Monday, August 25, 2014


It would be hard to understand what Michael’s trying to say because of his asthma, even if You’ve Been Framed wasn’t playing on the telly, so loudly that normal conversation is impossible. Michael’s mother sits right in front of it, held in the armchair by a series of strategically placed cushions and a moveable table. Behind her in the corner of the room is her bed, a hoist just beside it along with all the other pieces of kit you might expect.
‘She likes it loud,’ he says, walking over to turn the TV down. His mother stirs in the chair and starts looking around blindly with her chin up, as if it’s not her ears but her nose that’s sensed the difference; Michael rests a hand on her shoulder: ‘I’ll put it back up ... in a minute ... when they’re gone,’ he wheezes next to her ear. Pats her once and then comes back over to us.
We give him a neb and take some details. History of infective exacerbation, smoker, this and that. He’s in his early fifties but looks older. The walls of the flat have a yellow tinge to them. The whole place feels sick. I’m sure if I pressed on the back of this sofa it would ooze tar like a sponge.
‘Is the neb helping?’
He nods, gives us the thumbs up.
On the TV, a sequence of people falling off swings, stages, ladders.
A duck attacks the camera.
Advert break.
 ‘You could probably do with a visit from the out of hours, to see about your chest infection.’
‘Okay ... Fair enough ... I can’t be going anywhere ... ‘cos of mum.’
His mum has switched her attention to a cigarette lighter on the table in front of her. She clicks it off and on, fascinated by the flame. Michael doesn’t seem to mind.
An arthritic dog – heavy, hairy – knuckles in from the kitchen. It shows only a cursory interest in us and our equipment, then straightaway sinks to the floor at the old woman’s feet.
‘Good boy,’ says Michael, the neb misting and hissing through the mask.
We both look over at the telly again.
You’ve Been Framed is back on.
Some old feller dancing at a wedding, everyone whooping and clapping. He falls backwards into the sound system.
We both laugh.
‘That’s gotta hurt,’ says Michael, shaking his head. He puts both hands on the kitchen counter and takes a deep breath. ‘Still,’ he says, looking up at me over the edge of the mask. ‘That’s two hundred ... and fifty quid ... right there.’


jacksofbuxton said...

The girls like You've Been Framed (and,in fairness,I like Harry Hill) but you watch and wonder why people video (showing my age) themselves doing such odd things,but I suppose Michael has the real answer.

Spence Kennedy said...

I like HH too, but YBF's showing its age (shame they've taken TV Burp off, though). So many of the clips look staged - and familiar, not that I've watched a lot, you understand. Just in the crew room & round patients' houses. *crash* *oof* *aargh* rpt / at volume.

Cassandra said...

I'm not familiar with YBF, but in context I can gather what kind of show it is. It SOUNDS like a murder drama set in a portrait studio.

It always makes me kind of heavy-sad when you portray these people that are chronically ill and their homes are just… sick. You KNOW it's got to be contributing to their ill health, but I guess that after a while momentum just keeps things going the same as they always have. I TOTALLY get that from personal experience-- when you're sick, and I mean chronically ill so sick all day every day, it takes so much energy to just get through the day… more than it does for the average healthy person. So how are you supposed to change anything, make things better, clean up and air out the house, when it is taking all you've got simply to make it through the day?

One of the overriding themes I'm seeing with the stories you write up is that of isolation and neglect. These sick people who are mental, or broken, or dying, or just sick, they don't have a good social network or support system. They're just trying to scrape by on their own, and it makes them desperate without them even really realizing after a while. I think what frightens and saddens me the most is that I realize how easily it could be me. With several really heavy chronic illnesses, I could slide right into that lifestyle of isolation and unsanitary imprisonment… and what if I never even noticed, like some of these patients? It's a scary thought, and it makes you wonder… I wonder when and how it all began for them, how much of a slow slide it was and when was the "point of no return"? Just… wonder.

Spence Kennedy said...

I like that: 'murder drama set in a portrait studio' - sounds like the premise for a show!

You're completely right - when you're sick, you often don't have the will / energy to keep your house tidy & clean. Sometimes the environment morphs into a physical representation of the illness, and you get the feeling that if you address one you'll help the other.

Isolation & neglect are very definitely themes - not ones I'd actively chose, though, but ones that impress themselves just through weight of numbers. 'Unsanitary imprisonment' is exactly it, and I think it's definitely something that happens by degrees, so that you don't notice it. Very sad to see, and also for me one of the hardest aspects of the job to cope with, long term. :/