Saturday, 15 October 2011


My neighbour, whom I’ll call John, is pretty slow now, physically.  It took ten minutes to get him from his chair to the car, one step at a time, supported by his stick in one hand and my arm in the other.  He has his techniques for these familiar manoeuvres, though – stick in left hand descending the steps whilst gripping the rail with his right; get bum onto car seat first, stow the stick away and, if necessary, call for assistance in getting legs in and clear of the car door, and so forth – John is ninety-one in his body but, thank goodness, still in his seventies in his mind.
The reception girls at the dentists’, when we got there, rallied round to get him into play.  One of them said to me afterwards that this was what she liked best about the job – “Well, it’s a bit of fresh air, isn’t it?”, but I think it went deeper than that for her.  As we were getting him out of the car, he glanced down.  “Oh my goodness, I’ve come out in my slippers!”  He grinned impishly, seeing a way through the pain.  “Do you think I should go back and change?”
Eventually, when he was installed in the chair, the diagnosis was as expected: an incipient abscess behind the right canine.  I took notes about the details of the treatment and prognosis (antibiotics followed by a further consultation in a week, basically), to be passed on to his daughter (call her Barbara), whose emergency  call at 8 a.m. had got me involved in the first place, and we loaded John back into the car.  The dentist and his nurse transformed into carers and opened the French windows in the surgery to make this easier.  I delivered John back home, administered the first dose of drugs, phoned Barbara to make sure she would be au fait when she got in, made sure he was comfortable, and raced back next door for a stiff sherry.
I called this ‘Speed’, because, for John, it was a fast-moving adventure despite everything, and for me, the morning whizzed by.  It’s all relative, isn't it?


  1. That's a great story. And highly prescient (is that the word?) for the world in which most of are starting to live, even here in the Devon slow lane. If only there were more recognition of this.

    I like my WV: pidgewo. Reminds me of your doves.

  2. It is. And I wonder what sort of old people we shall be. I know the sort I'd like to be, but things don't necessarily work out as you hope.