I went to see Lady _ today. I’ll call her Lady Gaga but that’s not her real name obviously and nor is she; gaga I mean.
My Mum used to describe people as gaga when I was little.
‘I’ve been to see your Auntie Mo,’ she’d say. ‘She’s completely gaga now.’
I thought it was a horrible way to talk about someone; I’d never heard of dementia or Alzheimer’s then. She also used to describe people as ‘dementing.’
‘I went to see your Auntie Mo yesterday,’ she’d say. ‘Poor woman is dementing.’ This was before Harry Potter of course (Richard loves Harry Potter) and the dementers, even.
Maybe it’s the reason I got into care work – to help people who were gaga and dismissed as useless by my Mother, who – oh irony of ironies – suffered from dementia herself and died 3 years ago, nutty as a fruit-cake (which was another of her expressions).
Anyway, Lady Gaga is, as you can guess, a Lady and has pots of money but is, I’m sorry to say, a deeply unpleasant person. I wish I could say that all my Service Users are lovely because most of them are, but Lady Gaga most definitely is not. She has been married 4 times and all of her husbands are dead which seems like bad luck to me although she doesn’t seem to mind. I think she must have inherited the money each time and that’s why she’s so wealthy. I don’t know whether she has children; if she does she never mentions them and they never seem to visit. Perhaps she was horrible to them and scared them away; frankly I wouldn’t be at all surprised.
‘They sent me a frightful one yesterday,’ she said. ‘Absolutely ghastly, do you know she could not speak a word of English and black as the ace of spades, not that I’m racist. I will be very pleased when we’re out of this damn Europe business and don’t have all these foreigners coming over. I do get sick of them.’
Lady Gaga is not very mobile and spends most of her time sitting by the big bay window of her flat, looking out at the goings on in the street below and giving a running commentary.
‘There’s Lord _ heading out to his club again,’ she said. ‘Silly old fool. There’s no fool like an old fool. Do you know he had a cleaning lady from Romania – he was besotted with the little tart – and he gave her absolutely oodles of money and jewellery and all sorts of presents and furs and it turns out she was an illegal and got deported and he lost everything? He’s heart-broken; doesn’t care about the money but he thought she loved him. Silly old fool. Don’t expect anything from me Rita, there’s nothing in my will for you.’
‘Thank you Lady Gaga,’ I said. ‘But I wouldn’t have accepted it anyway, it’s against the rules.’
‘Just as well then. You won’t miss what you never had.’
We have to bring plastic shoe covers when we go to her flat and cover our shoes so that we wander around with blue plastic bags on our feet and look like Eskimos (if Eskimos have plastic bags on their feet). Lady Gaga’s flat is filled to the brim with ornaments, pictures, souvenirs, mementoes, plants, dishes, vases, bowls, mansion clocks and hundreds of silver picture frames covering every available surface and containing photos of the great and the good and the not so great and the not so good from the last 60 years of British society. I don’t recognise most of them. I’ve seen Mrs Thatcher and I recognised Ted Heath in one and Tony Blair (I think) but the rest are men in dinner suits and women in long dresses with lots of jewellery looking down their noses at people like me.
‘Get me some tea, dearie,’ said Lady Gaga. She always talks like that. I have never once heard her say ‘please’ or ‘thank-you’ or in fact say a nice word about anyone or anything. Tell a lie, except Bruce Forsyth of course – she loves Strictly Come Dancing although she refuses to watch it now that Bruce is no longer presenting.
‘I’m not watching those silly tarts,’ she says.
‘I don’t know what William is doing, marrying a common tart,’ she said to me, back in the day, when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were courting.
‘The girl’s a nobody. Wasn’t her mother an air hostess?’
‘I think she was originally,’ I remember saying. ‘But then they ran their own business.’
‘In trade, were they? How positively ghastly. And William seemed such a nice boy.’
Lady Gaga gets half an hour per day organised by Social Services and pays privately to get an extra hour a day from the agency, which I do. I don’t know what she pays the agency but I bet it’s a lot; I, however, still get the same money. She mainly gets me to do housework and a lot of silver polishing as well as clean up after her cat, which is called Lucan.
‘Because he keeps disappearing,’ said Lady Gaga. She says this almost every day and I originally thought it was a joke but now I’m not so sure. I think she had a thing for Lord Lucan when she was younger and rather misses him. He’s an indoor cat, is Lucan, and is not allowed out so you can imagine the state of his cat tray. Lucan has a habit of squatting in the tray with his bum hanging outside and then doing his business on the carpet. God it stinks. And of course I have to clear it up. But Lady Gaga doesn’t mind or care or probably both. I am not really a cat person to be honest. I mean I don’t mind them, it’s just they don’t do a lot for me. I’m a dog person really.
The strangest thing though is that Lucan is possibly the least affectionate cat I have come across in my life. He never sits on her lap and runs away when you try to stroke him; I’ve given up trying.
And so the two of them – Lady Unpleasant and the miserable disappearing Lucan (as I call them) – are seeing out their days, bound together in bitterness and luxury.
‘Shut the door when you leave,’ says Lady Gaga when I go.
And so I do.