two hours five minutes away

At the hospital: Large ladies wrapped in pink and white towelling with emphysema sit beneath an aqua-blue banner – Keep Us Clean! – puffing on fags and eyeing nervous couples in good health visiting from down south.

On the train: Noone notices the Virgin captain any more. Jim’s been making passengers giggle into their instant coffee for donkeys’ years. No smoking, he says, in the gangway, the vestibules, or the toilets – or the roof. Says it every journey and when Jan’s on the restaurant, she always tells him he’s funny. Have yourselves a good day out and enjoy the footie and the ice-cream and it’s shining with us today. I’m a blue myself, but you reds enjoy it all the same. Jan loves hearing his voice through the intercom. It’s not the same when they’re on the bus going home.

At the garage: Don’t get it here luv. If youz can wait one more half hour, Tesco’s ‘ll be opening and they’ll be sellin’ Roses half price. Fourfiftynine! Who spends that on a box of chocolates? Seriously luv. Tell your boyfriend it’s just past where Mike The Chippy was, up on the corner. If heez local he’ll know. I can’t let you buy them here, pet. Too much, pet.

At the hospital: She had it in ‘er ear! It was movin’! I saw it! A gnat it was. Wrigglin’ in ‘er ear. When the doc pulled it out it was still alive. A louse it was. She didn’t wash ‘er ears for months. But she did after that. It was white, soft, squidgy. The doc put it in a pot. Come on anyway, let’s go outside and have a fag. That bloke of Brooky . . .  we might see him.

In the station: Taste some, pet. No flies on me to give you some. You can’t know what you want without tryin’ luv, can you? Go on, taste it. Course I won’t charge you. Taste it. Lovely. Skimmed milk so you don’t get fat. Just pleasure, that one pet. You don’t like it? Never mind. I’ll make you another, pet. It’s all the same to me. Double-chocs my favourite! Go on, have that.

At the hospital: She keeps abusing me. It’s not right. Especially in front of other staff. It’s a lack of respect. This never happens in my country. Old people. They do not go crazy. We don’t have Alzheimers and people speak to you with respect. I am from the Phillipines and we are taught to respect our elders. We don’t have hospitals like this. Sometimes I get tired, but it’s not her fault. Where is her daughter? She was here and then she disappeared. The daughter just disappeared.

In the waiting room: He bit me! My own dog. A bull dog he was, but my son-in-law’s taken him to be shot. He bit me. Look at my finger and all that blood. My own dog. A bull dog. Bit me. Blood on me nightie now. And he’s no good. He doesn’t even give me a chair. The grandson’s gettin’ him put down. Do they shoot ’em? Or is it injection? I could do with one. But the nurses are so nice.

On the beach: I don’t mind so much the mess but, yes, you are right, you’ve got a point. When there’s five of them, it’s a bit, well, a bit . . . repetitive I think I’d say. My four do two each and hers, well, sometimes she does three! All big piles if you don’t mind me saying it so like that. You see they don’t have bins on the beach so I have to carry all the bags for the walk and sometimes when we’re nearing the end of the walk I’ll be holding ten bags of it. It’s not so much the contents but the bulk. It’s difficult carrying ten bags. And I’m always sure I’ve missed a bit. I do worry about the fine incase I’ve missed one of them. They run around, the five of them, and you don’t always see what they’re up to. I worry someone might report me, but I do my best to keep watch on all of them. This little spade is a real help but, as I say, with ten bags all knotted up, I’ve hardly got enough hands to carry it all. But I love them all the same. They sleep with us in the evening and my husband really doesn’t mind any more.