Bell Book & Handbag Part V

There
is something strange about Bogdan

…There
is nothing like being abandoned in an empty ward without your wig and your top
set of teeth for making you feel old and unwanted. The fact that I was dying
for a wee didn’t help either.

‘Worse
things happen at sea,’ I told myself.

We
used to say that a lot in prison. Usually when somebody’s parole was turned
down or they got a letter saying their husband was leaving them or their
boyfriend had got another girl into trouble and was having to get married. But
to be honest what is the worst thing that can happen at sea? Yes. You drown.
And sometimes when the doors were locked at night and the lights were turned
out that was exactly what it felt like.

One
of the pills they’d given me must have made me nod off because the next thing I
knew there was this great big thing looming over me like…like a great big
looming thing. He smiled and apart from the gold teeth he looked quite
friendly. Still there was something in his eyes that made me feel sorry for the
lad. He looked so sad, displaced, which I suppose he was really, being called
Bogdan.

‘I
frighten you, sorry’ he said. ‘We go to ward.’

‘Toward
what’ I said, and for a nasty moment I wondered if he wasn’t one of those
maniacs who make a habit of working in hospitals to help old people on their
way Toward The Light. Not doctors I mean, although Beattie just happens to know
such stories. Sadly these only serve to bolster her rather right wing views on
foreigners. For some reason she has a real phobia about doctors from Sierra
Leone. I doubt she even knows where it is, but whatever the reason she once
contemplated amputating her own septic finger when Dr Ndolo was the locum at
the surgery.

Bogdan
thought I’d made a joke and laughed. I could see that with decent dentistry he
could be a bit of a heart throb. But then those Eastern Europeans are like
that. They are either drop dead gorgeous or they look like hobbits. There is no
middle ground. Fortunately my Bogdan was a bit of a dish despite the teeth and
if I’d been twenty years younger I wouldn’t have minded being left in a goods
lift with him at all. Well let’s make it thirty years then, maybe even forty.

I
also had the feeling that he wasn’t really the sort to go leaving people on
trolleys in goods lifts for no good reason. Call it a sixth sense but I felt
sure he was not as black as he was painted. I reckoned it had more to do with
him not being British than anything else. There is a lot of prejudice against
foreigners but at the end of the day they are only trying to make a living like
the rest of us.

Of
course if you listened to Beattie they were milking the social security system
left and right, taking jobs from British people and snatching the daily bread
from out of our very mouths. Added to that there was the TB and the host of
other communicable diseases that she claimed they brought into the country
because of their lack of personal hygiene and spitting. She didn’t exactly go
as far as saying that they eat babies but I knew the thought was there. Anybody
wondering how one small man with a dodgy moustache could wind up killing six
million Jews needed to look no further than the likes of Beattie Hathaway.

She
was exactly the same when Mr Patel was mugged for his takings. Beattie claimed
it served him right for scratching the sell-by dates off his yoghurts. She soon
changed her tune when he shut his shop for two weeks whilst his brother
installed attack alarms and metal grills on the windows. Walking those four
extra streets to get her newspapers not only gave her corns but a totally
different outlook on the Asian community I can tell you.

What
is sad is that you only had to listen to her to know that she had led such a
very small life. It could not have been easy living with all those neck-less
relatives. Buying Christmas presents must have been a nightmare. You couldn’t
have got a scarf or a tie on any of them. Not that she ever talked much about
her family except to harp on about how wonderful they all were, hinting now and
then that when she ceased to be a Freemantle she had married beneath herself,
but if the photographs were anything to go by you got the impression that they
were not what you could call a barrel of laughs.

For
a start there’s not one of them with a smile in any of her wedding photos. I
mean my lot may have been a bit rough but there was always something going on
somewhere causing the branches of the family tree to tremble. Sometimes being a
Truscott could be very exciting. If you added in the Openshaw and the Tappley
cousins the effect was mind blowing. When I was growing up the local newspapers
court report was a veritable who’s who of my genetic inheritance. Small wonder
I ended up where I did then?

Anyway
not for Beattie the thrill of a life on the waltzers that’s for sure. And I
don’t suppose she’d ever made love under Blackpool pier either. What I am
saying is that a narrow mind in the wrong hands is a very dangerous thing. Like
a hand grenade with no pin.

Despite
my forebodings the St Vitus ward looked a nice enough place. At least it wasn’t
mixed and Bogdan soon had me safely installed in nice clean bed which
considering it had only just been vacated by the recently deceased was
reassuringly cold.

The
sound of the safety bars being locked firmly into place had a familiar ring of
doom about it and my heart sank.

‘See
you alligator later!’ he said as he bowed and kissed my hand.

So
there I was, wigless, toothless and about to be sucked into care in the
community against my will. To be honest wearing a paper night dress doesn’t do
much for your self esteem either. To say
I was at my lowest ebb would have been an understatement and I had a terrible
feeling that things could only get worse.

© Ian Ashley 2014

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