Even though it’s only half past six in the morning, Eloise is outside waiting to meet us. Immaculately dressed in a floral print jacket and tweed skirt, sensible leather flats, and a mustard yellow handbag hung with geometric precision over her left arm, she is as bright and neat and pressed as any picture you’d find in a catalogue.
She waves as we turn into the drive.
‘Are you the patient?’ says Rae, winding in the window down. It hardly seems possible – a ninety-four year old female with chest pain.
‘Yes’ she says, giving a little shrug, and turning the corners of her mouth down. ‘It’s probably nothing. I hope I’m not wasting your time.’
She steps up onto the ambulance with a neat little bob of the shoulders, and settles down on the trolley.
We set about taking a history, recording her obs, doing an ECG. Eloise tells us the chest pain started yesterday, a niggly feeling in the centre of her chest. She thought it would ease off by itself so she didn’t do anything about it. Last night was uncomfortable though. She didn’t get any sleep, restlessly alternating between the bed and the chair. By dawn she was sure something was seriously wrong. She got herself ready, and made the call.
‘I tried talking to the pain. In my mind. D’you know? I do that where I can and it often does the trick. But unfortunately it wouldn’t let me go, so eventually I had to admit defeat and call on your good selves. Thank you for coming so promptly. I hope I haven’t disturbed your morning.’
I tell her it’s a pleasure.
Rae tears off the ECG strip.
‘Fast AF’ she says. ‘No wonder you’ve been having these niggles.’
‘I’m afraid it’s a trip up the hospital, Eloise,’ I tell her. ‘Do you have everything you need?’
‘My bag, my medications,’ she says, reaching out, touching each in turn. ‘Everything else,’ tapping the side of her head. ‘all the most important things, I keep up here.’
We set off.
* * *
‘I’m fascinated by birds,’ says Eloise. ‘Big ones, little ones. Birds of prey. In fact, I’m writing a story about a bird. A falcon.’
‘That sounds great. What happens to this falcon?’
‘Oh – I’ve no idea. I’ve got to do some research. Follow him around and see what he does, where he goes. But I read another book just yesterday about the stars and planets and so on. By that young professor, you know the one? Who’s lovely and enthusiastic and throws his arms about? Apparently he says there are two universes now. No doubt they’ll find more. Everything changes so quickly it’s difficult to keep up. Before that I was reading quite a trashy book about films. Do you like films?’
‘Yes. I love films.’
‘Do you know John Wayne? The cowboy? You know he’s very tall and wobbles about quite a bit? Well, do you know why he wobbles?’
‘I’ve no idea.’
‘Tiny feet! Size six!’
‘My god! I’m amazed he could stay upright at all’
‘And do you know what they used to say about Paul Newman?’
‘I can guess.’
‘They said he was the perfect salesman. He could sell you anything. But despite that, he wasn’t able to talk himself into the navy as a young man. And do you know why?’
‘Colour blind! But I like reading lots of different things. I must admit I was a bit disappointed in the last novel I read. Jilly Cooper. Quite a racy thing about horses. Oh – it was all right for a while, but then I turned one particular page and – goodness! I couldn’t possibly tell you what I read there, it was just too disgusting for words. So do you know what I did?’
‘Marked the page?’
‘No. I chucked the whole thing in the bin. Even though it was a hardback and cost me nine pounds ninety-nine. I know these things go on. I just don’t know why anyone would see fit to write about it. The next book was better, though.’
‘No. James Patterson. Now he’s a writer. A few grisly murders, but not so many it gets you down. Most of the time he’s actually quite funny.’
Thanks I needed that smile....cheers
No worries, JW!
I thought maybe I should put a disclaimer at the end of that piece, though - along the lines of this is what a patient told me the truth was about John Wayne (and Paul Newman &c). But in the end I thought - n'ah :)
Peter James is my favourite author. The Roy Grace series is brilliant!
I must admit I haven't read any PJ, PH. I'll put him on my list... ;)
Stunning. I hope I'm still reading at that rate when I'm 94. And I hope Eloise's niggles were sorted out!
She was a fantastic advert for the benefits of reading, that's for sure.
It looked like her AF was getting out of control, but still within the bounds of medication. My guess is she would've been treated, referred back to GP and home within the morning.
Thanks very much for the comment, Alexia! :)
The joys of reading will follow us as long as we can make out the type on the page. I love that she was a prolific reader still-blessings on her library. Chucking a hard back is not an easy thing to do-strong convictions !~!
Absolutely agreed! Just think of all the great books there are out in the world. I'm just finishing one by an author I'd never heard of before: Life and Fate / Vassily Grossman. Incredible!
Whenever I meet someone who likes to read - especially if it's widely, anything from thrillers and classics to biographies and history books &c - I immediately feel at home.
I know what you mean about chucking a book in the bin, though. I've thrown books across the room before (I threw the History Man like that, can't remember why - irritated by the way it ended up, I suppose), but I get rid of them by taking them down the charity shop.
I remember when I was a teenager, round a friend's house, I'd lent him a pulp novel about biker gangs, loads of sex and violence, of course. His mum found the book and burned it on the fire in front of us! :/
Without wishing to spoil the story,another possible reason for John Wayne wobbling around was he was a massive alcoholic.
Probably drank to forget about his small feet.
Tha' hell he waaas...
I can totally believe it, though. Jack Daniels + small feet = legendary gait
That was just all around pleasant. She seems like a very nice lady. *Definitely* well-read! It's nice to see that she's kept her mental acuity even into such an advanced age. I wonder if the reading has anything to do with that? It worried me a bit when she said that the most important information was "up here" in her head. I hope she starts writing it down soon, should her mental capacities begin to fail, or if there's an accident where she isn't coherent and able to give answers.
Still, what a pleasant lady. A definite breath of fresh air.
I think the reading has definitely helped keep her sharp, Cass, although I don't doubt there's 'old bones' in the family, too. I wonder if she has tried writing herself? If she hasn't - it's never too late for a memoir! Especially now that it's so easy to tie-in photos and words, and get them printed up into neat little hardbacks. The digital age has made so many things easier - including genealogy and self-publishing... ;) x
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