Thursday 1st May 2014 – 10.00
“May Day, Kate. May Day. Unfortunately not Mayday, but May Day.”
“Finally lost it, Charles? I’ve seen it coming for quite some time, come to think of it.”
“No, it really is May Day – May 1st. And we’ve had nothing like a Mayday call in the two years we’ve been doing this job, more’s the pity. But isn’t it wonderful fun being in a helicopter all day and scoping everything with the video camera. Just why I trained as a doctor for all those years. I guess we could always pretend we were helping Google Earth check their satellite pictures, but somehow I honestly don’t think that would wash. Anyway I’d rather be up here than down there at the moment – just take a look at the M26. Five-mile tailbacks in either direction, and we can see the cows all over the carriageway, but the poor drivers can’t, and they’re going to be stuck there for hours. And there’s not a Portaloo in sight – well there wouldn’t be on a Motorway I suppose. I wonder what on earth they do if they’re really desperate. No, just open fields and I can’t see a tree for miles either.”
“Charles, they’re bulls, not cows. Even a bozo like you should know the difference from only a thousand feet. That’s three hundred metres to you. Andy works in feet, but you’ve probably never heard of them. No, me neither, but I’ve read about it. Something called decimalisation, but you’d only have been in short pants then, and I wasn’t even born.”
“OK, bulls then, if you must be so picky. They all look the same to me, but I suppose it might make a bit of a difference to them. Anyhow, we can’t get stuck in traffic like that. Go anywhere we please, and snoop on people and places without anyone realising, – nobody takes any notice of an air ambulance any more, not even this one.”
“Charles, will you please come down to earth for just one moment. No, you idiot, metaphorically I mean. We can’t go anywhere we like, we’re stuck with Sorbo, remember? Where he goes, we go, – got it?”
“Yeah, yeah, OK. But I wish he’d go somewhere more exciting, or at least do something a bit different for a change. Let me think. Today’s Thursday. Oh yes, Co-op in Borough Green. Bank in Sevenoaks. Not the doctor today, but wait a moment while I check back to 27th March. Bingo, five weeks today. It’s haircut day! Wow, – this guy really lives it up. Anyway, should take the weight off his mind for a while.”
“Doctor West, you’re supposed to leave the corny jokes to me, – they’re my speciality. Sometimes it feels like I probably even invented the really cringe-making stuff, and if you start coming out with it as well, between us we’ll drive Andy completely bats.”
“Well Andy flies. And bats fly. So maybe Andy’s a …”
“Charles, … please?”
“Sorry, won’t do it again. Promise. By the way, did you work out where he got his name? – Sorbo I mean of course, not Andy. No neither did I. Never heard of it before, even as a nickname. Google and Wikipedia were about as useful as a bucket of sand in a desert. All they came up with was ‘Sorbo rubber – a very spongy form of rubber’. Grundy’s a fairly common surname, but first name Sorbo, – absolutely no idea. However, that’s his problem. Ours is to look after him, although what’s going to happen to a boring old fogey like him, I can’t begin to imagine. Andy, can you take it down a bit? Like to have another shufti at his house. What? Same as butchers or dekko, of course. Didn’t they teach you anything at that posh school of yours Kate? Mmm, wouldn’t mind living in that. Professional opinion?”
“Old, – probably really old. Georgian style windows don’t mean a thing nowadays, but I don’t think it’s repro, – the brickwork’s well weathered and the roof looks like it’s genuine Kent peg tiles. Just look at the size of it though. And it’s got a really well-designed annexe, maybe thirty or forty years old, but it fits in beautifully. And it’s got two or three acres. Dream on Charles, – way out of either of our leagues. Anyway, we’re supposed to be looking after him, not valuing his pad. Andy, can you take us back to the High Street please. We’ve seen enough to make us more than a bit green-eyed. No, I’m joking really. Quite like my flat in Croydon. Very posh part of Croydon I would have you know, big airy rooms, and handy for zillions of shops. And the trains to London, very fast and very frequent, not that I go there much any more. KS found it and organised my moving in, and they pay for everything, so I’m definitely not complaining.”
Thursday – 20.05
“There he goes again. Dinner at the Rose and Crown, out of the door at quarter-past eight, turn right, over the High Street, left onto the pavement, twenty-minute walk home. At least then we can hand him over to home security and call it a day. And aren’t we the lucky ones for a change. He’s a good ten minutes early tonight, probably didn’t stay for pudding or something. Andy, you’d better let Control know we’ll be heading back in twenty. Thanks. Bit boring, Kate, isn’t it? Just baby-sitting an old bloke every day, especially when nothing ever happens. Still, we get very well paid for it, so I suppose somebody knows something we don’t, and maybe one day we’ll find out just what it is. Night-night, see you both in the morning. Yes, ten-fifteen’s fine. He never goes out before eleven, except to the doctor, and I gather he isn’t going there tomorrow either.”
Friday 2nd May – 10.00
“Hi, Kate. Lovely morning. Looking forward this wonderful new non-event day as much as I am? Right, and like time and tide, this job stops for no man, so we’re going to have yet another rootin’ tootin’ action-packed Bank Holiday weekend, – I don’t think. Could be worse though, I suppose. After shopping, he’ll be home security’s baby until he goes to the pub at six, so we’ve got the afternoon off. Fancy a visit to Hever Castle? Yes, I’ll pay, and even treat you to lunch in the Moat Restaurant. Hang the expense, I’m earning enough and not a lot to spend it on. Great, you’re on. Andy, could you drop us off at Biggin at 13:00 and pick us up again at 17:15? Superhero, thanks. OK Kate, let’s see Sorbo through the morning’s riveting stuff first.”
Friday – 13.00
“Cheers, Andy. See you at five-fifteen for the next thrilling episode. Come on Kate, – Hever Castle beckons. It surely does. Didn’t you see it waving its big flag at us a couple of minutes before we landed? Doesn’t do that for just anybody.”
Friday 2nd May, 2014 – 16.00
Professor Hubert Drayton was one of the world’s finest neurosurgeons. A modest man outside of working hours, he wouldn’t express that opinion himself, but it was generally held by his peers in this elite, if somewhat arcane, profession. In the theatre, he was a different person. Authoritarian and dictatorial, he would not tolerate anything less than perfection, and he was well-known for swearing at the slightest provocation. He had devoted his long career to doing seemingly impossible things with brain and nerve cells that didn’t want to perform as they should.
Now, he was looking forward to retirement after many years of hard work. He and Pru were going on a world cruise to celebrate their thirty-fifth wedding anniversary. At last they would make up for the gap years that didn’t happen in either of their teens and twenties. Their children had long since flown the nest and had their own lives. Huw was a little disappointed that neither chose to follow him into the medical profession. Mark had once said ‘one day you’ll be able to poke about in someone’s brain and find out exactly what it’s thinking. That’s scary-weird. Not for me in a million years, thank you very much.’ So Mark was now a high-flying and respected banker. Huw wasn’t so sure you could actually be both, but he never said that to Mark. No point in starting a family row that could go on forever. Nobody backing down and nobody winning, and it would upset Pru too, as she couldn’t, and wouldn’t, take sides between her husband and her son. No, Huw decided. Better to hope that Mark didn’t do something stupid, or at least didn’t get caught for it. Anyhow, it seemed that those guys had ways of looking after each other, even if things did go wrong. Funny, thought Huw, not the same if I mess up.
Jennifer was different. Two years younger than Mark. Academically bright, and hard-working as well. Not a stunning looker, but not unattractive either. Open, generous and highly popular with her contemporaries. The world was her oyster, so why on earth did she choose fashion designing? Some of her mega-bucks creations looked like she had run out of material when she’d only managed to cover about half of some aspiring young actress’s body. Others had fabric designs which Huw thought would have looked better on a carpet than on the po-faced, anorexic-looking things who strutted today’s catwalks in the name of fashion. Not a popular view with those who considered themselves politically correct, he readily acknowledged, but to them the truth often wasn’t. However, Jen was successful in her job, and happy with the way things were turning out. Couldn’t really ask for more.
Huw’s thoughts turned to the weekend. For a change, the Bank Holiday weekend forecast was warm and sunny right up until Tuesday. Quick cup of tea, – then home before five. Oh, not again! Why does the phone always ring just as the kettle has boiled? “Drayton … No Archie. In twenty minutes I’m away home. First weekend off in ages. What? … Archie, I think you’d better come down. Kettle’s hot, and I can just about spare another tea bag.”
Huw liked working with Archie Prescott. A no-nonsense man like himself, Archie was the CEO of St. George’s Hospital, Tooting, in Southwest London. Huw’s domain was the Atkinson Morley Wing of the hospital, so Archie was technically Huw’s boss, but their relationship had always been one of equals, and much appreciated by Huw.
“White – sorry, milk – one sugar. OK Archie, shoot.”
“At two o’clock I got an e-mail from somebody calling themselves ‘KS 1419’. No other ID but they did give a postal address of 77b, Whitehall Mews, London, SW1’. Reads ‘Patient arriving your helipad 21:15 today. PRIORITY RED 1. Arrange and confirm soonest.’ Never heard of KS 1419, so I Googled it and got a load of irrelevant rubbish. Rang my man at the Ministry and got him to check. The address exists alright, – it’s an empty office. Couldn’t trace KS 1419, so he asked up-line about it and ‘Priority Red 1’. He got a very short answer. ‘Action immediately as instructed without question. No further information required.’ He strongly advised – no, virtually ordered – me to comply, so obviously I agreed. Did a bit more digging before I replied. As you know, our helipad is off limits between 20:00 and 08:00, so I contacted National Air Traffic Services (NATS) Control. Kent, Surrey and Sussex Air Ambulance given special clearance to use it until 23:00 today. Odd thing is, their HQ hadn’t been informed when I rang them. Anyway, I e-mailed back to KS 1419 that we would act as requested, and asked for patient information. They replied immediately ‘Repeat PRIORITY RED 1. Confirm arrangements. Details follow.’
So there we are, – and here it is.” Archie passed Huw a three-page print-out.
“As you see, we must bypass A&E and admit direct to theatre 14, and we must have all staff there exactly as listed – you in the lead, for some reason.”
Huw started reading. “Hmmm … Pete Da Silva. Best dream merchant there is. I’d have him all the time if he wasn’t so busy elsewhere. Simon Greenwood. Good old Simon, – top-notch orthopod, although he finds the easy stuff a bit boring. Prefers complex jigsaws and I’ll swear he uses Superglue sometimes. Work on a Friday evening? Answer to me? You’ll be lucky. And Warwick Hallibury, – Mr. Transplant himself, – but where’s he going to find the bits? Matt Pottinger. Loud-mouthed, with an odd sense of what he calls humour. But I wouldn’t want to be without him as he’s such a damned good Registrar. Sister McCreedy. Highly organised, very precise, and red-hot on discipline. Great asset in any theatre, but don’t slip up when she’s around. She scares me, Archie. I’ve heard her tongue-lashing Consultants to their faces. Admittedly she was right, as usual. But in front of the entire theatre? Probably counts swabs instead of sheep when she’s trying to get to sleep.
Think I’ve seen enough, Archie. Don’t know some of the juniors, but the rest of them are all the tops, real A-listers. Couldn’t have chosen better myself.”
“Agreed, Huw. And, until three this afternoon, every single one of them was rostered for the weekend off from their hospitals. Difficult to believe, but I didn’t get a squeak out of anybody, – except you.”
“Not any longer, Archie. Got me more than a little curious, so count me in. Must be some patient.”