Monday, September 15, 2014


Carter probably had much the same experience, gingerly stepping through the doorway into Tutankhamen’s tomb – except here, instead of a jumble of gilded leopards, ebony cats and intricately decorated canopic jars, there are shelves of dusty video tapes, a sink full of washing-up, and bag after bag of empty bottles. And instead of a mummified king lying over in the corner, there’s Dot.
But actually, if you were to take King Tut, unwrap him, lie him on the floor and stick a fag in his mouth, you wouldn’t be far off.
‘Ooh – hello love!’ she says, ash falling back into her hair. ‘Who’ve we got here?’
Dot’s husband, Ron, waves his stick in his wife’s direction.
‘I couldn’t get her up’ he says. ‘She’s been there since Christmas.’
‘I have not!’ says Dot, then laughs with a noise like a ceiling collapse in an adjoining chamber.
She’s obviously been here a while, though. Incontinent, cold, her skin an awful grey colour. She seems happy though.
‘Do you know where you are?’ I ask her, swapping fingers with the pulse ox; for all the vital signs it’s showing I may as well have clipped it on the hand of that yellowing Cabbage Patch doll.
‘In bed,’ she says, smiling. ‘Thank you.’
‘You’re actually on the floor, Dot. Can you remember how you got there?’
‘How did I get here?’ she says in Ron’s direction.
‘You lay down,’ he says. ‘How d’you think?’
‘I’m afraid it’s a trip up the hospital, Dot.’
‘Nah!’ she says. ‘Why would I want to go there? I’d rather just stay in bed.’
‘You’re on the floor, Dot.’
‘Am I?’
‘Can we help you up?’
She laces her withered fingers together over her tummy, shakes her head.
‘I’m fine, thank you’ she says.
‘Are you going to shift her or what?’ says Ron, rapping his stick twice on the ruined carpet.
If Dot feels the petulant vibrations through the ruined carpet she doesn’t show it. She carries on smiling to herself, looking past my shoulder up at the ceiling, at the half dozen flies cutting hieroglyphs in the murky zone between the lampshade and the ceiling.
Rae sets the carry chair up in the only clear space available, next to Ron. We start to excavate a path through the bin bags of wine bottles, which clonk and rattle noisily alarmingly.
‘That’s all you, that is,’ says Dot.
‘So? I like my wine!’ says Ron, thumping his stick on the carpet again, a sigh whistling through the bristles of the great, graven grump of his moustache. ‘Everyone needs a vice.’ 


jacksofbuxton said...

Wine or whine?

Spence Kennedy said...

the wine was his / the whine was mine :/

Lynda Halliger Otvos (Lynda M O) said...

Spence, the more I read of your writing the more I am a fan of the way you tell a story. It's lovely: Kind, compassionate, dedicated to seeing the best in people... You are one of my favorite blogs and usually my first choice when I get a chance to catch up with my reading.

Spence Kennedy said...

Thanks Lynda! That's so kind of you to say so.

I do worry that this blog tends to the grim / miserable, and I try to lift it when I can. With this particular scene, it was actually pretty dreadful to see the degraded & filthy conditions the two of them were living in. But having said that, they both had capacity, and both seemed happy enough. It's difficult not to impose your own sense of what's good and right on these things. Anyway - glad you didn't find it too much!

Thanks for all your comments & encouragement over the years, Lynda. It's really very much appreciated. I hope everything's good with you & yours. x

Cassandra said...

" It's difficult not to impose your own sense of what's good and right on these things."

You know, that's a REALLY good point. I read these stories and so often I find myself mentally pointing fingers at them, but you're right. It's not my place to impose "right" or "wrong" on how they've chosen to survive. Thank you for that very valuable reminder.

Spence Kennedy said...

My first reaction, seeing such a mess, is to think Right! Cleaning products, bin bags.... Maybe they'd appreciate a clean flat they could move around in more easily - but then, maybe not, incredible as that might be. I think the truth is somewhere in between. They're probably don't see that the flat is a mess because it's happened gradually, over time, and they've made incremental adjustments.

There's no getting away from the fact that it's a health & safety nightmare, though (and probably for the other flats, too, given that they both smoke like that...) What to do, what to do? :/