Friday 19 December 2014

The Happy Prisoner - Monica Dickens

For years - as a child - I looked at the pink cover of this book. It has been on the bookshelves in mum's sitting room for half a century - the Mermaid edition of the 'The Happy Prisoner'. The archaic illustration on the front cover shows a youngish man in a very old-fashioned wheelchair. He's in a contraption with a high back but with a single wheel at the front. What fascinated me as a child was the pretty cottage in the background, a well- dressed woman serving tea on a tray and this young chap wrapped in a blanket. An odd but intriguing scene.
So now, as I clear mum's house, very gradually, I fancy I will actually read the book whose cover held me in its grasp for such a long time. The irony is my family couldn't find the copy on mum's bookshelves so I had to search Google and Alibris to find the exact edition. Finally I found the Mermaid series - the whole could be a good present for a minor collector.

I have only recently learned Monica Dickens is the grandchild of the more famous Charles. All the more reason to actually look inside the cover and discover her as a writer. It was a timely read in that mum is a 'happy prisoner' in her bed - unable to walk.

So now, close to Christmas, I have a purchased copy of  the book and mum has moved, finally to a nursing home in which we hope she will settle.

Since I last wrote my blog such a lot has happened. At the beginning of November our senior district nurse filed an incident report against mum's care agency as her health was deteriorating The nurse said all her ailments were avoidable ( with proper care). After Remembrance Sunday mum began to decline and didn't want to eat. All the local medical professionals wanted her in hospital - I was so relieved at this suggestion. I had already told mum - the weekend of  15th November - that if she didn't eat she'd have to go into a ward. So on the evening of Tuesday 18th November she was back in a hospital bed - all her test results came back sound but she was debilitated by not eating enough.

So, as I walked past the Acute Stroke Unit, I thought we were back to where we started on April 20th. Easter Day. Mum had had a massive stroke.

Charlotte Ward got mum eating and drinking again so she was ready for discharge quite soon - medically fit for travel. But no-one thought she should be at my brother's home nor my home without 24 hour care. The care package hadn't worked at our house and my brother couldn't contemplate an extra carer in his house 24/7 on top of his full time job as a solicitor. Again, I was quite relieved. I knew mum needed a nursing home but it's a huge step. We found one near the hospital in Bath. But even that took some doing. So few beds and just because we want a place doesn't mean the home will take a patient and all the while we had to convince mum this was a 'convalescent home' . A white lie.

My brother became convinced that Atholl House near his home in Tettenhall was the right place for mum. So, finally, after a lot of planning, and a curious journey north, she has a bed. Mum was drinking tea when I left her there, and I was happy with the hygiene and the atmosphere. Mum's room is large and bright and the day rooms are good for visitors. A cuppa always on hand. I was happy to leave and will be happy to return.The 'happy prisoner' is settling in to her new situation.

The final irony in this circuitous journey from A&E and Acute Stroke Unit on April 20th was  travelling up in the ambulance on Tuesday 16 December. The conversation went thus:
'Dave', said the ambulance driver.
'Yeah, Dave,' said his number two.
'The ambulance has gone in to limp mode. Ring the depot and get an emergency vehicle.'
So Dave-number-two rang for a replacement vehicle.
'Hello Roy. We need a rescue vehicle. We are at Bridgwater,' said Dave-number- two.
'No we aren't,' I piped up, ' We are at Broadwaters near Kidderminster. 17 miles at most from the nursing home.'

One and half hours later the patient was fine, but the ambulance was sick. I found myself in a pub and  mum was fast asleep, oblivious to it all. I'd given her a valium at ten o'clock.

If this isn't a black comedy I'm not sure what is but we hope mum will have a happy Christmas - near the majority of her family - and manage to enjoy something of the best of what a nursing home can offer. Meanwhile I will be searching her bookshelves for the 1952 edition of. 'The Happy Prisoner' and I hope the two Daves got rescued in time for a cool Yule.