Get to know… Alan Weguelin

At ninety, I suppose you could call me a late developer. This is not true, I started to develop years ago. Ok, it was when I was eighty-four. In 2016, after living for a year in Ally Pally with my son and Edita my lovely daughter in law, she suggested I join something — I think she may probably have tired of my company for eighteen hours a day. First it was an art group with U3A. She also had a friend, Kate Pemberton. They conspired to launch me into an alien world. The world of writers! I joined Giovanna Iozzi and her merry band of writers with Alison Chandler on Fridays in support. 

An alien world it was for a few weeks, then it happened! I was bitten by the writing bug. Now I can’t stop. I write about growing up in Chertsey during and before WW2. It is a sort of memoir. I soon realised I was seriously lacking in English. I missed over a year of education with a stay in an Open-air School for frail children. I could hardly write a proper sentence when I left school at the age fourteen. Even today I had to ask Alison what a proper sentence was. It is a bit of surprise that my submission for today’s Feedback Friday was called ‘Three-word sentences’. Although I am told one of them is not even a sentence.  


September. Once it was my favourite month. The month I got married in 1958. Now it’s a melancholy month. Three words crowd my mind like a tune you can’t stop hearing.

They say that three-word sentences are easy to remember, they strike home, we hear them all the time on TV adverts and in politics. Here are three sentences that don’t mean much on their own, but for me they are unforgettable.

I love you. Please help me. The Liverpool pathway.

Sunday morning, he lays in bed waiting for the Goblin Teasmade to start its ritual. First, he hears a click and then a soft grumble, it becomes more urgent, angry even. The Goblin within can take no more and rids itself of the boiling water.

The buzzer buzzes. Lights come on. Tea is made. He lies there breathing in the sweet smell of freshly made tea, but there is no enthusiasm now to sip this first and nicest cup of tea of the day.

It’s September the thirteenth, their Golden anniversary. Three months ago, they would both lie here listening to this performance — now he listens alone.

Back in June, they woke up together to this ritual of their little Goblin friend. They would have a nice cup of tea and talk about the day ahead. Then a different performance would begin.

First the toilet. Then the shower. Hair is brushed. Now the painful bit, legs are gently creamed. Compression stockings and creamed legs don’t go together. Teeth are gritted. Tears are shed. The room is now brightly lit with June sunshine. They see the purple blotches on her legs. She looks down with a weary look that says. ‘What now?’

Her face has a sort of yellowish tan, that’s odd, she has to avoid sunshine — so the drug people tell us. It is Sunday. He will have to call the duty doctor, a young man arrives, he has a kindly face. He is gentle as he touches the dark coloured skin. His smile fades.

‘We need to do some tests which can only be done in hospital. Would you mind if I arrange an ambulance for you both, I will ring ahead so that you don’t have go to A&E.’

This is nothing to be alarmed at. This is a regular thing. Forty years of rheumatoid arthritis and five hip replacements, need many visits to the hospital. They see familiar faces. The smiling tea lady. Student nurses, and now her specialist doctors, they know Ann well. They are whispering, just out of earshot. There is an urgency he has not seen or heard before; they tell him it will be a long day with many tests and could he come back that afternoon.

It’s already eleven o’clock, he leaves her in good hands, she smiles and says
‘I love you.’

This is not a thing they normally say to each other with words. They just know it.

Two days pass, now it’s Wednesday the eighth of June, visiting time. She is sitting up in her chair. She is looking — but not seeing. She whispers a whisper he can hardly hear.

‘Please help me.’

The doctor calls us into her office. The results of some tests are known. The doctor apologises, there is something in her voice that was never there before.

The drugs they have prescribed that have worked so well in controlling the pain for the last forty years, have a sting in their tail. The liver has finally given in to the onslaught. Now, other organs are failing.

Another doctor joins them and gives the devastating news — there are just a few hours left.

Another unforgettable three words are mentioned —

The Liverpool pathway.

The Liverpool pathway is a way of making an extremely painful end of life seem like going to sleep peacefully.

They sit silently, holding hands. She sleeps soundly.

I love you. Please help me. The Liverpool pathway. Three unforgettable three-word sentences.

Alan Weguelin: self-portrait