This is Part 2 of a story i posted recently and covers two visits to hospital on 23rd and 30th of January 2023. Warning - this is a long read but hopefully will bring a smile.
Its a story about a former butler to the Royal Family. We met David last week lying down in bed looking thin and frail at 86 years of age. One thing we noticed were his large ears which were not dissimilar to King Charles himself. This was David, though when we began talking with him he said that he was known as Michael. When he first gained employment as a young man at a posh London hotel, he was told that they had two or three employees named David so he would be known as Michael. Indeed, the name Michael was written above his bed.
Liz and I began asking questions about his career and so he told us all about the “Silver Service,” the way plates and cutlery would be laid out, table etiquette and all that. My colleague Lucy couldn’t but help but ask about members of the royal family. We even threw in Harry, but Harry wasn’t on Michael’s radar! Michael told us that he used to organise parties for the then Prince Charles at the Garrick Club in the heart of London’s West End.
I asked Michael if there was any particular genre of music he liked. He then said Tchaikovsky but as I was thinking how the hell do I spell that on Spotify he whispered Widor, and then “Widor’s Wedding March.” Michael was referring to Widor’s Organ No.5 toccata which I had known since my brother used to have a go at playing it whilst at school. Michael told us that is was played at his daughter’s wedding at Westminster Cathedral. Well, I guess the guy had connections!
I found the organ piece on Spotify and connected it to my Bluetooth speaker which I held near to where he lay in bed. As the music blared out, so Michael closed his eyes, and did so for the duration of the piece which lasts 6 minutes or so. It’s a magnificent piece of organ music and could equally be played as background music to the Grand National horse race, as it gallops along with huge bass pipes resounding whilst the right hand scurries along in waves and swells. At one point I had to turn the volume down a shade as the music was flooding the bay where 3 other patients lay. At the end of it all, Michael opened his eyes and simply said “thankyou.” I reckon he was transported back in time. I felt privileged to have facilitated this as it must have brought so many happy memories to his thoughts.
Lis and I wondered if he would be there the following week for Michael had expressed tiredness with life. But we felt good for we had allowed him to chat and reminisce a bit.
And so, on Monday of this week, we returned to the hospital to do our rounds over two wards. Of course, we were hoping to see Michael again, or learn that he had been discharged.
And then suddenly Liz pointed and exclaimed “There his is”. Michael was stretched out on the bed so that his head had rolled backwards over the back of the pillow. His mouth was wide open and such was his position, we could hardly see his forehead. (Above the bed his name had been correctly shown as David, written with a board marker. (Ah well, at last the hospital had got his name right.) But Michael was completely lifeless and still, and I would never ordinarily wake a patient up.
A patient opposite told us he (Michael) had been inactive most of the week; had never spoken and had hardly even moved. We were beginning to think that Michael might be dead. But he can’t be can he? The nurses would surely know! But there are so few nurses about.
Eureka! I had a thought. I looked up my Spotify playlist under “Service bell.” I had the idea that if I were to play a “Service bell” on my Bluetooth speaker, so Michael might wake up if he was alive.That he might respond to the sound of the service bell, imagining himself to be back at the Palace. I found the perfect “service bell” under a playlist called “Sound Effects Design Society.” But, and its an important but, did I have the nerve to do this? Would I be intruding onto his privacy? I could say that I was concerned that Michael may have passed.
And so, at a little distance away at first, I played the ‘service bell’. It had a bright clear ring, the replica of what you might expect to hear from an Edwardian household. The recording repeated the sound. “ring ring.”
Buy Michael never moved an inch. He lay motionless. I ventured a little nearer the bed and set the ring tone off again. No reaction. And a little nearer. Still no reaction. All was still, except for the ringing of the bell.
Lucy and I walked away a little upset. We neither knew whether Michael was alive or dead, although in truth we presumed he was alive. Better to think that than to believe we had tried to ring up the dead!
We walked slowly towards the next bay and saw two or three other patients, our spirits dampened. Then all of a sudden, Lucy took my arm and pointed to a patient lying on top of his bed. Liz said “look, it’s Michael.” Lucy was laughing her head off for she realised we had mistakenly believed the earlier patient to have been Michael the butler. We were ringing the bell for the wrong guy! Would you believe it? No wonder David hadn’t responded. The bell would have meant nothing to him. Certainly not a service bell.
Michael looked a little better than last week. His voice was stronger. He straightway remembered that I had played Widor’s toccata to him the previous week. (I could well have played it again to herald the fact that he was alive.) His name of Michael was still written up in broad tip black marking pen. It was the fact that he’d told us his real name was David, that Lucy jumped the gun when she saw David’s name up earlier and a man of similar age and weight laid out on the bed.
Michael told us he came from Stockport, which was where the British tennis player Fred Perry was from. One thing was clear with Michael; he did not like snobbery. He spoke of the occasion when the Duchess of Kent invited a 12 year old boy into the royal box at a Wimbledon tennis final, only to be later reprimanded by the Chairman. (The boy was the son of a murdered headmaster.) The Duchess never went into the royal box again.
Michael was hoping to be back at home soon. I asked if he had a garden. Yes, he said. The future was already looking brighter.
I really enjoyed reading that David (that is your name?😀) I expect Lucy felt a little bit embarrassed but no harm done. So good to know Michael was alive and hopefully David too of course.
I remember the story of the young lad in the Royal Box at Wimbledon and I’m a great admirer of the Duchess of Kent.
Thank you for sharing what you do for others. You’re a star. Xxx👍❤️
Thanks Carole, yes David IS my name. 😂
Michael was also telling us how the Duchess consoled a tearful Jana Novotna after losing the women;s final in 1993. Possibly the first time a member of the royal family had shown physical compassion to a member of the public. PS Lucy says she will dine on that story for the rest of her life!
Yes I remember that story too. Such a lovely lady.
Good for you Lucy! Xx😂🥰