Throughout the summer of 2012, Chrissie Giles spent time at the day hospice at Princess Alice Hospice, Esher, running a creative writing group. In a series of posts accompanying our exhibition Death: A self-portrait, she reflects on her experiences there and showcases some of the writing produced by group members.
Generally, when I arrived at the day hospice, lunch was finished. Around the room, people in various states of post-prandial relaxation would read, chat or doze. I’d been visiting over the summer, so sometimes the doors that line the back of the room were open to let fresh air in, sometimes they were shut to keep the torrential rain out.
Whatever the weather, though, you could guarantee that some of the group would be drinking cold drinks, bathing in the cool air of a fan, while others would be huddled in thick layers and hats, strategically positioned out of the way of the draughts.
Take the Margarets. One of them, more often than not, would be zipped up in a brightly coloured fleece, arms and legs fully covered. A few seats down, the other would be in short sleeves, reclined in her chair to feel the breeze on her face.
One particularly warm day, feels-the-heat Margaret and her friend were sitting in their usual places, heads back, feet up. A few inches from their faces, they held battery-powered pocket fans that were whizzing away. “Flipping heck, ladies,” said one woman as she passed. “When I heard that buzzing start, I thought you’d got something else out of your handbags.”
Listen to Chrissie read this piece:
Chrissie Giles is a Senior Editor at the Wellcome Trust. ‘Death: A self-portrait‘ is open until 24 February 2013. Find out more about Princess Alice Hospice at www.pah.org.uk.