There are three brightly-coloured, classic American cars parked nose-to-fin along the side of the road. It’s strange to see them in this thoroughly-suburban scene, like I’ve wandered into a perverse mash-up of LA Confidential and One Foot in the Grave. Frank’s bungalow is a little further up. It’s got a perfect square of grass out front, edged in pink cemetery chip, a white fountain in the centre with a cherub continuously urinating into a scallop shell. A little closer and you can see that everything is plastic, including the grass, which explains the sharpness of the lines and the colours, everything accentuated by the sky, low and grey, rumbling, threatening rain.
Frank answers the door, hunched over a zimmer frame, his dressing gown swinging open, his ascitic belly poking through.
‘Thanks for seeing me,’ he wheezes. ‘Come on in.’
The bungalow is meticulously clear. It’s a laminate floor and it squeaks a little as Frank wheels his zimmer frame along it. He leads me through to the conservatory out back, the most prominent feature being a small-scale but perfectly detailed drinks bar – a Thirties-themed affair, with optics against a checkerboard background of black and white glass tiles, shelves of fancy cocktail glasses, old cigarette trays, mats, ice buckets, the whole deal.
It’s a routine assessment. Frank only needs a little care support since coming back from hospital. Everything else, all the nursing and therapy needs, have already been taken care of. It doesn’t take long.
Whilst I’m finishing off the paperwork, writing out the folder notes, Frank readjusts his dressing gown and looks out into the garden. It’s a larger version of the one out front, although the lawn, the silver birch and the shrubs look real enough. He’s hung thick skeins of white plastic flowers everywhere, to give the scene a rich, Hawaiian look, I suppose. The sky is so dark with the coming rain, they stand out with a strange intensity.
‘Watch out! Here it comes!’ says Frank, as the rain suddenly clatters down on the conservatory roof. The noise is so loud, he even has to shout a little. ‘It’s like being on stage!’ he says. ‘The crowd goes wild…’ And he waves out at the garden, smiling, nodding his head right and left, graciously accepting the applause, as the white plastic flowers shiver in the rain.