Friday Flash Fiction – Digital Dialogue – Absence

‘Hello, is that Luke?’

‘Yes.’

‘It’s Ali.’

‘Who?’

‘Ali, Ben’s friend.’

‘Umm…’

‘Sixth form, best man at Ben’s wedding?’

‘Oh, er yes, so why are you calling?’

‘Have you heard from Ben?’

‘Not since Christmas was cancelled.’

‘Oh it’s just that I, we were wondering… we haven’t been able to contact him.’

‘Why do you need to contact him?’

‘We don’t, we just wondered why none of us had heard from him and they missed the quiz evening again.’

‘I didn’t know my brother was so popular.’

‘Perhaps I could ring your mother?’

‘I hardly think so as she’s been dead for eight months.’

‘Oh er I am so sorry, she looked fine at the wedding.’

‘She was fine at the wedding, anyway, I must cut you off, conference call coming up…’

‘Hi, Ali?’

‘Yup.’

‘It’s me.’

‘Who’s me?’

‘Louise, Tina’s sister, chief bridesmaid, top table?’

‘Louise, of course, sorry I didn’t get back in tou… answer your messages.’

‘That’s not why I’m calling. Have you seen Ben?’

‘No. I’ve been ringing round everyone, no one’s seen or heard from him, phone’s dead.’

‘Oh Ali, I’m really worried now, same with Tina, she hasn’t been on Facebook for weeks.’

‘You were right to call me, but don’t panic; what about your parents?’

‘They’re worried, I mean we’re not one of those families who call all the time, but she’s not answering in our WhatsApp group or anything.’

‘Has anyone been round their flat?’

‘No, Mum and Dad are isolating and I’m on a Scottish island.’

‘Oh so you did get that croft? What about her work?’

‘She’s furloughed.’

‘Now don’t worry, I’ll get in contact with Ben’s company, even if he’s still working from home they would know if he’s on leave. ’

‘Tina would have said if they were going on holiday, she was always talking about going on a proper holiday again.’

‘TG Services, how can I help?’

‘Can I speak to Ben Chambers please?’

‘Chambers, chambers… ben? Chaos here, everyone working from home, except me… I don’t know the name, what department?’

‘Actually I’m afraid I have no idea, can’t you look him up on the computer records?’

‘No, confidential records cannot be shared with members of the public…’

‘Tom, it’s Ali, have you had any luck? No, nor have I, not a trace of either of them. Have you been round their flat? No of course not, you would have popped round last week if you weren’t in Belfast. I’m a hundred miles away so who’s nearest… Gemma’s in hospital, what happened to her? Call the police? I don’t think it’s that serious yet, I mean they could have gone on holiday, stuck isolating goodness knows where and we’re panicking for nothing. Okay, okay, I’ll drive down tomorrow morning make a day out of it. Have you got their new address? No, nor have I, have to message Louise, no I didn’t see her again and now she’s on some bloody Scottish island.’

‘Louise? It’s Ali again. I’m in their road, the neighbours are already regarding me with suspicion. I couldn’t even get in the building let alone find their flat, yes used to be the old asylum, very smart. I have been lurking to catch anyone going in or out, no luck so far, nobody seems to know them, so not likely to find a friendly neighbour with a spare key, not that you can just go waltzing into someone else’s home uninvited… and what did the police website say? Surely the only option is to have them break in and … no I’m sure they are fine, but there could be a clue where they have gone on holiday, somewhere warm knowing them. Not that warm, no, I’m sure they didn’t end up on a Mediterranean island with a wildfire raging. You call the police then, more likely to take notice of a relative, and you will have to give permission for a search…  ’

ARE YOU SURE YOU WANT TO READ BEN AND TINA’S STORY?

Silly Saturday – The Other Olympics

Missing out on the Olympics, wish you were there?

Why not hold your own Olympics at home?

OPENING PARADE
TEN METRE SPRINT
OLMPIC ROAD RACE AND TIME TRIALS
ROWING
SYNCHRONISED DIVING
JAVELIN
LETTERBOX RACE – SPRINT DOWN THE ROAD TO POST A LETTER BEFORE COLLECTION TIME.
RACE WALKING – YOUR LOCAL TOWN MAY PROVIDE THE IDEAL COURSE.
CONSULT YOUR DOCTER BEFORE ATTEMPTING THE AROUND TOWN MARATHON
FURNITURE CLIMBING IS ONE OF THE NEW EVENTS AT THE 2021 HOME OLYMPICS
GOOD LUCK EVERYONE

Friday Flash Fiction – Fall

                                                             

There was a word that made Mary shudder; she seemed to hear it everywhere she went. It was a four letter word beginning with F… FALL. In conversations it was usually preceded with phrases such as;

Did you hear Mrs. Burton had a nasty…

Of course she was never the same after her…

He had just got off the bus when…

The Waitrose staff were very good when she had her…

Most infuriating of all was her own daughter’s loud voice as they negotiated National Trust Gardens.

Mind you don’t…

Like death, falls were something that happened to other people, usually The Elderly and Mary did not include herself in that category. Why, she was the same age as The Queen and David Attenborough, Her Majesty wasn’t elderly and Sir David certainly wasn’t. There were other terms and words that Mary avoided; stairlifts, wheelchairs, mobility aids and that condition Mary couldn’t even utter to herself, frequently referred to in advertisements during daytime television.

As Mary briskly walked down the high street, she noticed with distaste that Betty was cheerfully pushing a shiny red three wheeled contraption.

‘My son bought it for me last week, after my fall’ explained Betty proudly.

But however sprightly Mary felt, she found herself being very careful, not wanting to end up like that woman on Tuesday.

There had been a circle of concerned people outside Somerfield’s and a young man with a mobile phone had taken charge. Sprawled in the middle of the pavement was an old lady, her skirt up past her knees in a most undignified manner. Mary had scurried by, making a mental note to always wear slacks when she went out.

At the door to the ‘Cosy Teapot’ she took the two steps up carefully to make a dignified entrance. Her daughter Catherine was already there.

‘I thought we’d sit downstairs mother, you don’t want to have a fall on those rickety stairs.’

Mary ignored that remark.

‘You’re looking very tired this morning Catherine, perhaps it’s the menopause’ she said, as the young waiter came to their table.

‘Well,’ said the younger woman, obviously keen to relate a drama ‘we were fast asleep last night when the phone suddenly rang; I looked at the clock, it was three thirty a.m. my heart was thumping, I thought it must be bad news from Australia or you taken ill.’

‘Why would you think I might be ill?’ Mary interrupted.

Catherine carried on regardless. ‘To my relief it was only Careline; Miss Brown next door had fallen out of bed and couldn’t get up. We had to go round with the spare keys to let the ambulance people in. Next time we’ll take a torch; it took us ages to find the light switches… and Miss Brown, she was wedged on the other side of the bed. When the ambulance men finally came they asked if she was my mother! I’m sure they thought it was our fault her house is such a mess. But they were quite jolly, checked her blood pressure, got her back into bed, filled in lots of forms and declared she was fine. By that time it was five a.m.’

‘That old woman should have gone in a home years ago’ said Mary unsympathetically.

‘She’s younger than you Mother… hmm you could have one of those Careline buttons, just in case.’

‘Certainly not.’ Mary cringed at the idea of neighbours and medics tramping round her bedroom in the middle of the night and changed the subject. ‘Rita had her own drama the other day, when it was so hot; her daughter took her shopping and they were outside Asda when her daughter suddenly fainted. After much kafuffle, they were both sat on chairs inside Asda and the manager came rushing over and patted Rita’s hand, asking if she was alright. She told him indignantly she was fine, it was her daughter. We had a good laugh over that.’

The two women tucked into their cake.

‘…anyway, what have you been doing this week Mum?’

‘The old people’s lunch club started back yesterday and we had a new volunteer. You’ll never believe what she said to me “Here’s a spare seat dear.” I told her in no uncertain terms. “I’m serving not eating.”

She wondered what Catherine found so funny.

That afternoon Mary was pottering in her garden, glad she didn’t require a gardener. Her grandson mowed the lawn, put her hanging baskets up and did some of the heavier jobs; he enjoyed doing it. The garden was one of the many reasons why she refused to be shoe horned into some pokey flat

Mary was a compulsive dead header and was tidying her favourite basket which hung from the shed wall. One dead bloom eluded her, but if she just stretched a little… suddenly her foot slipped off the edge of the path.

She couldn’t believe she was lying on the ground, but was greatly relieved no one had seen. This wasn’t a fall, just a slip and she was sure she could get up; with the help of the wall and the trellis she pulled herself triumphantly to her feet. Not a fall, not a drama, but perhaps it was time she went indoors to have a nice cup of tea and watch Countdown; she could rinse that spot of blood off her hands while the kettle was boiling.

As she moved cautiously up the path to the back door she heard sirens screeching. This used to be such a quiet street she mused, someone must be causing trouble. Loud rustling noises caused her to turn round; a policeman was climbing over her wall, he must be chasing a burglar.

‘Wrong garden’ she tried to call, but he rushed over to her.

‘Are you alright madam?’ he asked, before replying to his radio. ‘PC476, re. report of elderly lady collapsed in garden, I’m dealing, ambulance in attendance.’ He turned to Mary. ‘Lucky for you an old man over the back saw you out of his bedroom window, knew he couldn’t help, so he dialled 999. Now, we’ll get you into the house and open the front door for the paramedics.’

The opening of the front door revealed two men in green and several concerned neighbours. She tried to protest.

‘I’m fine, there’s been a terrible mistake.’

To her horror she heard the ambulance man say to her neighbour ‘Does she often get confused or have falls?’     

FOR MORE SHORT STORIES DIP INTO THE CHOCOLATES – ONLY 99 PENCE             

Sunday Short Story – Quarantine

When Lynne arrived at her bubble friend’s house for their morning coffee she was surprised to find Eleanor in a state of agitation.

Are you okay, the effects of the second jab?’

‘Yes, no… let me get the coffee and I’ll tell you my news.’

Lynne could not imagine what the news could be, not much happened in Covid times and certainly nothing to put her friend in such a state, but there was something different about the house. The usual vase of cut flowers on the hall stand had disappeared and so had the orchid on the window sill. As she followed Eleanor into the kitchen she was puzzled to see the cupboard door handles tied together with stout string.

‘Go and sit down Lynne, I’m just trying to remember where I put the coffee.’

Okay, I brought that jigsaw, I’ll put it on the dining room table.’

There was a strange crackling underfoot as Lynne walked into the dining room and she realised she was walking on plastic sheeting that covered the carpet. Eleanor hadn’t mentioned that she was going to have decorators in. The exquisite mahogany dining table, recently inherited from an aunt, was covered in a heavy duty plastic tablecloth, perhaps her friend was planning to do some messy crafts.

When Lynne moved into the usually elegant front room her confusion increased; it now seemed most likely her friend had been burgled. The fireplace looked bare, gone was the antique urn with its arrangement of dried flowers and the crystal vase Lynne had given her for Christmas was no longer on the windowsill. She glanced around the room and took in a bizarre scene. The glass cabinet had a heavy quilt secured round it and the occasional tables all had wodges of foam taped to their corners. The three piece suite was covered in throws that looked like they had come from Wilkos rather than John Lewis and there was no sign of the embroidered cushions.

Eleanor walked in with two scruffy looking mugs.

‘Sorry about the mugs, they’re the ones Anthony used to keep down at the allotment. I’ve packed all the bone china away. I’m afraid I didn’t have time to make a cake… well I have been baking, but not for us…’

Before any explanation was forthcoming there was the sound of frantic yapping and Eleanor went to open the back door for Covina, the little dog she had acquired from the dachshund rescue centre. The dog rushed into the room to greet Lynne.

‘You’re surely not moving house, Michael hasn’t persuaded you to go over there?’

‘Goodness no, I wouldn’t even go to that dreadful country on holiday; they’re coming back to England, out of the blue, arriving at Heathrow early afternoon. It seems they are allowed to quarantine with relatives, me.’

‘Oh that’s wonderful news, at last you’ll get to see the babies.’

‘Hardly babies, three and four now and if they are like Michael was at that age… my head spins just seeing them on Facetime. So I have taken a few precautions, I don’t want to be responsible for them ending up in A&E. Forty four years old and Michael still has that scar on his forehead from the fireplace at our first house.  I was going to ask, you know you said you would love to have Covina to stay if I ever managed to go on holiday, do you think you could possibly have her now?’

‘Yes of course, though I’m sure the children would be gentle with her.’

‘I’m worried she might bite them; the charity did say she was best suited to a quiet home with an older person. I remember that time with my brother’s dog when Michael was three; it was his fault of course, shoving his hand in the dog’s mouth.’

‘Covina’s hardly a pit bull, but I suppose tiny fingers could be a worry. I shall enjoy having her.’

Eleanor kept looking nervously at the clock, she had the hands free house phone and her mobile by her side.

 ‘Relax you’re all organised, except… perhaps now the charity shops are open again you could get a few toys for them…’ she looked at the expression on Eleanor’s face ‘or maybe order on line.’

As if in answer to that suggestion they heard the door bell being rung frantically.

‘Ah that will be the Amazon parcels; Michael asked me to get some Lego sets for them.’

‘Aren’t they a bit young for Lego, choking hazards?’

‘Oh dear, I hadn’t thought of that.’

Ten minutes later Eleanor had located the scissors she had hidden away and they manged to get the boxes open to reveal several brightly coloured Lego sets.

Eleanor examined the writing and pictures on the boxes.

‘Strange people and vehicles, but it seems only under threes choke, so that’s a relief. But really Lynne I’m getting too old for all this; you wait years to get some grandchildren, then they go abroad and then there’s a world wide pandemic and nobody gets to see their grandchildren…’

Two days later Lynne turned into Eleanor’s road on her way to the post office and was alarmed to see an ambulance outside Eleanor’s house. After all the precautions she wondered what mishap had befallen the precious grandchildren. She wasn’t being nosy, she had to walk that way anyway. As she got closer there was a further shock when she saw Eleanor on a stretcher being wheeled down the front path.

‘Oh Lynne, isn’t this embarrassing, Michael will tell you what happened.’

As her friend was loaded into the ambulance a frazzled looking man emerged from the front door with a wriggling, screeching child in his arms.

‘Nee Nah, Nee Nah, I want to go in the hambliance.’

The man’s voice was muffled through the child’s hair.  ‘Nice to meet you Lynne, I hear you have been a great support, but we’re here now; just as well now this has happened.’

What did happen?’

‘I’m not exactly sure; Mother was tidying up all the mess in the dining room after breakfast and she stood on some Lego and slipped on the plastic sheeting.’

Silly Saturday -Picking Pampered Pets

This could be one of the reasons ( muddy walks carrying little bags containing… ) why people who bought puppies during Lockdown are now getting fed up with them. Ironically, while shelters fill up with unwanted dogs, people who want to keep their pampered ( and expensive ) pets are having them stolen, because of the increasing demand for dogs during lockdown. If the dog thieves could be persuaded to only steal unwanted dogs…

Dog thieves can sneak away with your tiny pup without anyone noticing.
If you own a pangolin he’s even more likely to be stolen, so keep him on a lead.
WHY NOT CHOOSE A PET THAT NOBODY WANTS TO STEAL?
WHY NOT CHOOSE A PET THAT NOBODY WANTS TO STEAL?
How about a pet you can take to the beach to guard your towel and clothes AND is too big to steal.
PLACID PETS LOVE TO COME ON A PICNIC WITH YOU
WITH PATIENCE YOUR PET CAN BE TRAINED TO DO ALL SORTS OF THINGS.
IF YOU ARE BUYING A NEW PET, MAKE SURE YOUR GARDEN IS BIG ENOUGH
…and be careful if you are buying a pet on the internet…
Descriptions are not always accurate and you may not get what you were expecting.
Dogs are still people’s favourite pets and they conveniently come in different sizes.

Friday Flash Fiction – Back Home

I got back from the greengrocers’, dumped the shopping in the kitchen, put the kettle on and went in the front room to fetch the vase for the bunch of daffodils. Geoff was lounging on the sofa watching the news channel.

‘I’ll have a cup of tea if you’ve got the kettle on.’

‘Okay, I’ll just put the daffs in water.’

Back in the kitchen I put the vase under the tap and turned it on too fast, splashing my face and soaking my sleeves, but the cold water shock was nothing to the cold realisation that paralysed me and left me incapable of turning off the tap. Geoff couldn’t be sitting on the sofa, he had been dead for five months.

Shakily turning off the tap and clutching a towel to my face I turned to the kitchen door. It must have been an hallucination. Since Geoff died I had not had any funny feelings, no sense of his presence. Not like my friend, whose late husband seemed to have turned into some sort of household god, steering her to the right drawers and cupboards to find things, being ‘present’ when she watched their favourite programmes. If Geoff was a manifestation it served me right for thinking she was going out of her mind…

I forced myself to go back to the front room, but even before I lowered the towel and opened my eyes I could hear that familiar heavy breathing and humming as he did the crossword and followed the news updates.

Cathy, what’s the matter, you look like you’ve seen a ghost.’

‘I have, I mean I know you’re not real, perhaps I should have gone for counselling. I told everyone I was fine, after all there are families in this pandemic who have suffered far worse and lots of wives have lost husbands.’

Cathy, what are you talking about, you’re not going down with dementia are you?’

‘Geoff, there’s no easy way to say this, you died five months ago.’

‘Ha ha, very funny, I know it was scary, me being carted off in the ambulance yesterday. Hey lucky me, it was only one of my asthma attacks, negative for covid.’

Six months ago he had been carted off in an ambulance. It was covid, but he was lucky, no intensive care though I couldn’t go and see him. They let him come home, needed the bed no doubt, to isolate and continue recuperating; me to dial 999 if there were any problems.

That’s how I knew for sure he had died, not unrecognisable in hospital covered in tubes, me trying to talk to him via Facetime on my ipad… he was at home when it happened.

We had just had dinner. Geoff was catching up with the news and telling the politicians what they should be doing. I went in the kitchen to tidy up and make coffee, when I came back in I sensed the silence straight away. There he was, crossword still in hand, head back, silent, switched off.

Instinctively I turned off the television, thinking he would not want to be watching it now. Geoff had said when he came out of hospital, so relieved just to be home ‘Now don’t you worry if I die in my sleep, you know what they said about my heart, it’s a good way to go, better than those poor buggers on machines in intensive care. And I don’t want you trying CPR on me, you couldn’t do it right on that dummy when we did our first aid course.’

So I didn’t do anything.

‘Geoff, you did die, right there, five months ago, do you remember?’

Silly question, how could he remember if he was dead and why was I talking to a figment of my imagination… why was he talking back?

‘Cathy, if you think I am a ghost, come and feel me, solid as ever, too solid you were always telling me.’

He held out his hand and for the first time I moved close to him. His hand was warm and firm. Tentatively I put my hand on his chest, he felt real and his chest was moving, he was breathing. Five months ago I would have given anything to have him back irritating me with his breathing and humming as I tried to read my book. If he had walked back in the door then I would have hugged him… But now I needed to get away, this was the laws of nature turned upside down or I was going insane. I pulled my hands away and retreated to the doorway.

‘Geoff, I know you are dead, I was here when you died, Andrew has the DVD of the live streaming of your funeral at the crematorium, though I suppose that isn’t proof. Your ashes are in the cupboard in your office; I’m sorry, we haven’t been able to get together to scatter them, still in lockdown. I have your death certificate… and those clothes you’re wearing went to the charity shop months ago.’

He just laughed. ‘Well it seems I am alive and well, you obviously need a breath of fresh air to clear your head, where shall we go for our walk this afternoon?’

A walk outside, that would prove he was real, perhaps the past five months had been a nightmare; that would be easy to prove. I dashed out of the room. Geoff’s coat was not hanging on its usual peg. I stumbled upstairs and into our bedroom, his side of the wardrobe was empty. I dashed into what he used to call his office; the desk was empty. I opened the corner cabinet and the large grey cardboard tube with his ashes was still there. In the bureau was the box of sympathy cards and the neat file of paperwork Andrew had helped me sort out; inside the first plastic slip was the death certificate.  

My knees nearly gave way as I started down the stairs and Geoff sauntered out of the front room.

‘I’m just going to check my emails before lunch.’

I couldn’t let him go upstairs. Andrew had taken Geoff’s computer, I had my ipad, I didn’t want it. But the fact that Geoff couldn’t check his emails was the least of my problems. The Geoff who couldn’t be real was solid and could walk and talk. If we went strolling down the road, what on earth would the neighbours say?

Silly Saturday – Covid Community Caring Characters – Interview no. 2

Yes busy all day and a long day at that, we stretch ourselves to breaking point, but we know people won’t survive without us.

Why do I do this job? No day’s the same, never time to get bored, sometimes the load is very heavy, other times light.

We used to chat, but now we have to keep our distance. The good side of that is we can work quicker, we need to work quicker.

No I haven’t, I pride myself in never making mistakes, make sure I have read the instructions properly. We can’t afford to make mistakes, this is people’s lives we are dealing with.

I do ring the bell, I know some aren’t bothering now we don’t have to get a signature. It’s heart breaking knowing people want to talk, desperate to see another human being, they call out, trying to thank us, pitiful, but I’m already on my way to the next person.

No I don’t feel exploited and I certainly don’t want do-gooders boycotting the company. I need to earn money and I like being out on the road, by myself, out of the house.

Yes I have, four, the wife deals with all the home schooling, another reason I enjoy my work.

Vital? Of course, where would you all be without your Amazon deliveries?

The Game of Death – New Players

Warning: If you want to avoid the topic of death and dark humour read no further.

Covid 19 has made people think and talk about how people should die, with emphasis on not being alone, preferably with family. Covid patients in isolation have been unable to see loved ones.

In reality most of us cannot choose where to die or plan the scenario; victims of murder or major disasters certainly don’t have the luxury of dying in their own beds comforted by family. Awful circumstances such as terrorist attacks find total strangers holding the hand of a dying person, giving their death some dignity. As no one comes back to tell us, we cannot know if the surroundings and company or lack of it make any difference to their own unique internal solo journey. Celebrities often seem to have died ‘peacefully at home with their family present’ but folk lore and family tales seem to indicate that dying people often wait till the very moment loved ones pop out of the room.

Most terminally ill people will probably get the chance to opt for palliative care at home, though it can’t be guaranteed; they may need to go to hospital or a hospice eventually, but Covid has made it even more desirable to stay at home and leave hospital beds free for others. Unless everyone in your family is a medical person, carers will need help along the way or near the end; team work and various bits of equipment are required to make life easy for patient and carers. There is nothing to stop you ordering wheelchairs and all sorts on Amazon and getting next day delivery, but the National Health Service is geared up to lend what you need and the various teams helping you will be busy arranging equipment. The largest item is the hospital bed; you might die in your own home, but probably not in your own bed, however romantic that looks in films. The beds have to be plugged in and do all sorts of things. The bed and other items come with wheels and stiff pedal brakes impossible to put on or off if you are only wearing your slippers!

In the first few months of the lockdown I coped fine by myself with Cyberspouse. District nurses were trying to avoid going in any homes, but they phoned regularly with advice and to arrange some of the medications. They were ready to come out with their protective gear if necessary. Cyberspouse was happy not to have any visits, medical or otherwise, relaxing at home in the exceptionally sunny weather we had.

Later on, family help was more vital than keeping isolated and they took turns to come and stay; it was only in the last ten days that the district nurses came and arranged for Marie Curie nurses to parachute in with four visits a day. A helpful bright yellow book arrived promptly in the post. We were also glad a few times to ring the emergency numbers that had been sitting by the phone for months; night duty district nurses and 111 doctors. Marie Curie were excellent, compassionate and caring ladies and one chap. Visits rapidly increased and they made sure I had a night nurse for what turned out to be the last night, one of the few nights I was going to be by myself. They told me I was going to have wonderful Linda who had been doing the overnighter ‘forever’.

Linda arrived with a huge bag, rather like a mature Mary Poppins. I explained yet again that none of the family lived nearby, but they had all been to visit and my daughter was coming back the next day. It was a busy week in real life with two grandchildren just back in the UK and starting a new school and my daughter’s son starting school! Younger son had just got engaged. Linda was there to make sure Cyberspouse was comfortable, to organise the practicalities and make sure I didn’t miss the moment…

I later got a nice card from Marie Curie and they have rung me a few times to see how I am getting on. They are a charity well worth supporting.

Handy Home Hints

You might think your loved one is past the point of seeing the GP, but it is the GP who has to prescribe the drugs and you will have to go and sign for the ‘just in case’ controlled drugs as well as collecting various ongoing prescriptions.

It is helpful if someone in the family works for the NHS or has a friend in palliative care nursing … my daughter is a physiotherapist and had that very friend to ask for advice. She always made lists of questions and sounded professional on the phone, so we were well prepared.

After the death a doctor has to come and certify the death, either the GP or the on call ( 111 ) doctor at night. After that you must call the funeral director, but you can decide if you want them to come as soon as possible or wait a while.

Afterwards you will have to return all the drugs to a pharmacy, especially the controlled drugs, but unused needles have to be returned to the doctors’ surgery.

Darkly Funny Moments.  

The next day, Thursday, the funeral directors phoned to say they had not had the notification from our GP of the death. The on call night duty doctor had sat at the kitchen table typing into his lap top, saying ‘everything is going straight through to your doctor’s surgery’ but my writer’s mind thought ‘I have no proof he’s even been here, no piece of paper, was he actually a doctor?’ I was slightly reassured that nurse Linda knew him. When my daughter tried phoning our surgery she couldn’t get through and in the end resorted to using her internal NHS email. Luckily the information did end up in the right place.

One thing the district nurses requested unsuccessfully was a hospital bed extension, we had been expecting it for weeks. When a chap with a truck arrived at the door on Thursday morning I thought he was very quick to collect the hospital bed until he said cheerfully ‘I’ve brought the bed extension’. Poor bloke was embarrassed when I apologised that it was too late.

We had not seen much of the palliative care team from the local hospital who originally got us organised. One of the nurses had phoned the previous week saying ‘I’ll touch base with you on Friday.’ Sure enough on Friday the phone rang and she said brightly ‘Just calling to touch base’… so I had to tell her the news.  

Because of  Covid we were saved a trip to the registry office; instead I had a nice phone chat to Polly the registrar including Cyberspouse’s no funeral request. After taking most of the details she asked me my occupation. Oh oh, was I going to fail this part? I replied that I had done all sorts of things and she said ‘How would you like to be known in a hundred years?’ Well who in a hundred years would know I didn’t earn a living at it, so of course I replied  ‘A writer!’

https://www.mariecurie.org.uk/help/support/terminal-illness/preparing/what-to-expect

Friday Flash Fiction – Open Space

Cassie was feeling more positive than she had for a while as she saw James approaching on his bicycle for their rendezvous at the austere offices of their employer MPJ. It was not because the pubs were opening tomorrow, something to be avoided, or because she believed the pandemic was over, it was not; but her mind was open to new possibilities.

‘How was the ferry James?’

‘Great, it’s so windy out there on the water this morning, I love it like that, blowing the virus away; only a few of us on the boat anyway.’ He laughed. ‘Less than a week of the ferry back on duty and they have taken away my hire car.’

Cassie couldn’t help feeling a little pleased that once again they were safely separated by the water and a limited ferry timetable. Their several meetings at the offices had been good, making life seem a little more normal, but would it be awkward now she had declined to join his bubble? Would he try and change her mind after she admitted on Facetime last night that Doris next door did not want Cassie to create a bubble for her. Doris’ son and family were now 85% sure they would be over from the USA for their delayed annual holiday and Doris was hoping they would quarantine with her, be her bubble.

James keyed them in at the side door, ushering Cassie in first and keeping a safe distance. At the desk the lone security chap looked glad to see them.

‘How many in today?’ asked James.

‘Three, no sign of the boss yet.’

They walked up the stairs; even if they had wanted to use the lift James had put several bands of yellow tape across the lift doors. The corridor was silent and Cassie stifled a giggle.

‘Why are we whispering.’

‘Strange isn’t it, I didn’t realise how noisy this place was when it was full. Coffee first? That machine must be the only thing still working at MPJ.’

It was still a bit awkward – just standing there a few feet apart. He was smiling at her.

‘I like this, having a proper chat, I know it’s not every girl’s… wom… lady’s idea of a date. That’s what I like about you Cassie, up for anything. I love the way you aren’t worried about what you wear and don’t fuss about makeup and stuff.’

Cassie wondered how to take his remarks, she couldn’t imagine him doing very well on the dating scene, but obviously she wouldn’t either.

‘Has anything new been decided about work? The parents in my group are going round the bend. The children are going back to school next week, but it’s only for two days a week, then in two weeks it will be the holidays.’

‘So what do parents usually do in the holidays?’

‘Don’t ask me, what does you sister do with her two?

‘They are too far away for my mother to help out, they take some time off for the family holiday, that’s up in the air this year… the rest of the time, holiday clubs I think.’

‘All grandparents can’t be isolating, they can’t all be old and have health issues.’

‘The younger grandparents probably have jobs, or did have. Anyway, the boss still thinks we’re all doing a wonderful job working from home and wants as few coming back here as possible till we’re absolutely sure it’s safe.’

‘You can’t blame him after losing his daughter and that girl in my department, but it’s never going to be a hundred per cent safe in any work place, safe anywhere for sure.’

‘He’s changed a lot,’ said James ‘those who have known him a long time say he’s changed completely. Now we not only have to treat all the staff as family, we have to look after the homeless as well.’

‘I know, I got the email, I volunteered.’

‘I didn’t volunteer, it’s been dumped on me, have to work out the logistics of using this nearly empty building to make sure nobody in this city goes back on the streets.’

‘Isn’t that the future of offices, that’s what everyone is saying, but what do the homeless want? That’s what I’m going to find out at this ‘People in the Park’ thing this afternoon.’

‘Oh that, don’t you go taking in strangers Cassie.’

‘Is that likely, I’m afraid I’m not that much of a do-gooder, my home is my castle.’

‘Don’t I know it’ said James.

Cassie smiled to herself as she cycled to the park. Poor James, she was still managing to avoid telling him where she lived, but would she feel home owner guilt as she met up with these homeless people?

Luckily some overly sincere volunteer was facilitating the little gathering in the park, a couple of other MPJ people and five men and women and a dog. Cassie didn’t think of herself as good with people, but this little straggle of folk must be feeling even more nervous. She found herself drawn to the chap with the shaggy dog, Sam he introduced himself. The others were happy to let him do the talking, he was engaging and had good ideas. He needed a haircut, but so did everybody till the barbers reopened tomorrow; Sam didn’t match the homeless stereotype. Staying in a hotel obviously helped and perhaps he was recently homeless without ‘complex issues’. The more he talked the more fascinated Cassie was, how could such a chap have ended up with nothing in the world except a rescued dog? But what he said was true, how would putting these people in an empty office building help if they didn’t have jobs to regain their self respect. Where would the jobs come from in a post Covid recession.

When they broke up from their carefully distanced circle, agreeing to meet next week, Cassie felt she was at least part of something new and positive, even if she couldn’t see how it would work out. She felt a cold nose on her hand.

‘Sorry Miss, Sheba doesn’t understand social distancing.’

‘Oh er, call me Cassie please Sam, I like dogs, or at least I’ve never had one… I have got a pair of geckos.’

‘Really, how about that, I used to have some strange pets when I was a kid.’

Sam’s route around the park, with Sheba glad to be on the move, was the same path back to where Cassie had locked her bike. He walked parallel with her, keeping to the edge of the path, a safe distance, but smiling and chatting. Yes, Cassie felt she was part of something new and positive.

Locked Down or Locked In?

Like Japanese soldiers found hiding on remote Pacific islands decades after the Second World War, unaware the hostilities had ended, I fear I may emerge from isolation months in the future to discover everyone else has been out and about, holidaying and having fun. Scenes on the news of crowded beaches and beauty spots and anti racism protests, leave many of us wondering if we have missed a miraculous and sudden end to the pandemic.

One of my earliest memories is looking out of our upstairs window at sunshine and blue skies and feeling shut in. Until I was nearly seven, by which time my parents had a toddler and baby to cope with as well, Mum and Dad rented what they called a flat, but was really the spacious two top floors of a large Victorian terraced house. A quick glance on Zoopla reveals you would pay over a million and a quarter for such a house in that road today. But Mum had to lean out the kitchen window to hang the washing on a pulley line, suspended high above the back garden of the ‘wicked old lady’ ( mum’s words ) who lived on the ground floor. She never offered to let me play in her garden. But I certainly wasn’t a prisoner; my parents were always taking me down by the river or to Kew Gardens, Marble Hill Park and Richmond Park for fresh air and exercise. I feel so sorry for children literally locked into cramped flats because of the virus. Most children in England will not now return to school till after the summer holidays. While many are having fun and never had so many walks and bike rides with their parents, some children are isolated indoors because of their health or underlying health conditions of someone in their family.

We adults may grumble and some people have found themselves in dire situations, but we are not sheltering in a basement in a war shattered city. For writers, bloggers, artists and gardeners it’s just another day at home, an endless succession of days at home, but it’s okay. Obviously I could not survive without BBC Radio, books, music, the internet, television and of course chocolate.

When we were having our medical dramas just before lockdown, there was another patient who seemed to be following Cyberspouse from ward to ward. He had no visitors because he had a frail wife at home and no family near. I knew this because I heard all his conversations to medical staff and on his mobile, but his greatest upset was not having anything to read and nobody seemed able to get him a newspaper. When any medical staff asked how he was he told them he was soo bored. He was reduced to doing origami with the paperwork they left behind. By the third ward I made sure I brought him a newspaper and he was overwhelmed with gratitude. Boredom can be a worse threat than a pandemic.

What things have been essential for your survival in isolation?