Families – don’t get me started!
I know everyone loves their Mum and Dad – well, nearly everyone, my Dad walked out on my Mum when I was 7 and I never saw him again – and their Gran and Graddad and wants the best for them but really. I know many of my Service Users are frail and elderly but they’re not stupid – they can think for themselves and make their own choices and decisions and they’re not helpless. But you wouldn’t think it the way some of the families behave.
One of my Service Users – I’ll call her Agatha. By the way I don’t use real names in this diary, they’re all made up and Rita’s not my real name either and I’m not saying where I work or who I work for, except that it’s an agency and it’s in London so don’t go looking for me because you won’t find me.
Agatha used to be a musician and a music teacher. She’s very posh and quite wealthy too I should think – she has a lovely flat in a mansion block in a posh part of town which must be worth a fortune. There are lots of framed photos on the walls of her with famous people – I saw one with Barbra Streisand and one with Shirley Bassey. She was very beautiful when she was younger but the years have not been kind to her – mind you the years have not been very kind to me either.
I go to her every evening and make her something to eat. She has a lot of ready meals which I heat up in the microwave. She tells me stories of how she used to go to banquets and parties in Hollywood and Nice and St Petersburg and eat oysters and snails and truffles and caviar – not altogether obviously – with actors and princes and shipping magnates and Paul McCartney. I was never a big fan of the Beatles if I’m honest.
I’m rambling a bit. But now she has microwave foods – she likes Marks and Spencer and that Cook place which does microwave stuff – we used to call it boil in the bag when I was a child but it’s all the same. Her daughter buys it for her – she lives nearby and she visits most days which is nice of her but I don’t know what she does on those visits – she certainly doesn’t do any housework or make any food for Agatha – the carers do all of that. But boy is she ever bossy! She puts labels everywhere in the flat – do this, do that, don’t touch this, don’t touch that, tidy this, clean that and there’s labels all over the fridge too about what foods Agatha can have and shouldn’t have.
This evening when I got there Agatha said,
‘Hello my darling,’ (she always calls me that), ‘would you be an absolute angel and run downstairs and get me fish and chips. I do like my fish and chips on a Friday and some mushy peas. Here’s the money. And get some for yourself.’ She handed me a £20 note.
‘That’s very kind of you Mrs B_ ,’ I said (she likes me to call her Mrs B), ‘but I’m not allowed to accept any food from you.’
‘Nonsense,’ she said. ‘I’ve never heard such rot. I can buy you fish and chips if I want, it’s my money.’
‘I know,’ I said, ‘and I’m very grateful. But I could lose my job and I can’t afford to do that.’
‘Very well,’ said Agatha. ‘Suit yourself. But I want plenty of vinegar mind.’
I took the money and went and bought her fish and chips and mushy peas and put it on a plate for her.
‘I wish you’d left it in the bag,’ she said. ‘Anyway, sit with me while I eat. Did I ever tell you about the time I met Errol Flynn?’
She was eating her fish and chips and I was sitting in an armchair hearing about Errol Flynn at Cap d’Antibes when her daughter came in.
‘Hello mother,’ she said and to me, ‘what are you doing here?’
‘Hello Miss B,’ I said. ‘I’ve just been to get Mrs B’s fish and chips.’
‘She shouldn’t be eating fish and chips, she knows that. Why are you eating fish and chips Mummy? I’ve told you not to have them.’
‘I like them,’ said Agatha, defiantly. ‘I can have them if I want.’
‘You’re not to have them. They give you diarrhoea; we had that discussion last week. And if you buy them again,’ she said, looking at me, ‘I shall tell the agency and get you sacked.’
With that she grabbed the plate and stormed out to the kitchen. I could hear clattering in the sink.
‘It’s in the sink,’ she said, coming out of the kitchen.’ ‘Clean it up and put it away and then you can go.’
‘I’m not a servant,’ I said. ‘I would prefer it if you spoke to me with a bit of respect.’
‘I’ll speak to you however I bloody well feel like,’ she replied.
‘I’d best be going,’ I said to Agatha.
‘Please come again,’ she whispered. ‘Don’t mind her, she’s going through a divorce.’
‘I’m not surprised,’ I said.
I logged out; it had been 45 minutes but I’d only get paid for 30. I was hungry and angry.
‘Next time I’ll tell you about David Niven,’ Agatha said.