One of the hotels on the town seafront is now a nursing home. Its sun lounge had a large magnetic whiteboard with the date in bold Arial characters: “Today is Monday 21st July 2008”. Passing by, I wondered if one of the nurses changed the date, or whether the home was one of those places where the residents are treated as though they were back in primary school where someone would be given the task of changing the date each morning.
Late for a rendezvous, I rushed on. I was five minutes overdue by the time I reached the supermarket outside of which I was to meet Deirdre – to give her a brown envelope containing small denomination notes to help her get shopping for the family, the man of the house having allocated the family budget to the profits of brewers and bookmakers.
No sign of her.
I wandered across the street to look in the €2 shop; it is always intriguing what one can buy for €2. I wanted one of those whirligig things upon which you peg your socks to hang them out to dry – there wasn’t one.
I went back to the supermarket and looked inside.
She wasn’t there.
Back down the street there was a sports shop. The Best Beloved wants an Ulster rugby shirt to wear to a match in France in August. It was filled with an abundance of English soccer shirts. The rugby shirts were tucked away at a side – they had Ireland, Leinster and the All Blacks, no sign of the white Ulster shirt with its distinctive red hand.
Back to the supermarket and still no sign. It was now twenty-five minutes after the meeting time.
Seized by a thought that I might be in the wrong place, I stepped inside. “Is this your only branch in the town?”
“No, there is another store. Go down the street and turn right.”
Rushing down the street and turning right, I caught sight of Deirdre walking towards the shop with two of her children. Catching up, I apologized for my lateness, I had gone to the wrong shop.
“I’m only just getting here”, she shrugged, “I had to go to the hospital with my daughter. We were there yesterday and have to go again tomorrow”.
“She scalded both her arms. They have to change the dressings”.
“What happened? Did a pan get knocked off the stove?”
“No, it was a kettle of hot water”.
I gave Deirdre the envelope and left her to go to her appointment with the money advice people.
Walking back to the car, I tried to envisage a scene whereby a child manages to scald both arms with a kettle.
Deirdre has a social worker who regularly arranges support for the children; I hope the social worker can explain how it is possible to scald both arms while spilling a kettle of water.