Saturday, 16 August 2008

Round the table

There's a man called Ray - a permanent fixture clothed in the respectability of workman's clothes, though he never works. Isabelle is an Australian who comes in most evenings for halves or pints of John Smiths, salted peanuts and a rolly or two. Sue is a relatively recent addition to the pub, almost a perfect Eastenders cliche, with her companion Alan.

It transpired that Alan had suffered a stroke the previous Friday. He was released from hospital on the Tuesday and was in the pub on Thursday. Sue didn't seem terribly bothered by this, and was ordering him to the bar, and telling everyone how terrible a patient he had been, calling the hospital a shithole. Sue had recently had a fire in her kitchen because she had been pissed and the chip pan had caught fire, blackening her ceiling and walls. Ray, who hails from Derry, offered to make good the damage for only the small consideration of a couple of pints. He was insistent, however, that Alan be present while he carried out the work.

Isabelle said that she had suffered many losses in her life. Her sister had died, and so too her daughter, and so she would never be the same again. Sue told us that she had once lost her memory completely and had also to be taken into the Whittington Hospital for a few days. She knew her name, but even basic tasks like pouring a glass of water had been beyond her. After a few days her memory had returned - just like that - and she had been released from hospital. Her mouth droops on one side and she slurs her words slightly. Alan had taken a turn in the pub, had suddenly started talking gobbledegook. Sue had asked him what was 10x5 and he didn't have the answer. She called the ambulance. Once at the hospital, the doctors tested Alan, by asking him:

Did he know the name of the current monarch? He did.
The name of the current Prime Minister? He had thought it was John Major
Which month were we in? He said October.

They then asked him to add together a group of coins on the table and he was unable to do so. Ray was scared, and worried that if he were to have a stroke, they might ask him the same questions. Sue wondered when Ray might be able to do the work in her kitchen, and Ray said he would be ready any time, but re-iterated that Alan had to be present while he was there. He also wanted to be sure that there would be no drink in the house. Isabelle looked askance. Sue told him that she had 4 cats, and he said that he had 3 - used to be 4, but one died. Sue said that she never drank at home. Isabelle said she thought cats were a waste of space.

Ray said that he spent abut £100 a week feeding his cats, who ate ham and chicken like you and me would eat. He turned and in a stage whisper said that he had only whisky for breakfast. He couldn't stomach tea or coffee or milk, but that a few large whiskies in the morning set him up nicely for the day ahead. He said he was on his 5th pint of Guinness and that he would start on the whisky in an hour or so. He was 57, and he had a pub in the Isle of Man, which had a cat without a tail as one of its symbols.

Alan pulled out a postcard from his brother, who lived in Canada. He had invited Alan over to visit - had even offered to pay the fare - but Sue didn't want him to go. Isabelle said she thought that this was wrong, and that Alan should go to Canada if he wanted to. She wondered why Sue didn't go with Alan, but Sue said that Alan's brother didn't like her because she smoked so much. It had once taken them 3 and a half hours to drive to Warwickshire because they had been travelling in Alan's brother's car, and he would not allow smoking, so Sue insisted that they stop every 30 minutes. She wanted to keep both eyes on Alan and would not permit him to fly to Canada, even though she had no qualms about sending him to the bar.

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