The name’s Nesbit, Henry Nesbit. I am short and fat, I know it. There was no way to avoid the fact and I hate it when people describe themselves as ‘robust’ or ‘big boned’. They are fat just like me. I don’t particularly like being fat, but I’m not the type to dwell on it. If anything, being short is more of a burden but being old is worse than both those bloody afflictions.
‘Come on Henry! Let’s get you ready mate! Swing your legs round and we’ll sit you up.’
To begin with, growing old had not worried me. The hair that started growing out of my ears and nose were annoying, as were the occasional wiry ones on my eyebrows that would poke out like ariels. I got used to it all eventually though. As my eyesight failed – I simply couldn’t see them in the mirror anymore. I did think the grey hair and specs gave me a sort of sophisticated look, all distinguished like. And there’s no doubt that I felt more respected as an elderly man, which sort of counteracted my being short. No, what really irks me about growing old is the pain in the knees, having to use this walking stick, feeling out of breath trying to bend down to put a sock on a foot, then losing the other bleeding sock in the process. I hated having to remember to inject the insulin twice a day – at least I don’t have to do that for myself anymore, meanwhile my balding head makes it uncomfortable to walk in the wind or rain without a hat. I also lose my glasses – a lot!
‘There you are! All clean, here you go – you can do the electric razor yourself, can’t you? I’ll just fetch you a fresh shirt.’
I hate this place place though, I’ve only been here a week or so and don’t intend to stay long. It’s a home for geriatrics I reckon. They called it ‘Fairweather Lodge’ but the name is as misleading as the fake antiques scattered about here. It’s all dressed up as a guest house, but it’s got hospital beds and nurses in it, I’ve been sent here to die quietly, I’m not stupid! Put here by my son Mark who sold our family home before running off to New Zealand with his wife. We should have stayed there, we had a decent home we did. They could have moved in with the kids. He never writes anymore neither, he used to be in contact with me every day leading up to the sale of the house. He would even bring presents I didn’t want, and would ask how I was. I did notice that each visit involved something I had to sign, and a lot rummaging about in cupboards for things he wanted to take with him. He never brought the grandchildren over though, I haven’t seen them since they were little.
‘Right, let’s get you in your chair. There, put hand on my shoulder, oops – an in!’
The nights and early mornings here are the worst though. Can’t sleep, I get all anxious but don’t know why, over nothing I suppose. Sometimes I can see faces in the pattern of the curtains. The other day I was sure I saw my dear late wife June in the corridor. I reckoned it was on account of the pills they had been giving me, but since I had stopped taking them it had got worse if anything. I also hated being helped to shower, and having my toes clipped. The diabetes meant that I can’t feel my feet when I walk now, all tingly and numb they are. I tell you though they hurt like buggery when someone touches them!
‘Ready? How was your breakfast Henry, doesn’t look like you touched it, mate.’
If there was one thing I would like to do the most, it would be to run out out of this place without a walking stick, leave the insulin behind, and jump on a plane to New Zealand to see the grandchildren – Jayden and Mia their names are. Lovely kids! They need an elder in their life mind. Mark isn’t responsible enough, he’s basically a stupid teenager in a suit, he thinks he knows everything. All pretense, he should get a proper job. His wife Marama is worse though, don’t like her at all and she’s got a bloody stupid laugh.
‘Here we are then, there’s your glasses on the side table mate. Angela’s here look, she’ll be starting in minute – you should join in, get your circulation going! Anyway, tick what you want for lunch and dinner. I’ll come back and grab it in a bit – here’s a pen.’
He’s alright that fella. Gets me ready in the morning. Foreigner he is, a good lad, think he’s an Arab of some sort. Lovely fella – I just don’t like to talk in the morning, and he don’t push it neither.
Fairweather Lodge, Brighton
10:00am Music and Movement with Angela
10:30am Tea, coffee and biscuits
12:30am Lunch: Macaroni cheese / Pizza. Choice of fruit.
2:30pm Visiting time / tea, coffee and biscuits
5:30pm Dinner: Irish stew w. soda bread / Nut loaf w. gravy and mash. Ice cream
6:30pm Movie Club: ‘Lawrence of Arabia’
Today it’s Music and Movement. Bloody awful it is! You get a couple of old, clapping ninnies come in and play these God awful tunes like, ‘Knees up Mother Brown’ and ‘My Old Man’s a Dustman’. Prancing about trying to get us to wave our arms and stomp our feet. Bloody stupid! Then they roll this big red ball about for people to kick back. The nurse types would make me sit in on this caper once a week, I never join in though. I mean, the music alone! What are they thinking? Even my own grandparents didn’t listen to that old music hall nonsense. Maybe if they put some real music on I might shake a leg. Nah, not for me this!
I Would have a laugh some days though, like that time Fred came a cropper. Fell off his chair he did, flat on his face trying to catch the ball. “You’re supposed to bloody kick it Fred!” I said. He’s a silly sod he is, big square glasses that magnify his eyes as he tries to look at you. Makes him look like a toad in a brown cardigan, big goggly eyes and a toothless grin. Ex-Army man apparently, probably why he likes it here – always being told what to do. Nah, none of this is for me! As soon as I get the tea and biscuits down me at the end I’m off back to my room before they put that bleeding TV back on. The stupid stuff they watch. It all makes me wish I did have an hearing aid half the time, so I can turn them all off! Silly buggers! Oh, they’ve finished now, here comes the tea trolly!
All those years I spent testing my blood sugar, I should have been clever. Pricking those fingers everyday! I would do it on both hands, see. I’d change the finger each time – spread it about. Now, what I should have done is stick to my left hand, then my right hand would be normal, see? What happens is, over the years your fingers toughen up from all the stabbing. I mean that and the nerves giving out in them. Like my feet, all numb and rough they are. Makes picking this tea cup up off the saucer a bit of a wobble. I often spill a bit then sip it out of the saucer. I do like a Custard Cream though. Gotta dunk them quick mind, or I get it all down my front if I’m not careful. Oh here it comes! Matron I call her. All first name basis here though, Helen she’s called. I stick to calling her Matron, call it what it is – that’s what I always say! She’s Matron, there’s a couple of nurses, and the rest of them are basically orderlies – wheeling people about and emptying bedpans. I could never do that as a job.
‘So how’s Henry today?’
Look at that, just parks itself on a chair opposite me. I hate these little chats, I know she means well, but doesn’t half make me feel patronized. Like a school boy.
‘I didn’t get the paper again today, Matron.’ I normally like a paper in the morning, so I can have a look at it over breakfast. They generally don’t like that at the table in the main room, but I’ve been getting my breakfast in bed lately. They’ve stuck me in this wheel chair for the past week or so, and those of us who need driving about, they tend to deal with last. The bonus is we get breakfast in bed and can read a paper while eating it. If the paper comes that is! Sometimes they just leave it on the counter in the hall and don’t bring it to the room.
‘Oh dear, I’ll ask what going on with that for you, meanwhile I understand you are having a visitor Henry! Exciting! You’ve been wanting to see your son. He’s just rung and is at the airport now, he says he’s checking into a hotel first and has a few errands in town today – so we are expecting him for visiting time tomorrow. You could take a stroll around the gardens with him if the weather is with us, there’s no rain forecasted. That’ll be nice won’t it Henry?’
‘Do you think I could get another cup of tea please, Matron?’ I wish they would serve it in a mug, these dainty cups and saucers don’t go far. They’ll only ever give me one biscuit though, on account of the sugar. Oh look, there’s Fred trying to turn the TV on with his walking stick, silly sod! He’ll fall out of his chair again. “Fred! Be careful, you’ll knock the TV over!”
‘I’ll help Fred and fetch you a fresh cup of tea, but you’re not getting another Custard Cream Henry!’
She was alright really that Helen, I suppose. Look she’s back now to fuss about with her needles, test the old blood sugar levels and inject the insulin in my belly. I used to do it myself, I had those modern pen things, but it all got a bit tricky. Couldn’t hold the thing still, and the plunger’s are pretty stiff.
‘There, all done! Here’s the only newspaper I could find, okay Henry?’
She’s brought me someone else’s paper. Not the one I read, I’ll give it look over though. Hard to concentrate now the bloody TV’s on again. It’s just an irritating noise, especially the adverts. What are they watching anyway? It looks like some show about bloody donkeys, or something. Is that a donkey? Where are my glasses?