‘What’re you doing here?’
Michael leans forward on the hospital bed.
‘I thought you was dead,’ he says. Then he settles back again, finishes off the biscuit he was eating and slaps his hands crumb-free. ‘Maybe you are. Maybe you aren’t. That’s for another day. Now then. Who’s had it away with my tea?’
‘Here you are, Mike.’
The nurse comes in with Michael’s notes and gives us a handover. Referred to the vascular team query TIA. History of dementia, CVA, a few other things. Plenty of medication. Social history.
Michael pulls a face.
‘I hope you’re paying attention’ he says to me.
‘Good. ‘Cos I’m not.’
He has an early-onset form of dementia, which, judging by his neatly-clipped, silver goatee and moustache, seems to involve a gradual transformation into Colonel Sanders – at least, a Cockney music hall version of the chicken magnate, whose schtick involves making anything you say sound ridiculous.
‘Look at that!’ he says, leaning forwards again and pointing to my middle.
‘I know. I’m carrying a little holiday weight…’
‘What d’you mean – my belt?’
‘Ye-es! Your belt. And now look at that.’
He points to Rae’s belt.
Hers is ambulance issue, with a decorated buckle.
‘M&S’ finest,’ I say, slapping mine, and then taking the opportunity to tuck my shirt in.
‘Marks & Spencer.’
‘Marks and Spencer. Of course. Tsch, tsch, tsch.’
He raises his eyebrows and stares at me.
‘Well it’s better than string,’ I say, shrugging. ‘It gets the job done.’
‘Keeping my trousers up.’
‘Oh! Your trousers!’ He shakes his head, like this is the craziest thing he’s ever heard, and then he turns his attention to the table again, and carefully extracts the second biscuit from the packet of three.