"Oh, I forgot to say! I saw Bob last week!
You remember Allotment-Bob? Big bloke, red face? Got his own plumbing business? You know, the guy who's really into cycling?
I tell you what, he looked awful! I couldn't believe it.
He's so skinny now, I didn't recognise him at first. His face was really grey and bony and he sort of shuffled over to say hello. Weirdest thing was his voice!! D'you remember how loud he used to be? He was sooo funny, always taking the mick and teasing the bar staff. Well, once I'd realised it was him and we were chatting, I couldn't quite work out what else was different, then I sussed it - I could barely hear a word he said! His voice was all quiet and he looked down at the table most of the time we were talking!
Of course, I asked him what on earth had happened, trying not to seem too shocked by the way he looked. Mind you, it was hard not to stare at this weird tube thing he had in his throat! It was like something out of Frankenstein!
He told me the most awful story, but It seems a bit far-fetched. Perhaps he's cracking up, a bit paranoid or something, you know?
Poor bloke says he crashed his car last year. It was a pretty nasty accident, apparently. He was out one night during all that snow we had a Xmas or two ago and his car span into a ditch. The steering wheel column crushed into his ribcage and trapped one of his legs.
Once they'd cut him out of the car, they freed up the leg and rushed both to hospital, leg packed in ice. They couldn't save it though, so now he's got a false one.
On top of that, he says (This bit's really bad...) that he got pneumonia in hospital but no-one diagnosed it for weeks! The doctor told him it's damaged his lungs now, and they won't get better. He reckoned that's why he looks so grey.
Honestly, he could hardly breath enough to talk to me! I felt crap! What can you say? It's really hard not to stare, too. I bet he knew how awful I thought he looked. I was squirming! Apparently That's why he needs the tube in his neck - a trachy-something, I forget what he called it. Helps him breath I think.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, he was in hospital for months trying to get over losing the leg. They had to teach him to walk all over again - can you imagine? Said it made him feel like a baby. Then, what with the pneumonia as well, he needed loads of physio and counselling to get over things.
Of course, he had to stop working and the plumbing business went bust! Mary (you remember Mary, his wife? She's a teacher or something isn't she?) did her best to keep it going, but she couldn't be in two places at once. She ran herself ragged trying to be with him at the hospital day in and day out, then going home and trying to do the books and send out invoices and schedule in all the jobs, but it was just impossible. Her work were amazing apparently, so that was something. She can't have any more time off now though, so Bob says he just has to sit at home all day waiting for her to get back.
But do you know what the weirdest bit of all was? He says it took him months to get any help from the DSS and when they finally said he'd get some sickness benefits, they reckoned he only had two months left to claim and then he'd get nothing!! He was actually trying to tell me that they'd made him go to "work interviews" or something to find him a job!!! As if!! What the bloody hell do they think poor old Bob could do now? With that tube thingy dangling out of his bloody neck and one leg? He can't breath for God's sake, anyone could see that??
He's 55! Started his apprenticeship at 15! 40 years he's worked and he's had that plumbing business for 30 of them! He's paid his taxes all that time, and now, after the couple of years he's had, he says he's not going to get any benefits at all!! Because Mary works or something, but she's only a teacher and she's had to go part time to look after Bob, so she only gets about 12k a year now. I said it couldn't be right mate, no-one could get by on 12k a year, but he says he definitely doesn't get any sickness benefits at all now. He's appealing it - on top of everything else, poor sod's got to go through a bloody tribunal now and plead for a few quid, but he says it takes about a year just to get to the tribunal.
D'you know what, looking at him, I'm not sure he'll even make it through the year!! He really did look shocking.
What d'you reckon? It can't be right can it? I know they say we've got to cut back, but anyone can see Bob can't work! Oh yeah and they lost the house too - do you remember the house? And the garden do you remember? He loved that bloody garden. He had it so crammed with fruit trees and veg and flowers he took on all that allotment and filled that up too! Course, he can't do any gardening now, so he's had to give it up, but you know, I reckon out of the whole story, that was the bit that upset him most. It was so embarrassing, I didn't know where to look, but he was crying when he told me about the apple trees - actually crying!!
Have you heard anything about this? Is it really true that someone like Bob could be just left to rot like that? No help, no benefits now until he retires after all those years of paying his taxes, he's just got to live off Mary? Can't be easy for a bloke like him.
Let's face it, he's not going to be working again. Anyone could see that.
Here, Pete! Pete! Over here! Alright mate! Hope you've got Insurance, have you heard about Bob........