‘I saw some geese today,’ says Joe. ‘Flying across over the hills there. Beautiful they were. They fly in a V, you know.’
It’s worked then, giving Joe the big room with the en suite and making his armchair face the window. From his chair he can see the Pennines in the distance, with the wind turbines, and a vast expanse of sky. And if he stands up – he can stand for a short while – he can see the comings and goings on the street.
We’ve been here just over six weeks. Joe can get around the house quite well now. The first two weeks were great. He must have been tired out from the respite week in the care home while we moved. Perhaps his nights were disturbed there. The journey up here from Southampton took it out of him a bit as well. So, he went to bed just before eight and slept through until just after eight the next morning. It was like having a baby in the house all over again.
Recent weeks have been a bit more fraught. I’m a light sleeper and his en suite backs on to our bedroom. Plus he’s been taking something to counteract the constipation the iron tablets he’s on cause. It always seems to work in the middle of the night. Fortunately, I don’t hear the details, but I do hear the clop shuffle of a man who walks with a stick (stroke three years ago) and I can’t settle again until I hear the toilet flush and evidence that he has safely returned to bed.
Then one evening something really peculiar happens. Mark and I are just getting ready for bed. We’re just about to put our lights off and we hear Joe make his way down the stairs. Clop shuffle. Clop shuffle. Click, click as the lights go on one by one.
‘You’d better go and see what he’s up to,’ I whisper to Mark. I don’t know why I whisper. Joe can’t hear a thing. We have to write everything down for him.
Joe makes his way through our Tudor-style house – one room leads to another. He goes down the stairs, across the hall, into the lounge, through the dining area and then the kitchen and finally into the utility room. He rattles the back door. Then he shakes his head.
He turns, and shuffle clops his way back – through the kitchen, the dining area, the lounge, the hallway and up the stairs. The landing light snaps off.
‘What was he doing?’ I ask Mark.
‘No idea,’ he replies. ‘Just staring.’
The next morning Joe and Mark are down for breakfast before me. Joe is mashing his habitual Weetabix into its usual pulp. The walking stick again rests over a drawer handle, threatening to be forgotten.
‘He said he thought he heard burglars,’ says Mark.
‘But he doesn’t hear anything,’ I say.
Joe starts making a cup of tea. Naturally, he has no idea we are talking about him.
The cat bounds in suddenly, moaning and squawking about something. The there’s another noise. At first I don’t recognise it but then I’d swear I can hear voices. Human voices. Joe’s probably left his television on again. But they seem to be getting louder and clearer. Someone coming along the street, then?
The noise gets much louder. The cat goes berserk.
Joe suddenly looks up.
Then we see them. The flock of beautiful wild geese, flying in a V formation made up of three other V formations, cutting a pattern into the plain blue sky, making it all look effortless. They’re chattering away.
‘There they go,’ said Joe. ‘That must have been what I heard last night.’
He shuffles towards the lounge.
‘Do they fly at night?’ I ask, guessing that they probably don’t and knowing that I didn’t hear them anyway.
‘What did you say?’ asks Joe, handing me the pad and the pen. ‘You know I can’t hear a bloody thing.’