Thank you for being a friend
Hello and welcome to a post where I get to break out the gifs of my favourite ever TV show!
Nothing gets toothbrushes along skirting boards and health and safety posters re-blu-tacked up on the wall like an impending Care Commission visit to a nursing home. It’s a testing but necessary experience for all concerned, and while they can never stop all neglect or cruelty, it’s nice to know the set up of Adam Biles’ Feeding Time isn’t going to happen in this country any time soon. The staff remove the residents’ watches on arrival to mess with their sense of time, people sleep in mixed wards, they are treated like prisoners, and sometimes used cruelly for the warders amusement. It definitely makes the book less harrowing that not all the things that happen are not the sort than can be tidied away quickly in the face of a surprise inspection.
Dorothy, a retired English teacher (OMG, I know, right!? If only her last name were Zbornak!) signs herself into Green Oaks (Shady Pines, ma!) shortly after her frail husband is admitted, thinking they’ll be together in a cosy room, but she has been placed on a big ward of basic cots and there is no sign of her husband, and she is unable to find him. She makes friends with the other inmates, helps one with his escape attempt which involves him smearing his pursuer with poo and her squirting the floor with vegetable oil. The drug-stealing, heartless ‘Carefriends’ may have the upper hand, but they don’t always win, and are occasionally left with a black eye and an unpleasant smell. Because old people, you have to watch them. They’ve learned a thing or two and judges often won’t waste prison time on them.
For all the heartbreaking treatment, the residents are brought together, and reminds me of another one of my favourites, where a sharp old lady teams up with a delusional old man and together they get one over on the inept care home manager, Waiting For God.
Biles’ writing is dark, evocative (often starkly, skilfully, uncomfortably graphic), and brutal as well as funny, and this book deserves it’s title as the Observer’s Fiction pick for 2016. A clever touch is throughout the book there are separate short adventure comic-style stories about Captain Ruggles, our deluded gent who is trying to escape a POW camp, as the only reading material he has, or anyone has (gasp!) is some old comics. The staff assumed letting him keep the comics would be harmless, but have gone to his head.
I have learned from my years of service to the elderly what kind of old age I want, and it will be more like this –
And nothing like this –
And now, if you will all please be upstanding for the national anthem.