“Shhhhh!!!” I hiss. “Look like we love you. And she might not take you away.”

Years ago, I did ‘work experience’ in a hospital. It was, by any criteria, not a happy arrangement for experiencer, institution or patients. On my first day, the lady in charge of me took me on a tour of the facilities. After several wards, laundries, administration sections and the morgue, we stepped into a room importantly marked ‘Staff Only’.

Before the door was opened I could smell the cigarettes, but I was unprepared for the jaundiced murk within. Smoke clung to the ceiling, to the yellowing walls, drifting around the battered and fading furniture in a creeping fashion that was purely Dickensian. (n.b. Charles). Though my eyes were streaming, I could make out the figure of the fattest woman in the world, slumped in a far corner, half-smoking, half chewing on a Benson & H.

We fought our way through the smoke molecules to reach her. Peering at me through thick spectacles, she swilled low into her chair, as if she’d been poured into it from a big vat of something quivery and shapeless. Surrounding her were ten or eleven plastic cups, some of which contained unwanted remnants of what seemed to be the treacliest of treacle-coffee.

“Jonny,” said my guide, brightly. “I’d like you to meet the Health Visitor.”

That was in the 1980’s, and they are different now, and look like they ought to be a friend of your mum’s called ‘Jean’. Plus we do not constantly take out endowment mortgages whilst listening to Kajagoogoo records.

I stand in front of the poo on the curtains so she does not think I am a bad housekeeper, and she converses with the LTLP, ignoring me studiously, as I am just a man. I like it that way, as it makes the LTLP feel important, and they can have a good heart-to-heart about women’s things like feeding and indigestion and all that.

I hold Baby Servalan in the background, making the occasional ‘goo’ noise. She is very good, and we are allowed to keep her.

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