helen

When I knock on her flat door, Mrs Millard screams at me from behind the glass.
 Push it! Push it! It’s open!
From the tone of her voice I’m expecting the Medusa; what I get is a seventy year old woman in terrier-print PJs holding on to a kitchen trolley.
‘Oh hello!’ she says, smoothly. ‘Thanks for coming.’
She turns round with some difficulty – her flat is like a burrow in a landfill – and leads me into the lounge.
‘What’ve you come for?’ she says.
‘To see you’re okay, really. To do your blood pressure and that kind of thing. And to take some blood…’
I’d already been warned Mrs Millard was difficult.
She frowns at me when I finish speaking. To pre-empt the rage I can feel brewing, I ask her about the signed photos on the wall behind her, just beyond the tideline of all the junk: Helen Mirren, from youthful stage shots to glamorous Hollywood stills.
‘I thought she was great in Prime Suspect’ I say, putting my bag down and setting out my gear. ‘Loads of things, actually. The Cook, the Thief, his wife and her lover. Loads of things.’
‘I’m glad you think so,’ she says. ‘I’m a big fan. Have been. For Years.’
‘I can see that. She’s amazing. What’s your favourite role?’
‘Now. There’s a question.’
She thinks about it whilst I do some basic obs.
The Queen,’ she says. ‘You’ve got to be good to play the Queen.’
‘Shall I have a go at taking some blood, then?’
She holds out her arm.
‘If you hurt me I’ll punch your lights out,’ she says.
‘No pressure then.’
She smiles, quite serenely.
‘Helen wouldn’t hurt me,’ she says, as I offer up the needle.

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