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.
Olive and I chatted while Michael and Deborah slept. Her daughter had bought Olive a pair of warm comfy boots for these wintery days. We were looking forward to our family Christmas celebrations, and she was delighted to learn that my son would be landing at Heathrow next Wednesday morning, arriving from San Francisco. His student internship year had taken him to Santa Rosa, a town hit badly by recent fires and where he’d been since August. She took my hand, smiled and kissed my cheek.
Then Deborah stirred, giving one of her cheeky smiles. I fetched her usual Costa cappuccino and opened the enormous shopping bag full of Christmas decorations. We wanted to continue making staff baubles to hang on the tree or around the ward, and began to glue, collage and staple. After a short while, Deborah felt unwell and needed to lie down. Four jaunty baubles lay by her side, reminders of our good times together, and I cleared away the materials making way for the nurses.
Michael had woken and held his unfinished watercolour, an opportune moment to wheel over the art trolley and set up his painting materials. We sat together evaluating the painting, making slight adjustments and talking about Christmas plans and about fish. He knew a great deal after attending a course at Billingsgate Fish Market in the days when it occupied a prime site in the heart of the City of London. I told him tales of seeing vast fish farms in the Outer Hebrides, mistaking them for anonymous ministry of defence water tanks, perhaps homes for submarines. Kate, a trainee nurse, came over to see what we were painting and took a keen interest. She’d studied A level art and offered to help out. Aware that today was my last before the New Year, she kindly agreed to bring out the art trolley next Wednesday and help patients.
I left Michael painting and found Tina who wanted to draw a Yorkshire Terrier. Despite being in pain, she managed to create a deeply affecting pouch, using grey and brown crayons. She gave me a hug and big kiss: ‘Happy Christmas!’
It was nearly lunchtime and I wished Irving a very good New Year. Warm, wise and witty as ever, he hoped 2018 would be a better year for the world and smiled: ‘’As the executioner said to his victim: ‘It can’t get any worse than this.’’ We laughed and then I found Cheryl sitting upright with a nurse and wished her Happy Christmas. ‘Is your son coming home?’ Delighted by the news, her face lit up, and then I left the ward, looking forward to returning in the New Year.