Joan is sitting in the sunshine on an antique walnut chair, an aluminium walking stick planted squarely in front of her, both hands resting on it, giving her the appearance of a graven warrior leaning on their sword. I have to say she’d look pretty good in a helmet, with a nose-piece and slits for eyes; as it is, her only armour is a tweed skirt, silk blouse and metallic hairdo.
And if Joan is a warrior, her declared enemy would be Sciatica.
‘I’m a martyr to it,’ she says, thumping her stick on the carpet twice, which she does periodically, to emphasise the key points.
‘Not that I let it win. I know what you, the doctor and everybody else will say. You’ve got to keep moving Joan. Physiotherapy and pain relief, that’s the ticket. But all these pills and potions turn me into an absolute zombie, dragging myself around the place, moaning and carrying on. And when I’m in that state I’m afraid all I really need is shooting.
‘I must tell you something, though. You’ll like this. My friend Agnes came round the other day. She visits every now and again. Like the flu. She wanted me to drive her to the mobility shop to help her choose a three-wheeled walker. I said can’t you just order it online like everyone else? But she hasn’t the faintest idea what online means. She thinks it’s something to do with the railway. Still, I don’t mind the odd excursion. I drive, of course. Everything’s a fuzz close up, but so long as the sun’s high enough I get by. So we drove over to the mobility shop, and spent an absolute lifetime looking at their range. I suggested the most solid looking thing with a basket on the front and a seat to sit on if it came to that. But Agnes being Agnes she went for the racy red affair, a three-wheeler, something that wouldn’t look out of place at Brands Hatch. Whilst she was fiddling around with a cheque book – a cheque book! I mean, honestly. She’s like something out of the Middle Ages! – Anyway, whilst she was driving the assistant absolutely insane with her chaotic bag and her endless requests, I took the opportunity to nip next door to the paper shop to get my copy of the Financial Times. Whilst I was in there chatting to the shopkeeper about call centres or somesuch, a woman came into the shop and asked me if I knew a woman with a red three-wheeled walker. So I said Yes, I’m afraid I do. So she said Well she’s just fallen over!’