Lost In Transit By Rachel Philips


I wake up, wondering where I am. There are three other women in beds nearby, but no-one seems to be awake. A grey light is filtering through the window; a small pot of daffodils shares a table with a television; and not a sound is to be heard, except a brief snore from a lady opposite. I would describe the room as a hospital ward, but I have no idea why I am here or where this institution is.

It is an effort to make sense of it and I feel myself drifting back into sleep.

There is proper daylight now and a clattering outside, and the sound of distant voices. The women who surround me are still asleep. I try to sit up, but find it difficult. "Ah, thank goodness! There's someone coming in." But no, they are pushing some sort of trolley along a hallway. I feel a bit dry and would quite like some tea. There is a small hummock where my feet are, but generally I seem rather thin under the sheets. I expect my mother will be here soon, with her "You always were too skinny for your own good, Betty." But she will make sure I eat. Perhaps she will bring Aunt Dorothy who'll have made me some Welsh cakes.

The daffodils are bright. Someone took the trouble to put them in water. Oh, I've got a little strap on my wrist "Elizabeth Johnson," it says. Quite right, although only my Gran insists on calling me Elizabeth. I wonder if she'll be coming with everyone when visits start.

"You awright love?" suddenly speaks the lady who snores. I nod and smile.

"I've been stuck 'ere for three weeks, but mustn't grumble. They've been good, I have to say that. It's something internal they say, but   'eaven knows which bit of internal. They test me for something every bloomin' day. It's breakfast shortly. They'll be bringing in the usual, tea or coffee, if you want it, unless you're not allowed. I usually 'ave toast and marmalade, but yesterday they only 'ad jam....," she concluded cheerfully. "Awright?" she asked again. "I can buzz 'em if you want. You don't look quite the ticket."

"Umber-mullegroo-kom," I say, and smile again. "I'm mullegroo-kom," I try again.

"That's right, love" she says. "They'll be along in a minute. I'll press the buzzer for you."

I look at my hands which have been placed by my side. One finger bears a gold band and another a ring with a Celtic inscription that I don't understand. In fact, I realise with slight panic that I do not recognise my hands. They look old, the veins standing up a little under the skin. They are not as I expect my own hands to be.

Really, I am quite glad to have this quiet time to myself, before visits start. I don't want to make a fuss.