Jean is enthroned on a scallop-backed silver chair, her bandaged right leg resting on a footstool, her arms placed either side of her. Her son William, an efficiently thin man of sixty, gives us a précis of the action: arrived back at the house after a day out – wind caught the door and slammed it on Jean’s leg – deep cut - walked on it to the house – put a bandage on the wound – elevation and cetera.
‘I don’t want any fuss,’ says Jean. ‘I don’t like hospitals.’
‘Join the club,’ I say, kneeling down in front of her. If she drew a sword and lay it on my shoulder I wouldn’t be surprised.
‘Mum is terribly anxious about being carted off,’ says William.
‘I’m ninety two,’ she says. ‘I’m past all that.’
‘Let’s have a look.’
The wound is a full thickness laceration, a brutal laying open of Jean’s calf.
‘I know how you feel about hospitals,’ I say, dressing the leg again. ‘But this is quite a serious injury and you really need to go in.’
‘If you think so,’ she says, ‘but I’m very anxious about it.’
‘Don’t worry. They’re experts at this kind of thing, and if I say you’re worried, they’ll take extra special care.’
‘I’ll follow in the car,’ says William, scooping up the keys from the sideboard.
On the ride in to hospital, to take Jean’s mind off the coming treatment, I chat to her about this and that.
‘I couldn’t help noticing the photos on the wall. Who’s that distinguished man in uniform?’
‘My husband, Denis. He was a Major in the army. It was his whole life. Conscripted during the war, stayed on afterwards, retired after forty-odd years. We had such a lovely life together. To be honest, I still can’t quite believe he’s gone.’
‘How long were you married?’
‘Sixty two years. It went so quickly.’
‘I was lucky. But then I was always lucky in love.’
‘Well. Sort of. I was married twice.’
‘The first time was to this boy from Devon. One of those golden, laughing boys. We met at a dance and got married about five days later.’
‘So what happened?’
‘He was a merchant seaman and got torpedoed in the North Atlantic the following month. I met Denis just after the war when I was demobbed.’
Jean reaches out to me with her right hand.
‘What will they do to me when we get there?’
‘I’ll tell them you’re worried,’ I say, resting my hand on hers and giving it an encouraging squeeze.
But against the warmth of the blanket, her hand is so cool and slight you’d hardly know there was a hand there at all.