The elderly woman sitting next to me in the lounge of a local care home does not seem to be too enamoured of the guest speaker.
“Wrap it up, wrap it up!“ she keeps muttering, under her breath. The guest speaker, who is clearly determined to keep going with his spiel no matter what, pretends that she has given him the answer to the question he has just posed. “Quite
right!” he says with forced gaiety, beaming in her direction. She scowls back at him.
I wasn’t expecting to be here this afternoon but my friend who
came for coffee this morning and whose sister lives in this home, asked me along to hear a talk about our local hospice and how it has fared since it moved into its brand new building a couple of years ago. Though it does cross our collective minds that a
talk about the hospice to a group of very elderly residents might be a trifle insensitive and not exactly cheering.
Mr B, who was on his way to watch a bowls
match, dropped me off outside. I found the main door, signed my name in the visitors book and pressed the door bell. No answer. I tried again. And again, and again. I was giving up hope of ever gaining entrance and wondering how I would excuse
my absence to my friend, when a district nurse turned up in her car and rapped energetically on the door to gain us both entrance.
The guest speaker
had already started by the time I arrived so I apologised profusely for my lateness – but he seemed really pleased to see me. Looking around the room I could see that at least five of the elderly residents were already snoozing happily in their chairs
so I guess his warm welcome was largely down to the fact that he thought I might be able to stay awake for the duration of his talk.
I know just how he felt. I
still remember, way back when I was a working gal, giving a talk on local government to an Old Companions Club. I had been slotted in after lunch and warned that I had to be finished by 2.30 p.m. when Bingo started. Nobody, and nothing, I was given to understand,
was ever allowed to interrupt or delay the daily dose of Bingo. I started off cheerfully enough, only to be interrupted after just my first few words by an elderly gent at the other end of the room who asked, querulously, in a booming voice: “What
IS she talking about?!”
I distinctly recall thinking: “What AM I talking about and why should they care?” and almost – but only almost
– calling out: “Eyes down! Look in!” If nothing else, it would have gained their full and rapt attention.
One of the residents spills her fruit
juice all over her table. Mr Hospice Speaker springs into action. He finds tissues and mops up the mess assiduously, talking reassuringly all the time to the Clumsy One. I decide that I like him, even if he is most irritatingly jovial and unable to hear my
neighbour, who is still muttering: “Gone on too long – wrap it up!”
After the talk is finished the nurses serve up tea and Rich Tea biscuits.
Some people get those little cakes you make by mixing cornflakes with chocolate and golden syrup. Everyone perks up amazingly.
One day, I suppose, I may find
myself living in a place like this, which is a sobering thought. If so, I hope I’ll be happy. I hope I will have a room overlooking a garden where robins and blue tits visit regularly. I hope I will stay awake while the guest speakers are talking.
I hope I won’t spill my fruit juice.
Most of all, I hope I’ll get the chocolate cornflakes cakes and not the Rich Tea biscuits...