A friend of a friend of a friend, wrote this piece and I felt the need to publish it here on Amazing Aliya. A little window into a world you might not ever get to see. Artists, literary or otherwise are everywhere…
24 HOURS IN THE LIFE OF SMALL STREAMS
by Abu Qanat
“BITCH, C*NT!” Rose addresses Lisa, her loving care worker with two of her favourite terms of endearment and bites her hard on the arm. “Rose, you’re in a lively mood this morning,” with warmth shining through her attempts at a look of disapproval. “Hello Doctor!” replies Rose, looking over Lisa’s shoulder.
Rose is a hard-swearing senior lady, living in a care home in Buckinghamshire, and next week the staff of Small Streams bungalow will celebrate her eightieth birthday. One of Rose’s favourite activities is to sing, and she knows the words to ‘Living Doll,’ ‘The Lambeth Walk,’ ‘Danny Boy’ and many other songs. Very often she is ferociously happy and upbeat but sometimes she will also turn on her care worker.
Born in London, Rose has suffered from an extreme learning difficulty all her life, and she has the smallest room because she has no personal budget to pay for her care home. She has never had the
love of children or a partner, but Rose’s life is by no measure empty of warmth or love, and her outgoing mischief makes her the favourite amongst the care staff.
“My pad. My knickers!” The care worker obeys the hard-swearing star of the nursing home who will turn eighty this week, removes her underwear and incontinence pad, and sits her on the toilet.
Rose has a typical and infectious smile as any eighty year old rogue you can imagine. Lisa turns to her young, male apprentice and asks him to take the dirty clothes to the washer. Rose shouts to the frightened trainee: “Can I sit on your lap?” and it releases the tension. Everyone dies laughing.
Small Streams is a bungalow in the outskirts of a small town in the home counties, adapted for use by those with severe learning disability. All the doors are held open magnetically until the toast is browned. One whiff of brown toast and the current to the magnets is cut, all the doors slam shut, the budgerigar starts flapping uncontrollably, and the alarm screams in time to the movements of the budgie. If you happen to be looking at the budgie when the Fire Alarm goes off, he does really seem to be making the high pitched whistles himself. But the Budgie’s whistles really do not compare with those of Rose.
Small Streams is also home to Niamh, who can propel herself in a wheelchair; Peter who walks but mostly slides along the floor, and Queenie who walks the corridors all night without much on and on any day of the week, the wheels on Niamh’s wheelchair are liable to be coated in chocolate.
The Chocolate Wheelchair
In the afternoon the new young care-worker, in an act of sympathy from Lisa finds himself cleaning the chocolate from Niamh’s chair. Niamh has no sophisticated Motability chair – she gets around in
an old NHS wheelchair with 24 inch wheels. Amazingly for a lady who cannot speak and be understood by anyone other than her close care workers, Niamh is nimble and agile in her wheelchair, but the chairs are not impermeable to grime, and the wheels on Niamh’s chair develop a crust of chocolate. “They bought her Cadbury’s flakes again,” seethes Lisa. “ I wish they would stop buying Neevie Cadbury’s Flakes every week. They all coat themselves around the wheels – where she pushes herself along.”
But in addition to cleaning the house, support workers also have to wash the residents themselves.
Rose’s lead care worker is Decebal, a muscular, no nonsense slavic man with a top-knot, built of military stock on the River Danube and descended from Dacia’s ancient king who fought the Emperor Trajan to the death (his own) in 106AD. Decebal runs the care home like a military machine, and accepts no nonsense:
“You wash her again, and to apply the eczema cream that we checked on the medication sheet under the fold of her belly please.” He barks later as Rose giggles, clearly enjoying the attention. “And the special soap under the boobies, and the groin. If we have bacterium remaining there, then we have trouble, isn’t it?” Rose is duly washed again, as she is twice a day – Rose is the easiest resident to keep hygienic since she is sociable and cooperative (if not to say agreeable, exactly) and she clamours for attention.
Suddenly there is a shriek from the bathroom, and Niamh, who was drinking a cup of “Old Moat” cider at the dinner table jumps out of her skin, sending the last of the cider on the floor. Lisa emerges with a look of extraordinary tiredness in her face. “Don’t worry, it’s just Queenie,” she reassures everyone. “She never really wants to go to the bathroom before bed.”
Decebal barely lets his affection for his clients show, but he is fiercely protective of them and minutely aware of their medicinal needs. He encourages old staff and new to sing with Rose – it is one of her favourite activities, and she knows a lot of words to London songs, wartime songs, and even hits from the sixties.
Later the new young support worker notices a photo in Rose’s bedroom where she is warmly holding two young children and smiling broadly and he wonders whether this sort of affection from children is exactly what Rose needs. The more experienced care workers correct him: the problem is, what will she say, Lisa explains to the newbie. Once she leant out of the window and shouted to a group of under-tens crossing the road to “hurry the fuck up”. Their mothers were not pleased.
“Can I sit on your lap, Doctor?” Rose repeats naughtily. The newbie blushes. Now we’ll have no more of that, Lisa smiles at her favourite customer, and receives a sloppy bite on her forearm for her trouble.
The names and locations have been changed.