War at Waitrose. Wartrose. Waitrage.

 

Take four shoppers, let’s call them A, B, and C and D. They finished their shopping in that order. You wouldn’t be reading this if they had unloaded at the check-out in that same sequence. A, so far as I know, was a faultless shopper. D had arrived at the check out next. She has unpacked some shopping, some rather nice china bowls on the conveyor belt after A’s groceries, before going off to get a cup of coffee and then finish the rest of her shopping, viz bread, butter, and cheese and milk. She’d left her trolley which had about another twenty or so items in it at the check out, presumably because at that point the conveyor belt was still full with A’s shopping. There was just enough space for those bowls.

Shopper B is me. I finish my shopping. I arrive at the check-out, see the nice blue bowls on the conveyor belt, and the rest of the shopping in the trolley, and think, oh, someone’s forgotten the bread or something. And I wait. There’s nothing else to do. Minutes go by. Shopper A has now got her shopping through and is paying and getting ready to clear off out of it.

Shopper C, who has arrived a couple of minutes after me is a tall, elderly, Eastern European man.

“Have you seen this person?” asks Shopper C of me (B). He means D.

“No.” I reply.

“Have you been here long?”

“Three or four minutes.”

C is fed up. He tells me he has seen this before. I think he has seen rather a lot of things before, rather more serious than selfish behaviour at Waitrose. But this is really getting up his considerable nose.

“Do you know what we should do?”, he says, Shopper C, “Take that trolley and push it into the aisle.”.

And so that’s what we do. The moment when I release the trolley and watch it roll with it’s own kinetic force down the shampoo and minor medical supplies aisle is a uniquely pleasurable experience. C is enjoying it too.

And then I unpack my shopping. But we made a mistake. We left the nice blue bowls on the conveyor belt and at that moment Shopper D comes back, having actually now finished her staple shopping, an armful of it, and drinking a cup of coffee.

D is a well groomed woman in her thirties. Just look at her. She has a superior attitude and a sense of entitlement.

She steps in front of me. So now the order at the check-out is D, B, C. Which is clearly wrong.

“Terribly sorry,” she says to the cashier, “They had run out of cups at the coffee machine……. Where’s my trolley?”

“It’s in the aisle.” I say. “Next to the shampoo. Sling your ’ook.”

She was of Middle Eastern extraction and perhaps she didn’t understand the expression. “Oh.”, said the cashier, and started to put the blue bowls through, leaning over to me and saying, “It’s just that she got stuck at the coffee machine.”.

“She hadn’t finished her shopping.”. I protested. “She half unpacked, then went to get a coffee and THEN finished her shopping. I’m first. Serve me first. Please.”

I might not have said please. I probably did.

The cashier puts the blue bowls through the check out.

“I want the manager.” said Shopper C, in his tall, Eastern European, frustrated way. “This happens too often here. I want to know what the culture is in this shop. Is this how people are supposed to do their shopping?”

“I just had a few other things to get.”, said D, as she gets her trolley from the aisle. “Everybody does it.”.

In discussion it turned out that although we had sometimes left our shopping to get one or two items, neither of us, B or C, had done that and got ourselves a cup of coffee at the same time.

“It’s not my fault there weren’t any cups”

“No but it’s your fault you went to the coffee machine after you took a place here!”

“Everybody does it. Your coffee goes cold if you get it when you come in.”

“What! WHAT!????”

“Don’t talk to me. Don’t say anything else to me.”

The manager, who is about 24 with a spiv moustache, is tackled by shopper C. “I want to know if this is now the normal procedure in this shop. Or is it that some people think they are better than others, that their time is of more value to them than mine to me. It seems to me that this type of person is also the type who park their enormous four wheel drive vehicles in the spaces for families with children because they are too stupid and selfish to park in normal spaces.”.

Fair point, I thought. But I wasn’t convinced that this was normal. It seemed extraordinary to me. It had been a while since I’d been in this Waitrose. It had been like a balm to me to go out and do the shopping here when all this caring business landed on my shoulders three years ago. It was an escape from the sick/madhouse. Now it was the madhouse.

Shopper D has now pushed herself in front of me (B), and is pushing my shopping back to make room for hers.

The check-out supervisor comes over and helps her. “Don’t worry Madam, don’t take any notice, let me help you with your shopping. Do you need someone to help you pack?”

“Yes of course she does.”, I say. “She’s now got to unpack the rest of her trolley as the cashier checks the first bits through. She’s not capable of packing her own shopping.”

“It’s not my fault they ran out of cups. You shouldn’t run out of cups.”. The second sentence was aimed at the Supervisor. The bitch, sorry, Shopper D, is annoyed at Waitrose for inconveniencing her with its inefficient free coffee service.

“Terribly sorry but, please don’t worry Madam, it’s fine. It’s fine. Take no notice”

“Thank you. Thank you.”, says D.

Well it is not fine with me. “It’s not fine to behave the way you do. It’s not fine at all. Supposing everyone did that? Half unpack their unfinished shopping and then go to get a coffee. The place would be in chaos. It’s not right. Don’t do it again. Get your coffee when you start your shopping. Then finish your shopping before you go to the checkout. That works fine. Can you imagine people behaving this way in LIDL?”

To be fair to her, and in retrospect, I can’t imagine Shopper D imagining anything that might take place in LIDL. And that might explain her response, through clenched teeth.

“I told you already. Don’t talk to me.”.

The increasingly annoyed Shopper C is still expressing his frustration at the Manager, who, going by the external arrangement of his facial features and gangling limbs, is finding the situation humorous. Customers, eh. This will be a good one for the staffroom. What can be done? Nothing. It’s not an issue, just a shopper who had forgotten a couple of items.

“You are laughing at me. You are not taking this seriously!”

The manager is definitely smirking.

The check-out supervisor offers to open up a new check-out for us.

We are unanimous, C and I, (or B, if you are lost in lettering). “No thank you. We just want this one to be managed properly. ”

D hisses, “I was here first and I only went to get a coffee.”.

“Oh dear. Madam, it’s fine. I hope this hasn’t spoiled your shopping.”

Shopper D is leaving.

“IT’S NOT FINE.”, I say. I definitely don’t want this D woman to think this is fine.

“Goodbye Madam. Hello Madam, so sorry to keep you waiting. Do you need any help with your shopping? Have you got your MyWaitrose Card ready?”

***********************

I go back in to Waitrose a couple of days later.

I do my shopping. I think I finish. I approach the checkout. I remember a few more items, and I push my trolley over to the fresh pasta, pesto, other stuff, and then come back to the same checkout which now has an unattended basket travelling down the conveyor belt.

I can’t believe it. I am Mr. Meldrew.

An elderly Indian man appears with his arms full of shopping. About ten items. More than are in his basket.

“You can’t do this!” I say. “You can’t dump a basket on the check out and THEN GO AND FINISH YOUR SHOPPING!”

“Everybody does it.” He says. “It happens all the time. People even get their coffee after they’ve put their stuff down on the conveyor belt.”

I turn round, saying “So this is a thing. Is it me or is everything shit?” to no-one in particular when I see that the lady behind me in this excuse for a queue is my very glum looking ex-manager from a long-time gone.

“Yes it is.” She said. “I’ve just had my purse pinched in the High Street. Could you look after my trolley while I pick up a couple of bits?”.

This time I complained to the manager, who, at the age of 12, had never heard of this happening before. He would speak to the cashiers and make sure it never happened again.

All Calls Are Being Diverted To Us.

3pm Friday September 30th 2016.

RING RING RING RING

Vapid young female South London voice. Hello?

Me: Is that Social Services?

VYFSLV……..All calls are being diverted to us.

Me: And you aren’t Social Services switchboard then?

VYFSLV: No.

Me: Who are you?

VYFSLV: We are in another building. All calls are being diverted to us. Really sorry.

Me: Well could you put me through to Katie Xxxxx. She’s my mum’s social worker and it’s really important.

VYFSLV: I can try.

Me: Well yes please, try.

RING RING RING RING

VYFSLV: Hello?

Me: Is that you again? You were putting me through to social services!

VYFSLV: All calls are being diverted to us. Really sorry. We are in a different building.

Me: A different building? And you can’t connect me to social services? What are you? Some sort of dead end?

VYFSLV: I’m really sorry but all calls are being diverted to us.

Me: Could you try someone else? Try Rxxx.

VYFSLV: Well I’ll try.

RING RING RING RING

VYFSLV: Hello?

Me: You again.

VYFSLV: I’m so sorry. Really frustrating isn’t it. It’s been like this all day. All calls are being diverted to us and we are in a different building. Really sorry.

I was calling from the acute care ward at St George’s Hospital London SW17: Mum had been blue-lighted there after a suspected stroke. (We are finding out that she may have had a mini-stroke, but her acute collapse is as a result of an infection, probably urinary,  which had penetrated her blood cells.) I particularly want to talk to Social Services, as this emergency is partly the result of the inactions of the carers employed by their agency. I don’t know what to do about Mum’s care.

But all calls to Social Services in my now Kafka-esque world are being diverted to a tired young woman in a different building, including the calls she makes herself.

I can see now, on the CCTV recordings of the two calls that the carers made to Mum, that she had been very unwell that morning. She was too ill to get out of bed at 6-7, and she refused her breakfast, both very unusual. They washed her and left her and turned the lights out. She had actually asked to go to hospital. On their return at 10.00 am she was still very unwell, could not get up, and they fed her her porridge in bed. I was unaware of all this but I phoned at 10.30 to ask if she was alright before I went out with a friend for the day. I was told no, she couldn’t move her left arm and could not get out of bed.

I went round, the carers were gone and all signs were positive for a stroke – tongue tracking to the right, lop sided smile, not able to lift left arm, confused and dozy. So I called 999, the paramedics arrived and wanted to know when this happened……..well it was before 6, which meant that the crucial 4 hour window for stroke treatment had overrun.

Social Services came in in April this year when I stepped down from my role as Mum’s carer, exhausted and overwhelmed. I found myself overseeing the motley crew of carers from a private care agency and their various disastrous interventions some of which I’ve blogged about before. The low point was when mum was thrown on the bed, her arm in plaster, by a carer who was frustrated at the lack of equipment supplied to help her. This went to the police, as my son had seen it on CCTV and Mum had complained to her support worker the next day. The matter was eventually dropped after weeks of police intervention. Other carers have just been rude or stupid and I have complained endlessly, changes are made, hope is created, and then one way or another, shit happens again.

For instance, on September 6th. Mum has just returned home after staying in a respite home, organised by Social Services – in some ways they are really very good to us, and credit where its due – so I could get a break.

The night call.

Video 1

Two carers. Mum in the front room in her arm chair.

Carer 2 does not say hallo but stays in the hall.

Carer 1 sashays across to turn the telly off

Carer 1 How you like your stay in the home?

Mum, animated and friendly It was quite nice actually. They were very good to me there.

Carer 1 now on her way back towards Mum.

Carer 1 How you going to like living there?

Mum shocked. I don’t want to live there. I want to stay here in my home.

Video 2

Mum is hovering above her seat, but can’t get up. The two carers stand looking at her.

Mum Well help me won’t you? You can see I need some help.

Carer 2 Oh, you want us to help you.

Carer 1 If you want us to help you, you must tell us.

Video 3

This is sound only. Mum’s arm is broken and in plaster. I think Carer 2 is helping her out of her clothes.

Mum You are hurting my arm. Please be careful.

Video 4

Carer 1 and Carer 2 stand watching as mum tries to get into bed

Mum Give me a hand will you? You know I need some help getting into bed.

Carer 2 gives her a shove and Mum falls on the bed. She’s not hurt but she’s really cross.

Mum Oh! You’re just fucking horrible you are. What’s the matter with you!

Video 5

Carer 1 and Carer 2 leave and put the light out

Carer 1 I don’t know what was wrong with her tonight.

And they leave without saying good-bye.

After I complained and sent the videos up to the agency, these two women have become model carers, polite, and helpful. I think they were particularly rude to Mum at that time because the police were pursuing their colleague on her behalf, but who knows. It’s a tough job, underpaid, and fairly easy to get. They don’t get paid for their travel time. Generally they do as little as possible in as short a time as possible. I’m sure that’s not true for everybody. But it is for most of the people mum has had “caring” for her.

And now, after this particular crisis last Friday, I can’t even phone Social Service’s switchboard. So I try Rxxx’s email address which I had taken down by hand at a meeting a few days before. After about half an hour, and no reply, I think I have noted down the wrong address – it’s quite a complicated one, and so, battling with intermittent 4G, only accessible at the end bay of the Acute Ward, which is fortunately empty, I google her and send an email to the address listed on the official Trust web-site which differed by one letter from the one I had noted, and got this in return:

postmaster@swlstg-tr.nhs.uk

Undeliverable!

Delivery has failed to these recipients or groups:

Rxxx Social Services (her email address with one letter wrong).

4G has now disappeared and I have to leave Mum to go outside. It’s now 4.55 and I try the number I have for Occupational Therapy: Mum’s OT is nice, sensible, and surely, I think, will be able to put me through to a Social Worker. But she doesn’t answer the phone, and I speak to a very cross woman who clearly thinks I am stupid.

I try email again, adjusting that one letter from the official entry on the web-site to the one I had scribbled down, and get through to Rxxx after the end of the working day, only because she happens to be working late. She replies and phones immediately.

As of now Mum is still in St Georges, her acute care was phenomenally good, but she has suffered from some very indifferent care on the ward there too. Some amazing nurses and some who really couldn’t give a shit. But at least I can complain to the right people.

Mum might be going home today……………………I have to talk to Social Services this morning.

Dear Anaglypta……

Dear Anaglypta,

I got you on CCTV.

The front door opened at 7.17 am, and closed behind you at 7.49 am.

Your Log Book entry, however, was 7.15am to 8.15am.

Dear Anaglypta, how did it come to pass that you, a carer, thought it was alright to leave my elderly, disabled mother in her bra and knickers, sitting at the side of her bed at 7.49 in the morning?

She was waiting for help to have a shower and get dressed. That’s what you, dear Anaglypta, are paid for that hour-long shift to do.

While she was waiting for help from you, on the side of her bed in her underwear, you were writing in the Carers’ Log Book that Mum was unwell. You wrote that you gave Mum her pills and a cup of tea, that you left her in her bed. And then, dear Anaglypta, you left without saying good-bye. Mum did not even know that you had gone, and sat there, waiting patiently for the help that you are paid to do.

Dear Anaglypta, this came to my attention, because, blithely unaware till then, I had a call from the Age UK alarm people at 10.47. Mum had fallen, and pressed the alarm. When I got round to the house she was on the floor, in the hall, still in just her underwear, on the way back from the loo. She said she had been there an hour but didn’t want to bother me. She was cold. I helped her up, and helped her get dressed. That’s when I looked at the CCTV. I don’t look at it all the time, because I am trying to have a life.

Dear Anaglypta, I said to Mum that I would complain to the agency. Mum said no, that compared to some of the others you are ok, not actually frightening, not like Artex, although you zoom round like a bat out of hell.

Dear Anaglypta, I had already asked the agency not to send Artex again. She was built like a ready-padded American Footballer, six feet high, four feet across at the shoulders, and behaved as if “caring” for Mum was delaying her from getting to her real job, which was hand to hand combat in a proper war. She was followed in her bedtime visits, by Lincrusta, her sidekick. Lincrusta tagged along meekly through the door behind Artex, but who wouldn’t. Lincrusta always wore the same interesting shiny hat, like a sparkly, crumply swimming hat, and she would walk through to the kitchen, and fabricate some times and duties in the Carers’ Log Book. Then her arse, like a huge beige sack of rising dough, would rear across the screen of the CCTV video, and she would collapse on it on a chair in the hall for the rest of their very short visits. After observing her once or twice I changed the chair to a more substantial one.

One evening last week at 21.31pm Artex charged through the front door, dominating the CCTV view of the hall . Lincrusta shuffled in sideways, squeezing through the door after her. At 21.32 I heard Artex command, in her sonorous baritone,“Come on now, lady. You get off the commode. You have not got time for this. It is time for your bed now. Here, put on these incontinence pants, and then if you wet the bed it does not matter. Here, let me help you.”.

To my Mum.

My Mum is not incontinent, except when ill, but she’s 82 and with care like this she soon would be. So would I. Artex and Lincrusta closed the door behind them that particular night at 21.43. They were there twelve short scary minutes. In the Carers’ Log Book they claimed for half and hour. I don’t mind if the carers bunk off early, so long as Mum is happy, and they do their job. But this, I mind. This was beyond the pail.*

Next day, Mum told me what had happened. I reviewed the CCTV footage. I phoned the agency. The agency wanted us to work together with Artex “to solve our problems”. I had to insist that Artex never darken my mum’s door again and she didn’t. I really hope she has stopped being a “carer”, which was so frustrating for her, I could see that, and got her job as War-Lord back. We still get Lincrusta, but she comes with someone else, who is ok. Lincrusta even moves about a bit now, her and her sparkly swimming hat.

So, Dear Anaglypta, I wrote you a short note, about that day when you left my mum in her underwear by the side of the bed. It was much shorter than this missive. You read it when you came again at lunchtime, and then you never came back after that day. Never. I had not phoned the agency, or threatened you. I just caught you out.

Instead we have Alma. Alma is caring. Mum now has a caring carer who does her job, and to whom Mum and I are very very grateful.

Dear Anaglypta,

Good-bye.

*Yes, I know, but it’s a joke: commode – pail, geddit?

Names have been changed to decorative features, some from the 19th Century, to protect the guilty.