‘You wouldn’t think to look at me, but I’ll be ninety-six next month,’ says Albert, holding on to the dining room table, his eyes dilute behind a pair of smeary glasses. ‘If you’d told me when I was in the middle of that blasted Burmese jungle I’d be standing here now like this, I’d never have believed it. You won’t be long, will ya’? Only Vera’ll wonder what we’re up to and come down.’ He leans in for a stage whisper and his glasses slide down his nose. ‘She hasn’t been quite right up here these past few months,’ he says, thumbing them back up. ‘We’ve been married God knows how long, and I’ve never known it so bad.’ He jabs out to the side with his elbow, makes a fist with his other hand, and letting go of the table, almost pitches backwards.
‘I’m sorry to hear it’s been difficult lately,’ I tell him, helping him into a chair.
‘Well – what d’you expect? You get as old as this, something’s bound to go off.’
I check his obs, but everything’s fine. He has an irregular heart rate – dropping a beat now and again, like the heart forgets what it’s supposed to be doing every so often.
‘I’ll need a specimen of urine, too, if that’s okay,’ I tell him.
It’s the focus of the visit. The GP has queried increased confusion and wants to rule out a UTI.
‘Gis’ your little pot here then and I’ll do it in the kitchen,’ says Albert. ‘It may take a little while. I’ve got that prostrate problem. But if you don’t mind waiting I’ll see what I can do.’
‘It doesn’t need to be a whole lot.’
‘It’s not going to be a whole lot.’
‘Like you say. Just do your best. You could always run the tap or something.’
‘Do you want a hand?’
‘How d’you mean?’
‘To walk in there.’
‘Oh! No! I’ll do what I always do. Which is not very much.’
I help him up, give him the pot, and he hobbles into the kitchen with it. He carries on chatting as he unbuttons his fly, positions the pot, and then stands there, half leaning against the counter, looking around.
‘I’ll just make a start on the paperwork,’ I tell him. ‘Shout if you need me.’
After a minute or two, when all I’ve heard is some muttering and low-grade cursing, I ask him how he’s getting on.
‘Nothing yet,’ he says. ‘I’ll keep you posted.’
I carry on with the paperwork.
A minute later and he says: ‘You don’t mind, do you?’
I think he means him going for a wee in the kitchen, so without looking up I say that, no, of course not, he’s in his own house, he’s not overlooked…
‘Good,’ he says. ‘I was getting peckish.’
He’s eating a pork pie with his free hand.
‘Do you want some? There’s plenty.’