Monthly Archives: December 2015

Bubbles of chlorine . . . (episode 84)


10 Forsythia Grove                                                                                                    Outer Hamlet                                                                                                   CORSETTSHIRE  ZY6 4GT

December 24 1999

My Dear Ralph

Thank you for your recent epistle relating your adventures with old ladies on the  Care of the Elderly ward  you have been assigned to.  I feel you demonstrate quite a flair for this set of activities!

I myself have commenced training for the ‘sprint’ triathlon to be held in Bright Litton in some 9 months’ time.  I am not precisely certain how this idea came about, only that I may have mentioned a need to keep heart disease/breast cancer at bay to my neighbour Marcus, resident just around the corner.  And he may well have uttered one or two sentences along the following lines:

“What you need Evangeline, is to engage is some form of regular training, preferably with a particular end point in sight.”

And that is how he came to be pounding at my front door this morning, at dawn’s early light – for today we are doing swim training.  Honestly pet.  The whole thing seems quite brain-shattering, what with the alarm clock resounding in one’s ears (in ambient light conditions of virtually nil) and only having time for a teaspoon of fish, and a glass of grapefruit juice, before pounding across the park, en route for the pool.  At least, Marcus was pounding across the park – boxing at the air – as I attempted to trot along at his side, uttering one or two pathetic bleats as we went.

Over at the pool (which is at least clean, bright, warm and airy) there were at least 20 burly-looking/fast individuals cleaving their way through the water in four lanes.  I gazed at this spectacle for quite some moments dear, trying to determine which lane was the slowest/had the fewest individuals in it.  Marcus, of course, buzzed straight off to the ‘fast’ lane without a backward glance.  I had been instructed to abandon breast stroke in favour of front crawl as, apparently, only un-cool old ladies clad in hair perms attempt open water triathlons using this stroke.  I don’t know if you ever had cause to deploy front crawl during your SCUBA diving days, did you dear?  Well it is very  difficult to breathe.  One has one’s face immersed in the water for at least 95% of the time and only come up for air (on alternate sides) every third stroke.  I saw plenty of the pool bottom, I can tell you, in between multiple views of chlorinated bubbles being expelled from my nostrils!  I can tell that these endeavours will require practice . . .

Meanwhile, the Cosy Old Sock came round last night bearing a large, brown, paper sack, at the bottom of which was a very small, wrapped, object.  I unwrapped this parcel dear, and found it to contain a most engaging ring.  The ring had seven stones embedded in it, and the first initial  of each stone, spelled a word – that word being D-E-A-R-E-S-T.  I really was very touched, as it seems to mark a most companionable year  together.

Amongst our recent plans include the possible acquisition of a goat(s).  Initially the purpose of said goat was to be to keep the grass down, but then the Sock mentioned milk.

“You can’t have milk with only one goat I said.  You will also need a nanny goat and this will have to be ‘in goat-let.’ And what then will you do with the goat-lets also issuing forth?”

This did rather silence the Sock.  So we will see

Fond regards nephew.

Your aunt






The hospital neigh . . . (episode 83)


1A The Hole                                                                                                                            Hope End Street                                                                                                                  CARPOOL

December 6 1999

Hello Auntie

I am writing to let you know that I have moved out of the Nurses’ Home.  I found I couldn’t bear the long stone corridors, institutionalized ambience, and stodgy fare served up in the frequently empty canteen.

However, it may now be a case of ‘out of the frying pan and into the fire’ as the room I am now occupying is very dark and has a window facing out on to concrete.  My landlady is also fearsome and expects me to light all the open coal fires (4) each evening and deal with the mountains of hot ash turning grey in the grate at dawn.  I have found it very difficult to make firelighters out of old newspaper but, luckily, help has come from an inmate on the geriatric ward I have been assigned to.

This ward is in one of six in a very old hospital which I think may once have functioned as the city workhouse.  I have had repeated ‘early’ shifts on ‘Buttercup’ ward and this, I must say, has proved difficult in the extreme as I am usually sent to the annexe.  This annexe is only got to by going down a long stone corridor (of which there seem to be many in Carpool) and is virtually windowless.  I think about ten old ladies – in various states of disrepair – are ensconced in hospital beds in this section and, at 0800 hours, many of them are crying out for help.  The old lady that I have found particularly trying is one who has a gastrostomy tube (like a rubber catheter with the end snipped off) going through her abdominal skin into her stomach.  (At breakfast time, one is supposed to remove the spigot at the top end, insert a funnel, and pour down a sort of liquid gruel.)

This old lady. who I shall call by the name of Mrs Mare, can, once washed and helped out of bed, walk on a Zimmer frame off to the toilet.  The only trouble Auntie is that – the whole way there – she is uttering the most terrifying (and aggravating) series of horse-like neighs.  I can’t help but find this most irritating as I am also trying to help the nine other old ladies to wash, dress, and move about the ward.  One unfortunate morning, having adjured Mrs Mare to get the whole way from bed to toilet without uttering even one neigh, I heard yet another emission of this sound. And – without really thinking what I was doing – I galloped away from attempting to get one old lady’s set of petticoats on her person, screeched to a halt in front of Mrs Mare and said:  “For God’s Sake.  Just Shut Up.”

As luck would have it Auntie, one of those stern Nursing Officer persons (clad in navy blue) was just rounding the – usually deserted – corner at this moment, and she said.

“What did you say Nurse?”

I hesitated momentarily Auntie, as you may imagine, but it was only momentarily.  And then I said.

“I told her to shut up and, what’s more, I think you would have said the same if you’d been down here all morning!”

I think my words may have been a trifle incautious Auntie; I am currently waiting for the Axe to fall.

However, I must say that it has been of enormous assistance to have old Mrs Paed teach me how to origami firelighters out of old newspapers.  And I hope to be able to exercise my new skill this very evening.

Yours, just about afloat on the tides of Life.