For 23 years I have visited Nigel, he'll be 71 this year.
Nigel spends most of his time at home where he lives and the day center he attends during the week. The majority of his friends are care workers, fellow residents and those who visit them, and other attendees at the day center.
When I began visiting Nigel, I was full of enthusiasm for getting him to do stuff he perhaps wouldn’t ordinarily do. I tried to go to interesting places with him, to engage in different hobbies but eventually came to understand that the point of visiting is to do what he actually wants to do and not what I think he ought to do.
One Christmas I bought him a model glider kit and proudly announced that come the better weather we would make the glider together and go and fly it. I never saw it again. I don’t know what happened to it, bit I worked out that flying a glider didn’t register very highly on his hit list of Things to Do.
I tried to find out what he actually wanted to do. That was how we ended up on a trawl of charity shops in Norwich, looking for a book about Wales.
Amazingly, in the Oxfam shop in Bedford Street I found one.
I pulled it from the shelf, held it aloft as if it was the FA Cup and said, “Here you are Nigel, a book about Wales. How about it?” His reply – which I will never, ever forget – was, “It’s not big enough!”
That afternoon we tramped around every shop I could think of looking for and failing dismally to find a book about Wales.
A couple of months later when I visited again I asked him what he wanted to do. “I want to buy that book about Wales we found last time,” he said. “But you said it wasn’t big enough.” I replied, barely containing a laugh. “I’ve changed my mind,” he said, sternly.
We went back into the city and to the Oxfam bookshop in Bedford Street. There, in the same place as it had been the first time around, was the book about Wales. He bought it. With considerable triumph, I might add.
Whatever we end up doing, tea and a sticky bun has to be involved. The cafe at Roys of Wroxham or the city Cathedral Refectory are favorites.
Nigel and I have been through some stuff together, not all of it good. Some years ago he was diagnosed with cancer but luckily for him it was caught in very early stages and a successful operation restored him to rude health.
Indeed, it was a quite remarkable recovery. A number of my good biker friends sent cards, pictures and gifts from the US.
There have been times when life has gotten in the way and I haven’t visited Nigel as frequently as I would have liked. But when I have visited I have always tried to make it a worthwhile experience for him, even if it means that I have to stump around shops in the city.
All of them, if need be.