Friday, March 21, 2014

the woman with the keys

Hugh fell in the hallway on the way back from the bathroom. He managed to get himself into a sitting position, but now he’s stuck; a fatal combination of three factors – his illness, his Falstaffian physique, and the narrowness of the hallway – have left him stuck there, feet wedged against one wall, back pressed against the other, like Father Christmas stuck down the chimney.
‘Get me up, would you?’ he says. ‘I feel such a prat.’

He’s too big to hoik up by the shoulders, so I go back down to get the Mangar, our inflatable cushion.
When I get back, Marion, Hugh’s ‘woman that does’, has arrived on scene.
‘So now you’ve got two good-looking young men, Hugh. I don’t know – you just snap your fingers and they come running.’
‘You lascivious bastard,’ he says in thunderous Welsh tones. ‘You’re jealous. Just because for once it’s not you getting all the attention.’
‘That’s the last time I soap your balls.’
‘I don’t know  whether you’re doing a good job down there or not. I said goodbye to my balls about five year ago.’
‘Well I’m here to tell you, Hugh, they’re not all that.’
‘Thanking you.’
‘Maybe I should get you a mirror on a stick.’
‘Maybe I should get you fired.’
Marion laughs, a rich, smoker’s bubble.
‘No-one else would put up with you’ she says, then dabs at the corner of her eye with a knuckle like it’s the funniest notion ever. ‘Hugh, Hugh, Hugh. Huge Hugh. What’ll we do with you?’

Whilst all this is going on we’ve been setting up the Mangar, giving instructions, getting into position. Hugh is naked, and I have to keep adjusting the modesty towel.
‘Make sure you keep that puppy covered,’ says Marion. And then just before we start, ‘Where d’you want me?’
‘On the sofa stuffing your face with chocolates, where you normally are,’ says Hugh, grasping on to my hand and struggling to haul his legs back as the pump moans and the first cushion begins to inflate.


Hugh is enthroned back in his favourite chair, swaddled in blankets, with a round of toast and jam and a mug of tea on the side table.
‘That’s wonderful,’ he says. ‘Ahh! King of all he surveys.’
Marion clears up in the little kitchenette.
‘I’ll get started once the boys are gone,’ she calls out.
‘Started on what exactly?’ says Hugh, wiping a gob of jam from his beard.
‘You, you great lummox,’
It’s a lovely flat. Bright and warm, with a fascinating collection of theatre posters, photos and paintings. Next to a portrait of Hugh exuberantly daubed out in vibrant colours, is an equally striking portrait of a young woman in a safari suit, leaning forwards, smiling mysteriously, against a background of Acacia trees and an orange, African sunset.
‘Who was that?’ I ask as Rae finishes the paperwork.
Hugh leans sideways in his chair to look up at the painting.
That,’ he says. ‘That was the only woman I ever knew who had the keys to the Kremlin and the Vatican.’
Marion is leaning in the doorway of the kitchen, watching us. Her eyes shine as she looks at Hugh.
‘He could tell you some stories,’ she says, wiping her hands on a tea towel.

‘Oh yes,’ says Hugh, relaxing back in his chair. ‘It’s not just a lot of soapy old balls, you know.’


jacksofbuxton said...

Sounds like a lovely relationship between Hugh and Marion.

I am,however,intrigued by the woman with the keys to The Vatican and The Kremlin.

Rather than a secret agent,do you think she was a letting agent?

tpals said...

Bet you would gladly trade in ten of your frequent flyers and spend the time listening to Hugh.

Spence Kennedy said...

jack - Yep - they made a very entertaining pair! A touch of the Carry On about it. And I'd loved to have heard more about the woman in the portrait (He did actually tell me some other details, but they're just too identifying, unfortunately!)

tpals - I could've sat there all day. A real treat.

Blair Ivey said...

In contrast to most of the patients you write about, I like Hugh.

Spence Kennedy said...

Yep! A lovely guy!

It's probably worth saying that I tend to write about the patients who grab my attention for one reason or another - and often the reason is that they're difficult / dreadful / awkward / etc. But they only represent a small fraction - the majority are thoroughly nice & reasonable people. Sorry if it's all a bit skewed towards the former! (Note to self - redress the balance...)

Thanks for the comment, Blair. Hope all's good with you & yours.

Cassandra said...

You're right on about the balance being skewed towards the weirdos and the difficult patients, but I don't think it's that big of a deal. I mean, that's just a given with this type of blog. How would your readership fare if you typed out stories of the smooth and mundane jobs that came your way? Shoot, maybe you should do a Mundane Series, just for fun! It'd be interesting to read what the bulk of your days are like.

Regarding Hugh… I was very worried at first. I thought this was going to go badly. I like that his home was so bright and cheerful and tidy. Many times the people you swing by to help live in hell holes. Was Hugh a former theater player? Just wondering, because of the poster. I was totally thinking what tpals said. It would have been nice to stay there and listen to stories rather than going back out to the grind again. I had some experiences like that while selling books door to door for a few years. Sometimes you just run across the most wonderful (and unexpectedly wonderful!) people and you just want to bask in that haven of niceness.

One difference, though… you guys seem to drink a lot more tea.

Spence Kennedy said...

I'll do it! I'll write a companion site to Siren Voices - something softer, less f/up - Siren Choices, maybe, where the patients are always calm & reasonable, grateful to see us, fragrantly arranged &c. I know that sounds sarcastic, but I'm sure that is actually the bulk of our experience. I could link from the main site, and readers could nip over whenever they felt like they needed a break from my usual dystopic grind.

Hugh would be a star on the new site. (He did have a connection to the theatre but I can't say exactly what, for obvious reasons!) A truly lovely guy - definitely someone you could happily spend a LOT of time with.

So you sold books door-to-door? That sounds like a toughie. Was it some kind of Book Club / Catalogue? Whichever way - must've been pretty draining. But then, as always, contact with people really makes it. That's definitely what makes the ambulance job so tenable for me (this from someone who never had a job longer than 2 years - frequently less).

I do drink a lot of tea, it's true. I'm sure if you did an ultrasound you'd find my kidneys hanging like tea-bags. :/

Cassandra said...

Tea. I'm addicted to tea, truly. I don't know if you guys have it over there (and clearly there's not a lot of pre-packaged tea stuff going on, it looks like it's ALWAYS made from scratch which is cool) but there's a brand of green tea with honey called Arizona Green Tea. It's amazing. I'm surprised the labs don't call me back with the news that my blood work revealed I have Az Green Tea in my veins instead of blood. Ah, maybe THAT'S why they're so sure I don't have lupus! Then again, if you follow Dr. House's logic (tv program), it's never lupus, so…

Books. I was attending an independent Bible college for evangelism, and literature evangelism was the name of the game. So no, not a book club. That probably would be easier, I think. A lot of people thought I was Jehovah's Witness or Mormon and so they were rude, but usually the really mean and nasty folks were other Christians. I almost always groaned inwardly when I saw some sort of Christian paraphernalia in the entryway or on their cars.

You are right, though-- dealing with people is DRAINING, especially as I'm an introvert. Oh, and I was dealing with the beginnings of my major health problems, so I was usually powering through severe abdominal pain and throwing up between houses and such. Turns out I have bad food allergies, adrenal insufficiency, and hypothyroid. Didn't figure all that out for years, though. (And regarding the distances we have to drive, it just depends where you're going! I have to go to the largest "big city" for doctor's appointments because there aren't any specialists in my town worth their salt, it seems. *sigh*)

Spence Kennedy said...

I think Dr House must've established an infusion of Arizona Tea at some point, and if not, why not? (Sounds delicious, btw).

I can imagine selling evangelical books would be even tougher than normal books - but I was surprised you had a rough time from other denominations. And talking about christian paraphenalia, there's a house round here with a gigantic christian fish symbol on their roof - either for passing aircraft or angels I'm not sure. I wonder how you would've fared knocking on their door? (Or would you have tip-toed past?)

Sorry to hear about your health probs, Cassandra. Sounds like you've had your fair share (more than). Hope you're feeling okay today. x