Carter probably had much the same experience, gingerly stepping through the doorway into Tutankhamen’s tomb – except here, instead of a jumble of gilded leopards, ebony cats and intricately decorated canopic jars, there are shelves of dusty video tapes, a sink full of washing-up, and bag after bag of empty bottles. And instead of a mummified king lying over in the corner, there’s Dot.
But actually, if you were to take King Tut, unwrap him, lie him on the floor and stick a fag in his mouth, you wouldn’t be far off.
‘Ooh – hello love!’ she says, ash falling back into her hair. ‘Who’ve we got here?’
Dot’s husband, Ron, waves his stick in his wife’s direction.
‘I couldn’t get her up’ he says. ‘She’s been there since Christmas.’
‘I have not!’ says Dot, then laughs with a noise like a ceiling collapse in an adjoining chamber.
She’s obviously been here a while, though. Incontinent, cold, her skin an awful grey colour. She seems happy though.
‘Do you know where you are?’ I ask her, swapping fingers with the pulse ox; for all the vital signs it’s showing I may as well have clipped it on the hand of that yellowing Cabbage Patch doll.
‘In bed,’ she says, smiling. ‘Thank you.’
‘You’re actually on the floor, Dot. Can you remember how you got there?’
‘How did I get here?’ she says in Ron’s direction.
‘You lay down,’ he says. ‘How d’you think?’
‘I’m afraid it’s a trip up the hospital, Dot.’
‘Nah!’ she says. ‘Why would I want to go there? I’d rather just stay in bed.’
‘You’re on the floor, Dot.’
‘Can we help you up?’
She laces her withered fingers together over her tummy, shakes her head.
‘I’m fine, thank you’ she says.
‘Are you going to shift her or what?’ says Ron, rapping his stick twice on the ruined carpet.
If Dot feels the petulant vibrations through the ruined carpet she doesn’t show it. She carries on smiling to herself, looking past my shoulder up at the ceiling, at the half dozen flies cutting hieroglyphs in the murky zone between the lampshade and the ceiling.
Rae sets the carry chair up in the only clear space available, next to Ron. We start to excavate a path through the bin bags of wine bottles, which clonk and rattle noisily alarmingly.
‘That’s all you, that is,’ says Dot.
‘So? I like my wine!’ says Ron, thumping his stick on the carpet again, a sigh whistling through the bristles of the great, graven grump of his moustache. ‘Everyone needs a vice.’