I knock and let myself in.
Hello? It’s Jim, from Rapid Response.
A short, narrow corridor. Five doors – one at the end, four to the right. I start at the end.
An airing cupboard.
Bathroom. And then working backwards, via the sitting room, kitchen – until the last door, which I notice for the first time has a crooked sign on the handle: William’s room.
I knock and go in.
William is lying on a pile of three mattresses, none of them covered, all of them dirty. It makes me think of the Princess & the Pea, a grim re-working, with a schizophrenic princess not coping at home, and not a pea but a box of psych meds under the bottom mattress.
Hello, William. How are you doing?
It’s hard to understand him when he answers. He gabbles excitedly, and his wild beard obscures his mouth. He obviously knows I’ll struggle to understand, because without being asked he immediately repeats himself – and keeps repeating it, on a loop, until I get the gist.
‘You’ve been chastised? What do you mean, chastised? Have you been assaulted?’
He tries to explain but I can’t understand.
I know from his notes he had a fall because of a urinary tract infection, and we’ve been asked to go in and support him whilst he gets back on his feet. His yellow folder is a beacon of cleanliness in the room and I go to it for guidance whilst William arranges himself more comfortably on the bed.
‘I want Shreddies and Yazoo,’ he says, over and over till I understand. ‘Keep them separate.’
I go into the kitchen, wash a bowl up, put some dry Shreddies in there, and then open the fridge for the milk. Inside the fridge are ten packets of processed cheese slices, a loaf of bread, a couple of tubs of butter spread and half a dozen bottles of Yazoo flavoured milk.
I take his breakfast through to him.
‘Thanks. Thanks,’ he says, and ignoring the spoon, starts to finger-up the Shreddies.
I clean up a little, try to put the meds in some kind of order, and make some notes.
I go back for a tea-time call.
William is dressed but still lying on the mattresses.
‘Can I fix you something to eat, William?’
He pushes himself into a sitting position.
After a while I understand what he wants. ‘Four slices of buttered bread, Yazoo cheese, and a Coke.’
‘Yazoo cheese? I didn’t know Yazoo made cheese?’
‘Four slices of buttered bread, Yazoo cheese, and a coke.’
‘And count how many Cokes are left.’
In the kitchen I make space enough to prepare the food. I look through the fridge for the Yazoo cheese, but all I can find are packs of processed cheddar slices. ‘He must mean those,’ I think, taking a pack out.
I clean a plate and knife, and prepare the food. I take a can of Coke from the Cash & Carry size tray on the side, and go back into the bedroom.
When I hand the food to William he pokes at the cheese and looks distressed.
‘Yazoo cheese!’ he says, over and over.
‘There isn’t any Yazoo cheese, though.’
I take the cheese back into the kitchen and have another look. Right at the bottom of everything is one pack of Edam slices. I take that through.
‘Is that what you mean?’
His eyes widen and he reaches out.
‘How many Cokes?’ he says, pawing at the pack.
‘Thirty-eight, not including that one.’
He nods enthusiastically, and starts to eat.