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A New Man

My wife died in September the year before last. I didn’t go to pieces. But I shut everybody out and I didn’t want to continue. I fell sick. I went to the doctor. My hand had calcified, more or less. On and off I couldn't even write. She got me an appointment with the nurse for a blood test. That morning I had a dirty raincoat. I couldn’t shave my hair because I couldn't use my hand. I cut my hair all the way around with scissors. It was easy with the scissors. The receptionist said, oh what have you done to yourself? Well cor blimey, I was almost in tears. I said I don't know what to do. And she looked at my hands, they were white and were sticking out full of bumps, and she said, good god, you’ve got rheumatic arthritis. 

Charlie came to see me and find out what I might need and the challenges for the social prescribing. I didn't really want to see anybody and I felt a bit mean because I didn't feel too good. I didn’t want to discuss my problems with anybody. I was in a cocoon. After my wife died I just closed and I was not interested in eating. But Charlie pushed me to get out of the cocoon. She was there to listen to my moaning and groaning and she was more than patient. She put my body back together. I owe Charlie my life. That is the truth. I got my life back more or less. I got moving again. She got me to realise there is more to life. 

If I need anything, like transport, Charlie will arrange it. She seems to be on top of things where I wasn't. When I had to sell the car, she knew I was a bit lonely. I was driving my car too slow. I couldn't feel my hands on the steering wheel. I was concerned in case I kill somebody while I'm driving. She tried to occasionally ring me and said, can I come and see you? Are you alright? I said I’m alright, I’m alright. I was in the cocoon at that stage. I was far away from Henley. I couldn’t get in touch with anybody, only way was if I picked up the phone or ring a taxi driver. £15 to take me just to Tesco, £15 back, so I was running out of money fast. I didn't go anywhere because I couldn't afford it in the end. It got to the stage I could only go to Tesco once a week and once a month I used to go to Henley for my prescription. 

Charlie knew that I was weak. But she pushed me enough. She done a lot of things for me that I never knew existed in social services. Now I’m getting money to pay for my extra care rate and the council is helping me out. Charlie also rang around the council and social services to see if I can get a better facility. But initially I didn't want to move from where I was. I’d lived there seven years. I was rude. I said, Didcot? It's not even on the map. I was looking at a Michelin map. It was 10 years old. I said to Charlie, where is it? And she encouraged me to come here. To have a meeting. To discuss. And got my grandson to drive me here. I'm pleased now that they got me in here. I can still be independent. And I still like to do my little things, my jobs. 

A couple of the ladies, they used to come here to talk to me. Charlie introduced me to Lorraine. So Lorraine has been doing all my writing. She's very lovely. She's coming on the 15th so I can visit a hospital for an a x-ray. Charlie was, what'd you call it? The octopus with all the fingers. She knew what to do, how to do it. Otherwise I wouldn't have done it. She was a bit upset when I didn’t want to move. I was a stubborn bastard. I didn't want to upset her, but she was upset because of all she’s done for me. She said, you’ll like it. You got all the facilities there for you. You don't have to pay so much money. Especially as you don't have a lot. She said, you've got to take it. And she made sense. I had to. I am pleased about it. I'm ever so grateful. 

Through Charlie, my son, grandson, daughter, and the neighbours, I came alive again. So my life is good. Charlie became part of my family. Mi Familia. And I would do anything for her. And she does everything for me, she's done everything for me. If it wasn't for her, I wouldn't be here. It was the right thing to do, to move here and to get involved with people. And financially, like the tax in Henley, I have even got money from them now with a tax refund.  

I am also financially more strict but free. I know how much I need for this and that. The rent and everything has been taken care of. If it wasn’t for the council and social services sending me some money, supporting me as part of the rent here, where will I be? I’d be nothing without them. They’re there in the office, they never knew me, they never met me, and now they send me money to survive. I’ve got to admire them. I’ve got to be good to myself and appreciate every day. 

After my wife died I didn’t want to carry on living. At one point I was just about ready to commit suicide. The only thing that stopped me was because I got a cat. I was worried who was gonna look after the cat. I wasn’t on top of it and couldn’t do anything personally. But my wife would say get up and get on with it. That’s how she used to be with me before she died, she used to go shopping and she would come back and wait in the front door with a brandy cognac every time. We had a lovely 60 years, a good relationship. 

I wouldn’t be alive without the support I had. I felt a pressure because I was too far from a town, no transport. I couldn't afford anything. And I was not social with my neighbours. I was sunk in between my body. But now it’s a different life completely. Now I want to stay a little bit longer. Charlie said to me, don’t you dare start thinking of death, it is so good to see you live. Yeah, she told me off. I had nothing to live for. I know I had a grandson and a son. But it was the end of my life. I'm so grateful to some people on my journey: Lorraine, Charlie, Dr Burton, Henley Nettlebed, the Doctor and the hospital. 

Look at me now, all dressed up very smart. I am another man. The doctor said, what's happened to you? I can only wish and hope that if other people have a problem, they can find somebody like Charlie. And the people around Charlie. If you’re always looking for the doom day, you get all this on your mind and sometimes you just push it down and cry. You think what have I done to get this? And now I say, what pain? What pain? I'm not in pain. I know my limit. I've got a lovely cream to go with the pills for my knee and a stick to help me pull myself up. I'm a different man. Everyone downstairs loves me. Everyone knows my name. My next-door neighbour, the old fellow, comes to sit with me. Everyone says hello and comes to sit with me. I've never met so many people in all my life. Honestly. Charlie was an angel to me. There’s nothing else that I want to say. It was Charlie who done all this.


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