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Norman

 

Now where were we? Don’t you remember? You know, sometimes people get wheeled past here… like that big lady, and they have far more right to be here than I do… and I’m thinking who the hell was that? It’s strange to be here… the woman who went past just now… I have seen her before… you see, sometimes we get wheeled about… they say, Norman, we’ve got games… and they wheel me off to another cupboard for games. I think, oh how deplorable, they want to keep us occupied… like children… I resent it… keeping us occupied! At 81 I could do without it but I tolerate it with good spirit because I see the problem. The lady who went past on the first trolley… she’s completely doolally… she’s lost it… they like to encourage us to play little tunes and sing and do arts and crafts. I don’t want to be seen as a lovable nutcase.

Did you see that one that went past? She got that ball yesterday and she wouldn’t let it go… if anyone took her ball she would be very, very upset… it’s sad… there is a boy here… I don’t see him but every morning I hear him… he screams… and that chap, the one in the RAF, he’s a buffoon… he’s colouring in pictures of puppies from a children’s book. He said to me, when he first met me here, if you ever want to find me just ask for the artist… it’s embarrassing… I’ll never ask for the artist... never... if I do you can shoot me.

I’m not well, damn it! but I’m not keen to end my days here. The medical people said it’s quite impossible for me to go back whilst I’m suffering from the kind of ailment I have… my brain’s packing up and I don’t blame it… the number of falls I had was ridiculous. My balance is shot and my memory is shot and that’s quite enough for me. Damn it! I’ll be forgetting my own name next.

Am I shouting again? It’s very hard to put up with the noise here… it’s enough to drive you demented… and the food! The annoying thing is that they’ll come to the door and shout their message rather than knock and come in. The people doing the shouting are the nursing staff. The last group were from the Philippines and they were very good nurses and good people but volatile and I know this because I lived in Borneo next door to the Philippines and I used to go over… was I just telling you this?

I’d been abroad long enough after thirty years… eventually we all had to leave when the Indonesian Communist Party wanted to burn down the British Embassy in Jakarta. I was there at the time. It became rather famous because the idiot Assistant Military Attaché was a Scotsman… tall chap… about six foot four… his idea of appeasing the local people was much the same as it is here… he’d go and fetch his bagpipes at the embassy and he would play little tunes for them… he may as well have put a light in their pool of petrol.

I’d been living in West Sumatra for some time... enough to be awarded a kind of honour from the Batak people… they ate three English Missionaries in 1820… which was the English Church’s first encounter with the people in Sumatra… by the time I was there, one hundred years later, things had rather settled down. I was made an honorary member of the tribe. They prepared luncheon… I sat down and we all ate and ate and ate… eventually the Regent… the head of the Civil Service… using the Dutch title… said, “Well, what did you think of the lunch?” “Interesting,” I said. “What was it?” “Oh, it was dog,” he said. It’s no good telling me after the meal that it’s dog! I didn’t like it in the slightest.

I’ve quite forgotten how we got onto the subject.