The sound of a boys choir – individual voices straining earnestly for the top notes – lingers in the corridors of the West Suffolk hospital. Rubber-clad feet squeak on the polished floor. The smell of medical-grade disinfectant blurs the line between life and death. This is not where I want to be.
“Stay in the house,” she said without a hint of what I might find in the back garden. “Stay in the house and keep an eye out for the ambulance.” The thin pane of frosted glass rattled in its inadequate frame as she slammed the back door behind her. Silence.
I’d only ever seen an ambulance on television, a window on a 2D world. Shaky cameras held by panicked cameramen followed emergency vehicles careering up the streets of Belfast on the evening news each night.
Closer to home, similarly precarious-looking white boxes on wheels occupied the shot at the end of the more sedate slow-pan my father used filming the aftermath of a road traffic accident for local TV news.
The ambulance I saw parked up on the pavement at the top of our driveway looked incongruous. Oversized and cumbersome, it was almost as though the vehicle had got itself lost and ended up outside our house, unceremoniously depositing its occupants on the path in contempt for their own incompetence at navigating.
From the lounge I stood and followed the sight of my Mum runing from the end of the garden, past the window at the side of the house and towards the gate at the front of the house. There was a pause before the gate swung open and the green-clad medics skipped through the gap and ran into the garden. I watched them as they passed the front window, then the side window, picking up speed slightly at the back when they’d clocked the subject of the call.
The fact my curiosity had been suppressed was a testament to the way in which my mother had handled the situation, a sign in itself that this was an extraordinary situation. Detail was played out in the silent movie played out through the windows of our lounge. The two medics who had entered our garden with a trolly, now left it considerably more slowly with a mound on top of it covered in a bright red blanket. One held a drip up high, the other pushed the trolly towards the gate. The only person I hadn’t seen in all of this was my father, and the last time I saw him was at breakfast.
The back door slammed shut. The lock turned. “Come on, we’re following your father to the hospital.”