Thursday 17 December 2009


Waiting rooms and people watching... or just waiting my life away

This has been a week of waiting around. The other day I had to sit next to Father Christmas in the hospital waiting room. It was the only seat left. He wasn’t real. I could tell that by the way his foot fell off when I shifted his knee away from mine, but it made everyone smile, even though we knew we’d be waiting there for the best part of the morning. My husband, Rod, is on chemotherapy again for his Amyloidosis and so we have to go each month for them to check him over and write out the next month’s prescription. There’s always a buzzing atmosphere in the clinic’s waiting room: friendships forged on the oncology day ward, people chatting, comparing side effects, number of courses this time, what to get the Grandkids for Christmas.

Waiting rooms are excellent places for gathering ideas for new characters. This week it was the grown-up daughter who was trying a little too hard to keep up the spirits of her anxious mother, buying her packets of crisps, taking photographs of her with her mobile phone, giggling a little too much. I slipped my writer’s notebook out of my bag and jotted it all down. You never know when she might want to appear in one of my stories.

From the clinic we went straight to Pharmacy. The sign said ‘one hour’s wait’ and we knew that meant ‘at least one hour’ so we resigned ourselves to more waiting in the WRVS cafe. The cafe is good for a different kind of people watching: nurses, doctors and assorted members of staff rushing in, grabbing a sugar fix and rushing out again. The care assistant with the glitter on her cheeks, reindeer antlers on her head and a miserable look on her face was a great character to capture in the pages of my notebook, so too was the volunteer working behind the counter. He had a Santa hat on his head and was singing Christmas Carols and joking with us all as he provided us with mugs of coffee and mince pies.

The next day I took my mother to the dentist. Another chance to people watch, or so I thought, and I went fully prepared as usual with my writer’s notebook and pen, but what a difference from the atmosphere in the hospital clinic. Everybody was sitting in silence, looking down at their feet, glancing up each time the nurse came in with an expression of gloom and the end of the world on their faces. I think we need to get things into perspective here.

Even the dog’s waiting

(a shameless excuse for sharing with you a picture of Josh the dog)

This week saw more waiting with the promised delivery of two flat-pack wardrobes. Why is my address always the last call of the day and why couldn’t they tell me first thing in the morning instead of making me wait? It’s the same when we need a plumber or electrician. Who are these people who have the first call of the day? I could now start complaining about waiting for buses and the way that they always sail past our turning just as I get to the corner but that would make me sound like a grumpy old woman and that would never do.

Waiting does seem to take up a large part of my life. I am forever waiting to hear from a publisher, and it’s a lovely phone call that I mean, not a rejection letter. For some people waiting is how they pass their entire lives: waiting to grow up, waiting for the right partner, waiting until they can afford to have children, waiting for their summer holiday, waiting for Christmas, waiting for retirement. Let’s stop all the waiting and do a bit of living instead otherwise before we know it we’ll be waiting to die – the end.