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Spalding area's John Ward: "I was content to sign for my own library books at 16 unaided"

Recently I was sitting in a NHS waiting room, or Area Suite even as it now trendily referred to in some parts, all geared up for my appointment - I was ‘ready’ and waiting, although those I was going to see were otherwise engaged I assumed as time ticked by slowly.

I always go early to such establishments in case they have any ‘early bird’ offers. But I must remember to buy a watch that coincides with NHS time as I have never, ever, been ‘in on time’ so far for an appointment to see somebody, but hey up - can it be I am not buying the right thickness of battery for my wrist mounted tick-tock?

I was midway into my thumb twiddling and occasionally shaking my wristwatch - yup, the second hand is still going round and so are patients who came in after me with later appointment times.

John Ward (26716896)
John Ward (26716896)


At this point I check; yes, I am definitely in the ‘Marie Celeste’ Area/Suite where patients arrive with good intentions but are rarely seen again as they enter and vanish into corridors, eventually.

By now, I was feeling neglected - I know about this process as I went through it years ago in a branch of (then) Woolworths.

I had enquired about the price of an item as the assistant left me standing there while she ‘went to check’ but never came back - hence I know about this neglect concept.

While I am thinking about joining the escape committee, and which seat do we start the tunnel under, a lady with her young daughter arrived and took root on the seats next to me.

Within seconds she asked/told me: ‘There was total rubbish on the telly over Christmas - I mean it’s not traditional watching all those repeat things is it? - but some of the bits on the evening news programmes we hadn’t heard about before though’ (?!).

I gazed upwards and once again inwardly, silently asked: ‘Why me all the while, Lord - why me?’

It seems her daughter, Brittle, is there to see Mr Soandso - ‘He’s a specialist bloke you know’ as I go for gold and ask what part of the month her appointment is timed for - it’s after mine, in theory - so will she mention me in passing if she goes in before me I pondered.

Brittle was comforted having her mobile with her, busy looking at the screen with fingers going like whirling ‘Catherine wheel’ fireworks on it.

Next, much to the amusement of others sitting there in the same holding pen, I am informed of little Brittle’s (not to be confused with Little Britain) plan’s for the future when she grows up and leaves college.

Unique to think she is the best part of five or six years-old but already her college leaving party is being planned - my, the hopes and aspirations of today’s youngpeople.

This is where I went doo-lally and was dumb enough to ask what she was going to do when she ‘leaves college’ - Doctor possibly? Nuclear scientist perhaps? NHS Appointments Shuffler maybe?

Nope - none of these as little Brittle is ‘deeply interested in saving the planet’ - what or who for was not mentioned and I didn’t like to intrude as it might be a family thing - ‘as she watches all them programmes, repeats and all, about polar bears, Iceland hats (polar ice caps) and things’.

There were signs that those across from me, also waiting, were also enthralled to hear about this as they waited to see their designated specialist, doctor or lumberjack of choice.

I was silly enough to ask how she got ‘involved’ in this amazing work at such an early age as she explained that a sixteen year old girl was ‘doing the rounds’ who: ‘but wasn’t English but spoke in foreign, like, but was being flown all over the place to say things about climate wot-not and global things plus animals at risk’.

Brittle by the way as we (other patients and I) are to learn has a pet hamster (unnamed) but I am not sure if there is a problem of hamsters facing extinction like polar bears, penguins that live in the Iceland hats neck of the woods.

I said it’s a funny old world - when I was 16 I was just about old enough to get a provisional driving licence to ride a motorcycle, however due to the then local council rules, I could not sign for my own library books until I was 18.

My mum, of the people for the people, signed as a guarantor for me but said that if the adverts were anything to go by I could join the army (ours, and we still owned a full size one then) as a bandsman at 16, learn to play a musical instrument and then move on to perhaps shooting people ‘if they got short’ - short of what exactly she was unsure of.

So things have moved on - now at 16, it seems some people know everything about the world, give or take the odd publicist, scriptwriter plus PR marketing team in the background so who needs a childhood anymore plus a book deal and own life story to follow on no doubt once the swooning stops.

Mum cut in to say that Brittle knows all about carbon boots (didn’t this used to be carbon footprints? - was it a close relation?) and flying as her brother has a flying simulator (surely simulator maybe?) game on his console wotsit and she knows how to fly a plane, but ‘They lay on planes and things when you get into the swing of things I think’

The thought of a five or six year old jetting around the globe, regardless of ‘carbon boots’, with her pet hamster in tow to show how ‘our generation’ is or has failed to account for things is breathtaking plus being a marketing company’s dream come true as she speaks English as well.

The saving grace is getting enough blinkered people to believe in her but she smiles pleasantly enough, bless.

It was interesting to hear one patient across the way from us say to his wife in hushed tones: ‘I hope I don’t get called in before we hear a bit more, luv..’

It was so engrossing I had nearly forgotten what I had come about - was it to see a specialist? - get a new, thicker battery for my wrist mounted tick-tock? – who knows?.

Just then a nurse, or Personal People Conveyor as they are now known as in some circles, arrived to spoil things for me by apologising for the lateness but Mr Thingamebob will see me now.

So off I went to see him, leaving Brittle with her hamster, unnamed, at home and not hearing her future plans for saving the planet but by the time I came out they had both gone.

Life can be like that at times.

My joy of meeting Brittle before she has even set out on her mission to save us from ourselves and tell us it was due to global howsyerfather, while in my era I was just content to be able to sign for my own library books unaided when the ‘right’ birthday arrived.

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