It wasn't a deliberate exercise.
Today I volunteered to collect my grandmother's prescription from the new super hospital in Wakefield. Although she lives close to it she would've had to take a taxi there and back which seemed ridiculous. As I'm perfectly able-bodied I took the two-mile walk instead.
It was the first time I'd been inside the new hospital. It felt like walking into an airport, all bright lights and sparkling floors. It was a far cry from the dingy corridors of the old wards. Exciting to me at this point was the coffee bar dead ahead but I restrained myself, located the dispensary and took a seat.
What I didn't realise at first was that the seating area I was sat in was the main waiting hub for the entire building. People had to watch the screen to let them know they were allowed to move to the next seating area, the one closer to their ward. A bit of a dictatorship, I thought to myself, and an intelligent way of keeping the complaining patients away from the people actually involved in their department.
In the forty-five minute interval before my prescription was made up I got to listen to some interesting conversations. I learned all about the ailments of the man next to me, despite never looking up from my book. I listened as the old man with a cane across from me was taken away from his seat by an impatient nurse only to be returned five minutes later and plonked back down again. I heard the whining about waiting times for prescriptions morph into loud admonishments of the poor dispensary staff. I found that the ringtone of the grey-haired woman in front of me was a quote from 300. I even learned that the reason the prescriptions were taking so long was because they'd built the dispensary too far from the pharmacy itself. Having people go downstairs to get their medicine there was unrealistic - it was next door to the mortuary and, as the receptionist cheerfully pointed out, it wasn't the best place for a good odour.
All in all, it was an interesting afternoon. I feel like going back for another go, maybe just to get a coffee and listen to people. Those folk in that hospital are my people; their accents and voices are the ones I hear in my head as I write. I'm a Northerner. Maybe it's time I got back to listening to Northern folk.