a big change of scene

There’s something wrong with the lift. It only says Please…Doors when it arrives, and then Doors when they close. I press the button for the fifth, and wait. After what seems a longer delay than normal, the lift says Going – and we go. I stare at my fragmented reflection in the textured steel door, wondering if I should have taken the stairs.

Doors says the lift when we arrive. It doesn’t say anything when they close behind me.
I wonder if there’ll be a sign on it when I finish the consultation and come back. Existential Breakdown, or something.

When I ring Mr Turner’s bell the door slowly swings open on its automatic arm. The hallway is dark apart from a flickering grey light at the end of it.
‘Hello Mr Turner! It’s Jim – from the hospital!’ I say, and go through.

He’s sitting in a riser-recliner watching TV – an old, black and white war movie, Stanley Holloway in a soldier’s uniform, cockneying around a crowded kitchen making jokes about tea.
‘I like the old movies,’ says Mr Turner. ‘They’re always about something.’

Apart from a bookcase filled with DVDs, the chair he’s sitting in, an adjustable table and the TV, there’s nothing much else in the room. The only decoration on the walls is a framed, three-panel picture set of Donald Campbell and Bluebird – Donald smiling and posing with a team of mechanics around the boat; Donald waving from the cockpit; Donald sprinting across the lake.

After the examination I offer to make him some tea. The kitchen is as bare and functional as the living room. Whilst I’m waiting for the kettle to boil I notice a tea tray on top of the little fridge. It has two tiny plastic figurines in the middle of it: a workman in overalls, a commuter in a suit and hat. The detail is really good. The workman has a tiny wrench in his hand, the commuter an overnight bag. I’m guessing they’re from a model railway scene or something, although there’s nothing else in the flat to suggest it. They’re standing nose to nose, which makes it look as if the workman is about to hit the commuter with his wrench. If he did, maybe the commuter could use his bag to defend himself, buying enough time for him to leap off the fridge onto the kitchen counter (although he’d have to be careful not to land in the toaster). I’m guessing one of the carers found the figures somewhere and put them on the tray for want of anything better to do. Whatever the reason, to freak the carers out, I reposition the figures so they’re now standing shoulder to shoulder at the edge of the tray, looking out. For a moment I wonder what it says about us: the carers putting the figures nose-to-nose, me putting them shoulder-to-shoulder. Although, in my defence, all I really wanted to do was have a big change of scene, so the carers might notice. Which they probably won’t. You can worry too much about these things.

The kettle rumbles wildly, then clicks off. I make the tea.

‘How’s that for starters!’ I say as I go back into the room. ‘A lovely cup o’ Rosie Lee!’
But the mood in the film has changed. The camera is moving from one character to the next, everyone serious – even Stanley – their faces blurry in the old black and white lighting. They’re all leaning-in to an enormous fan-grilled radio, listening to something about Germans marching into Paris.

‘What?’ says Mr Turner.

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