‘Oh sure, his dementia normally makes him a little cantankerous. And I don’t doubt he was no angel when he was younger. But this urine infection has knocked him sideways, five miles into crazy town. You mustn’t mind his language too much, though. He doesn’t mean a word of it. Just watch his fists, ‘cos he’ll try to fetch you one if you’re not looking, and even if you are. The doctor says he needs treating in hospital ‘cos he’s not compliant here with the food and the drink, and nothing’s working. Okay? Ready for it? Feeling strong? At least you can tell yourself you don’t have to live with him day and night. Mind you, nor do I, once he’s gone in. I’m off up North to see my family for a few weeks and I can’t wait.’
The live-in carer pushes open the bedroom door and speaks ahead of us in tones as synthetically soothing as a spray of narcotic gas.
‘Ambulance, Mr H.’
It doesn’t work.
‘Who the f* is this now, eh? Who’s this c* come into the f* room? Another one of dem f* * b’s*. I’ll f* kill you. I’ll rake the eyes from your f* face you f* devil…’
Mr Heatherington struggles to sit more upright as we come in. The ancient tattoos up his arms may be blurred and dark beyond recognition, but his eyes blaze with septic fury.
‘Who the f* do you think you are? Are you one of dem hormo-sexual lads, hey? Hey? Come to put your c* in me a*? Is that what you want? You f* c*. Come over here and we’ll see. I’ll land one on yer. I’ll push your nose through your c* face, like I did with that b* standing next to ye. You won’t find that so funny, now, will ye? I’ll cut yer c* off and send it home to that prostitute you call a mother. Hmm? What d’you make of that?’
‘I’m sorry you’re not well,’ I say. ‘Now, Mr H. The doctor wants you into hospital so we can treat this urine infection. We’ve brought a chair to carry you out to the ambulance, so you don’t have to do anything.’
He keeps his eyes fixed on me as the carer brings the hoist over and fetches out a sling. We stand either side of the bed ready, somehow, to put it on him.
‘Come on, Mr H,’ says the carer. ‘You can help us a lot if you keep your hands and your cussing to yourself.’
‘You!’ he spits. ‘You f* f* b* b*. You f* c*. You’d better watch out, now. I’m going to jump out of this bed when you fall down drunk and tear you to pieces.’
‘No you’re not, Mr H. Now, just lift your a* a bit – that’s it. Good man.’
Somehow between us all we manage to transfer Mr H from the bed to the chair. His dreadful language tails off once he’s airborne, but it soon comes back to strength when we blanket him securely in our carry-chair and head out through the door into the sunshine.
‘Isn’t it a lovely afternoon?’ I say to him, holding the foot end of the chair as we negotiate some garden steps.
The shocking tirade this inspires from Mr Heatherington sets me off giggling, which only makes him worse, of course. Rae starts to laugh, too, not helped by the consciousness of being outside and how inappropriate the whole thing looks. And of course, the more we try to stop ourselves, the more we laugh. I lose all my strength, and the chair starts to wobble.
‘You f* b* c*!’ he shouts. ‘You won’t be laughing when I f* cut off your b* and feed ‘em to the dogs.’