The seagulls shouted at each other, wheeling and diving. Below them a man, walking his dog, leaned into the winter wind.
The waves crash on the shore; fizzled and bubbled their way up the beach and disappeared into the pebbles.
Watching from a bay window, across the promenade, Anil Laghari.
Time to walk a dog… what a luxury. Anil was envious. He’d always wanted a dog. Soon he thought. Soon…
He turned and looked back at the chintz sitting room. Upright easy chairs arranged around the walls. Walking frames nestling with each other by the door.
Through the archway small dining tables and chairs stood, waiting. Upturned drinking glasses and paper napkins.
The smell of breakfast worked its way from the kitchen through the ground floor, up the stairs to the rooms on the landing.
The day at The Sea View Nursing Home has begun. Actually, the day becomes night, becomes day, becomes dawn. No one notices the change in the sky. Payne’s Grey to flannel grey.
The vast sky-scape; billowing and angry, today. The horizon, invisible. Better days… seamless blue. Thundering black to gin clear. The changes that visitors and painters come to admire.
Fishermen stand on the edge of the tide, their beach-casters bending. Surfers brave the cold. In the summer families brave the rain. Anil, couldn’t remember the last time a Sea View resident ventured out, down the ramp, across the road to the beach.
Most of them hardly ever look out of the window. They look at day-time television.
When he and his wife, Shirley, took on the care home there were days out, shopping visits. They had a minibus. No more. The residents very frail, shortage of staff, insurance, risk assessments; pile that lot together and you have a mountain to climb.
Anil and Shirley met when they were working in the NHS. Anil worked, as he called it, ‘in the bowels of the finance department‘, Shirley amongst ‘the bowels in the front line‘. A nurse. Their private joke.
Life was better then; optimism and hope. When they culled PCT’s… voluntary redundancy, Anil’s pension not far off, a deal not to be missed. Shirley said goodbye to the NHS.
They sold their home, bought Sea View. Their dream came true. Their own care business.
Regulations, fire, health and safety, registration. It was tough but they were ten years younger then.
In the hallway, a picture of the opening day. The Mayor cut a ribbon. She said nice things about care of the elderly.
Since then the Council have halved care home fees. It’s the private payers who keep the place going.
Across the sector the annual, average care home, pre-tax profit is £11,000. Thirty pounds a day. Buskers make more. Averages are made-up of highs and the lows.
Shirley and Anil have made a loss in each of the last three years. But for the fact they live in the small flat, at the top of the building, they would have given up last year.
They are giving up this year. They have put the CCG, the local authority, the residents and their families on notice; 31st March.
On hearing of the closure One of the resident’s sons racially abused Anil, told him to stop ‘ripping off the NHS and eff-off back where he came from’.
The CCG haven’t done anything and the local authority told the local newspaper they have ‘the matter in hand’. Social services have done ‘assessments’.
There isn’t much else they can do. One care home a week is closing. Resident’s acuity is taking a dive, getting nursing help is impossible, the local Trust employs anyone who comes on the market. Staffing in seaside towns notoriously difficult. The sector, generally, impossible to staff safely
Shirley tried to employ some Portuguese girls as care assistants; trained them herself. After Brexit, they went home. The locals aren’t interested
The care home will revert to ‘residential’ planning status. A developer is interested. Shirley and Anil will just about get their money back and settle-up with the bank. Break-even for ten years hard slog.
Anil looked out and saw the morning sky had grown darker. There was a storm on the way. Rain lashed the promenade. The man with the dog, like his dream, has gone.
Anil wondered; Jack Russell or King Charles.