I’m surprised they’ve all come, especially the children; there’s not much festive cheer here. They said they would come, but saying and doing can be poles apart; you learn that working here, especially today. I smile to myself; I’m glad they’ve come.
They trample in from the sleet and their coats start to steam once they get through the sliding doors, letting a burst of icy air in and sending goose pimples covering my bare arms. They take their gloves off and diligently pump big globs of anti-bacterial hand gel out, studiedly rubbing it in.
It leaves your hands sticky and makes you need to wash them again, I think; the cheap stuff does anyway. Lower alcohol content I suppose.
They’re all huddled together in that corridor of silent brightness. You can see the mood change, it dips and they grow quieter in anticipation. A few paces on smiles return but broader and tighter, as they are lost through his dark doorway.
The children aren’t keen, they look shy and hide behind their parents but once the eldest gets a handful of coins they run off to pick one thing each from the vending machine. Don’t get Quavers or Wotsits, they get stuck behind the metal rings all the time and I don’t have the key to get your money back. Sorry.
We crept round the wards at 5am, leaving a small present on each bedside table. We were quieter than we normally would be, it felt like a game; we couldn’t help giggling. The volunteers make them up from donations throughout the year – just a token, soap, hand cream, a little box of Celebrations, maybe a satsuma.
You can tell it makes a difference to the ones who are alone; they’re chattier this morning, and I’m more patient. I left one for him too, even though I know the blue and silver bag with coal tar soap and liquorice allsorts will still be there, untouched, tomorrow.