‘Have you heard that X has gone back into hospital? Do you want me to bring him communion after the service on Sunday?’
‘No I hadn’t. I can bring him communion on my way home from Rothesay.’
So after the service, I left coffee hastily to catch the 1pm ferry from Rothesay to Wemyss Bay. Only there was no 1pm ferry. It had been changed to 1.30pm. The nice man said I could leave my car and go get a sandwhich so long as I was back by 1.15. Done.
We set out at 1.30pm — not to Wemmys Bay as expected, but the long route to Gourock. Never-mind, thought I. It is closer to the hospital anyway. And so long as this ferry’s running, the others will be too. I’ll go to the hospital then a brave little orange ferry will take me home.
So I went to the hopsital — Care of the Elderly unit to be more exact. ‘No, sorry, he’s not here. He must still be in the main block. We’ll ring for you.’
But no, he was not there either. X had spent a month before Christmas at Inverclyde. He’d been sent home for the holidays, and readmitted this week, ‘very frail’. The mistake I made was this: ‘re-admitted’ is a general concept. It says nothing of location, and contains no implication of ‘return’.
Still, I could catch the next ferry and be with him in no time.
But the brave little ferry had given up. The last one was well across the water, nearing its bed.
I paused to give thanks that I do — in fact– live on the mainland, then set out for the two hour journey home. First petrol station: 24hours, but no petrol. Second petrol station: one pump drip-dripping out its last few gallons. Enough to do the job.
Things got better as I approached the Erskine Bridge. It was 4pm and the re-broadcast of Evensong for Epiphany was particularly fine. I drove up Loch Lomandside in a blissfull haze of Britten and Eliot. Pondered the joy, earlier in the week, of giving a 15 year old boy his first book of poetry and Eliot’s collected works. Sang along when I could, and listened to poems (good and bad) I hadn’t heard in years.
All was well till Tarbet, where the static broke through; the radio gave up completely by Arrochar. Then a long journey across the Climb and be Grumpy, before — swoosh — down the watery 815 by Lock Eck. Sanity was restored as the radio jumped to life with a radio 4 programme on Obama. Enough like hagiography to be fun; enough like critical analysis to be stimulating.
Then at last I arrived at the (correct) hospital, a mere five and a half hours after setting out.
X had just started his dinner. I return tomorrow by another road.