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Thursday, 5 March 2009

Missed Prince Charles by seconds

The other week Prince Charles made a flying visit to the QMC (Queen’s Medical Centre) to talk to them about the catering and usage of organic foods on the wards and the difference it had made to the health of the patients. So I thought it would be a good idea to combine a possible meeting with Prince Charles. I’m always bumping in royalty and he’d be more than interested to hear about my blog I’m sure. Other than that I thought it would be different to check out the small but always busy, WRVS café at the Queen’s Medical Centre.

Having missed Charles by seconds – he gave a royal wave as his car passed my bus – I decided to concentrate on the little café instead.

The hospital cafes and shops are staffed by volunteers who serve not only staff and patients and visitors but also raise funds for much-needed hospital equipment and the WRVS. Where possible they return the profits to the hospitals and a leaflet in this café said that they raised £5.6 million in 2006 through WRVS efforts countrywide; benefiting thousands of patients throughout Great Britain. Also on the leaflet they were asking for more volunteers to cover vacancies for café assistants, retail assistants, retail trolley assistants and volunteer recruiters. Their website is

Whilst I was there I had a very reasonably priced egg salad sandwich and a cuppa and did a bit of non-royal people watching. It was pretty packed in this small café; mostly older grey and white haired people that I assumed to be visitors until one old dear next to me got talking to her husband about her eyesight. They have just arrived with some paper cups of tea and the ubiquitous milk cartons and plastic stirrers.

Mrs Old Dear: They said it might be advisable to get a pair of them reading glasses. When I look at the telly I can’t read the writing very well.

Mr Old Dear: Hmmm. (picks up milk carton)

Mrs Old Dear: They shouted me name out twice for me test. I couldn’t read the letters. Top row was all right. Bottom three rows were all blurred. You listening?

Mr Old Dear: Hmmm. (tries to pull away silver top to pour)

Mrs Old Dear: Give me the milk carton. What you doing? Faffin’ about.

Mrs Old Dear then manages to spurt milk everywhere as she pulls back the strip from the little individual milk carton.

Mrs Old Dear: Oh, for goodness sake! Bob! Have you got a tissue? Quick, it’s going all over the place. (to me, and not noticing my journal writing) Sorry ducky.

Mr Old Dear- whom we now know as Bob - mops up the offending milky mess with a tissue from his pocket. I suddenly notice that he is wearing an off yellow coloured hearing aid and has masses of curly grey ear hair fighting its way out of his right ear. I presume the left one to be the same but neglect to walk round and have a look.

In the background the electronic prescription ready sign blinks away with prescription numbers. 346. 347.348. Prescription ready. Bold green writing on a black background. I remember once being here on a past occasion waiting for a prescription of my own. It seemed to take forever.

A big burly policeman goes by me and I can see his silver set of handcuffs sticking out of a utility belt around his waist (like the 1960’s television hero, Batman).
Note to self: I must be careful taking photos here as I don’t want to have to explain my blogging to a policeman today. Then again, if he arrested me I could do another blog from the police station café.

As I look around there is another old couple on the nearest circular metal table. The woman has her back to me and the old chap sits in a bent over position and has very bushy eyebrows, deep bags under his weepy blue eyes and long earlobes. The Asian guy behind them is having a tense time struggling to bust open the plastic wrapper on his filled bread roll. The skin above his lightly hooked nose is practically vibrating with the effort. Oh, he’s done it now and a bit of lettuce just catapulted itself across the room. The roll and its contents are now being devoured slowly but certainly. He's eating like a man on a mission. The old man with the bushy eyebrows has stood up and is putting on his coat and check pattern hat. He helps the lady to her wobbly feet and they are off down the corridor to the wards. One of her fluffy slippers rushes ahead to join its companion under the hospital bed. It doesn't get very far and is deftly caught by her foot.

There is a smell of milky coffee in the air and a constant murmur of chat and even the odd laugh amongst the here assembled. The WRVS ladies move in like friendly purple-bibbed vultures to any table that has remains of food or drinks on them. Out comes the cleaning cloth and the tables are ready again for their constant flux of hospital visitors.

I spend the next few minutes drinking my own cup of tea and then I am off too. I skirt round the smiling babies in pink and blue pushchairs and as I go past the reception I notice a bust of Prince Charles in his 30s. I want to take a photo but I am being watched by the receptionists. I leave the QMC and head back into town on the bus.

The sandwich was nice and very reasonably priced and the cuppa was perfect ladies of the WRVS. Keep up the great work.


French Fancy said...

I do think you could have managed to get yourself arrested Phil, in the cause of interesting blog posts. How selfish are you?

axeman3uk said...

Such a fascinating insight into a snap shot of life, it leaves you wondering how the old fella did with his sight test? does he need better glasses or is it medical.

Then the question that has been nagging on my mind since we met Mr & Mrs OLd Dear or Bob and his good lady wife (that assuuming it is his wife???) well the thing that you wonder is if he got rid of all the ear hair would he be able to hear properly and secondly does it have it's benefits in the winter by keeping the tabs warm?

Phil Lowe said...

French Fancy I am so selfish I need to be reprimanded by the Naughty Nurse. Bad me! lol

Axeman3uk, its the old lady who had the eye test and ear hair certainly does have winter tabs warming benefits - so I'm led to believe.

French Fancy said...

One of the reasons I do like your blog is that it is so very English - a snapshot of etc etc. I sometimes feel a tinge of homesickness after reading it - but not enough to make me move back.

Athina said...

Oh, missing the Prince by seconds, that's wonderful. Me I think shall never see a real prince in my entire life.

The Asian eating like a man on a mission. Lol. And you always observe old ladies' wobbly feet. Makes me hope and pray that when I grow old I will not walk with wobbly feet.

Phil Lowe said...

Glad it amused you Tina. I'm sure that you won't have wobbly feet. lol

Merci French Fancy - for a man who adores french culture I can be very English - but I know where I would be if fortune smiled on me.Sipping a glass of the red stuff in sunny Bordeaux. Saying that I do love the English quirky sense of humour and it doesn't always work in La Belle France.