I mentioned the lake down by the woods, didn’t I? Our old care home is grimly set, but with that one lovely place. Before the visitors come, and sidestepping the staff, you can hear the squeak of zimmers getting some of us down there each morning. It’s the smoking brigade or the escapees. Old Jack doesn’t often join them, what with smoking being repulsive (I know, I know, I was out of step with my generation for 70 years) and wanting my cooked breakfast before the scrambled eggs congeal. But off they trundle, away from the angst.
That’s when the place is at its most confused. You see the others, too weak or forgetful, sat on their beds, fighting with things that were easy once: the light switch, the sheets, the telephone. Young Steve was showing me the wonders of Vimeo when we hit upon a short film, Dotty – kind of an inadvertent companion piece to Two Minutes (2011) – which is a thing of loveliness and laughs and captures those mornings perfectly.
Dotty – played by the magnificently genuine Joyce Irving – sits on her bed fighting with her phone. She is gentle and bemused, but frustrating for the woman delivering her tea who she ropes into helping her send a text.
Been there. Smashed the phone into the wall…
The pair sit on the bed, frustration and wonder bouncing between the two of them, as the phone is unlocked and the message typed. Old Jack wanted to scream at Dotty, then her companion, then Dotty again, before the thing charmed off my socks.
Steve was still with me, wiping away manly tears. There’s a simple veracity to Dotty, the room in the care home, the squeaking of those zimmers, the wrinkles and crinkles in Dotty’s beautiful face. Even Alison Bruce as the helper, repeatedly explaining which button to press and when, is captured with true flickers of impatience on her face and tensions in her breathing. Frustration writ very small so as not to hurt feelings.
Old Jack sees that in the faces of the nurses – the ones who have lived the least. I’m lucky, still reasonably robust above the knees and around the prostate and heart, but many aren’t. Those little dances, in the rooms or by the lake, as young people deal with old people, are heart-breaking to watch. You can’t hear the words or the breathing, but you know it’s full of repetition and tension. And, as with Dotty, a good dose of understanding and humour.
Both Irving and Bruce, for the few minutes we share with them, are terrific.
The whole short is linked to below.
Take a look; then make a donation to the Alzheimer’s Society.