I wait down in the hallway with Maxine, the daughter-in-law, as Enid descends on the stairlift, footplate up, legs pendant.
‘That’s the way to make an entrance!’ I say. ‘All you need is a little pair of angel wings…’
But I’ve misjudged my audience. Enid returns my smile with a level of contempt one point shy of King Lear. She covers the last three steps in icy silence, and comes to a juddering, beeping halt.
‘Shall I help with the belt?’ says Maxine, coming forwards with a duck of the head like she’s running in to meet a helicopter.
‘Tsch tsch!’ says Enid, batting her away.
‘The lounge, d’you think?’
I go on ahead and line-up with Maxine by the patio window as Enid hobbles in with her stick, turning round a couple of times in front of her armchair before settling herself slowly and magnificently, stick planted squarely between her legs, hands draped on the carved head.
‘They rang last night, you know’ she says.
‘Who did?’
‘The hip people.’
‘They wanted to know why I hadn’t returned the questionnaire. I said It’s nine o’clock at night! What on earth do you mean, ringing me at this hour?
‘It does seem rather late…’
‘Rather late? It’s the middle of the night. I said Questionnaire? I’ll be speaking to your Chief Executive, never mind filling in a twopenny halfpenny questionnaire. The trouble I’ve had! They said We can fit you in on Friday. I said we’re talking about a hip replacement, not putting the car in for a service. Have you had a cancellation? No, he said. We don’t work like that. It’s all very organised. It doesn’t sound very organised I said. But like a fool I agreed. Well – (she stamped her stick). I thought if I said no I’d be pushed to the back of the queue. I’d never get the damned thing done. But let me tell you something. That was the worst decision of my entire life! There must have been a dozen of us, packed in like fish in a canning factory. Nurses running around. I say nurses. I think there was one actual nurse. The rest were pretend nurses, the kind that seem to make up the numbers these days. You cannot be serious I said. You’re not proposing to do us all in one day? Absolutely he said. We run a pretty tight ship. Do you? I said. Well – that’s interesting I said. You do know that’s what they said about the Titanic?

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