She was in a bad way: granny was weak, granny was not eating, granny was totally constipated. She went into hospital for tests, granny had a knot in her big intestine.
The doctors unknotted granny: she’ll need weeks of rest and recuperation.
It was Olive’s idea, a good idea, granny could rest and recuperate at Olive’s and George’s house. George was in hospital too, for a hernia operation, and would also need weeks of rest and recuperation.
“You Johnnie and me can nurse the two of them together.”
It had been a good idea, but became a bad idea. Olive had a violent fit; she was restrained (that means tied up) and taken to hospital. What could I do?
I visited granny and George in hospital. The good news: I’m taking you home tomorrow, I’ll bring some of your clothes. The bad news: Olive has been taken to hospital – a bad case of anaphylaxis caused by sweetcorn. I visited Olive, she smiled weakly at me, she was tied up and sedated.
Later back in Olive’s home I found five very small and empty cans of sweetcorn in the kitchen. When George is well enough we’ll thoroughly search the house for stashes of sweet corn.
I drove to the hospital to pick up granny and George, however George had had another operation because of “complications” and would have to remain in hospital for a few more days.
A porter wheeled granny to the entrance and I went to get the car, George’s big, comfortable car. And there was some jerk trying to force open a car door with a big screwdriver. I picked him up and threw him into the bushes; I put the screwdriver, that he had dropped, into the footwell of the car. A porter helped get granny into the car.
It was Olive’s idea, a good idea, I could rest and recuperate at Olive’s and George’s house. George was in hospital too, for a hernia operation, and would also need weeks of rest and recuperation.
It’s great to be back with Johnnie. He washed me under the shower, like he always does.
I’m not feeling too bad, just the feeling that I’ve been kicked hard in the guts – George says the same. Johnnie is looking after us. Florence and Larry come and help when they can.
I’m coping with the two invalids and doing my job by working at home with my laptop. A district nurse comes five mornings a week for an hour, yesterday she gave George a blanket bath. Florence and Larry come and help when they can.
After a week the next invalid arrived, number three, my daughter Olive. Johnnie had bought a length of soft rope to restrain her. George made a strange suggestion. “Bring the bottom drawer of my bedside table here, Olive and I tried a few things out after we got married.”
Johnnie retrieved something that was bright, shiny red and held it up. It was a one-piece body suit. “It’s a restraining suit for Olive.” I tried not to laugh. Olive put it on – Johnnie detached the head part (that was just too much). I had to laugh. “That thing there is a mouth-lock.”
Olive looked hilarious, but it worked, it stopped Olive from harming herself during a fit, the mouth-lock prevented her biting herself or others.
“It’ll make you feel better. Just drink it!”
“It tastes ‘orrible. I think I’m going to...”
“Hold your nose shut and lean over the lavatory!”
“Don’t you feel better now?”
“Sort of. What was it?”
“An emetic to make you throw up the sweetcorn you have eaten from a tin can hidden at the back of your undies drawer.”
Another indescribable noise.
“Oh yes, I feel better now, thank you Johnnie.”
“I know what I need now, a shower.”
“Then take your clothes off, Olive!”
“You know the best thing about you washing me? When you kiss me on the forehead and say: pretend that it was George.”
I was coping with three invalids, but it got worse. Florence was working in emergency at the hospital – she is a doctor – she was working too much – back‑to‑back twelve hour shifts and worse. Early one morning after twenty hours’ work she stopped – she stopped moving – invalid number four.
Larry likes cycling – very sporty – he swerved hard to avoid hitting a stray dog and hit the road – severe elbow and ankle fractures – invalid number five.
Johnnie is looking after us, all five of us, and doing a full-time job. I don’t know how he does it. Florence does not move, she just sits there, with her eyes wide open, and breathes. Larry does not move, he just lies there, he can’t move, he’s plastered.
Johnnie can make chicken soup and two types of vegetable soup – so that is what we eat – definitely no sweetcorn in the soup.
We are all wearing diapers, Johnnie too, he says “out of solidarity”. Someone once told me that the best part of life is that bit in the middle where you don’t need diapers.
I was putting the breakfast plates into the dish washer when the police came. “You are William Birdsall? Can we come in and ask you some questions?”
“Welcome to Olive and George’s convalescent home; and no, I have to stay with them until the district nurses come. Ask away!”
They showed me photos of three young men. “Oh yes, I recognise that one. He was the one trying to break into my car when I was picking up granny from the hospital; I tossed him into some bushes and put his large screwdriver into the car; it’s probably still there.”
“Your car, sir?”
“No, it belongs to George. I borrowed it. Didn’t I, George?”
“Johnnie? We have a report of a man named Johnnie who ties up women and washes...”
“Yes, yes. Ask Olive here.”
I unlocked Olive’s mouth. “Johnnie has put me into this restraining suit to stop me hurting myself and other people. When the nurses come, he’ll probably wash me under the shower. He’s very good, is Johnnie. My mother gave him the name Johnnie.”
“The young man who you identified wants to lay a charge of grievous bodily harm against you. We need a statement...”
“Oh no, he won’t.” It was Larry. “I’m a lawyer and I know that young man too. He’s got a record as long as your arm and, in particular, he’s got a two-year suspended sentence hanging over him.”
“Just one little, tiny bit of doing what he shouldn’t, like breaking into a car, will land him in prison. No, I don’t think he would like or want that...”
DING! DONG! “The district nurses are here – they’ll start by changing our diapers.”
The policemen quickly left.
I’m coping with five invalids, it’s hard. The Red Cross lent us a wheel chair and three district nurses visit us in the week. When they come they give Larry and George blanket baths and I wash one of the girls under the shower and push one of girls around the park in the wheelchair – fresh air and a chance to see something different.
I like washing the girls, I kiss Florence on the forehead and tell her that it’s Larry. I’m very worried about her. She just sits there tied to the wheelchair to prevent her falling out forwards. Her heart, lungs and digestion are working automatically; the nurses feed her through a tube.
I try to keep them all happy especially Larry who can’t move and is very worried about Florence. The nurses have warned me to slow down and look after myself: you don’t want to be the sixth invalid.
I kiss the girls for the Nth time today, I suddenly sit down very fast, I realise that I’ve gone over the edge.