Late shifts always started differently to the morning shift. This summer had been warm and at times, sultry. Residents enjoyed the breeze from open windows, sitting in the wooden sun-house with cool drinks or ambling up the driveway, suitably behatted, followed by the golden retriever which found their pace just right for its own constitutional. Some would venture further, accompanied, to the wildlife pond that had been created nearby. I loved these summer days and as I ascended the steps and went through the front door I heard Jock shout, ‘Here comes the barber.’
Jock got himself out of the chair and using his sticks to ensure a safe route, he directed himself towards the stairs which seemed to creak as much as his once nimble joints. ‘I’ll see you upstairs for my shave,’ he said as I made my way past to the staff room. ‘Bob, we’ve had a difficult morning, can you see to the men?’ Jock was already seated, had his shirt collar rolled back and thanked me for coming.
Now the bedroom was in the corner of the Edwardian building, the turret in which Jock was sitting, overlooked the gardens and woodlands to the south east, the sun had passed its zenith and so the breeze from the open window was very welcome. Jock always liked the fresh air. I ran warm water into the sink, lathered the brush and began the shave.
‘I was never one for going to church,’ he said, ‘you had to in the army of course.’ His eyes glittered as he continued, ‘I know most of the staff go to church, and I can hear the morning services from where I sit, but it’s not me, not really.’ Jock had always chosen not to attend the short morning prayers in the sitting room, preferring his pipe and his memories. ‘Don’t get me wrong, I love it when you visit a cathedral or abbey and you know that it is a very special place, filled with God, I suppose. I loved my early mornings on the farm, especially in the spring, it would be crisp, the sun just coming up and a startled curlew would rise into the air. I loved those mornings, dew on the first shoots of greenery, I always felt that God was very close then.’
Years later we bought a little plaque that now adorns our rockery.
‘The kiss of the sun for pardon,
The song of the birds for mirth.
One is nearer God’s heart in a garden,
Than anywhere else on Earth.’ Dorothy Frances Gurney
Written by Bob Rendall, Chairman Faith in Older People