Wednesday morning was wet, cold and cheerless. The sort of day that was easy to feel depressed about. For Ian it was his ‘very nice’ day because it took him out of the town into the surrounding villages. There were six visits to make and all were to nice, lovely, welcoming people. All had challenges in their life that could have made them bitter, grumpy, rude or abusive. But everyone had a smile that lit up the room when he arrived. Tea would be offered at every visit and woe-betide him if he refused or said he would make it. They all insisted on doing it while he ‘got on with his work’. He had long since given up any challenge.
His work was indeterminate but vital to each. He helped Caroline make sense of any ‘official’ letters she had received and usually had an entertaining conversation about EastEnders and Coronation Street. ‘Things were never like that in my day’ was a guaranteed comment about something or other.
Wilf made a strong cuppa and talked proudly about his window box. As a younger man he had always been out in the garden but now a man came to do it – under Wilf’s strict guidance – while he created miracles in the boxes. Ian often brought him seed or plants – many of them from Mrs Williams down the street. Ian was sure she had a soft spot for Wilf because she was always talking about him. Ian often thought that they would make a lovely couple and at times mentioned the thought to Wilf. It always provoked a snort of indignation but today, Wilf smiled a little and said ‘You never know young man.’
As Ian finished the visits and headed back to town he felt at peace with the world. Everyone today had told him how much they looked forward to his visits, and wouldn’t it be nice if he could come twice a week. It would be nice, he thought, but there were too many people in need of visits and care, and too little time. That jolted him back to reality. Instead of increasing the number of visits it was quite probable that they would be decreased, or at least shortened. He knew it would be hard to tell them this but time, people resources and funding pressures were already biting into the work they did.
‘I bet that’s what that invitation’s about’ suddenly came into his mind. ‘A softening up before the crunch, or maybe both would arrive at the same time. Damn the world.’
As he pulled into the parking spaces at the office he noticed Julie’s car there. Everyone else seemed to have gone home. He looked at his watch. It was just after six. ‘That answers that then’, he thought.