That tap on his shoulder came like a bolt out of the blue,but that voice reached into his soul,his core,his innards and changed his whole thought processes,it was Paul Endean.With all his thoughts about Shiela and his earlier life,the last person whom he would have thought would turn up tonight would be Paul.You see Paul had been Sheila’s nurse at Bodmin mental hospital and had always been pivitol in her life.Alfie didn’t recognise Paul from his physical frame ,because he had left st so much weight,but Paul’s voice was a dead give away.Sometimes,nurses come and go,but Paul was a fixture in Shiela’s life to such an extent that Alfie always knew that his beloved sister would always look after her,and he knew that if Shiela had a crisis that Paul would support her through the ravages of treatment that wasn’t always pretty to say the least.
Paul seemed oh so pleased to see Alfie,and Paul had that level of emotional intelligence to be caring without prying, a rare gift that not all meme era of the human race possess.Paul had had Piano lessons from Alfie when Alfie lived in Cornwall,and although Paul struggled with the practice routine,Alfie had an extremely soft spot for Paul and they had such a mutual respect for one another that it seemed natural that Alfie would buy Paul a drink.As they sat together,Paul told Alfie that his partner Brian had passed away earlier this year and he was still in the throws of finding his way through life as he had nursed Brian with cancer too.Alfie also knew that Paul’s family had never accepted that Paul was gay,let alone that he had lived with Brian for over 20 years.Paul had been a good son but his family were fundamental Christians who had judged them both of damnation,and this had left profound emotional scars on them both.As they sat in the lounge bar,Alfie remembered that Paul’s parents were from Wadebridge and assumed maybe that Paul had curtailed his visit to them and made the Red Lion his bolt hole for the evening.
As they talked together,Paul knew that Alfie had had his problems with family and also understood that some problems can’t ever be fixed,He knew that Shiela handled French confided in him about her life,and her wishes that things had been better for us all growing up.As Shiela would often be hospitalised for a number of months,there were often opportunities to have chats on the ward that Shiela would be associated with.Shiela viewed the hospital almost like home,and although basically the place to me as a child was scary-mostly the noise of patients screaming and shouting-as the sheer unpredictability of the place made me so very nervous as I didn’t don’t have the emotional nao equipment to cope with.As a child,you have to realise that we need security,and Shiela was mine in many ways as an emotional support.Because my mother had so much to do wth all my sisters ,working full time and the like,Shiela had become my surrogate mum.So when she became ill ,I took that hard,very hard.As those things seem to flood my mind almost in an instant,I looked at Paul’s face .He talked about Shiela with so much affection that I just warmed to him.Paul had felt the loss of Brian profoundly,and Alfie warmed to Paul in that moment,as if,they would always have a bond.
Their time in the Red Lion was only interrupted by the landlord enquiry the occupant of room 5,as there was barking coming from that it.Alfie had to attend to his beloved Tricksy who had temporarily been neglected.Alfie felt bad but at the same time,he had felt good to have seen Paul,and a very positive connecti n from his earlier life in Cornwall had been cemented.Alfie knew that that rap on the shoulder had changed things for r him that evening in a way that he could never have imagined.
As he scrambled to find his room key,he had a pang of conscience over Tricksy,but after make no an enormous fuss of his dog,he promised that he would never do that again.As meeting Paul had interrupted Alfie’s food,Tricksy got a doggy bag of Chicken and relations seemed to be alright between them.
So Alfie settled down on a rather hard bed with Tricksy in pride of place and Alfie in a rather prominent positi n on the divan.
Tomorrow ,would see Alfie returning to the Atlantic way and the mesmeric coastal path.