‘Do you have time to stop and talk to me?’
The welfare of the guests was paramount, but he was allowed 5 minutes, to clean the bathroom, straighten the bed, and run a vacuum across the walked-on part of the carpet. No chatting time, although everyone knew how important conversation is in a care home.
‘You are hesitating. I suppose the answer is, you have no time for an old woman stuck in her room.’
‘I would love to stop and chat, but I can’t.’
‘You can if you want. I’ll fix it with matron. A “chat,” implies an exchange of intimacies. Are you alright with that?’
‘Well, if you can fix it with matron, then it would be fine. I would love to talk to you, about your life. You were famous once, weren’t you?’
‘I suppose I was but a long time ago! I will tell matron of our wishes.’
He finished the room and then his shift. As he was clocking out, matron called from her office.
‘You have done the bathroom-lifting and hygiene-care certificates, Nigel. You will get a new time plan, starting tomorrow.’
Nigel poked his head around matron’s open door.
‘Fine by me, but any reason?’
‘You are too pretty for a feller,’ she told him. ‘Shouldn’t be allowed, and I am fed up with the old girls asking to be bathed and massaged by you. It was the Atlantic Suite today. Well! They are all going to get their wish. You will have wrinkly fingers by this time tomorrow and be hoarse, and you can’t tell the same story in every room because they swap yarns over afternoon tea. So, be prepared, pick up a pack of oils and gloves and practice some yarns. You will need them.’
Nigel swallowed and tried to answer. Nothing came.
‘Don’t stand there like a page out of Dickens lad. It’s called customer care and be warned! They tip well but it does raise expectations and old people get urges long after it is convenient.’
‘Oh my God!’ was all he could manage.