I meet her down the bottom of the alley. Litter needs picking again. She’s off to get her paper, leaning on her stick, dodging curled lottery tickets and discarded masks.
She’s a bit Daily Mail, if you know what I mean but she’s always out in her garden. Her roses are stunning, not a black spot on them. A proper gardener, she is, so I always stop and chat.
I ask her how she’d been doing.
‘He’s back in Shrewsbury,’ she says all weary. ‘Aspirational pneumonia. Went in two weeks ago.’ Her husband of 60 years has Parkinson’s. He had a mobility scooter for a while, ran everyone off the path with it.
‘He was a devil with it, thought it funny. Well, funny till he tipped the thing,’ she says straight-faced. ‘I never knew where he was. I reckon he fell asleep in it, that’s why it tipped. Lucky it was by the post office. The postman bought his scooter back. Said he was ever so sorry, he wasn’t allowed to bring passengers in his van, but he’d called a taxi.
He didn’t use it much after that. He was meant to be coming home.’
He’s at the Royal Shrewsbury. Our nearest hospital, 30 miles over the border.
‘They phoned on Monday to say they were sending him back to the care home. They’d moved him now.’
He’d been in a care home another 30 miles in the opposite direction, and she’d had no car.
‘He’s in the new one now, round the corner. Means I can go and see him, but they’re not allowing visitors.
Only he couldn’t come home because they didn’t have an ambulance to bring him.’
She worries at the mask in her hand, leaning on her stick, sighing.
‘Then he had to have another covid test because he’d been there another few days, then he had to wait another few days for the results. I’ve been ringing them and ringing them and it’s never the same person.
They were asking me what his hobbies were. What he did for a job? What are they doing that for? He can’t move, he can’t talk. Never mind asking daft questions just send him home.’
Her voice is weary with rage worn thin to nothing. I try to smile sympathetically. I don’t know what I can say.
‘Then they call,’ she continues ‘and they say they’ve got an ambulance at last and, they’ll send him back to the care home this morning.’
She tilts her head to one side. ‘So, I call the care home and tell them he’s coming back, and they say they don’t take admissions on a weekend.
So, he’d got to stay there. All weekend. Then it’ll be another covid test. And then waiting again for the results.’ She sighs.
‘We’re old,’ she says. ‘We’ve worked all our lives, you know. It shouldn’t be like this.’
We wait a minute. ‘Am gonna do my roses today,’ she sighs. ‘Get them all sorted, at least.’