Dave says his brain can only flow with alcohol, and despite the car crash he still holds this mantra. I watch him hobble around on his zimmerframe mumbling harmless merriments, ‘‘where’s my 2pm visit? I want my back massage’’. Even though massage is code for Russian Vodka he's still my favourite patient.
He has the kind of appearance you’d avoid walking towards on the same side of the street. Sits down on a bus, and someone gets up. Definitely not the kind of character your nan would invite into the house for a cup of tea and biscuits, but a guy you’d see in your local park lazing his bony discrepancy on plastic blue swings, with his liquid habit to his mouth like a kid with a Cornetto. A shame, ‘cos his heart is plump, and conversation fat with jokes. His face shows a life dedicated to years of true decadence. I wish I could say those bursting capillaries weaving manically around on his bulbous nose came from the work of hard labour. But they are definitely the work of hardcore pub time, nine till five.
I also have a fondness for Mary, a seventy-two year old recovering from a hip replacement after a nasty fall, which smashed everything below her waist to dust. When I bathe her, she puts on a pair of diamond drop earrings and matching pendant, says it gives her nakedness aristocratic style. And as I wash under the folds of her once desired, pendulous breasts, I see it too. You should see Dave and Mary when they get together, their hilarity pops a pin in ward life. So I tell them to go fourth and spread their seeds of glee like good disciples of the hospital.
Most of the other patients don’t take to the ward with such light affection as Dave and Mary. Most expressions mirror the multicoloured wilting flowers homed on their drib bedside tables, kept there from day one. For them, everyday is like stepping in shit. And I’m tired of their shit filled footsteps snailing around the ward, for the perkier souls to potentially stand in. I call these patients the ‘Weeds’- their sole purpose being to strangle their roots of pessimism around the marigolds. Dave is a marigold, but he isn’t to be strangled. For I the Gardner waters the vibrancy of his pretty, orange mane every morning and night.