My most favourite head gardener died at the back end of January, deepest winter with snow on the ground. Sometimes the snow was so deep the hospital grounds men shovelled it onto spaces in the car parks just to be able to get visitors at least somewhere to park. Over eleven days of comings and goings you get to understand how hospitals work for visitors.
The staff were utterly, utterly wonderful. If you were to describe a pitch perfect care standard, this would be it. Woefully understaffed, still at their station an hour after the end of their shift and thus unpaid, writing up notes and asking passing visitors if they needed a tea tray; in the middle of their unpaid overtime, still caring enough for the welfare of the friends of the dying. Over the days you become familiar with other patients in adjoining rooms; moving from a discreet nod and small smile to preserve their dignity and privacy; to hellos then, "I've popped in to sit with her as I knew you'd be stuck in the traffic;" to "they've managed to stabilize my renals so I'm all set for discharge and that means I can restart my chemo next week;" to finally arriving at night with a set of rellies from the airport and the adjoining room has a new face so the polite nodding begins again.
Throughout our comings and goings, quietly to not disturb the rhythm of the clinical care needs on this busy, busy ward, amid the bustle and bright lights, the housekeeping staff brought in tea trays. Not a couple of mugs of tea, but the whole thing; teapots and cups and saucers, always a saucer of biscuits and an instruction to just keep making ourselves a fresh pot when needed. When the ward receptionist saw you arrive with more relatives, she clearly had a word and sandwiches appeared, "because its a long way from East Midlands and you won't have stopped on the way..." You can have all the star ratings and finest surgical outcomes you like, but if you get the care of friends and relatives right, you'll probably be getting everything else right, too.
All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain... if the Tories get in on May 7th.