I met Najmo when I visited Dad at the residential home. She looked about twelve: a most beautiful young lady. Najmo is an ‘agency carer’.
Dad had been refusing to wash with his usual ‘I don’t need people telling me when to wash , I don’t need soap being pressed into my eyes and I don’t want to be cold, I don’t need my genitals washed all the time — I don’t smell’.
Dad is sitting in his chair in a beautiful room surrounded by paintings of his childhood garden and places he went on holiday years ago. He hasn’t shaved and to the world he looks like a man who could probably do with a wash.
‘Would you like a shave dad?’
‘Yes I could do, but not now’.
So I put Smetana on the CD player and lie down on the bed next to his chair and watch the tension of the washing conversation seep out of him as he hums and sings along, almost note perfect to ‘Ma Vlast’.
Najmo comes in with a glass of apple juice and sits down on the chair.
I make the shaving suggestion again, and this time he has mellowed sufficiently to comply. Helping him into his wheelchair I wheel him into the bathroom. Najmo observes unobtrusively. I set up his shaving station and we’re ready to roll.
‘You see this is what a gentleman does’ he tells Najmo in his pompous doctor voice. Najmo smiles. I raise my eyes.
When the deed is done Najmo asks if he’d like to go onto the terrace, its a beautiful day and he can meet up with some of the other people on the floor. Amazingly he agrees.
We sit out on the terrace and Najmo has brought me a cup of tea and a flapjack. Dad is taking in the surroundings, periodically complaining about the sun umbrella which needs fixing.
Najmo tells me that she has just finished her ‘A’ levels: 3 A’s in Chemistry, Biology and History. She has taken a job as a carer over her holidays to get some money together so that her mother can go on a holiday. In September she starts at Birmingham University studying Chemistry — but she wants to be a doctor. Najmo is one of seven children and so am I, so we laughed.
‘Are all your siblings as clever as you?’
‘Yes’ she replies and describes them all with a real fondness.
We talk about a lot of things and she says that she came to England when she was about 10 and she can still remember vividly her old life and bringing in the animals for her grandparents in Somalia.
How very proud I felt, to be British. To live in a country where displaced people and refugees from appallingly war torn countries can seek refuge and can flourish like Najmo and her siblings have done. I hope to meet Najmo again.