No Future Ch. 38bybradley_stoke©
Unto the Next Generation
Not all the residents of the Elysian Nursing Home where Tamara worked were over eighty years old. Some were rather younger. In fact, some were barely seventy. It hardly seemed much of a reward for decades of scrimping and saving for retirement to have to live in a single room in a nursing home before you had much opportunity to enjoy your twilight years as a retired citizen. Iris was one such woman. It hadn't been very many months after she'd celebrated her seventieth birthday and therefore at last eligible to collect a pension that she was brought down by a stroke that brought her previously active life to a sudden abrupt end.
Still, there were worse places to spend your last few years than the Elysian Nursing Home located in the decaying seaside resort of Morecambe. There would even have been a view of the beach across the scrubland that had once been a Golf Club if it wasn't for the high wall that served to protect the town from the encroaching sea.
It was a long way from Surrey, but that suited Tamara. There was little likelihood of her meeting any of the clients she'd got to know from when she worked for Empire Cleaning Services and there was no one who'd need to know she was Jewish. It was dreadful for Tamara to admit that she preferred to hide her Israeli heritage of which she had once been so proud. She never imagined that she'd one day attempt to hide both her cultural identity and her most recent employment. But there were people for whom the fact that she was an Israeli citizen and had worked as a prostitute made her precisely the Jezebel that many now believed all Jewish women to be. This was ridiculous, of course, because before the Arab-Israeli Nuclear War no Israeli citizen ever needed to debase herself in that way.
Although Iris had suffered a stroke that left her physically debilitated, her mind remained lively. She was blind in one eye and could no longer walk or even use her right hand, but she was as coherent as she'd ever been. She had few living relatives or friends. Most of her friends weren't able to visit her because they lived in far-away cities such as Manchester, Preston and even London. Her most frequent visitor was her daughter, Tracey, and that wasn't very often. Sometimes she arrived with her nine year old daughter, Odile, but most often with one or another of a succession of profoundly bored men.
"I don't know why my daughter ever bothers," said Iris. "I moved up here just a year ago when I retired and although we'd never been close she'd followed me and moved into my house. Did you see the last man she was with? What a dumbo!"
"Your granddaughter seems very sweet," said Tamara loyally.
"All nine year old girls look sweet. I don't know how long that's likely to last with a mother like Tracey. She was trouble when she was young and she's trouble now. Did you know we literally have no idea who Odile's father is?"
"No, I didn't."
"You'd have thought that one name might have stuck in Tracey's mind as to who the father might be," said Iris. "She can't have had intimate relations with that many men, could she? But no, she couldn't remember the names of the men she'd slept with in the critical month at all. She did say that if her child was black or brown, that would make it easier to work out. It's not as if my daughter was a prostitute. That's one thing she's never resorted to, despite the lack of decent jobs these days. She just does it for fun. You could say she just gives it away."
"That's one way of putting it," said Tamara with a polite laugh.
Iris wasn't to know that her jocular remark had touched a tender spot. Tamara hadn't had sex with a man even once ever since she'd stopped working for Empire Cleaning Services. Sex quite simply no longer appealed to her. The last time she'd had an enjoyable sexual relationship was when she worked at the Reigate Refugee Centre and that was with a man who was neither a Muslim nor a Jew, but a non-religious Nigerian. Tamara no longer associated sex with pleasure. Sometimes it was the memory of physical abuse that troubled her, but bizarrely she was most often reminded of it on those occasions when the nursing care for which she was now employed most resembled her former sexual ministration.
The men who most often had business with Empire Cleaning Services thought they knew exactly what they wanted. And generally that was to have a pretty woman arrive at their house who would let him fuck her and at the very least treat the customer to a blow job. What they often received instead after they'd ejaculated too soon or hadn't achieved an erection or were consumed by guilt from the shame of resorting to pay for sex was more of a counselling or even nursing service. And now when Tamara cared for a male patient, especially those with urinary problems, she was directly benefiting from her previous on-the-job training.
Tamara shared a dormitory about a kilometre away from the Elysian Nursing Home with other nurses and care assistants. They all worked in care homes owned by Twilight Care (a St. John-Easton company) that were scattered about Morecambe, Lancaster and surrounding villages. A dormitory didn't afford much privacy, but it did provide the opportunity, if Tamara felt like it, to strike up a romantic relationship with one of the many male nurses and care assistants that also shared the dormitory. Although Tamara had to admit that many were rather nice looking, she wasn't sure she could be bothered to hunt for a quiet secluded spot in Morecambe where they could make love.
None of the other care assistants admitted to being asylum seekers or refugees, although Tamara suspected that many of them were. She took advantage of the fact that most English people couldn't tell a Jew apart from an Arab or indeed from almost any other nationality or race. She didn't announce that she was an Israeli citizen and as long as no one asked there was no reason to do so. What good would it do her except salve what little pride she had left to declare that she was one of the estimated hundred thousand or so Jews who'd settled in a country where they were only begrudgingly welcome? Although the care assistants were ethnically diverse, when they spoke it was obvious from the dialect that many of them had been born in England. Tamara's own spoken English was rather more precise and well enunciated than the others, but no one challenged her that the Republic of England might not be the land of her birth. Maybe they thought she was just very well educated.
"Are there many foreigners working here?" she asked Ingrid, a nurse from the Rainbow Nursing Home. This would once have been a very select care home situated on the esplanade but the patients' view across Morecambe Bay was now blocked by a dismal concrete wall defaced by racist graffiti. Tamara had wondered whether Ingrid was a foreigner herself, perhaps from Holland or Denmark, but she later discovered that the origin of her peculiar accent was Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
"Foreigners?" said Ingrid. "What a question. Not that I know of. There was a Scottish girl who worked here once. You can imagine that caused a few problems after the incident in Berwick."
"Berwick-on-Tweed," said Ingrid. "When there was a pitched battle between Scottish and English soldiers. Nine killed. You must remember. It was only a few years ago."
"Oh yes," said Tamara, who reasoned that it must have happened before she'd moved to England. "Berwick."
"I think she'd have got lynched if she'd stayed," said Ingrid. "Her accent gave her away, of course. She couldn't risk opening her mouth in case someone wanted to lynch her."
"There's an awful lot of lynching going on these days, isn't there?" said Tamara. "I'm sure it's not always been like this."
"It always has all the time I've been alive, dear," said Ingrid who was probably ten or fifteen years older than Tamara. "I've no idea when it all started. I'm told people used to be a lot more tolerant in the past. Now, even the Welsh are treated like shit. And the racial prejudice too. It's dreadful! A lot of the other nurses have had a really bad time. Especially Tina."
"Tina. You know, the black girl. Lots of people think she's a tart when she walks about town because she's young and pretty, but she actually belongs to some kind of a religion. Muslim or Roman Catholic or something, I don't know what. I'm sure things were better once upon a time, you know, before they built the sea wall on the front and when people could afford to go on holiday to places like Morecambe."
Tamara was aware that a well-spoken and so obviously well-educated young woman like her would never really be fully accepted by the other nurses and care assistants. It wasn't that they were less bright than her. That was quite clearly not true, but the now defunct Republic of Israel had provided its citizens with a much higher standard of education than England had done for many generations. Reforms that had begun nearly a century before had so scaled down the English education system that most parents couldn't afford the fees to send their children to secondary school. A nation of poorly educated people that had been virtually ostracised by the rest of Europe and whose natural allies were nations like Russia and the Republic of North America could no longer hope to compete with the Republics of Scotland and Northern Ireland in terms of educational achievement.
Jobs of any kind were hard to find and Tamara was lucky to have one at all even if she couldn't afford to live anywhere more opulent than a dormitory. Everything she owned was kept locked in a bedside cabinet and little of that was of any real value. There was the photograph of her Bat Mitzvah more than fifteen years ago in a synagogue that had been rebuilt at a time when her family still believed that the Republic of Israel had a chance of surviving. Tamara recalled the occasion fondly and the hopes that had been invested in her, but she also remembered the Geiger counters and face-masks that accompanied her procession through the rubble towards the synagogue. Stones were thrown at her by the more bullish Palestinians that were swarming in ever larger numbers into an Israel that had lost control of the Geder HaHafrada that had kept the Jewish nation secure and the Arabs at bay. Now that the wall was being dismantled it was more often known even by the surviving Israelis as the jidar al-fasl al-'unsuri since its only remaining function was to be a symbol of the Israeli nation's belief that the ethnic diversity of the region could be held at bay in exactly the same way as the walls along the Mediterranean coast were designed to keep the rising waters from flooding the shore.
Tamara had very little attachment now to the land of her childhood and she still hadn't found a new home to which she felt she belonged. Where else could she go? It was unlikely that she'd be any more welcome across the Scottish or Welsh borders than she was in England. She knew only too well how unwelcome she was in the rest of Europe, especially in a Mediterranean Economic Union now dominated by Turkey, Egypt and Algeria, rather than by Italy and Spain.
"Do you ever wonder whether there's anywhere you belong?" Tamara asked Iris one day after she'd removed the faeces that had got wedged between the old woman's buttocks.
"What a strange question," said Iris. "Why's that an issue? Hardly anyone lives in the same place all their life. I was born in London. I spent most of my twenties and thirties in one part of London or other. Then I moved to other places. I moved, for instance, to Lancaster. But I never really thought I didn't belong to London or even Lancaster."
"But you belong to England, don't you?"
"It wasn't the same country when I was born. It was something called the United Kingdom. There was a king and there were three or four countries all joined together. Then everything changed in my twenties and now I'm a citizen of a country that never used to exist. If I'd been a Scot or a Welshwoman or something perhaps I'd kind of feel proud to be independent, but somehow as an Englishwoman it's more like the land I came from no longer exists. Is that what you feel, dear?"
"Something like that," said Tamara sadly.