November 16 1998
10 Forsythia Grove
CORSETTSHIRE ZY6 4GT
My Dear Ralph
Wonderful to hear pet (at last) of your new-found aspirations to make something of yourself! I will be looking forward to your accounts of life as a Wortlewell town councillor, should you be co-opted (or, preferably, elected) to such lofty heights. It may, however, be advisable not to mention your membership of the British Workers Party, as most citizens around town will be giving you a wide berth!
Meanwhile, I myself was recently invited to attend a manual handling class in the capacity of the person the rest of the class (a group of carers) would be practising on . . . Tea, cake, and an allocation of funds, was mentioned as an inducement to materialize on the day. I did, of course, accoutre myself in my best – black – Jane Bond-style outfit and a long string of magenta beads (I could not resist these dear). As one who is almost past her prime, it is naturally important to still make the occasional attempt to look enticing! I was a little discomfited, at the outset, when I was introduced – not as Evangeline Tankful (Dame Commander of the British Empire) – but as a lady who had recently had a STROKE! I don’t know pet. I myself would simply have mentioned it as a slight indisposition, short in duration.
Most of these carers looked distinctly stocky I must say, which did at least fill one with the confidence that they could cushion any fall from a hoist sling suspended at height (the hoist mechanism itself being situated on a long ceiling rail above the person to be lifted.) All that was required dear, was that I should drape myself upon an electric hospital bed while a succession of carers (in pairs) attempted to fasten a harness upon me and swing my inert form – on a pair of handles with hooks upon them – on to the commode situated by the bed. Now, as you know, I am not at all inclined to trust in the competence of anyone else at all – and so I craned my neck forward to get a better view of the multiple sling loops that had to be passed through each other and connected to the handles. I also craned my neck upwards. Do you think it’s quite right pet, when cracks are running along both sides of a metal ceiling rail?
One doesn’t like to upset people however, does one – especially when they are strong-looking-types leaning over in a proximity that is practically nose to nose. I did try to secrete one or two loops of magenta beads over the handles, but these were (unfortunately) assiduously removed and I was told to keep my hands – and beads – to myself. Well, my Pixie crew cut, in honey blonde, was dangling over the ‘ropes’ at one end and my (slinkily clad) black toes were similarly dangling at the other. And then up went the whole ensemble, with one of these carers pulling at handles to my back and the other operating the remote control to move me to one side. I am relieved to report dear, that they did succeed in suspending me over the commode – and then to lower me on to it – without anything fraying, breaking, or generally seizing up. And I did, naturally, decline their invitation to actually engage in some ‘private’ efflux on ‘the pot’ – keeping my undergarments well buttoned and upon me!
I was also in receipt of a rather effusive telephone call from my (even older) friend Edith, who lives just up the road. Said Edith – who has been suffering from one or two memory issues in recent years – positively waxed lyrical on the quality of friendship that I have often offered, and invited me round to visit at my earliest convenience. It did occur to me that such a complimentary few paragraphs were suspicious, to say the least of it, as Edith’s usual telephone manner is characterized by extreme brusqueness and the frequent putting down of the telephone just as one is speaking. However, off I trotted to her demesne, and there she was – prostrated in a downstairs bed – having just been expelled from ‘No Return District Hospital.’
“Well, here I am,” I announced, in my usual chummy manner. “You sounded like I should come at once!”
Edith chewed the cud thoughtfully. “Do you know,” she said. “I have absolutely no recollection of phoning you at all . . .”
I have encountered the Cosy Old Sock, just once, in another local hostelry. In the year since his wife’s death (natural causes I think pet) he seems to have taken to the imbibition of one or two pints of a brew known as ‘Brown Stoat.’ And while recounting a story about the relocation of the door to their duck house, he told me that his deceased wife had been behind it. He characterized her as ‘she who must be obeyed’ which set me on the back foot somewhat – for it reminded me of my (also – thankfully – late) spouse, Sir Charmer Tankful OBE, whose predilection it was to describe me to his cronies as: the Memsahib . . .