You can almost see Jean’s loneliness. It’s palpably there in the room with her, a witch’s familiar, sadly pacing the carpet between the window and the chair.
‘Hello me duck,’ she says, her head nodding slightly, her eyes shining. ‘Sorry to call you out but I was having another one of my do’s you know and I got me’self in a bit of a lather.’
I’ve met Jean before. She’s been checked out a number of times for chest tightness and palpitations, but nothing’s ever being found. She gets plenty of help at home, and her son comes over regularly through the week. Despite it all, for whatever reason, sitting quietly in this pristine room, with the sunlight shining in on the rich green leaves of the umbrella plant, and glinting off the framed pictures on the wall, and the gold coloured casing of the carriage clock gently ticking on the mantelpiece, with the sound of children shouting and laughing and screaming in the playground just across the way, for some reason Jean gets overcome with a feeling of doom, and her heart skips up, and she presses the red button on the cord round her neck.
‘Sorry love’ she says.
I chat to her whilst I go through all the obs and wire her up to the ECG.
‘You used to work in a shop, didn’t you, Jean?’
‘I did. I was in women’s underwear. Lacy knickers, camisoles, combinations. You name it. All very high-end. I loved it. All the girls under me. We had a right laugh.’
‘Sounds like a nice thing to do.’
‘It were. I used to do the windows, n’all. Dress ‘em up nice. Different times of year, you know. Valentine’s Day. Christmas, with all the fur. We had a right laugh. But the shop got bought out by one of them big chains. And not long after that I was walking by and I tell you what it almost broke my heart. Just a load of bras, piled up in the window. I mean, what’s the good in that? Who’d want that?’
‘You’d think they’d take a bit more care.’
‘I used to take a lot o’care. All interesting poses, dressed up nice. Enticing, you know. But this! This was just bra, bra, bra.’
She holds still whilst I take a print out of her heart.‘No wonder they went bust,’ she sniffs, as the paper spools out. ‘How’s me heart looking, mate? I’ve still got one I tek it?’