Thursday, 2 April 2015

Waiting at the foot of the cross

Sorry, we are still dealing with the mother.  Would you like some tea while you wait?  You can sit in our room behind the desk’.  So that is what I do.  I’d feel more use out there with them.  But they are too busy to stop and I’d be under their feet.  Through the open door, the work continues, audible, and partially visible.
In the back room, the names of five mothers are coloured coded on a white board.   The rest of the annotations are written in a further code I cannot break. 

The remaining wall space is papered with notices.  These admonish, encourage and remind.  But, mainly, they plead. 

It appears that both retaining funding and negotiating an audit of good practice depend on the pleading being heeded.  Sometimes the welfare of the mothers provides the rationale.  One merely cites the need to project a professional image.  

Neither ‘Kelly’s leaving do’ nor the ‘tea fund’ appear, to my unpractised eye, to have enough people signed up to make them viable.  

The light is harsh even in here, as are the beeps from calls and machines out there.  Every plug, socket and appliance has a serial number stamped or taped onto it.  The small fridge has its own, and has a bar code as well.  

Jammed in a corner, beneath the kettle and the toaster, is a robust plastic shopping bag with a picture of two large hamsters on the side.  A pair of wellies decorated with roses and a huge handbag spill out into the space next to it. 

A carved wooden sign hangs on a cupboard door: ‘live well, laugh often, love much’.  The message ‘I’ll miss you all’ has been scratched into it. 

There is mild concern out there about ‘twin two’ who is not inclined to feed.   Some paperwork has been displaced, but is quickly found.  The owner of the loudest voice, who disapproves of the mothers smoking, takes three sugars. 

Then the owner of a more confidential apprehensive voice reports a crying baby being told ‘you’ve only been here five minutes, and you’re already doing my head in’.

Finally a slim young midwife comes out of the room opposite.  She is in tears.   Her larger, older, non-smoking, three-sugar-taking colleague envelopes her.  ‘I know, Darl,’ she says, ‘it’s the worst thing about this job’.

It will still be a little while before one of them will say ‘Did you bleep an on-call Chaplain?’ and another will reply ‘Yes, a Vicar came in and he’s in the back room – shall I tell him things are clear now and he can go in?’     

The poor photograph was taken in a novice's cell at San Marco in Florence and is a Fra Angelico painting.

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