Staff always joke about the Q word. It’s the community health team equivalent of saying Macbeth in the theatre – a witchy guarantee things will go wrong. But you don’t need to say it’s Q. It’s so Q you can see it. Q has settled over the office like a snow drift, a fog, a magic spell. It’s so Q I can hear the birds outside – although that’s not saying much; the seagulls are lined up on the roof opposite, a raucous, white-throated Chorus of the Apocalypse.

I’m helping the coordinator again, but it’s so Q I’ve even got time to catch up on my e-learning. Unfortunately there’s quite a backlog. I yawn, scrolling through the ones remaining: Adult Safeguarding Level 2; Fire Safety Level 1; Record Keeping; Information Governance… not attempted; not attempted; not attempted… a Sisyphean task, except Sisyphus has been taken off boulders and sat in front of a laptop instead. Immediately nostalgic for boulders.

Grace is suddenly standing next to me, in a diffident, two-metreish kind of way.

Grace is well-named. She’s one of the senior OTs, a therapist whose skill and experience is only exceeded by her great poise and humanity. I’ve never seen her cross or grumpy or out of sorts. She has such an unassuming strength about her it’s positively saintly. I can imagine her standing in the path of a tornado, holding her hair out of her face, smiling so sweetly and directly at the funnel it would immediately pipe down and wander off to kick through some leaves.

‘Sorry to interrupt,’ she says. ‘I just need to book a follow-up visit for that patient I went to see.’
‘Who’s that?’
‘Well – he’s down on the system as John Smith, but he likes to be called Frank Brandenburg.’
‘I know! It’s quite strange, but there you are.’
‘Frank Brandenburg? Sounds like a seventies detective. Brandenburg? You’re off the case. I want your badge and your gun.’
‘I think I’d rather be a Frank Brandenburg than a John Smith. Although John Smith is quite anonymous, I suppose.’
She waits with her papers.
‘What’s the story with the name, then, Grace?’ I ask her as I finish off the booking.
‘I’m not sure. His friend was there and they were both – how can I put this? – a bit unusual. I get the impression there’s some kind of street history there that might be interesting to go into if you had the time. He’s got a lovely dog, though.’
‘Oh yeah? What sort?’
‘A lab-collie cross. Although – who knows? It’s probably really a chihuahua.’

2 thoughts on “undercover

  1. We are really lucky. We live in a flat with four or so acres of shared space. We however have a neighbour who hasn’t quite grasped the notion of social distancing
    He has a habit of approaching me within breathing distance. When I see him
    I do a little dance, stepping backwards as he comes closer. I wouldn’t be surprised if he picked me up, pirouetted me around his head then placed me gently down in amongst the dying daffodils .


    1. Hey Sally!

      The four or so acres sound great! Everyone needs to get out regularly – which is why I think it’s hard when they talk about closing the parks.

      The lockdown has led to some pretty funny changes to social etiquette, that’s for sure! I’m sure there’s a ballet in there somewhere. Maybe you could audition for it once they’ve eased the restrictions (and invite your neighbour for the premiere…).

      Thanks very much for the comment – and for reading the blog! Hope you & family are keeping well.

      Jim 🙂


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