Health & wellbeing

Midsummer madness: In which we turn out to be the dreadful neighbours

04 Feb 2023 | Written by By Geraldine Durrant

Blogger Geraldine Durrant – with her usual good humour wit – relays the time that her own household turned out to be the “bad neighbours”…

You can find the previous instalment of Geraldine’s column here.

There has never been a night in the past year when I haven’t gone to bed and offered up a hopeful prayer for an undisturbed night’s sleep.

I settle Patrick on the dot of ten: any earlier and he is likely to be up partying at dawn; any later and he will defy even my best efforts to keep his eyes open.

The moment I have given him his pills, fitted his night bag, raised his cot side and tucked him in I hastily decamp and, like a miser hoarding his pennies, count exactly how many hours I have until the morning alarm’s rude awakening.

So given that sleep was all I ever dreamed about, it is not hard to imagine how angry I was one night to be woken at 3am by what was very obviously a mid-week party at the home of a neighbour.

A quick scan of nearby roofs failed to pinpoint the culprits but as loud conversations, punctuated by gales of laughter, floated in on the night air I cursed the thoughtless bastards…

PLEASE… I begged, silently invoking the sacrosanct status of a school night to shame them into silence…

But as I emerged more fully from the groggy depths of my slumbers it occurred to me that perhaps the noise wasn’t coming from outside after all, but from somewhere very much closer to home…

It was Patrick, and for one brief moment I allowed myself the happy thought that I had cracked it: he was awake, but he had decided to watch TV in his room rather than come and wake me…

Then reality hit.

Why was the noise, through two solid oak doors and the length of the upstairs landing, so very loud?

I leapt out of bed, and flung open Patrick’s bedroom door where the noise hit me like a wall.

He had indeed put the tv on: The Simpsons was blaring away at a volume best described as excruciating, and I realised the “thoughtless bloody neighbours” were in fact us…

He had also raised the blind and torn off his night bag, and was trying manfully, but unsuccessfully, to get dressed.

After I had switched off the TV, showed Patrick that it was still dark outside, cleaned the floor, tidied away his clothes and persuaded him back to bed, I asked him what he thought he was doing and he gave me a sniffy explanation.

“It is daytime and I was trying to get dressed,” he said, with the somewhat haughty air he had adopted when cornered.

“But I will tell you something right now – the staff aren’t doing nearly enough to help…”

The following night Patrick came into my room at midnight to tell me his quilt had fallen on the floor.

He was quite capable of retrieving it himself so I told him to go back to bed and not to disturb me again, noting wearily as I did so that the Do Not Disturb sign on my door had flopped down and now displayed the simple command Disturb.

It was one Patrick had obviously taken to heart because at 3am he was back.

He had removed the three straps holding his catheter bag to his leg, and the entire weight was dangling off his penis.

This is not an appendage I own myself, but being a woman of strong imagination, I assumed this was rather uncomfortable.

So I asked “why?” and received the honest-but-annoying answer “to make you come in…”

I went in.

I re-strapped his leg.

I resisted the temptation to kill him with one of the pillows piled so tantalisingly close to his face.

I returned to bed.

Two hours later, when he was back again naked from the waist down, I took weary stock.

Night bag gone…

Day bag gone… 

Strapping gone…

So far, so not unusual.

But there was something else I couldn’t quite put my finger on – until I realised he had ripped out the actual catheter.


I ushered him quickly back to his room where I found his nappy shredded on the floor, a spreading pool of pee where the night bag was leaching out, a sodden bed, a tangle of plastic bags and pipes – and the abandoned catheter.

With nowhere clean to sit, I parked Patrick on the toilet wrapped in a bath sheet to keep him warm and started the clean up, tunnelling like an archaeologist down the layers of protection on his bed until I hit a dry patch.

I bundled up the soiled linen, put Patrick back into bed with a fresh happy and rang the district nurses.

Ninety minutes later two kind souls were on the doorstep, swooping into the bedroom with brisk efficiency to begin their ministrations.

By this time Patrick was asleep so deeply they were able to insert a new catheter without disturbing him.

I meanwhile realised after the night’s excitements it was pointless going back to bed myself, so I set about the day’s chores, starting with the laundry.

But one thing I will say for a dawn start – you get an awful lot done…

Geraldine Durrant is a retired journalist, feature writer and children’s author who – since her husband was diagnosed with dementia a year ago – has kept a diary about her experiences as his carer. We have the privilege of publishing Geraldine’s incredibly personal story on our blog every Saturday, so keep your eye out for more on this series next Saturday.

If Geraldine’s writing resonates with you in some way, please do leave a comment to let her know.

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