“Which do you want, the ham or chicken sandwich?”

In a high pitched voice ways too bubbly for a Monday morning Elli replied: “I want the chicken sandwich.”

“Why does she get to choose first, I am older than her? Doesn’t matter anyways, they both taste like sawdust.” Sitting by the table ready for school my ten-year-old looked as hostile as her sister was bubbly.

“Yes darling, you’re older so you get to choose a snack first, do you want crisp or fruit pot?” I replied, ignoring the rest of her complaint.

“Can’t I have both?”

“No, you can’t, not today. So which is it?” I asked, helping Elli with her coat and school bag.

Muttering under her breath “I’ll have the crisp, fruit pot is for babies.”

We got to the bus stop just in the nick of time; first stop was Zara’s school, then Elli at the child-minder and finally, me at work.

Being a staff member of the BBC was no easy task:  it often involved managing all fifty shades of demanding clients in one day, sometimes you got the odd shade of happy thrown into the mix, but it was rare. The night staff had it easy, in my opinion, I mean all they had to do was prepare them for bed and monitor them. They were rarely plagued by incessant bathroom breaks or dramatic medical interventions including theatrics to get clients to take their pills. The morning shift does have its perks, though; you get to hear all the juicy family gossip and cat fights first hand.

Oh did I forget to mention: I don’t work for the broadcasting network, Noooo! I work for the British bedside caregivers (BBC) network. It’s one of the things that keeps us going, playing pretend; besides our clients are just as fussy and temperamental much like the individuals covered in the late night news. Enough doodling about, time to attend to the first patient on my list, I wasn’t paid to stand all day with my thoughts in the air.

“Morning, Mrs. Stockpot.” I smiled anticipating the usual come back.

“I know its morning, I haven’t gone completely daft and I don’t want those meds they make me feel fuzzy?” the feisty voice coming from such a diminutive figure never failed to amaze me.

Meet the first of my demanding clients. It wasn’t going to be one of those easy days; just my luck.

Standing with the medicine cup in hand still wearing a smile, I reply in a firm voice. “I know you don’t want them Mrs. Stockpot, but you how upset Gary would be if you didn’t take them.”

“Gary says they are bad for me, Gary would never lie to me like you lot do.” Her face a mask of indignation stared at me, daring me to find a way out this.

“I’ll get Nurse Abbey to call him then, ‘cos he shouldn’t have told you that.”

“Oh just get on with it, leave my Gary alone his got more important things to do than chatting with you lot.”

It was the same dance every day; Gary always says something then takes it back when we threaten to speak to him. Onwards and upwards now: one down nine more to go.

I pulled back the curtains to let the light in.

“Morning Miss Hot-groove,” She unlike Mrs. Stockpot was bedridden, never married and never failed to bemoan the silliness of weddings and husbands. Those were the only areas where they differed; in every other regard, especially personality, they could pass for twins.

“Morning Natalie: here to force a little old lady, to do your bidding?”

“Well if that’s how you’re going to be, then I guess you won’t want to hear about the sassy red minx I met on the bus last night.”

She barked out a harsh cough or was it laughter. “I don’t care for your stories either ways, so you can keep them to yourself.”

“Fine with me, are you ready to take your meds then?” I asked feigning indifference

“Errr what about the sassy minx, she tried one on you?

I smiled, it worked every time, like a charm; either a story or a joke, anything to take her mind off the process of swallowing her meds.

“She had on a crimson red skirt, two inches shy of showing her twin cheeks.”

Miss Hot-groove slowly swallowed the first three tablets whilst paying eager attention to my story.

“She tried to board the bus, but her skirt won’t let her. Some cheeky lad behind offered to help her….”

My buzzer went off an indication someone needed a hand.

“Sorry Miss Hot-groove will have to finish the story later.”

Thankfully she’s taken all her medication. I left her room in a hurry to avoid any last minute antics from Miss Hot-groove; I raced on to help my colleague lift her patient up using the body belt. Slowly the day slipped away as waves of mundane activities left no room for surprises or dilly dallies. Five PM time to go home: first visit the food bank, and then pick the girls before we all head home; it was going to be a series of broken bus journeys.

“Happy birthday Nat,” Hannah said giving me a side hug.


“Tell me you didn’t forget your own birthday please?”

At first, I was perplexed then bemused as reality dawned on me so did a hearty laughter “I totally forgot and so did the girls, what with all we’ve been through it’s no surprise.”

“Here, it’s not much, get the girls something nice.” Handing me an envelope, my colleague and closest friend Hannah gave me a birthday hug.

In the envelope was a forty pounds voucher for the local supermarket. My eyes welled up, this was so timely. I could get the girls some fresh food, no scratch that! We would all go together and they could pick whatever they wanted off the shelf: items that won’t be passed their sell by date or one day away from it.

Fresh off the shelf:  food of their own picking, not frozen and not from the food bank.

Fresh food with no fresh bills attached.

Published by Chioma Nwafor