Another unexpected story.
When we moved to our present house, Peter was one of the first people to greet us. He chatted about the previous owners, asked lots of questions about us, advised us on some local facilities: (“Do you like a pint? Don’t go to the Bell, it’s not a pub for a lady.”) He was a delightfully friendly and cheerful dude and would always pop over for a natter whenever he saw me clipping the front hedge or working in the garden.
In his late forties, Peter lived with his elderly mother in the family home – a three-bedroomed Local Authority house in the estate across the road. He did the physical work around the house and garden under his mother’s direction, and night carers came in to see to his Mum when he went to bed. About a year ago, his Mum became very ill. We were awoken several times by the blue ambulance lights flashing across the way while a stretcher bumped out of Peter’s front door, and Peter’s conversations became less frequent, shorter and more worried.
I haven’t seen Peter around lately, but yesterday, I bumped in to him in the centre of town, looking uncharacteristically morose, and we had a long chat. His Mum died in mid-February. I hadn’t known, and expressed regrets both for his loss, and for not having realised that his Mum had died, “Although I did notice I wasn’t seeing you around this Spring”.
Peter tells me that’s because he isn’t living in the area any more. As a single man, he wasn’t allowed to stay in a three-bedroomed house. The Council has moved him to a one-bedroomed bungalow in another part of town. Peter didn’t want a bungalow; if he had to move to somewhere one-bedroomed, he would have preferred a flat, but all three offers he was made were for bungalows and he had to take the third one or he would have been made homeless. He is particularly incensed by the fact that the bungalows are all wheelchair-adapted, with ramps and level-entry showers – he feels that he is being written off (“I’m only 50 and there’s nothing wrong with my legs”) and also that ‘some poor old soul’ who needs these adaptations is missing out on them. But, he says, the Council was desperate to lay hands on the three-bed house and moved very quickly to prevent him under-occupying a family-sized property. I make noises of agreement that February to May seems like a pretty swift move.
Peter says that actually, he’s been in the bungalow for the best part of three months. His Mum’s carers helped him register her death, and the Council said it would pass the information on to other relevant departments, to save Peter struggling with difficult paperwork. The Council were certainly very efficient in passing the news on to the Housing Department, because Peter got his termination and resettlement notice four days after his Mum died.
He and the rest of his family were still in the middle of arranging the funeral.