The young man breathed a sigh of relief as he finally sighted his quarry of the past four days. The old man was sitting on the park bench enjoying the sun and feeding the ducks.
“Hello fella”, the young man said as he sat down on the bench. “You said that you’d be able to tell me about the old days? About 2006? About the blankets?”.
The old man tore off another piece of bread and threw it in the pond and watched a small crowd of ducks hungrily fight over it. “Sure, if you want to hear about that sort of stuff”.
The young man started a mini-recorder and placed it on the bench between them while the old man continued to talk.
“It was back in oh-six, about the middle of February and if you believe the reports it was the first winter of the ‘big freeze’. I remember the years that followed, OAPs dropping dead in the street, cats frozen stiff in the streets… Happy days”.
Before continuing the old man took a swig from a bottle of something, probably illegal, which he’d concealed in a brown paper bag.
“As you know I was working in London for the ambulance service, it was a pretty good job but back then the health service was run and funded by the government. So a lot of things went wrong.”
The young man interrupted, “That was when Blair the Deceiver was in power? Just before The Party started to dissolve parliament?”
The old man looked sullen, “That’s right, bad days, very bad days”.
Sensing that the old man was about to enter a fit of depression, the young man decided to prompt him, “But about the blankets…?”
“Yes”, replied the old man, eyes suddenly snapping into focus, “We used to say back then that the only equipment we really needed was a chair and a blanket, but on that day there were no blankets to be found. We searched the stores, we even tried ransacking disused ambulances in case they had some – but there were none to be found.”
“What did you do?”, asked the young man.
“Well, we got onto our Control – they tried to contact someone in management, but no-one seemed to be around. So Control spoke to their overseers – the people who had the job to look after these emergencies. They were no help.”
“Were the management ever any good?”, the young man asked.
The old man was quiet for a moment before continuing, “In this case it turned out that there were no blankets at our central stores, normally the blankets would be stored there before being delivered to individual stations by a tender driver. But the warehouse that washed and packed the blankets hadn’t delivered any to the stores.”
“With no blankets, how could you help patients?”
“Well, after talking with Control they suggested that we ‘liberate’ some blankets from the hospitals in the area – so some of us went on stealth missions. We’d take in a drunk and while the nurses backs were turned your crewmate would sneak out with an armful of blankets.”
The old man threw another chunk of bread to the anxiously waiting ducks, “We didn’t call it stealing. Besides, the hospitals had more than enough”.
“Of course”, the old man continued, “back then we’d share a blanket amongst a couple of patients – there wasn’t enough for one blanket each. This was before the H5N1-MRSA cross-breed became epidemic. You’d never get away with it these days. But back then if there wasn’t filth on the blanket, you would use it again. We had to or there would have been blanket shortages every day of the year.”
“In this case the shortage lasted for a couple of days, it turned out that everyone in the blanket warehouse had applied for annual leave at once, so there was hardly any staff working. In those days you had to use up most of your annual leave before April. That year they prevented the ambulances from collapsing by letting us ‘carry over’ more leave to the next financial year than normal, but they forgot about some of the support workers.”
“We were lucky that year…we didn’t know it was about to get worse…”
The youngster clicked off his recorder before the old man could continue, “Yes, but we all know what happened in twenty-oh-eight, I’m just researching the precursors to the health collapse and I was thinking that this might be of some use.”
“Well I hope I was of some help”, the old man said standing up from the bench with a groan, “I’m off to stretch these worn bones. If I can be of anymore help, just let me know”.
“Will do Mr Reynolds”, said the young man, “Will do”.
Yes we did have a
shortage absence of blankets a couple of days ago, so far there is no official reason, but the tender driver told me the theory that I use in this story. It’s also true that we have to reuse blankets for different patients. There was a manager around, but he was in a meeting. I don’t know what the ‘overseers’ suggested.
There is no H5N1–MRSA cross-breed. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I’m still alive in 2046.
Yes I’m wrote in this format because I have too much time on my hands.