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Copyright Oggbashan December 2020
The author asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.
This is a work of fiction. The events described here are imaginary; the settings and characters are fictitious and are not intended to represent specific places or living persons.
One of my grandsons once said that my beach hut was my retreat from the world. He was completely wrong. My beach hut is my access to the world.
I bought the beach hut when my children were young. Now it is waiting for my great-grandchildren to be old enough to appreciate it. It is a basic wooden hut eight feet wide and twelve feet long with a small covered veranda in front. Over the years I have improved it. The felt covered roof is replaced by contractors every three years although they claim the roof covering will last five years. They paint the outside every two years.
At the back, behind a screen, is a chemical toilet. A curtain can be pulled across the whole width of the hut when the toilet is being used. Opposite is a stack of plastic chairs for use outside when the weather permits. In front are a small sink and two burner gas cooker with a gas-operated refrigerator. There is a portable gas fire. Immediately inside the folding doors are two bamboo armchairs that can be moved out on to the veranda. I have to bring in water and dispose of any used in the sink by emptying the bucket underneath.
I sit in or outside my hut almost all the daylight hours all year around. I have my breakfast in the retirement block we moved to five years ago when my wife became frail. She died three years ago and the retirement block is boring and lonely. Most of the residents rarely leave their rooms and in the communal lounge, when the television isn’t on which is almost never, the residents just sit and moan about their ailments. It is just a place to wait to die.
But many people pass my beach hut every day even in the winter. There are people out strolling along the promenade and twice a day most of the local dogs pass, often stopping for a drink from my dog bowl. Almost everyone says hello and many stop for a chat.
From the start of October until the end of March the toilets in the car park are closed. But my chemical toilet isn’t. One or two people a day use it when desperate, and some of the older people are. I can and do provide tea and coffee to anyone who wants it, and dog biscuits too.
Almost every day I have someone sitting in or outside my hut for an hour or so for a chat. I meet more people than all the other residents in the retirement block. If the weather is kind we could be sitting outside, or perhaps under the veranda, but if there is a cold wind or driving rain, we could be inside the hut with the gas fire keeping us warm.
My beach hut is my living room, my window on the world, and where I meet many people.
My favourite visitor, twice a day all year round, is Maureen. She is a reluctant dog walker and wouldn’t do it by choice. Her mother Grace lives in a bungalow about one hundred yards away and is wheelchair bound. Despite Maureen’s objections she has four small Scottie dogs that need walking twice a day and Maureen has to do it since her mother cannot.
Maureen is Grace’s principal carer and has been for the last twenty years. Maureen gets Grace up in the morning, wheels her to the kitchen table and while Grace has breakfast Maureen walks the four dogs. When she gets back to Grace’s bungalow she moves her mother to the living room, transfers her to a chair and leaves her with the television and the remote control. Maureen goes off to work as a teacher at the local Junior school. During the day professional carers come in to take Grace to the toilet, to give her lunch and to do the cleaning, washing etc.
One day Maureen admitted what I had suspected for some time.
“Arthur, you and your beach hut are the only things that keep me sane,” she said as she was sitting on my lap and kissing me.
“You know I’m always here when you need me, Maureen,” I said.
“I know, and I love you for it.”
I couldn’t answer. Maureen was kissing me again.
Grace’s needs have wrecked Maureen’s life. The old lady – no I shouldn’t call her old – she’s slightly younger than me, expects Maureen to look after her and has no idea of the consequences. Grace sees it as her right. Maureen’s husband Ian divorced her seventeen years ago because she spent too much time looking after Grace and would not consider having children while Grace still needed her. As a result of the divorce which was reasonably civilised, Maureen had to sell the family home and buy a smaller house near to Grace but she owns that outright.
But ten years ago Maureen had to give up her car. She couldn’t afford to run a car because the cost of Grace’s carers was more than Grace could afford, so Maureen has to pay as well.
To a certain extent Maureen was content to be Grace’s carer. But the dogs are a severe trial to her. She doesn’t ataköy escort really like dogs yet has to walk four twice a day. When two of the Scotties died, Maureen had hoped that she might have a hope of a dog-free future but Grace insisted on acquiring two more younger Scotties to keep the number at four.
On the evening of the day that Grace announced she was getting two more Scotties, Maureen really needed a strong cup of coffee from me. Once she had drunk that Maureen was sitting on my lap, her head resting on my shoulder, and crying her eyes out. Yet Grace has no idea what a strain she is putting on Maureen. As my beach hut is my relief from a boring existence, being able to talk to me is about the only thing that keeps Maureen sane.
But I appreciate Maureen too. Not only is she a pleasant conversationalist, when she’s not moaning about Grace, that occupies the first five minutes each time while I’m making the coffee, she is an attractive younger woman. She attaches the dogs to the front of my beach hut before giving me a hug and kiss. Two hugs and kisses a day from Maureen brighten my day. She seems to like me too.
I know I shouldn’t, but I love the days when Grace has been a real pain. One those days I have an armful of Maureen, hugging me as if I am the only person in the world who cares for her, and frequently kissing me. Sometimes the kissing goes on so long that the Scotties get bored and start yapping.
But Grace is damaging Maureen. Grace’s demands are increasing and so is the cost of her professional carers. Grace has gone beyond the point at which she would be better cared for in a residential home but she won’t consider it because she couldn’t take her four Scotties with her. She just expects Maureen to do more and one Sunday she suggested that Maureen should give up work to be Grace’s full-time carer.
The day that Grace suggested that, Maureen’s attack on me came close to rape. She wanted me, all of me, even the erection her hand strayed to find. It took all my control to keep my trousers on.
Maureen isn’t the only younger woman who gives me a hug and a kiss each week. There are between six and eight others, sometimes dog walkers, others just out for a walk. The two retired Catholic nuns embarrass me. Obviously they don’t hug or kiss me, but they have given me a crucifix for my hut and each time they stop for a coffee, they insist on praying for me even though I am a committed Protestant.
During the week after Grace had said she wanted Maureen to be her full time carer, Maureen was distressed every time she came. She had tried to explain to Grace that it was impossible and wouldn’t work. If Maureen gave up work, they couldn’t afford the professional carers and Maureen couldn’t lift Grace on her own. The carers had been trying to tell Grace the same thing. The carers had to bathe Grace daily because she was doubly incontinent and wore sanitary pads all day. Maureen couldn’t do that. It was getting harder every month for Maureen just to move Grace from bed to wheelchair, from wheelchair to armchair and finally back into bed. The four Scotties yapping around their feet didn’t help.
On the Thursday evening I had to comfort Maureen for much longer than usual. I suspected, but Maureen hadn’t said a thing, that Grace had been so annoyed that her suggestion was being rejected that she had been hitting Maureen and possibly the carers as well. Even the current caring arrangements for Grace had reached their limit and something would have to change soon.
While I appreciated having Maureen in my arms I was more sorry for her than aroused by having such an attractive woman in my arms. Yet I couldn’t do anything to help except provide someone to talk to, and a shoulder to cry on. That was no longer enough.
But Friday morning was a disaster. The tide was at its highest, one of the highest tides of the year. Fortunately it was calm otherwise I might have had to move everything out of my beach hut as it might have been swamped by the waves. The sea was lapping at the edge of the promenade, not deep, but covering the whole beach.
Maureen was close to my beach hut with the four Scotties when they passed a Great Dane that the Scotties hadn’t met before. They rushed to greet the new dog but their leads tangled around Maureen’s legs and she fell over, off the edge of the promenade into the sea.
I jumped out of my chair, went down the few steps and pulled Maureen out of the sea. She couldn’t stand up and I carried her in my arms to my beach hut and put her down on a chair.
“Arthur!” She protested, “You can’t carry me. You’re an old man!”
“Too late,” I said as I put her on the chair. “Of course I can carry the woman I love.”
Two dog walkers rushed to our assistance. One caught the Scotties and secured them to my beach hut. The other used his mobile phone to summon an ambulance. He and I thought Maureen had broken her left leg.
I wanted to get Maureen out of the wet clothes avcılar escort but she was in too much pain. All I could do was to wrap a couple of blankets around her. Maureen was more concerned about Grace than her own injuries. She borrowed the dog walker’s mobile phone to ring the carers and ask them to go to Grace earlier. They said they would but they would also contact Social Services. If Maureen was out of action, some emergency arrangements had to be made for Grace.
Even when the ambulance arrived, Maureen was more worried about Grace than her own injuries, which indeed was a broken left leg. Before she agreed to go to hospital, the dog walker had to ring the carers again to check what was happening to Grace. When he passed the message to Maureen that Grace was being admitted to a local nursing home, now, within minutes, only then did Maureen agree to be taken to hospital.
She left. But I now had four homeless Scotties. The dog walker came to the rescue again. He rang the local Dog Trust centre and they agreed to come and collect the Scotties and look after them temporarily until we knew what the long term situation was. To my relief the Dog Trust volunteer arrived within a quarter of an hour. I could then shut my beach hut and drive to the hospital to see how Maureen was.
At home, I rang Maureen’s school office. It was still half an hour before the children arrived. I told them about Maureen’s accident and that she wouldn’t be at school today and possibly not next week either. I gave them my apartment and phone number as a temporary change of address. They asked me to update them when I knew more.
Initially, even though I have a large automatic car, I was nervous about driving to the hospital. It was further than I usually drove and meant negotiating some city centre streets. After all, I am older than many people who had given up driving. But although I drove perhaps more carefully than most younger people would have done, the familiar route that I had taken when my wife spent her last few weeks in hospital was easy.
Maureen was in a side room in the Emergency department. She had already been X-rayed and although she had broken her leg, it was a simple fracture that should heal easily because of her age and general fitness. Although the leg was in plaster, she shouldn’t walk on it for a few days and then use crutches for about three weeks. It was after lunchtime before she was ready to be discharged. She had been given a sandwich. I bought one from the hospital shop.
The doctor was concerned that she shouldn’t sent home to be alone. I told him not to worry. Maureen would be my house guest as long as she needed to be. She protested but she was discharged to my care. I had to wrap my car blanket around her legs because her jeans had been cut off. Hospital porters put her in the front passenger seat. I loaded a wheelchair and crutches into my car.
For the first part of the journey Maureen was objecting that I shouldn’t have accepted responsibility for me. I told her to shut up and let me concentrate on my driving. Once we were out of the City Centre I said:
“Maureen, I love you. Looking after you won’t be a chore. I’ll love doing it and being with you all day.”
“What about your beach hut?”
“What about it? My retirement block apartment is meant for two but you and I can go to the beach hut every day. You can sit in a comfortable armchair and watch the world go past.”
“I’d like that, Arthur,” Maureen said.
“Then we will.”
I had to ask George, a neighbour, returning from buying some shopping, to help to get Maureen out of the car and into the wheelchair. What I could do in an emergency wasn’t the same as trying to extricate her from a car seat at an awkward angle. George, an elderly man but not as old as me, was delighted to get a thank you kiss from Maureen.
I asked George to look after Maureen while I went to her house to get some clothes. Maureen told me that she had an emergency case in the hall in case Grace had to go to hospital. It contained basic things but please could I get her another pair of wide-leg jeans to replace the ones that had been cut off in hospital. George was pleased to be with Maureen who was flirting outrageously with him.
When I returned, George was kneeling beside Maureen’s wheelchair and her arm was around him.
“Should I be jealous?” I asked.
“No, Arthur,” Maureen said. “I was just thanking George for looking after me, but I love you.”
George and I took Maureen to the bathroom, adapted as all bathrooms in the block are for disabled use, and helped her to go to the toilet. When she was back in the living room I made her some sweetened tea and then went to make up the double bed in what had been my wife’s bedroom. George and I put her on the bed and then the three of us gradually eased her legs into her wide-leg jeans. Maureen settled down to go to sleep. She was tired, possibly from the shock.
I thanked George and beylikdüzü escort then picked up the phone. I rang the school first to tell them what the diagnosis was and that Maureen wouldn’t be at school on Monday, but if she could manage her crutches might possibly be able to start work later next week. They sent her their best wishes.
Next I rang the nursing home where Grace had been taken. They told me that Grace had been seen by their visiting doctor. Grace had refused to go to a doctor, or have a doctor to call for at least three years. She had been found to have significant medical issues including incipient dementia. Provisionally Grace was considered unsafe to return to her home but they would monitor her over the weekend and a decision about her future would be taken on Monday morning. Could I ring back Monday afternoon to find out, please?
I rang the carers’ office. Their manager answered the phone. She sent her best wishes to Maureen but said they had been considering withdrawing their carers. Grace had hit both of them at least twice last week and had been seen to hit Maureen as well. They would have contacted Social Services on Monday to ask for a visit and review of Grace’s state. After next week, if Grace continued to hit people, their service would have stopped.
Maureen woke up just before I was ready to make our evening meal. I told her about the phone calls to the school and the nursing home, but not the conversation with the carers’ manager.
During the meal, despite her broken leg, Maureen seemed happier than she had been for months. She didn’t have the responsibility for Grace or the four dogs, and that was a relief. Every time I came close I was hugged. She was still tired and I put her to bed early. She wanted me to share the bed with her but I told her she needed to rest. Anything else would have to wait. She was disappointed but gave me a goodnight kiss.
Saturday morning after breakfast Maureen insisted we had to go to my beach hut. The local dogs would be missing me. I rang George on the internal phone system and he agreed to come and help me put Maureen in my car. He accompanied us so we could get her out at the car park. After all, it was only three hundred yards from the retirement block. Three hundred yards was too far for me to push Maureen. I usually drove just in case it rained. At my age I hate getting wet, and often I am carrying something for the hut even if only milk and sandwiches.
When Maureen was in her wheelchair she insisted on kissing George. He was embarrassed but he enjoyed it. He helped me to transfer her from the wheelchair to the armchair on the veranda. As it was still early in the morning I fed Maureen’s legs into a sleeping bag. She settled back in the armchair as if this was the only place she wanted to be.
All the passers-by greeted Maureen and wanted to know how she was. The men were hugged by Maureen and kissed. The women kissed and hugged me more than usual. The two nuns brought us a home-made cake and I persuaded them to stay, have cups of tea and some of their cake.
As more and more people stopped to say hello to Maureen she became happier and happier. She hadn’t realised just how many people knew her and liked her. As we ate our lunchtime sandwiches she said:
“Arthur? I know you love me, and that’s amazing but the others? All of them seem to love me too. Why?”
“That’s because of who you are Maureen,” I replied. “Many of us have felt sorry for you, devoting your life to Grace and walking dogs even though you’re not a dog person. But you are liked because you like people.”
“I do. You’ve always been here for me, Arthur, but it seems everyone you know would help me too, if they could.”
“That’s probably true, but unlike me they have other responsibilities and families too. Maureen is my only responsibility and my reason for existence.”
“Your reason for existence? You must be exaggerating, Arthur.”
“No I’m not. What else have I got? My children and grandchildren are hundreds of miles away and have their own lives. But Maureen hugs and kisses me twice a day, every day. You keep me going.”
“Come here, Arthur,” Maureen said, “Kneel beside my chair, please?”
I did. Maureen hugged me before she flung her arms around my head and kissed me for a long time. When the kisses finished Maureen looked closely at my face.
“Arthur? At the moment I am your responsibility and I know you will do the best for me because you love me. But from now on, you’re my responsibility too. I love you and will look after you and make sure every day that you know you are loved.”
I tried to make a joke of it.
“You mean I don’t need to be jealous of George?” I asked.
“Silly Arthur,” Maureen said, ruffling my hair. “No. My hugs and kisses for George is for the help he gives me. But you? I love you. You’re mine and my love will not let you go. You’re claimed, Maureen’s, and no one else’s and I’m all yours.”
Maureen pulled me into another long kiss.
“But I’m a very old man, Maureen, older than Grace.”
“Not by much and not so old that you couldn’t leap into the sea to save me, and carry me out. That shows love, Arthur.”
“It wasn’t much. It was a calm sea and the water was only two feet deep.”
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