Written on Feb. 6th, 2016
Today we drove to St. Arvans, where my niece Bethan lives, thence to Tintern for a latish lunch at the Kingstone Brewery, a microbrewery with bar and meeting room attached. Once a month on a Saturday they open this room and serve pizzas freshly cooked on a purpose built, wood burning stone oven that stands in the courtyard. The pizzas are carried in through the door in twos, so that it takes a long time to serve everyone, but they are very good, fresh and wholesome. The room with its pine floor and furniture is decorated as if for a family party, with home made paper streamers and dried flowers hanging from the ceiling, pretty candles on the tables, and very well painted framed watercolours on the walls. Today, as usual on these occasions apparently, Kingstone Brewery was full of small children with their young parents, all in a happy mood. On the benches at our table sat Bethan with her Sebastian (one-and-a-half), my other nieces Elen and Rhiannon (with her little son, Phoenix, three), Faith and Mel, our mum, Chris and I and another young lady, a friend of Bethan’s, with her own little one-year-old whose dad was Toby, the pizza chef, working outside. The little boys ran around and mixed with the other children whose toys they shared. It was all very relaxed, and fun. Mum surely found it a livelier experience than her lunches with the other residents at her nursing home in Whitchurch.
|Saturday afternoon at the Kingstone Brewery|
|Toby's oven, Kingstone Brewery|
It has poured in torrents all day, with warnings of “poor driving conditions” on the motorway, as was indeed the case, the windscreen wipers going full tilt and blinding sheets of water on the screen when neighbouring cars splashed through the puddles. Tonight when Chris and I returned to the house the rain eased off momentarily, so we decided to get some fresh air and exercise by walking to the Whitchurch shops.
At the Co-op we came across a frail old woman on a bench in an incapacitated state, shaking and bowed, very pale in the face, surrounded by full and heavy bags, who occupied our alarmed attention for the next two hours. A lady called Heidi helped us look after her, two of us leading her across the busy road to the Fino Lounge, where she’d asked to be, where the waiter groaned and told us emphatically that this person was an ex-customer of theirs, quite well known. She makes a habit of causing consternation. She wouldn’t tell any of us her name for ages; eventually we found out that she was A[...], 73 years old, and had Parkinson’s disease, had spent a week in hospital recently, but didn’t want any help other than a milk shake, please, which the restaurant was refusing to serve her. A[...] retaliated by refusing the glass of water I got her.
We didn’t think she was in a fit state to be taken home by taxi. Chris and Heidi decided to call for an ambulance, but because our patient wasn’t unconscious she was by no means top priority and it would take a while before the ambulance came. We waited a good half hour with nothing happening, squatting in front of A[...] and trying to talk to her, not an easy job because she was not co-operating and the background noise was getting louder and louder. A young man waiting for a friend at the restaurant came over, telling us he was a trainee paramedic. He asked her all the same questions and was obviously concerned to help, but none of us made any progress. A[...] did not want to be taken anywhere, either home or to hospital. She just wanted to sit here and be given something to eat and drink. (One of her bags contained plenty of Subway sandwiches, but I think she had forgotten this.) “The service is rubbish, here!” she told me in one of her more coherent moments. “You should go to the pasta place down the road.” We established that A[...] had no family at home and no neighbours who’d be willing to help. She is visited by social service workers twice a day, but not very effectively, it seems, probably because she doesn't co-operate with them, either. In the end Chris hailed a couple of police who happened to be walking by.
These charmingly courteous officers came in, a man (community support officer) and a pleasant woman (regular police officer) who talked to A[...] very efficiently and soon established her identity by looking, with her permission, at the cards in her handbag. They cancelled our order for an ambulance and called for community police officers to come over with a vehicle: “community policing at its best,” says Chris. These people finally decided to give A[...] a ride home in their van, even offering to buy her some fish and chips on the way … until they noticed the bag with the Subway sandwiches. By this time Heidi had left us, because she was supposed to be hosting a dinner party. What a kind person to stay with us so long in this situation.
Chris and I being famished by this time decided to stay at the Fino Lounge for our own supper, thanked profusely by the staff for taking the problem off their hands, but by this time it had become deafeningly noisy in there from the Saturday night crowd screaming across the tables at one another or shouting for beers at the bar. My sister rang to ask what was going on (we were supposed to be at her house by then) but I couldn’t hear her very well. My head was pounding by the time our meals came, so that I could only eat half of mine. Then we emerged into the blessed relative quiet of the street, where it was raining hard again for our walk back to Ashchurch Close.