A few months ago I was lucky to be involved in a project called ‘Portsmouth Plugged In’, which was a collaboration of writers and film makers who created monologues about Portsmouth. I decided to raise awareness of many of the elderly residents who found themselves housebound due to illness or disability but set this in a light-hearted monologue. I hope you like it.
The Flat on the High Street
The flat next door is empty again. Apparently the new neighbours are called Ahmed or some such. From Syria so Wan-Kee-Jon, our Korean postman told me. He said, ‘Don’t worry Mrs Andrews, they’re a lovely couple, they’ve lived in this area for a while. She’s something to do with pharmacy and he works at B and Q, in the warehouse.’
‘That’s nice,’ I said, ‘I like a man in a uniform.’
The flat’s been empty for a while now – since that young couple who shared jogging bottoms moved out. Left overnight they did, didn’t even say goodbye. I think one of them must have been a diabetic as Maud from 4b said there were needles everywhere. And they never returned my heat lamp. The one the occupational therapist lent me for my lumbago. She said she had some plant she wanted to speed along a bit ready for her mother’s birthday. Lovely girl, very thoughtful. Bit dark under the eyes.
Wan-Kee always stops for a chat. He’s a bit of a gossip but he wears nice aftershave. He asked me if my Daniel had been to visit.
I said, ‘It just so happens that he’s coming later today.’
‘That’ll be nice for you,’ he said, ‘it’s been a while.’
I told him, Daniel’s a busy man – big in lead piping – hardly has a minute to spare.
He was trying to look over my shoulder at the Lemon Drizzle cake on the table. I said, ‘You can take your eyes off that, I’ve bought it in specially.’ It was always Daniel’s favourite as a child.
It’s busy on the high street today. I would be out there myself if it wasn’t for these legs. Doctor Graham said he’d pop over later to have a look at them, weeping like angels they are, despite the dressings. Nice man. Always has nicely polished shoes.
He said ‘Cynthia.’
I said, ‘Mrs Andrews to you.’
He said, ‘Mrs Andrews, you need to rest them and keep them elevated. Stick a bit of daytime TV on and make the most of it.’
I told him, I only watch the news and wildlife programmes.
‘Me too Mrs Andrews,’ he said, ‘but a bit of Coronation street never hurt anyone.’
‘Coronation street? I don’t think so,’ I told him, ‘I used to go to school with Ken Barlow. Bit of a show off by all accounts, like the sound of his own voice.’
‘That’s actors for you,’ he said.
I said, ‘If you use the term loosely!’
Daniel always hated Coronation street – he said the theme tune reminded him of his dad coming back from work smelling of Swarfega.
Ooh here she comes, the new girl from downstairs, wearing next to nothing. In my day we left a bit to the imagination. Three children, all from different dad’s so Maud tells me. The youngest came round the other day asking if I wanted my front door cleaned as she was saving up for bedding for her pet mouse. I told her I used to have a pet mouse as a child, I called him Mickey. She said hers was called “Chantelle Louise”.
I said ‘I don’t think it will catch on.’
Her older sister pops in sometimes after school to eat all my custard creams and leave felt pen on my tablecloth. Last week, she asked me to help her with a poster advertisement she needed to do for her homework. It was all about a new chocolate she’d invented.
I told her, I said ‘Harper-Storm, you need more persuasive verbs and maybe a question to draw in your audience, like the ones they use in the TV ads.’
She got one of my permanent markers from the kitchen drawer and wrote, ‘Do you like Coc-o-lot?’ along the top.
I was thinking, not since the cold war, but I added the missing ‘h’ and ‘e’ so she didn’t get in trouble with her teacher and then helped her to colour it in.
I’d better give the kitchen surface a bit of a wipe. Daniel can’t abide crumbs and clutter.
Did you hear we’d had a new death? So far this month we’ve had Mrs Bottomly, Barry from the flats and now old George Fielding. He used to be our beat bobby, only eighty-six he was. They found him in Morrisons with his wife’s dress on, trying to climb in with the frozen broccoli. Poor old fella. The other week he was standing in the middle of town claiming the traffic was sending him subliminal messages to kill himself. I think they were going to section him, but he died before they had chance.
His poor daughter had to clear out his bungalow and kept finding jiffy bags full of soiled underpants, in hidden places.
‘Dementia, it just keeps on giving,’ she told Maud.
I see the newsagents ‘For Sale’ sign is up at last. Harry had been there for years. He had a smashing head of hair. Always wore a vest – and he could play the trumpet. He used to be in one of those brass bands that march up and down Dudley Street. Some daft name like the Latch and Colander shapers brass ensemble or some such. I’ve always liked a brass band. There’s nothing like the puffed out cheeks of a horn blower with fleckles of spittle on his impeccably ironed shirt, and the subtle waft of mothballs mixed with carbolic, as he belts out Onward Christian Soldiers.
His wife’s still alive though, she was from up north somewhere. They met whilst he was doing his National service, so Wan-Kee told me. I can picture him now, staring into her eyes whilst her whippet nibbles on his Battenburg; dancing the night away at the “Hocklesworth Ferret and Pigeon Fanciers” annual dinner and dance. I never liked Northerners.
Daniel’s girlfriend is a northerner. It must be nearly six years they’ve been going out now. He said he’d bring her down when they’re free. Be nice to meet her.
I see they’ve started knocking down the old picture house, putting up some more flats. Nigel next door told me they were going to be social housing. He was thinking of applying for one himself. He did tell me who the building company was but I was distracted by his rather short shorts. He was sitting on my padded velour recliner with his legs akimbo, complaining about the rod drilling and whistling builders. There was a strange netting protruding from his inner thigh, which looked like a couple of satsumas about to commit armed robbery. I thought I should mention it but then his mobile went off and he made a quick exit. I gave the chair a once-over with a J-cloth, just in case.
Simon’s just phoned. Somethings come up and he can’t make it after all.
I told you he was a busy man – I wouldn’t want to get in the way of him making his millions.
He said, ‘I’ve sent you a bunch of flowers and I promise I’ll ring when I next have a window.’
I said, ‘don’t you be worrying yourself, I’ve got a lot on today anyway what with one thing and another.’
Better put the cake away. Might even save a piece for Wan-Kee.