Wednesday, January 21, 2009

check for fruit

We are running out in response to a personal alarm, one of those big red buttons worn around the neck or wrist to push if you need help. It’s come through as a silent activation; meaning that Button Control has not been able to talk to the client. If the person sets the button off accidentally – and they do, all the time – Button Control can reassure themselves that everything’s okay by speaking to them over an intercom system. A silent response is invariably a bad sign.

The instructions we have been sent to gain out of hours access to this flat are complex. There is a code for the front door, a code for a safe that contains a key to another safe that holds, amongst other things, the master key for all the rooms in the block. We are also to pull a chord to let the office know what we’re doing.

But it all works. The master key is hanging on its own peg inside the safe; I grab it, we re-shoulder our bags, and haul ourselves up to the third floor.

An elderly woman shuffles past us in the corridor.
‘Good evening to you both,’ she says, pleasantly. I’m struck by the thought that had we been dressed in gorilla suits, she would have been equally indifferent.
We reach the door and I knock twice.
‘Hello. Ambulance.’
Not waiting for a reply, I use the master key and we step inside.
The hallway is just big enough to accommodate the front door and access to the bathroom, kitchenette and sitting room. The door to the sitting room stands a little open, and I push it inwards.
There is an angle poise lamp up on a writing bureau over at the far side of the room, dumping a pool of bright light onto the high-backed chair beneath it. On the chair is the lumpish figure of an elderly woman, slumped forwards, motionless.
I stride over and touch her on the right shoulder.
She jumps backwards into the chair and lets out a yelp.
‘Hello – it’s the ambulance.’
‘The what?’
The woman is clutching a pear in one hand and a little curved knife in the other.
‘Are you all right?’
‘Am I what?’
‘Your button went off.’
‘I know that.’
‘People were worried about you.’
‘I heard them calling. I was on the loo. And they’d gone when I’d finished.’
‘So you’re okay?’
‘I’m having a pear.’
‘Who called you?’
‘The Button people.’
‘But there’s nothing wrong with me.’
She shakes the pear at me, as if that proves it.
And, I suppose, in many ways, it does.


Anonymous said...

I love reading your blog - it's the mix of wonderful writing and eccentric characters. Thank you Spence.

Anonymous said...

Did you jump as well?

Spence Kennedy said...

Thanks Kelly! I must admit I'd have a job to invent some of these people / situations!

Hi Kim
Yep. I think I took a step back and said something like: 'whoah'.

Funny thing is, my Grandma used to have a little fruit knife exactly like that one - yellowy bone handle, curved silver blade. That's the way to eat a pear!

Thanks for reading :) x

Anonymous said...

That's me sorted . I'm off out to buy a pear to shake at people :)
Keep blogging Spence, it's well written and fascinating.

Anonymous said...

Where I am, they can talk to the caller from the loo or anywhere in the house. It helps, if they will PUSH THE BUTTON.

Anonymous said...

My grandad, towards the end of his life, went into sheltered accommodation. He had a pressure pad at the bedroom door and if he didn't walk over it by a certain time (say 8:30am) the Warden came to check on him. He used to step over it, hide behind the door and give the poor Warden heart failure by yelling 'boo' when he let himself in with the master key.

I want to be that full of mischief at 87!

Spence Kennedy said...

I'm sure if I'd made a visit to your grandad, Fee, he'd have turned my hair white

Thanks for shakin' your fruit M, A & F