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Simon Says…

, , , , , , | Right | November 12, 2021

This happened back in the 1990s. For a couple of years, during the summer, I did residential voluntary work at a charity holiday home for the elderly and disabled, until the charity sadly had to sell the property. It was the opportunity for couples and individuals to go away for two weeks and have other people help look after them.

There were a lot of volunteers, and we were each assigned to one or two guests to provide as much help as they needed throughout the day and night. We were also expected to help other guests if their volunteers were not available. There was always at least one fully trained nurse or doctor on the premises at all times.

It was hard work, but I loved every minute of it… except possibly that time I was woken up at 2:00 am by the nurse to help change my guest’s sheets, as they were urine-soaked. He’d not wet the bed, but the idiot who emptied his catheter the evening before had forgotten to close the tap. But before anyone says the nurse should have woken up the idiot and gotten him to clear up the mess, I can assure you she did. Let’s just say that half-asleep me soon woke up and was very apologetic. Both the guest and his wife were all right about it; it wasn’t the first time that had happened to them, and I made certain I didn’t do that again!

To say this next thing was an annoyance would be a massive overstatement. It was more a mild frustration that quickly become a bit of a running joke: no one could remember my name. We all had name badges — those plastic types with a removable card. Mine clearly said, “Stephen”, but I was always called “Simon”. Everyone else was called by the right name, but for some reason, no one could remember mine.

I didn’t get cross, nor did I blame anyone. It could be because of their eyesight or memory; that’s hardly their fault. I did always politely correct them, which worked briefly, but by the next time they saw me, I had reverted back to being Simon. One of the biggest “offenders” was a lovely gentleman who was recovering from a stroke. It was all taken in good humour, but I really did want people to stop calling me Simon.

So, after a day or two of this, I removed the card, turned it over, and wrote, “NOT SIMON”. And it worked! They stopped calling me Simon!

Everyone — the staff, the volunteers, and the guests (especially Lovely Recovering Stroke Chap) — happily called me “Not Simon” instead. Ah, well.

And as an epilogue, LRS Chap improved incredibly well over the course of his holiday. He was wheelchair-bound at the start, but after every meal, he would try walking a few steps. He went from only managing three or four steps at the start of the holiday to managing over one hundred unassisted steps by the end!

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