Yelena, a carer with a manner as brisk as her woven yellow hair, opens the door.
‘Hello!’ she says. ‘James through here in this way. Am sorry to call you, but James he have much blood in catheter bag and I think he might need to go hospital about this.’
She leans forward and examines my face for a response. It’s disconcerting. Her spiky mascara eyelashes give her wide grey eyes an extra-vivid splash of attention, and her red lips pout, pre-empting a fight.
‘He ex-navy man,’ she says at last, as if that might explain the blood. ‘Is favourite. You take good care.’
James is sitting in a riser chair, his ancient hands contentedly laced over his belly. Yelena is right about the blood. It’s obvious he needs to go in.
‘Can we get James’ medication together?’ I ask Yelena.
‘Of course. I do this already,’ she says, producing a well-stuffed bag. ‘His favourite pyjamas and all the bits and the piece.’
She puts the bag down next to the carry chair, and then reaches over to the table and picks up a set of laminated cards joined at one corner with a treasury tag.
‘James cannot speak because of stroke. But look at this’ she says to me. ‘This is new, very good thing. It has all picture of things James want to say. Look.’
She begins flicking through the cards. The front one has a series of clip-art pictures of health professionals: a doctor, nurse, district nurse, pharmacist, carer. The next card has pictures of ailments: joint pains, tummy and chest, and for headache, the picture of a head with lightning bolts jumping out in an arc from ear to ear.
‘Where’s the picture for paramedic?’ I ask Yelena. ‘How come we’re not on there?’‘You here,’ she says, leaning over my shoulder and pointing to headache. ‘Is you.’