jones he fell in the bat room but I can nat git him up by myself,’ she says cheerfully, leading us through the close and creaking old cottage to the extension out back. ‘I do nat think he has hart himself.’
We can see the figure of Mr Jones sitting on the bathroom floor, his trousers around his ankles, his catheter bag off to one side. ‘Amb’lance come, Papa Jones,’ she calls ahead, and goes to sit on the toilet facing him whilst we check him over, her massive legs planted wide apart. ‘I will pull up your trousers when you upright again,’ she says.
Marla’s right; it doesn’t look as if he’s done any damage. Dementia is obviously one of his problems, but we need to know more. Michael, the new paramedic I’m working with tonight, asks her questions about Mr Jones’ past medical history.
‘Wait just a minute and I will get the foldah,’ she says. She stops to stroke Mr Jones’ face gently as she rolls past us all into the living room. ‘You be good for me, nah,’ she says.
I fetch a chair in so Mr Jones can rest for a moment before we move him through to the lounge. Michael takes some observations whilst I start in on the form.
The phone rings.
Marla picks it up.
Yes? Yes. He fell in the bathroom but he has not hart himself. The paramedics are with him now and they will tell you more, but Papa Jones is fine. Ye-es. Okay then. Bye then.
She hands the phone down to Michael.
‘Who is it?’ he asks.
‘It is the doctor,’ she says. ‘She wan talk wit you.’
‘Oh hi doctor,’ says Michael, taking the phone, making a gesture for me to pass him the clipboard. ‘Well it would appear Mr Jones has had a mechanical, non-injury fall. We’ve checked him over and there’s nothing remarkable about any of his observations ... (he lists them all). Weight bearing, no new pain, GCS fourteen but of course that’s quite normal for this patient. We’re just about to settle him in his chair, then all things being equal we’ll finish the paperwork and go. Okay?’
He looks at me as he listens to the reply, raising his eyebrows slightly.
‘Really? Well – fine!’ he says. ‘Great! I’ll let them know to expect you. Okay then. Bye. Bye. Bye.’
He hands me the phone; I pass it on to Marla, who goes away again.
‘That’s a good service,’ says Michael taking one side of Mr Jones whilst I take the other. ‘The doctor says she’ll be round in half an hour. I’m not sure why, but there you go.’ He thinks about it. ‘I mean - why would you?’ he says.
We shuffle through together. Marla has been busy making Mr Jones’ chair ready.
‘Can I get you all something to drink, boys?’ she says. ‘Tea, coffee. A nice cup of Bavril.’
‘Yes!’ says Michael. ‘Bovril would be great. I can’t remember when I last had Bovril.’
He thinks about it.
‘Scouts,’ he says.
He thinks about it.
‘Scouts,’ he says.
‘And Papa Jones? Tea for you, too? I know just how you like eet.’
He looks at her and then says Bovril, too.
‘Well – that Bavril sure is pap’lar tonight,’ says Marla, heading into the kitchen.
We settle Mr Jones into his chair, then sit either side of him, Michael finishing the paperwork, me glancing round the room. An ancient black and white photo of a little boy in a tin pedal-car; a wedding photo; fine pencil drawings of various houses; a collection of family pictures in a procession of fading colours and fashions from the sixties onwards. An upright piano. Death in Paradise playing mute on the TV.
Mr Jones has one leg draped over the other. He kicks it up and down gently, humming under his breath. Dum de dum dum de dum he sings. Then sighs and says Oh well.
Marla comes back into the room with a tray and passes us our drinks.
‘Thanks,’ says Michael. ‘You know, I still can’t get over the doctor. That’s what you might call the personal touch. Who called her, anyway?’
‘Doctor? What doctor?’ says Marla.
‘The doctor. On the phone. It must have been Lifeline. But then she says she’s coming round in half an hour. At this time of night.’ He sips his Bovril. ‘You’ve got to admit, that’s good service,’ he says.
‘That no doctor!’ shrieks Marla, pulling the cloth off her shoulder and wiping her hands. ‘Dor – tah. Dee Oh Ar Tee Ay. Raquel, Papa Jones dor-tah!’
‘Oh. Right,’ says Michael. ‘Well. That explains it.’
He smiles and raises his mug to Marla.
‘Papa Jones?’ she says. ‘How yah liking the Bavril?’
He looks up at her.
‘I wanted tea,’ he says.