Chez Grand Ma.
I took my dad to the local leisure centre for 7.12pm yesterday evening to have his vaccination. Nothing could have prepared me for what I saw. The vast sports hall was a sea of very old people. They were shuffling along in a snaking line not dissimilar to that at a Ryanair check-in at the airport, except much, much further apart. Some were by themselves and a little more sprightly, some leaning on the arms of sons or mostly daughters. Some, like my dad, being wheeled along in rickety old wheelchairs. I don't know where they brought those from but ours had that distinct unpredictability of a wonky supermarket trolley.
My dad had been a bit off colour for a couple of days and he was walking a bit more unsteadily. As we entered the hall I thought we were in trouble as I knew there was no way he could stand for more than five minutes in that queue. But, I needn't have worried. We were immediately pounced upon by one of the many meeter and greeters, details taken, and I was directed to stand in the queue for him while he had a seat in the waiting area. As promised, as soon as a wheelchair became available he was wheeled to me so that we could both enjoy the queue.
Snaking up and down the hall pushing a wonky wheelchair was a skill I had not yet learned but after a couple of hairy handbrake turns at the corners we eventually got to the front of the queue and our (his) turn. There were six "pods" staffed by a doctor and a clerk. We were marshaled to one in the middle and a very nice young man checked details, got through the formalities, gave the jab and off we went. Not outside of course, there was a strict fifteen minutes of waiting to be done at the top end of the hall to see if any allergic reactions occurred. Each person was given a sticky label to wear stating at what time they could leave and a kindly fierce looking (is that possible) matronly type with arms folded strode up and down the rows of aged people to make sure nobody left early!
I came away understanding the scale of the problem. They must have vaccinated hundreds of old people that day and I don't know how many of them were in the hall during the time we were there, but if only half of those caught the virus and ended up in our local hospital it would be in deep trouble.
I know there are some ridiculous conspiracy theories out there, that covid is a government smoke screen for something (what I have no idea), that it's just the flu and that people are being paid £500 a time to take a test to boost the numbers. I also am aware that there is a good deal of resentment amongst a certain age group that their lives are being put on hold or ruined just to save a load of old grannies. That letting granny die so they can pocket the inheritance to prop up their modern lifestyles would be a good idea. Why let all that money go on care homes when it could be spent on fancy cars, gadgets and holidays?
Snaking my way up and down that hall yesterday evening I felt quite humbled. All those doctors, nurses, note-takers, cleaners, meeter and greeters, marshals, security guys and bossy matrons were there to make sure that all these very old, frail and vulnerable people do not get ill. We look after our old folk, cherish them and do our best to ensure their last years are comfortable. They are loved, valued and cared for. The whole atmosphere in the hall was one of love and care and it was immensely heartwarming.
There was even the faint air of the care home Christmas party about it. You could see that this was the greatest excitement and first outing that some of the old people had had for months and months.
I did drop a hint to one of the nurses that I was so looking forward to getting my own vaccination so that I could get my life back, but to ask outright about leftovers somehow didn't seem appropriate. The hint wasn't taken and I guess you have to know someone in the business to be able to jump the queue. I'll just have to wait my turn like everybody else. As it turns out, my dad had had a phone call in the day from his GP practice to offer him an appointment for the vaccine, but he was pleased to say he was already booked in. So it seems they are getting round to everyone eventually after all. I reckon about March for mine.