Sunday, March 27, 2011

Bus trips

The residents in the village have fairly active social lives. It's a great thing, and something I'm trying to make more people aware of - there are far too many older people remaining in their huge family homes, unable to cook and clean for themselves properly, and camped alone in front of the tv, with only daytime soap stars for company.

Contrast that to our village. The less active among them head into the communal lounge areas, or meet in each others' apartments for a cup of tea and a catch-up. Even the meal times are a social event. Nobody is ever lonely in this place unless they want to be.

A few people socialise outside the village, and it's mainly the younger, fitter ones. Ted puts a bet on the horses now and then, and toddles off to church every Sunday. Ransa is a regular volunteer of some sort (I'm not sure where, but she mentions "reading to the ladies", so perhaps it's a nursing home). We always know when Elsie is going out for the day, because she will refuse to drink any liquids at breakfast time. Wouldn't want to have to locate a public toilet during an errand, would we?

Doris, the amputee, should probably be one person who doesn't venture far. But she is a real social butterfly. She has a veritable army of friends who are either visiting for Sunday lunch, or taking her out for coffee. Her favourite café is one in a neighbouring suburb; I know which one, because she brings me their home-made chocolates after every outing there.

Then we have the bus trips. Once a month we book a bus and take them on some outing. The destinations are always somewhere obscure or else sound boring - the only way to gather interest is to take them somewhere they haven't been, and everyone has been to see most local tourist attractions over the course of the last 75 years.

One month they were going to see some heritage garden, then heading for a picnic on a beach boardwalk. Yawn yawn, so I wasn't too upset that I had to stay at the village while Carlotta got to go. The morning was a hectic foodfight in the kitchen, preparing sandwiches to go, thermoses of coffee, and all manner of takeaway delicacies in plastic containers.

By contrast, once the bus left, the place was quiet and very calm. Lunch was a sandwich platter - no messing around with cutlery or desserts - all very cruisy and peaceful. Until the bus returned, and the chatter was like an electric current.

Nora had suffered a Terrible Accident, oh wasn't it terrible, did you see it? and was it terrible? and on and on and on went the village grapevine. I sought out Carlotta to get the scoop.

Nora, it emerged, had merely tripped up the bus stairs, right after the first stop. I don't make light of her injuries - she is old and frail, and took a large amount of skin from her shins, making quite a mess with the blood - but she would certainly survive. But the Oscar-winning performance was from dearest Marjorie, who happened to be sitting in the front seat and witnessed the calamity unfold.

Carlotta had been helping "herd" other residents towards the bus and didn't get to see the fall. The first she knew of it was the moan and the heap at the bottom of the bus door. And then Marjorie began her refrain. "She went down! Down like a sack of potatoes! It was awful! She looked just like a sack of potatoes!"

Marjorie, of course, promptly forgot what she'd seen. People were all discussing that Marjorie had witnessed the event, but when asked what happened to Nora, she just gave them a blank stare. It didn't matter how many people asked, she hadn't a clue what they were asking about. It was only later in the week that someone else commented they'd had a fall, "but not nearly as badly as poor Nora on the bus!", that Marjorie seemed to awaken.

"She went down! Down like a sack of potatoes!" yelled Marjorie from her solo spot at the corner table. "We're having baked potatoes for lunch today. That's what she looked like, just like a sack of potatoes."

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