Fay Ballard – Wednesday 6th September 2017 – Auchi Dialysis Unit, Hammersmith Hospital

Artist Fay Ballard is leading a weekly creative workshop with dialysis patients at Hammersmith Hospital. She is writing a weekly blog in response to her experiences.

Deborah was sitting in bed reading and greeted me warmly. I pulled the latest copy of ‘Hello’ and ‘Art Etc’, the Tate Gallery’s art magazine, out of my rucksack. The former would be perfect for her collage: full of saucy photos of celebrities and tantalising shots of the two Princes with their partners, a pregnant Kate and a glamorous Meghan. The Tate magazine would give Deborah much quiet pleasure reading about art and ideas. We roared with laughter at the incredulous shots in ‘Hello’ and I left her looking through the magazine and went to find Irving, aware we hadn’t spoken at length about my trip to Russia.

Irving’s poor health restricted his conversation: he spoke very softly and for a short time. We discussed the Gulag, the Jewish community in Russia, the plight of peasants under the Tsars, and the current crisis in North Korea. Unable to converse any further, Irving said goodbye, gracious and wise as always.

Deborah was enjoying ‘Hello’ so much to enable me to catch up with Olive in the next bed. She was completing her word puzzle and we exchanged news. We were thrilled to see Godfrey, an outstanding nurse, back on the ward, and agreed he would make the perfect husband.

Michael was stirring from his pillow and I went over. His poor health had brought deep sleep in recent weeks. Brexit: should we laugh or cry? What must the Europeans think of the British? Had he watched ‘Dinner for One’ on YouTube? Perhaps this is how we’re perceived? The recording of a short comedy sketch starring Freddie Frinton made in 1963 has been watched by the Germans, Danes and Swedes on New Year’s Eve since the 1980s. Several other European countries enjoy it over Christmas too. My German friends tell me they always watch, it’s a cult classic. I found the YouTube recording and left Michael watching, chuckling away.

Deborah was ready to dissect ‘Hello’ for her collage and within seconds was busy cutting and pasting, laughing at the assembled images in front of her. I took a few more photos of the staff we’d missed, and soon Deborah had a steady stream of curious nurses wanting to see her handiwork, much to everyone’s enjoyment.

Michael loved the comedy, and we thought about Boris Johnson. Now he felt in the mood for painting and resumed the beach scene begun some time ago. Using a fine brush, Michael painted the background building carefully and added a couple of windows before tackling the boat in the foreground. Then he moved on to the stone wall. Before we knew it, his dialysis machine had completed its task and Michael was ready to go home.

Deborah was engrossed and in lively conversation laughing with the new nurse, Connor, as she showed him the collages. She worked until 1pm and then stopped to eat a sandwich, very happy to continue next week.

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