I’ve always found the senior citizens cinema show on Wednesday mornings to be an ideal venue for widow-shopping. It’s a cheap morning out for an elderly widower, £3.50, including coffee and biscuits, and is patronised by that better class of widow who seems to be particularly susceptible to my old-fashioned charms. One needs to be alive to one’s opportunities of course, and it was my quick thinking, during a screening of ’Atonement’, that allowed me to ingratiate myself with Daphne Murgatroyd.
My opportunity arose during that scene in which a young couple are tangling steamily in the library. The audience, enthralled, was engaged in a tense bout of communal heavy breathing, when the moment was shattered by an embarrassed giggle from the woman next to me which elicited much self-righteous ‘shushing’, and 'tutting' from the audience, causing my humiliated neighbour to attempt to fold herself up in her tip-up seat. I seized my chance and patted her arm comfortingly. “Please don’t distress yourself, my dear,” I whispered, “you are obviously a lady with sensitivities, don’t let the reactions of these uncultured people upset you.”
Daphne, as she later introduced herself, smiled at me gratefully, and I followed up my first advance at intervals throughout the film, so that afterwards she gladly accepted my offer of a pub lunch, an investment on my part of £12.30, and then came back with me to the Happy Haven Retirement Home for afternoon tea and biscuits.
I smuggled Daphne in through the side door in order to avoid an unpleasant confrontation with my friend, Miss Lashley, (Room 10) who was under the extraordinary misapprehension that she exercised some kind of proprietorial rights over me. We reached my room, undetected and I put the kettle on.
You must understand that I am now seventy-four years of age and I have neither the time nor the attention span to faff around with the niceties of wooing, or whatever it’s called now. I also had my lunch investment of £12.30 to protect, plus the £3.50 outlay for the cinema, so I made my move even before the kettle had boiled, tenderly embracing Daphne as she stood gazing through my window.
To my surprise, her response was so positive that the passion of her kiss dislodged my upper denture at the very moment that I was gulping for air. The denture shot to the back of my throat, choking me, and Daphne, alarmed by the discovery of a foreign body in my mouth, sprang away with a frightened cry and toppled backwards over my footstool.
Our cries of distress attracted the attention of Polish Petra, one of the carers, who burst into my room, followed by a furious Miss Lashley and a twittering gaggle of rubbernecking residents.
“Ohmygod, Granpappy George,” said Petra, as she surveyed the carnage, “you’ve really done it this time haven’t you?”
The paramedics put Daphne in a surgical collar and carried her to the ambulance strapped to a board. Although she had now regained consciousness, she did not wish me goodbye, so I assumed that our brief relationship was at an end, as was my association with Miss Lashley.
That’s another £15.80 down to experience, I suppose.
Miss Starkey, the Happy Haven manager, made me pack my things, and confined me to my room until my daughter Janice arrived from London. I can understand that Janice was not well pleased, and that coming for me at short notice may have been inconvenient, but was there really any need to be so sour-faced and judgemental? I am her dad, after all.
I move in to my new retirement home, close to Janice, very soon. It’s near my daughter because my being excluded from four homes in less than three years has zeroed my residential options in my own area. Apparently I am initially to be under twenty-four hour surveillance and I have solemnly undertaken to keep out of trouble from now on.
At least until I get a better-fitting denture, anyway