Homecove court is a massive tower block over-looking the Thames Estuary. I have convinced Dad we should see a flat there: “Just a look won’t kill us.”
Dad doesn’t like the look of it. It’s on a hill and, stupid me, I drop him by the fire doors not the actual entrance so he has to stagger up. It’s only 50 metres but in Dad steps that’s 5 miles. By the time, my sister joins us, Dad is in a bad mood.
Dad doesn’t like the sound of Sheltered housing. I think when he hears ‘sheltered housing’, he hears death. “It’s different to a care home,” I try to convince him. “It just means there will be lots of people like you in there.”
My sister chimes in. “Which means you won’t get some yob living next door playing music late at night.”
“I like yobs,” he says defiantly.
And Dad doesn’t like the smell of it. In the perfectly fine foyer, he screws up his noise. “Smells like cooking,” he says, as if, eurghh. On the noticeboard, there are signs about Tai Chi classes and coffee mornings, bingo and salt beef bagels.
The estate agent Katy, comes, shakes our hands in the much practised way of salespeople. I feel her clocking me, my sister and my dad, deciding who is the brains.
The flat is 717 and Dad perks up. He decides he likes number 717 – the superstitious sod. (He is not the brains.)
And the flat is fine: it really is. In the bedroom there is room for a double though Dad prefers a single, and there are built-in wardrobes. The phrase ‘built-in wardrobes’ sends a frisson down my spine and it has the same effect on Dad too. That is posh. The lounge is bright and white with a small balcony and if you crane your neck to the left, there is the sea. Today, it’s hard to see where the sea ends and the sky begins.
The bathroom is fresh, with a low bath – great for those with crap knees – and emergency cords a plenty – ditto. What more do you need?
“Is everyone here retired?” I ask.
“No, but you have to be over 55.”
My sister says, “Goody, I can come here soon then.” She’s only half joking. Incredibly, my sister will be fifty next year, although to me, she’ll always be the fifteen year old Kate Bush lookalike pushing me out her room so she can snog her boyfriends to the sweet strains of Motorhead.
It is perfect! Dad says, “its like a luxury holiday home!” I laugh but I can see why. It reminds my of where we stayed on my first holiday abroad. The Hotel Bouganville player in Tenerife. Here, there is also a communal lounge where I imagine the over-55’s ordering orange juice starters, steak dinner and a knickerbocker glory.
The lift is just outside his door, (again, perfect!) and its operated by a company called ‘Schindlers.’
“It’s Schindler’s lift,” my sister says and we grin at each other. Everything is a sign and the sign says Yes!
“There a communal laundry,” says Katy and my dad replies contentedly, “it just gets better and better!” If I meet my sister’s eye I will laugh so I gaze determinedly at the ‘what to do in case of fire’ information. “There are three wardens so if you have any problems let them know. The flat is soundproof too.”
“Don’t need that,” says rebel Dad.
“Oh you might!” Katy, who is now so my best friend that I want to write her name in hearts all over the property list, says. “Some people here have their TVs on really, really loud.”
I feel like a winner. I got the right answer. Me! I found this place. It’s convenient. It’s easy. There’s parking. And at £600 a month with no service charges its a bloody bargain. Dad’s hideous flat will have to be let out first, as quickly as possible but that’s ok. We tell Katy we want it and I arrange to go to her office and pick up forms.
I call husband and tell him. He says, “I’ll start dismantling his bed then, shall I?” and I laugh. “In a hurry, eh?”
But the best thing, as we walk out grey sea to the right, town centre to the left, is that I had thought coming here would be the beginning of the end, but I do believe now its the beginning of a new beginning. Dads eyes are sparkling too. He is one of the 1200. We have dodged the inevitable: things are looking up.