This long winter in the care home, it's the little things that make all the difference. Things that don't fit into an allotted time like a neat tick in a box on a stamp sheet.
It could be listening to the poem Mary's going to read at her friend's memorial. They only ever met on paper. The plan was to chat over coffee and cake, not over burr walnut wood with a hand-carved rose inlay.
Or helping Daphne to sort the beads in her craft box. Arthritis is an artful thief of fine motor skills.
Maybe talking to Bill about the birds on the feeder. He never wanted to move here but then he is knocking on a bit now and did he ever show me the scar above his breastbone that he brought back from El Alamein?
It could be helping Margot with her rouge before she heads down for her evening meal. Her husband might be coming if he's finished with the cows. Her favourite is Margot – yes, the pretty Friesian, he named it after her. And am I sure this is her flat because Denis might not be able to find her if she’s moved? Oh yes, that is her in the photographs on the bureau. Will there be ice cream for dessert?
Or cooing over Phyllis's china doll before scooping her up from a flounce of Victoriana. (She and the pram belonged to Phyllis's mother, don't I know?) Then humming along to "Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star" while I cradle to my breast a memory that is not my own.
Or tinkering with the carriage clock on Fred's mantle. It stopped – when? – he can't remember. But one night or day, at twenty past three. Must have been recent, or he'll have missed lunch, breakfast, dinner. Come to think of it, his belly does sound like a bear. Giving the clock a little shake. Ah, a thready pulse, and now, against his ear, a steady tick tock tick . . .
long in the tooth –