[Spot the date, above. So you don’t get as confused as I am, most of the time. With all these spaghetti threads of story waving their drunken Hydra tendrils, constituting my life.
For instance yesterday… spending four and a half hours the moment I came out of a meeting: asking my father’s care provider why she hadn’t told me on Thursday that she couldn’t get care in place for him to come home from hospital, so Shaun and I rushed all the way back from Norfolk to welcome him only to find his room empty; sending texts to all the carers I could think of asking if they were available; finally getting care in place for the weekend… and then discovering the provider had pulled it because she doesn’t like the client making the arrangements; ringing another provider at five o’clock yesterday afternoon asking if they could produce 24-hour-care out of a hat till Monday; ringing the ward half a dozen times to say don’t cancel the ambulance… so my father could come home, where we’ve promised him he can die. Not that I think he will, now he’s home. Not immediately.
Settling him by his fire and Shaun’s pouring him far too strong a whisky and just being glad he’s here. Welcome home, Daddy. Can we resume our Virgil tomorrow? We’re nearly at the end of Ænead IV: please don’t leave us before Dido does.
(And now, of course, determined to sack the care provider since I’m the one that has all this hassle every time… but this will mean sacking all the familiar faces around a dying man.)
Next time you read about bed-blockers, this is what it takes. And about £800 of my father’s money, to free up his hospital bed for the weekend and have him home… Not willing to waste a penny of the NHS, am I, given the nothing there isn’t for Bink?
We resume the story we left off a week ago, after Shaun received his letter of accusation. You remember: he was guilty of Gross Misconduct. Four pages of it.]
So I went upstairs, with my telephone, into that bathroom piled high with cardboard boxes full of books and other possessions as the whole cottage was, and locked the door.
I’ve no idea why. I suppose I didn’t want Shaun to hear me. And worry any more.
You may have read my earlier post, The Sun King, about our dear, wonderful and generous friend Louis. And his gorgeous pad in Scotland which became my home for three lonely and beautiful months, when we had nowhere to live.
Louis and I were at Oxford together. Then we lost touch, and reunited some years later when he came and helped lead the Christian CYFA Venture Holidays Shaun and I used to run together.
The first time he bailed us out – he often has since – was after a house-group he came to in our sitting-room during Shaun’s second curacy. House-groups are smaller groups within a church, which get together in someone’s home for bible study, prayer and being nice to each other. After you’ve poured over a passage of Scripture and asked rather-too-obvious questions, you usually share prayer needs; and earlier that day I’d bonked our car against someone else’s bumper on the school run and was terrified we might be stung for £20 or so. (It was presumably another Christian driver, since our children were at a Christian nursery school… actually thanks to Louis, now I think about it, as he’d told us about it. Sadly, sometimes – not usually, in my experience; but occasionally – Christians care about their cars as much as the next man. Fair enough.)
In those days, living on a curate’s income or more accurately lack of as we were, £20 was enough to reduce me to a helpless sobbing jelly before lunch: as when the washing machine broke down (which it often did as we had a second-hand one and washed several bottom’s worth of nappies every week) and a friend fixed it for us… but the engineer can’t be cancelled now love ’e’s on ’is way so you’ll still have to pay the call-out when he turns up. Waaah-waaah. For several hours.
So please, I said, could we pray that the other driver couldn’t be bothered, as we hadn’t got £20?
Louis had a quiet word with me afterwards, and told me to send him the bill. The worry fell off me like Pilgrim’s burden.
Louis is Ben’s godfather, and adored by all of us. He is a very, very special friend, and the rest of our lot are pretty fed up with Ben, for bagging him at the font.
(I can say all this freely, because the chance of Louis’s reading my blog is nil. I was once reduced to mentioning him in the acknowledgements to one of my novels, in the hope that it would shame him into reading it. It didn’t. Hello, Louis?? Anybody out there? Helloooo?! I’m about to smash your grandfather Louis’s priceless set of Louis XIV crystal champagne glasses! See? Silence.)
So I locked the door, and dialled his number, and got his voicemail as I’d expected to. It was eleven o’clock in the morning, when Louis is presumably a tad distracted, running the London Stock Exchange.
I knew he wouldn’t be there, answering what he calls his cellphone, but I couldn’t think what else to do. I don’t usually leave a message for busy people.
“Hi Louis. We’re in deepest shit. Um. That’s it really.”
I don’t think I even say goodbye, before hanging up.
It was nearly twelve hours before he returned the call. Gone ten thirty. Ready for bed.
At that time you could still have two people on different handsets on the same line, so I listened in upstairs while Shaun spoke to Louis downstairs. Mind you, the cottage was so small I probably could have heard most of the conversation anyway.
The first thing he said, I could have predicted.
“Get a lawyer.”
Obvious. When you live on a clergy stipend, you don’t always think of the obvious.
It was the last thing, however, that was and remains so precious.
He and Shaun had been talking for about fifteen or twenty minutes, and suddenly Louis sounded almost vulnerable. Perhaps I imagined it, but there seemed a tremor of doubt in his voice. Almost as if he were asking us for reassurance.
“We’ll get through this, Shaun. Won’t we?”
Not you. We.
“Yes,” I suppose Shaun said. “We will.”
That is friendship. That’s why Louis is so special.