The only thing I can think of is the gardening I did earlier in the week. But it’s what I normally do; I didn’t fall over or lift any heavy bags. Pull any deep roots. Ooh – it hurts like hell and nothing seems to help. I’ve got to get it sorted or I’ll lose my mind.’
Mrs Allen shifts her position in the armchair, then stares at me with a baleful expression, her thick glasses magnifying her anxiety.
‘I tried to ride it out but these pills are just no good. I can’t go on like I am.’
‘Well, look. There are two things we can do, Mrs Allen.’
She leans forward.
‘One is to get the out of hours doctor involved again, the other is a trip up the hospital.’
‘The hospital please,’ she says. ‘Here – when I’ve locked up can you pop the keys round to number eight so she can feed the cats?’
* * *
Mrs Allen sits on the ambulance with a walking stick planted firmly in front of her, both hands resting on the curved handle.
‘I’m not the old lady you think I am,’ she says.
‘In what way?’
‘I’m normally so fit! Fitter than this! I do my yoga every day. I don’t eat wheat or animal products. Oh – it’s terrible what people do to animals in this world. I keep in touch with things on the internet and television but sometimes I wonder why I bother. It’s so depressing. So much cruelty. I think basically, people are horrible – present company excepted. Don’t you think? The things people do to animals? And now my hip’s gone, I’m in pain all the time, and I think Why go on? What’s it all for? Not that I’ve planned anything, you understand. It’s just a low mood. But it gets you down. ’
‘Well it’s not a nice thing, being in constant pain. We’ll do our best to get it sorted.’
‘Last night when it was bad I felt like praying to God, but I didn’t, because I thought He’d probably got better things to do with His time.’
She pushes her glasses back up her nose and stares at me.
‘Do you believe in God?’ she says.
‘No, I’m afraid I don’t.’
She leans away from me.
‘Don’t believe in God? Oh my love. Why not? You must!’
‘But why go on? What’s to live for if you don’t believe in anything?’
‘It’s not that I don’t believe in anything. I just don’t believe in God.’
‘But if there wasn’t a God, there wouldn’t be any morals. There wouldn’t be a point to anything. The world would be full of cruelty and pain.’
‘It’s pretty bad as it is.’
I don’t feel able to carry on the conversation. It’s interesting, but I don’t want to upset her. It comes down to personal choice, after all, and this isn’t the time to explore these things. But Mrs Allen won’t let it go. She’s genuinely appalled that I can think of carrying on without a belief in God.
She’s quiet for a moment, frowning at me. The she raps her stick on the floor, like Black Rod at the doors of Parliament.‘But what about Hell?’ she says.