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Rear View Mirror: The Proud Zimmer Queen'

Taxi driver Tony Schumacher goes to Anfield to think about the 'Royal'

Written by . Published on August 22nd 2011.

Rear View Mirror: The Proud Zimmer Queen'

SHUFFLE tap, shuffle tap, shuffle tap, shuffle tap.

No, I wasn’t at my tap dancing class (if you saw me you’d already know I wasn’t at a tap dancing class, I’ve got more left feet than a centipede). I was waiting for an old lady and her Zimmer frame to negotiate the six feet from her front door to my car, shuffle tap, shuffle tap, shuffle tap, tick tock.

When I’d pulled up at her tiny terraced house in her tiny terraced street she’d been standing at her open front door waiting for me. I’d seen her leaning against the door frame, coat on, carrier bag clutched and, I thought, raring to go. She gave me an arthritic thumbs up and turned around and disappeared back into the house.

I’m ashamed to say I cursed out loud. You see, a cabbies greatest frustration is someone who looks ready to walk straight out of their front door not doing just that, the turn on the heel back into the darkened hallway will have my eyes rolling long before my wheels.

I peered into the house as best I could and cursed again, just what I needed, a five minute wait while she checked every door and window twice then twice again. I flopped my head back against my headrest and wiped my tired eyes, I’d only been out half an hour and I wanted to go home already. I wondered if I’d always been this short tempered or had the job trimmed my tempers length without me noticing, then I heard it... shuffle tap, shuffle tap.

I glanced back to the house and she was coming towards me chasing her Zimmer, in one hand hung a carrier bag that was swinging low on her sweet chariot.

I jumped out, as much to speed things up than to be of service.

“Ee ah love, give us that ‘ere, I’ll take it.” My best scouse for deepest darkest Anfield,

“Oh thank you dear, it’s awfully heavy.” She passed me the bag, her velvety well spoken voice contrasting with my stereotyping Scouse.

I took the bag and placed it on the back seat; before I’d turned she was on the way back into the house, shuffle tap. I leant on the car roof and looked up and down the street. Many of the houses had corrugated curtains and ‘Property of Liverpool City Council do not enter’ signs on their steel covered front doors. I guessed less than a third were occupied. Liverpool FC’s football stadium loomed over one end of the street like a low flying Zeppelin, blocking the sun, in as much the same way as its fans blocked ‘The Sun’. 

“One week’s wages from a star striker would revitalise this place,” I thought, maybe the club didn’t want kids kicking a ball outside the ground, just in case the fans stopped to watch them instead of paying forty odd quid you need to get inside the ground.

Shuffle tap, shuffle tap, I turned and out she came again, this time an old sky blue coat with a faux fur collar was helping the Zimmer hold her up. A cameo broach sat on her chest like an enamel off switch and a patent leather handbag swung from the frame.


“Can you give that door a good pull for me please?” and I did as I was told, it took me two good tugs before the swollen front door finally filled the frame, I’d thought the front of the housed was going to come down like a Buster Keaton film such was the force required.

“You could do with a plane running over that,” I said wondering how she coped,

“It’s the damp, it’s a good job I don’t go out much.” She replied as she locked the three locks that also kept her in.

By the time she’d got into the car and the Zimmer was stowed at least five minutes had passed, I’d given up being impatient, her passage of time had been tougher than mine. I could see her swollen hands and swollen ankles.

As I started the engine and glanced across I noticed her lipstick for the very first time, shiny and red, applied with shaking hand. Her lips looked like rose petals at the end of summer, ready to fall, reedy and dry but with the slightest of memories of what beauty had once been.

“Where to, love?”

“The Royal Liverpool Hospital.”

“It’s full Sunday title?” I smiled, and she nodded primly back in a way that made me feel like she was unaccustomed to making small talk with the ‘help’.

‘The Royal’ for those of you who do not know, is Liverpool’s main central hospital. And if a place bore the title Royal that is less regal I for one would not like to see it. A huge cancerous concrete carbuncle of towering size. The place seems to suck sunlight out of the sky. Repeated attempts to improve its facade have been about as successful as Michael Jackson’s were. There is talk of knocking it down and starting again and indeed holes have been dug and clearances has been made, but like a tombstone it stands still, as testament to the short sighted seventies architect who should surely hang his head in shame.

Many passengers speak ill of the Royal, they complain about its inner city drunks who hang around its front doors, begging for change and clogging its wards with their yellow skin and desperate bruised eyes. Some complain of the staff who “don’t care” they talk of relatives lying in bed, crying out in pain as if in some modern day Bedlam, unseen and unheard or unable to be understood, just one voice in a thousand looking for help.

But many more talk of “Angels” amongst the staff, who battle against the tide of super strength bugs and super strength alcohol. Angels who “do care”, who hold hands, brush hair, sit and talk and fetch sugary tea at a quarter to three for the lost and lonely.

The Royal is like Liverpool itself, trying to change and to undo the crimes of short sighted planners, loved and loathed in equal measures, good, bad and ugly all in one place.

The crinkle of carrier bag brought me back to my car, we were well on our way and my passenger was checking its contents,

“Hope you haven’t forgotten anything, I don’t think I could get that door open again,” I smiled at me lady, who smiled back. More relaxed after our silence and some Classic FM.

“There is a trick to getting it open, my husband has it down pat now, he lifts and pushes.”

“He must be strong then! I couldn’t lift a tea cup after that!”

“He was very strong, he’s not now, I’m going to see him.” She tailed off and so did my bonhomie,

“Oh dear, I’m sorry,” I said content to let it drop,

“It’s his kidneys, he’s had problems for years, it’s catching up with him now, he’s almost ninety. Been on all sorts of tablets for years, but as you get older... well you know”

“Yeah, I understand,” I said, even though I didn’t.

“He went in for tests last week, but has taken a turn.” She held up the carrier bag, “That’s why I am taking him this, I’m sure they aren’t feeding him properly, I’ve made him soup and some rolls.” As proof she showed me the tartan flask, its rusty seams testament to happier times of tea and tides on the beach.

“I’m sure they do feed him, they are very good you know,” was all I could offer,

“I don’t blame them, he’s an old man, and they probably don’t have the staff to cope, poor things, it’s just he is all I have now. And I’m not going to just let him go. I’ve gone in everyday this week and I think he is looking a little better.”

“It’ll do him good just seeing you.”

“It does me good seeing him,” She replied.

I didn’t tell her it did me good seeing her, although, as I watched her shuffle tap, shuffle tap, shuffle tap her way through the new atrium doors into the bowels of the Royal, I wished I had.

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mrsmarsaAugust 23rd 2011.

I heard that the architect for the Royal committed suicide because the buidlers built the hospital the wrong way round. Dunno if thats an urban myth but having worked there it does seem to be the wrong way round.

The Big SisAugust 24th 2011.

That Is Beautiful, made me cry a little bit!

Andy PandyAugust 25th 2011.

I also am crying! You're wasted on the taxis Tony, write!

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