My mum is a complete technophobe. She refuses to allow me to set her up with a little computer, laptop or even a smart phone. It has taken us long enough to persuade her to use the new mobile phone we bought for her to use during her frequent stays in hospital. it took even longer to encourage her to leave it switched on during the day to enable us to call her for updates. She seemed to think we would sense when she had it switched on and call her during those brief interludes. I am sure she still thinks we get some kind of ‘Big Brother’ alert when she has the device in her hand, and she gets irritated when the calls don’t flood in.
Since she has spent weeks at a time in the Norfolk and Norwich hospital, she is known as a ‘frequent flyer’ and many of the staff recognise her face when she arrives for another stay. Equally, she has made many new acquaintances during her time ‘inside’. The problem arises when the new friends ask mum for her email address and she tells them she doesn’t have one, preferring instead to write a proper letter. Most just back away slowly with a sympathetic smile, but one or two have pounced on me and I have ended up sharing my own email address or Facebook details, just to allow them to give and receive updates. I don’t mind. Some of the ladies she has become friendly with are real characters.
During her most recent stay, much of it on Gunthorpe Ward which is a sister ward to the two main respiratory wards she is most familiar with, she has spent the longest spell of time in a bed opposite a white-haired, very pretty, older lady, called Jean. As I go to the ward to visit mum, I tend to put my hand up and smile, maybe saying ‘hello’ as I pass the other ladies’ beds but, obviously, I don’t intrude on their privacy. More often than not, they have visitors of their own.
Mum had another of the rather invasive procedures carried out during her stay and I wasn’t able to visit until the evening. She had left the ward before lunchtime and didn’t return until gone six in the evening, at which point she was extremely hungry. She might be poorly but certainly suffered if she missed a meal, or on that day, two. I arrived at the ward as she returned, moved her bags from the chair beside her bed and started to sit down. No sooner had I made myself comfortable did she ask me to head to the cafe and get her some fish and chips, heavy on the vinegar. I took this as a sign the procedure had gone well as she was so hungry. I headed out of the bay and to the wash basin where hands had to be scrubbed on exit and entry to the ward, with there being a ban on the hand gels due to the ward having confirmed cases of both norovirus and infleunza circulating. As I dried my hands, a gentleman came up behind me, saying he was glad he had caught me. He thought I was leaving and had been talking to my mum the previous evening with his wife, the lady in the bed opposite. They had talked about his life as an evacuee in the war and how he was currently writing his story about those times. This had led to my mum telling them I wrote stories and poetry and had been successful enough to have some published.
He introduced himself as Clive, yes another one, and we chatted about the books we were currently reading. He told me the writer who was writing his memoirs had also written a book about a man who had written hundreds of letters back to his beloved while he was at war and those letters had not been discovered by his family until he passed away. I had recently read ‘The Tattooist of Auschwitz’ and it turned out that Clive was in the middle of the same book.
When I returned from the cafe, complete with a healthy portion of fish and chips, heavy on the vinegar, for mum, Clive came over briefly to ask for my website and said he would bring in a copy of the book he had told me all about, which he promptly did the next day. We exchanged email addresses, with promises to keep in touch over our respective relative’s health. I still hear from one or two of the ladies who have spent time in hospital with mum previously and I am sure this new acquaintance will be no different. Anyway, I have to keep in touch as I have a book to return to him when I have finished with it.
As we walk life’s complicated path, we never know when a new friend is just around the corner, often in the most unexpected of places.