An old man suddenly livens as his grandson eats candy floss. Oh, the memories!
“Hi, Mr Perkins, your father is in his room.”
“Is he okay? No dramas?”
“He is fine.”
“Thanks, I’ll go and see him. Oh, my son is in the garden with one of your carers. Can you show him the way to his grandad’s room when he’s ready?”
“Of course. Have a nice visit,” the nurse smiled and bustled down the corridor.
“Hello dad, how are you feeling today?”
Silence followed by a grunt, then, “I don’t know why you are here.”
“Dad, please, do we have to go through this each day I come?”
“Please open the window, I can’t smell the flowers.”
John Perkins smiled and pushed the windows wide.
“Beautiful day dad, the sun is shining.”
“I can tell when the sun is out even with these eyes.”
The grey orbs could detect changes in light, but not much else.
“Yes dad, can you smell the roses down there?”
“I can list the flowers by smell if you want. By the way, who are you again?”
“Your grandson is here today. He is growing fast and will be starting school next term. He is very excited about it, please say nice things about school.”
“What is his name?”
“His name is Paul. Here he is.”
A timid lad was hiding behind a green uniformed lady. Left and right she moved, young Paul managed to remain behind her.
The old man suddenly beamed, “I can smell candy-floss!”
“Where did you get that, it’s bad for your teeth,” said son to grandson.
“One of our residents love it, her daughter always brings a stick when she visits. Unfortunately, the lady is unwell. Young Paul was in the right place at the right time,” the lady explained.
“Once in a while won’t hurt I guess?”
The lady smiled and led Paul to his father.
“Can I have a taste?” said the old man.
Paul carefully placed the stick in his grandfather’s hand.
A grin spread across his face as he breathed in the sweet aroma.
“Let me tell you a story young man. Come and sit next to me.”
A gentle breeze blew the curtain as the old man drifted back in time.
“I was a bit older than you when I first thrilled at the travelling fair. It came to our village every summer. My granny had saved up a jar full of coppers which she emptied into my jacket’s pockets. I can feel the weight of those old pennies pulling me down now. Off we went to the common, I could feel the excitement growing as we neared the fairground. The first thing I spotted was the helter-skelter. ‘Can I can I’, I asked. ‘It’s your money’, she said. I raced off to join the queue of boys and girls all waiting their turn.”
Paul was entranced by his grandfather’s every word.
“It was while I was looking at the children sliding, round and round, that I got a whiff of heaven. A huge lady was spinning a stick in a vat of pink sugar. When she finished her creation, a cloud of rose-coloured candy-floss was presented to a pig-tailed young lass, she skipped away. I no longer wanted to clamber up the stairs up to the top of the ride, I wanted the pink treat.”
Son and grandson were speechless they were entranced by the speech, that summer day all those years ago had started a train of thoughts they would never forget. Young Paul pinched a hand full of sticky floss, bringing delight to his grandfather’s face.
“I was standing, holding my prize, staring at the dodgems when my granny grabbed my hand and led me to the stepped rim of the circuit. The rumble of the wheels the squeals of excitement and the thrill of the chase was all too much for a young boy, I had to have a go.”
The small audience grew as two of the nurses heard him talk at length for the first time since he arrived at the care home, soon the room was filled with residents and more staff as people crept in to hear more.
“I fell in love with the dodgems. Every year when the fair came, I worked for ‘Old Pikey’ the owner of the ride. My job was to knock at neighbouring houses and collect newspapers which were used to clean the ‘cars’. In exchange for a pile of newsprint, they were handed tokens for free rides. My wage was also tokens, but I also got free candy-floss. The candy-floss lady was ‘Old Pikey’s’ wife. My mind is drifting away from the dodgems, just as they skidded across the steel floor. That lady always smelled sweet but her husband smelled of fish,” he grunted at the thought.
The afternoon’s tea trolley pulled up outside and offered a steaming cup to all inside, the bedroom was now filled with intrigued listeners.
“It was then I met your grandmother.”
Paul’s hair was ruffled by shaky fingers, his head now rested on his grandfather’s chest.
“‘Old Pikey’ had a daughter, he kept her away from the ragamuffin customers and workers. I included. We had no idea about her, we didn’t know she existed. One day I was delivering papers, the door to the caravan opened a little, a slender finger signalled me to go near. I crept over, ‘Take me to the bus stop please,’ I heard whispered from behind the door.”
He stopped talking, frozen in time and deep in thought. He shook his head then slowly and confidently continued his race on the memory circuit.
“She was just fifteen, I was fifteen going on sixteen. She told me she wanted to run away. Her father and mother kept her locked away, she didn’t go to school and had no friends. She had watched me each year when the fair arrived on the common. She wanted to speak to me, but couldn’t get her nerve up, until that incredible life-changing day. She was beautiful. I was in love.”
Again the storyteller drifted, lost in ancient memories. The audience transfixed by his tale. Holding their breath until he continued. This a resident who didn’t speak more than a handful of words at any time.
“We ran away, we went to Brighton, thinking we would find work. It wasn’t to be. We had nowhere to live and were starving. My mum allowed us to return. The police had been to the house and scared the life out of her with talk of kidnap and the like. We were both sorry for all the distress we caused. Sally fell pregnant, we had a hastily arranged marriage and I managed to find a job. John here was born, fit and healthy. All was good, until one day there was a knock at the door. It was a Sunday, my mum was at church. I opened the door and smelt candy-floss.”
Tears ran down his cheeks.
“I never saw her again. She was dragged away by her sweet-smelling mother. Her father punched me, then used a tool from the dodgems and poked my eyes out. Sally was screaming as she was frogmarched away. Years later ‘Old Pikey’ died and Sally tracked me down. She had sold the fair and came to live with our son, yes, John you, and my mum.”
A burst of applause shattered the silence. An old man wondered what all the noise was for? Why were the people in his room? And who was on his bed?