Dave slips out of his wheelchair onto the kitchen floor. He isn’t hurt, but he’s just too heavy for the carer to get him back up on her own. She makes him as comfortable as she can, then calls 999. The first two ambulances to be dispatched get diverted to higher category calls, so Dave’s on the floor almost an hour before we get there. Still, he’s pretty sanguine about it. He’s been there before. He knows what to expect.
As soon as we arrive we set to work. We re-organise things in the kitchen a little to give us more room, put the wheelchair behind him, and help Dave into it.
‘That’s better’ he says. ‘Thanks.’
We wheel him through to the hospital bed that’s parked in the middle of the lounge. There’s still an extemporary feel to the place, even though Dave had his stroke a couple of years ago. He says they’re still working on plans to convert his little terraced house more effectively, but the place is so small I can’t see how they’ll do it. Aside from the bed, the lounge is dominated by floor to ceiling bookcases, stuffed full of books on every conceivable subject, from gardening, travel guides, motor mechanics and the Apollo space programme, to Pixar, Pointillism and a history of the peoples of central and south America.
We offer to help Dave to bed, but he says he can manage by himself. We park him alongside and pass him a banana board, which he uses to slide himself over, along with a hand grip that’s suspended overhead.
‘I specialise in the energy sector,’ he says, raising the back of the bed, plumping up some pillows, then relaxing back, exhausted. ‘I’ve got a lot of interests. Sorry to call you out’ he says. ‘I’m still a bit under the weather.’
Up on top of one of the shelves is a helicopter drone, with a camera slung beneath it.
‘A colleague bought that for me. He thought I might like to get out – you know – when I can’t actually get out.’
‘What is it with men and drones?’ says the carer, coming in with a beaker of tea. ‘I think they like doing everything remotely.’
‘Yeah? Well there’s an insight into your love life.’
Dave takes a sip from the beaker, settles it on his chest, and sighs. ‘Maybe you’re right,’ he says. ‘Maybe it is a male thing. I hadn’t thought of it like that.’
‘I suppose you want some toast now,’ says the carer.
‘Only if you’re making.’
‘Are you asking?’
‘I suppose I’m asking.’
‘Well then I’m making,’ she says, and goes back into the kitchen.
‘I saw this amazing video online the other day,’ I tell him. ‘They’re working on the prototype of a drone motorbike. It’s got these four horizontal propellers, just like your drone, but they’re at either end of a motorbike seat. It was only a scale model, so they only had like an action man or something sitting on it. But it worked a treat. God – I’d love to have a go on something like that.’
‘Me too,’ says Dave. ‘Wow.’
‘I don’t know what the flying time would be.’
‘Batteries are still quite primitive.’
‘That’s still quite a hurdle.’
‘I think initially the flying time would be restricted. They’d be pretty ungainly to begin with.’
‘God – it’d be great.’
‘I don’t think it’ll be long before the skies are full of them.’
‘You’d be operating in three dimensions, so you wouldn’t ever have a traffic jam.’
‘You wouldn’t need to go that fast, though, if you’re travelling as the crow flies.’
‘You could have anti-collision software. That wouldn’t be a problem.’
‘I’d love it.’
‘Where would you park, though?’
‘Well, because you’re landing vertically, you could use parking spaces much more efficiently. Anyway, I think over time you’d start to see landing pads on the roof.’
‘And then the roads would start to clear, so you could cycle everywhere safely.’
‘And play games outside. Or just walk about.’
‘God, I’d love to see that.’
‘Don’t hold your breath,’ says the carer, coming back in with a plate of toast. ‘You and your flying machines. We haven’t even got any jam.’