not exactly Lear

Zikri and I have been asked to do an environmental assessment on a patient.

‘What is this environmental assessment? What do they mean environmental assessment?’ says Zikri, saying it so emphatically again and again it sounds like a sneezing fit. He rapidly flips the page backwards and forwards like he’s trying to shake the sense out of it by main force. ‘They’ve already said it’s unhygienic and dreadful. Faeces on the floor etcetera, a terrible mess. What more do they think I can add to that? Hmm? A colour chart?’
I love working with Zikri. He’s a zesty combination of warmly humane and emphatically pragmatic. With his slightly greying goatee and his steel framed glasses, and his habit of staring at you with his mouth slightly open, like he’s savouring everything you have to say, and preparing himself to jump in with warm words of praise or a stinging rebuke. He’s the best teacher you never had. He’d have made a great theatre director, or maybe an oncologist. You could take any amount of criticism from Zikri and still think he’d given you a compliment.
‘He asked Anna to leave. So she did. She wasn’t able to complete the assessment, but she was there long enough to get this much done. Nowhere does it say she thinks he lacks capacity. And now we’ve been asked to go in and do an environmental assessment. I think all we’ll be doing is making him angrier and less inclined to co-operate than he already is.’
Zikri takes his glasses off and pinches the top of his nose.
‘Well, okay, alright,’ he says at last. ‘What time do you want to meet there…?’


I’ve been to a great many scenes of self-neglect, both in the ambulance and latterly as a community health worker. But I have to say Mr Frederickson’s basement flat is by far and away not anything like any of those places. In fact, I’d go as far as saying it’s actually very nice. It has a warm, stripped pine floor; walls populated with framed playbills, woodcuts of seabirds, watercolour landscapes, family photographs; quirky, vintage furniture; palms in jardinieres, and a view through a bright sash window of a rich and well-tended courtyard garden. I can’t help thinking we’ve come to the wrong house. In fact I’m so certain that must be the case, I quickly check the paperwork as Zikri makes the introductions.

‘It’s lovely to see you both,’ says Mr Frederickson, shaking our hands and then tying his dressing gown more tightly around his waist. ‘You catch me rather déshabillé, but then I suppose it is the weekend, so perhaps you’ll let me off.’

He’s utterly charming.

Zikri looks at me.

I know exactly what he’s thinking.

Environmental assessment.

‘If you’d be so kind to pass my apologies to your colleague,’ says Mr Frederickson, ‘… the girl who came here the other day. I’m afraid she caught me at rather a bad time. I stood there with my hair all over the place. I must have looked like Lear on the heath. I think I scared the poor girl out of her wits.’
‘No worries,’ says Zikri. ‘We will be sure to convey your apologies’
‘That’s kind of you,’ says Mr Frederickson. ‘Now – how can I help you this morning?’
‘Well…’ says Zikri.

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