Josephine is lying on her side in the middle of the living room.
‘I’m not injured!’ she says, in the broad and peremptory tone of someone who hasn’t got her hearing aids in (and won’t be putting them in any time soon). ‘I just need picking up and putting to bed. Thank you.’
Josephine is one hundred years old. Extreme old age has hollowed out the essential substance of her, honeycombed the fabric of her bones, until all that’s left is a hunched and liver-spotted form for a silk blouse, tartan skirt, sheepskin slippers.
‘That’s it!’ she bellows. ‘Now – into the bedroom with me if you’d be so kind. You were quick. It’s the first time I’ve called on your services, but it won’t be the last. If you take my meaning.’
We help her along to the bedroom.
Amongst the artwork on the walls is a long, cool life study of a young woman, one arm arched languidly over her head, her eyes studying the painter with as much objectivity as he studied her.
‘Yes! That was me!’ she says as we shuffle past. ‘You wouldn’t think it now, would you?’
Her bedroom is like all the other rooms in this elegant top floor flat – wide, cool and minimal.
A breeze blows in through the open window, turning the curtains.
‘Leave them open!’
We sit her down on the bed. She catches her breath.
‘I’m so very old,’ she puffs. ‘No idea why. All my friends and family are dead. It’s just me. Only me. Oh well.’
We help her get ready for bed.
‘Lovely view of the sea’ I say.
‘What’s that? You’ll have to shout.’
‘I said – you have a lovely view of the sea.’
‘Ach!’ She shrugs, and then holds both hands out to the side, palms up.
‘The sea!’ Then she pulls the covers up to her chin, and closes her eyes. ‘Turn the lights out! Thank you very much!’