Saturday, 3 February 2018

It's a Long Way To Come For a Cheap Laugh

'It was Amy's birthday at the weekend.'

'Oh heck, I missed it. Again.'

'When we go out to the shops we'll have to get her something - I've got that packet of sandwiches but I think this calls for something bigger.'

'I'll just get up and we can be off out.'

It's like trying to contain a mountain goat in a playpen except the playpen is a hospital bed with the sides up and the mountain goat is my mother in a nightie.

There's been a spillage. When I get there she lying in sodden sheets. A nurse is just about to change the bed. She knocked over a cup of water. 

'The trouble is every time I laugh I leak - you surely didn't think this was all tap water did you?'
  
'I appreciate you being here but it's a long way to come for a cheap laugh.'

'I'm not poor - make no mistake, I don't have to live like this - it's art. It's an art project.' She waves a hand in an imperious gesture at the row of beds, each containing an old lady in a varying level of sickness. 'Most of these people' she explains 'are dummies.'

She wants me to take her home. I manage to persuade her to stay in the hospital, but somehow along the route of persuasion she gets the idea that I'm staying too, so she calls a nurse over:

'We need two single beds, side by side, so that we can watch television together and discuss what we've seen. Can you fix this?'

A nurse comes with the ward's cordless phone. Her sister, my aunt, is calling. She agrees to take the call and then carefully explains that her and I are going into business together because she's designed a shopping mall.

'I'm here now. It's in the very far reaches of West Hove. If you want in you're probably too late, but that's the story of your life.'

Some of this is the product of a disarranged mind - a highly creative and intelligent woman amusing herself in the tedious lilac corner of a hospital ward where she's been for too long. 

And some of this is indeed an art project.