I spent yesterday at the coast with my aged father. It began inauspiciously with two expeditionary failures.
The first was a drive to the local town’s theatre – when we arrived there at 0915 hours we learned for the first time that its box office does not open until 1000 hours and we couldn’t be bothered to wait that long.
Following that rebuff, we then travelled six miles to a local seaside village in order to visit my father’s favourite, and only local, barber’s shop so he could get his hair cut. Upon arrival there we discovered (from a card containing a handwritten message on the door) that, although said establishment advertised its daily opening hours as 0830 to 1700, on this day the proprietor had opted not to open at all but go fishing instead.
My next task was to visit the local GP’s practice.
For years my parents used to have a ten-day holiday in early September in the South of France with my fathers’ cousin and her husband – half spent in a famous establishment in Saint-Paul de Vence and half in a top hotel in Nice. After my mother died in 2007, my father continued going, first with said couple until (two years ago) his cousin went gaga, since when he has gone ‘a deux’ with his cousin’s husband, partly as a way of giving his pal a respite from caring for her.
In May this year my father had a fall at home necessitating a three-day hospital stay, since when his physical state has made him uncertain on his pins. Although the holiday was long booked, in August (to relief all round) he finally admitted that he would find it too difficult to travel solo to France, as he would be required to do, and so reluctantly cancelled the trip. The hotels were understanding and refunded the booking monies but it became apparent that my father’s pal’s insurers would not pay out upon his cancelled flights unless he could provide evidence that my father’s withdrawal had been ordered on doctor’s advice. We therefore asked my father’s GP to provide a letter confirming this – which he duly did.
Earlier this week my father’s pal called. His insurers were being difficult. They were now refusing to pay out unless my father’s GP would confirm in addition both that (1) my father was not terminally ill, and/or (2) he had not been suffering from a condition that was likely to deteriorate. This was somewhat odd and frustrating. Firstly, as indicated above we had already provided exactly what they had originally asked for; secondly, as (one might argue) life is de facto a terminal disease anyway, how could my father – or indeed his GP – possibly assert that he was not suffering from anything which would not at some point weaken his health?
The suspicion that the insurers in question were simply seeking a route to avoid paying out at all was inescapable.
Be that as it may, my task yesterday was to attend the GP practice, explain the issue and request that the doctor provide another letter covering the new points the insurers had demanded. My natural cynicism caused me to contemplate that this issue was quite capable of ‘running on’ forever. Even if the GP provided another letter, what was to say that the insurers would not then invent some other complication, requiring yet another letter, as a further delaying tactic?
It might be simpler and quicker to call the buggers up and say “Tell you what, you provide us with the draft of a letter that would satisfy you unconditionally – I’ll take that to the GP, get him to have it typed up on his headed notepaper and sign it … and then we’d all be home and dry, right?”
Yesterday, keeping the above thought to myself, I presented myself at the GP’s reception, and explained the position. The receptionist asked for sight of the GP’s original letter and the new insurer’s requirements – fortunately I had taken copies of both with me – and said she’d put them in front of the GP concerned and hopefully he’d do the business. And that’s how the matter has been left.
Back at my father’s place by 11.00am, now with a score of two ‘failures’ and a third item ‘taken as far as it could be for now’, we decided to relax on the terrace and read the newspapers. My father opted for a cup of Bovril whilst I was drawn towards far stronger but managed to restrain myself.
Despite a strongish breeze in the air, the sky was blue, bedecked with a few whispy, cotton wool-like clouds, and the sun shone brightly. The atmosphere was warm and balmy. It was actually Thursday 1st October, but it could easily have been a lazy summer’s day anywhere between late May and August.
Later, having done my other (outward bound) chores of a ten-mile trip to the rubbish tip and a shop at the Sainsbury’s super-store, I spent the afternoon sitting on the motor-mower tractor cutting the grass.
I’m not saying it quite qualified as John Major’s vision of Britain as a country of ‘long shadows on cricket grounds, warm beer, invincible green suburbs, dog lovers and pools fillers …’ but, you know what, it was coming close.