top of page
  • Writer's pictureCrone

Local works

An old man was carrying a heavy bag of groceries up the hill toward my house. He stopped and put the bag down to rest.

I pushed the dog through my front door and asked the man if I could carry his bag home for him. First he demurred but I picked it up and we set off.

He was shielding he said. Not because of COVID - he'd had his first vaccine - but because of cancer. He was having daily radiotherapy and chemotherapy. He said he was allowed out for a walk but not to the shops. I asked if anyone did his shopping for him. Could I help. The carers do it, he told me, as he's in assisted living, but they don't get what's on his list.

After a few minutes he said he needed to rest and sat on the wall of the park. He was telling me how he felt when they told him he had cancer. 'I thought I'd go to Switzerland,' he said, referencing the clinics where assisted dying is allowed. But the doctors were patient and explained that he would get through it. It would be tough for a year, but he'd get through it. That, it seems, was perhaps before they found the cancer on his liver. I'm not sure. the road was noisy and it was windy and as I wasn't wearing a mask I didn't want to get too close to him.

After ten or fifteen minutes I suggested we walk on. He told me that 'going to the toilet' was incredibly painful, due to the site of the cancer and radiotherapy. He had to syringe a gel 'up there' to ease it.

Some minutes later he stopped again and by this time was telling me the tale of how he was shot in the arm by a friend while doing field sports and then how he fell out of a tree when trying to get a rook's egg as a fourteen-year old. This led to an expansive rendition of his six months in hospital, virtually day by day.

To be fair to Michael, for that was his name, he was happy for me to laugh with him about his stories. He was not self-pitying in the slightest. And I was moved so when he looked me in the eye and said that when he'd learned he had cancer - only six weeks ago - he'd been, as he put it, traumatised. His friend in Milton Keynes had died of cancer and it had shocked him. The death was so quick, just two days after they'd had an all-day breakfast together in a cafe.

It was clear he was lonely.

I thought of how my friend Linda, in the last months of her life, volunteered by speaking to lonely people on the phone every week. And I felt that I was honouring her as much as Michael.


I asked if we should progress to his house, but it turned out we were already there. So I said I had to go, I'd left my door unlocked.

'OK,' he said. 'So, anyway the physio sessions were...'

I wondered if I might be there for ever. The bag was starting to get heavy. I'd been moving it from hand to hand. I looked down to see what was weighing it down to much and smiled to myself.

Eventually, I just had to go. 'You take care of yourself, Michael!' I said cheerily and he gruffly replied, 'Oh, alright then.' And I left him and the bottles of wine that his carers had, strangely, failed to get for him.

I raise my glass to you, Michael. And to you, Linda, with whom I shared so much wine.

1 view0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page