You can tell Selina used to be a Sister. The way she operates the bed, rearranges the pillows, sets out the hot water, flannels and towels – everything calm and deliberate, capable, reassuring, accentuating the obvious love she has for Jack. She’s been his main carer for a few years now, seeing him through strokes, heart attacks, cancer scares, each time pulling him through by sheer strength of will.
We chat whilst we work.
‘I love that holly tree you have outside, with all the feeders. I’ve never seen so many birds.’
‘Yes. They’re doing quite well.’
‘Quite well? It’s like Grand Central for sparrows.’
‘They need a bit of help these days.’
We finish washing Jack and put him into clean pyjamas.
‘My son’s coming over this afternoon,’ she says, tucking in the duvet.
‘Oh? That’ll be nice.’
‘Yes. We haven’t seen him in a little while. He’s been away on business.’
‘How many children do you have?’
‘Only one now. Our other son died.’
‘I’m sorry.’
‘It’s a long time ago now. Forty years or more.’
‘What happened?’
‘A girl. Nothing but trouble from the start, but what can you do? You have to let them live their lives. She was taking drugs, selling them, you name it. It was such a surprise, because Andrew was always such a quiet child, you know. Anyway, she fell pregnant and said it was his. They got married in secret, moved in together. And to earn a bit of money Andrew started working for the girl’s father, a right so-and-so, who ran a dodgy warehouse business. Then one day there was a fire…’
‘That’s dreadful.’
‘Like I say, it was a long time ago. Of course the girl and her father disappeared. Changed their names and everything. And that was the last we heard.’
She collects the washing things together.
‘I would’ve liked to have seen the child. But there you are.’
We help Jack back to bed and settle him in.
‘There! Amazing what a lick and a spit can do!’ she says, carrying the dirty water into the bathroom.
I open the care folder and start writing out a sheet.
‘Wasn’t it dreadful about Paris?’ says Selina, coming back into the room. ‘Those poor people.’
‘I know. Awful. My youngest daughter is on a school trip to London later this week and it’s hard not to worry.’
‘Yes. Well. It’s understandable.’
She gently combs Jack’s hair.
‘There’s no shortage of things to worry about,’ she says. ‘I remember in fifty-two there was a smallpox epidemic. No-one wanted to go anywhere then.’
‘I suppose. You can drive yourself crazy.’
She steps back and admires her hairdressing skills.
‘Do you remember that time on the bus, Jack? When we were going home to tell Mum we were getting engaged? And it was terribly foggy, a real pea-souper? And the driver was cursing and swearing and carrying on, until the conductor said he’d had enough of it, jumped off and walked the rest of the way in front, swinging a lamp?’
He smiles up at her, a creased, drawn-out kind of smile, rests his hand on hers a while, then turns to look at me.
‘She’s a wonderful woman,’ he says, with a wink. ‘But don’t let on I said so.’

5 thoughts on “lamplit

  1. Hey Alan! Great to hear from you. I hope all’s good with you.
    Thanks for reading the new blog & I’m glad you like it. I’m working on another book at the minute (when I can – damned work gets in the way). Hopefully have it out early next year.
    See you later


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