THE END OF THE ROAD
The sign, standing at the far end of the gravel drive leading to the entrance, is known to the staff drivers as: Dr. Mengele’s Thumb.
To the right of the sign: the wards, and to the left: the mortuary.
The large oak doors leading in to the building are glistening and drenched with heavy rain. They are dressed with heavy brass handles polished smooth as silk from turning by many hands . They epitomise the character of this Victorian pile; imposing, and as strong as the British empire once was.
Inside, the corridor invites a long walk. The walls, of green and white glazed brick, rise high to support the ceiling that, though once white, now display a weak yellow. These, together with the black and white diamond shaped ceramic mosaic floor, echo the visitors footsteps. The echoes give unease to the visitor of the possibility that this may not be a solitary walk. Is there a sense of a ‘presence’? Was that a mischievous giggle heard from someone, somewhere, in the shadowed recesses along the passage ahead, or the harmless rustling crackle of the wearers raincoat? Or, did a forlorn and melancholy Florence Nightingale figure, adorned in regulation bonnet and hooped hospital dress, whisper to the visitor, in passing, “Don’t forget to say goodbye”.
The doors to the ward are not original, and are out of place and time here. They are of plastic and wear a wide band of black rubber, strategically placed to afford protection from the impact of trolleys, beds on wheels, meals on wheels (which always smell of boiled cabbage, even when it is not cabbage day), and wheel chairs. Life here is so much easier here since the invention of the wheel, and diamorphine.
The ward is circular with an immense and rotund column rising from its centre to the roof and serving as a flue to four ornate fire places, each facing a different direction, and providing opportunity for all abed to observe the rusting fire irons which have not cradled hot coals for a century.
The thick walls have a pale green sheen. Gas light brackets still protrude above each bed; their hissing and spluttering now silent, their light extinguished. Replaced by Eddison’s electric light gloomily hanging from long wires suspended from a high vaulted ceiling. Each wire is looped together one to the other and resembling a web of some gigantic spider.
Opposite the ward entrance there is a small room; a side ward. The patients refer to this place as the waiting room. Those who are transferred there, in their wheeled beds, have their ticket ready, waiting for the sweet chariot to swing low, coming for to carry them home.
The only cheer here is found in plastic tumblers on top of the bedside tables. False teeth are always grinning. Are they remembering that old joke? You know the one I mean: “The best way to make God laugh, is to tell Him what your plans are”.
Author Notes: Please comment.