Josephine is lying on her side in the middle of the living room.
‘I’m not injured!’ she says, in the broad and peremptory tone of someone who hasn’t got her hearing aids in (and won’t be putting them in any time soon). ‘I just need picking up and putting to bed. Thank you.’
Josephine is one hundred years old. Extreme old age has hollowed out the essential substance of her, honeycombed the fabric of her bones, until all that’s left is a hunched and liver-spotted form for a silk blouse, tartan skirt, sheepskin slippers.
‘That’s it!’ she bellows. ‘Now – into the bedroom with me if you’d be so kind. You were quick. It’s the first time I’ve called on your services, but it won’t be the last. If you take my meaning.’
We help her along to the bedroom.
Amongst the artwork on the walls is a long, cool life study of a young woman, one arm arched languidly over her head, her eyes studying the painter with as much objectivity as he studied her.
‘Yes! That was me!’ she says as we shuffle past. ‘You wouldn’t think it now, would you?’
Her bedroom is like all the other rooms in this elegant top floor flat – wide, cool and minimal.
A breeze blows in through the open window, turning the curtains.
‘Leave them open!’
We sit her down on the bed. She catches her breath.
‘I’m so very old,’ she puffs. ‘No idea why. All my friends and family are dead. It’s just me. Only me. Oh well.’
We help her get ready for bed.
‘Lovely view of the sea’ I say.
‘What’s that? You’ll have to shout.’
‘I said – you have a lovely view of the sea.’
‘Ach!’ She shrugs, and then holds both hands out to the side, palms up.
‘The sea!’ Then she pulls the covers up to her chin, and closes her eyes. ‘Turn the lights out! Thank you very much!’
Always makes me think of Fawlty Towers whenever hearing aids crop up Spence.The wonderful Joan Sanderson as Mrs Richards.
Mrs. Richards: Now, listen to me. I'm not satisfied, but I've decided to stay here; however, I shall expect a reduction.
Basil Fawlty: Why? Because Krakatoa's not erupting at the moment?
Mrs. Richards: No, because the room is cold, the bath is too small, the view is invisible, and the radio doesn't work.
Basil Fawlty: No, the radio works. You don't.
Mrs. Richards: What?
Basil Fawlty: [crossing over to it] I'll see if I can't fix it, you scabby old bat!
[He turns it on, loudly; it works fine; Manuel plugs his ears]
Basil Fawlty: I think we got something then!
Mrs. Richards: What?
Basil Fawlty: [loudly] I think we got something then!
Mrs. Richards: [looking at Manuel with his fingers in his ears] What ARE you doing?
Basil Fawlty: [after smacking Manuel's head] Madam, don't think me rude, but, may I ask, do you by any chance have a hearing aid?
Mrs. Richards: A what?
Basil Fawlty: A HEARING AID!
Mrs. Richards: Yes, I do have a hearing aid.
Basil Fawlty: Would you like me to get it mended?
Mrs. Richards: Mended? It's working perfectly all right.
Basil Fawlty: No, it isn't.
Mrs. Richards: I haven't got it turned on at the moment.
Basil Fawlty: Why not?
Mrs. Richards: The battery runs down.
It's a perfect episode, and I do often think about it when we get elderly people with hearing aids - who don't wear them! I had a bad experience once when a patient asked me to change the battery for her and the whole thing seemed to explode. So now I just stick to shouting.
Oh, let's hope she won't have to die in a hospital but will be looking out at the sea from her own home.
Absolutely, Sabine! I couldn't agree more.
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