Eddie tended to drift into whatever jobs were available that would pay the rent.  He was young with no responsibilities, fit and strong, and wasn’t particularly fussed about what he did, just as long as there was a pay cheque at the end of the month.  He had considered moving back to the mainland, but rather enjoyed the slower pace of life on the Island, and the perks of bikini-clad teenage girls slipping their phone numbers his way when their parents had strolled back to the Ocean Hotel for an afternoon siesta.  The Island was in his blood; he felt an affinity for Sandown, but for the life of him he could not work out why.

So it was one afternoon that Eddie collected the last of the deckchairs on the beach, and turned his collar up against the fresh breeze blowing in from the English Channel.  The summer season would soon be at an end, and he needed to find something else to do until May.  He locked up the little hut, unchained his pushbike from one of the hut’s wooden stilts, and carrying his bike over the sand, made his way to the flight of steps leading up from the beach.  Once up on the pavement he noticed a few middle aged and elderly people taking a late afternoon stroll or sitting staring at the sea in one of the many shelters dotted along the main promenade. 

He spied two ancient-looking ladies sitting side by side in the shelter opposite the steps as he swung a leg over his saddle.  Both of them were talking nineteen to the dozen, and neither one was listening to the other.  In between breaths their dentures rattled as their jaws moved from side to side like a couple of cows chewing the cud.  A notion formed in his head; he had often passed by one care home or another when out on his bike, and reasoned that what with the hotels and cafes closing for the winter in a few weeks, his safest bet would be to enquire after work at a care home.

Eddie was pleased with the idea.  He pedalled along the promenade and made a right turn that led up into Sandown High Street.  He decided to spend the rest of the day visiting as many residential homes as he could manage to cram in before his stomach told him it was dinner time.


“I’m Patricia Collins, one of the senior staff.  So, Eddie, you’re looking for work as a carer?”

Eddie mused that the sour-faced woman standing before him might never have laughed at all in her entire life.  

“Er…yeah.  I’m fit, willing and able.  I’ve been working on the beach all summer tending the deckchairs.  The owner can give you a reference.  I want to stay on the Island.”

Eddie noticed Patricia’s sudden interest.

“Why is that?”

“I’ve nothing to go back to the mainland for.”  Eddie shrugged. “I lived in a care home myself in South London until a couple of years ago; although obviously it was a bit different to this one.  I reckon I can make a better job of caring for the residents here than the staff ever did in looking after me.”

He noticed a glimmer of a smile pass briefly over Patricia’s features. 

“Whereabouts are you living?”

Eddie hoped that his natural charm did not fail at the last minute.

“In a bed-sit two streets away.  I’ve got another two weeks on the chairs, and then I can start at the beginning of November if you like.”  He ran a hand through his tousled red hair. “I don’t always look this scruffy; I’ve just come from work.”

Patricia’s smile widened.

“Fill out this application form.  I’ll check your references and then I’ll be in touch.”

“Cheers!”  Eddie shook her hand. “You won’t regret it.  I’m a hard worker.”

“Oh, you’ll work hard all right.”  Patricia’s grasp was firm. “How are you with personal care?  Some of the residents need help with washing and dressing, and some are bed-bound.  We are called Sundowners not only because the residents are elderly, but also due to the face that more or less all of them seem to have Sundowner’s Syndrome.”

“No worries.”  Eddie made his way to the door. “I had to help my mum to wash and dress herself until she passed away.  That’s why I had to go into care; I was only twelve at the time.  Er.. what’s Sundowner’s Syndrome?”

“Our residents have dementia, and can maybe become a little agitated as the sun sets.  You might see a dramatic change in mood, or sometimes they might become anxious, sad, angry, violent, or just start following us about.”  Patricia explained patiently. “It’s usually a case of keeping them calm and distracted and of course, drawing the curtains so they cannot see the sky become darker if you’re on a late shift.  That aside however, you seem just like the sort of person we’re looking for.  I’ll be in touch soon.”


He picked up a letter from the hall table after his last day on the beach had ended.  The sands had been deserted for most of the day, and Eddie knew it was time to move indoors.  He scanned the contract from Sundowners Residential Home with a grin; the salary would be much more than he had earned on the chairs.  He was moving up in the world.  He cycled around to the home after his usual Friday tea of beans on hot buttered toast, and pushed his acceptance through the letterbox. 


The corridors and bedrooms were warm, stiflingly warm.  Eddie sweated like a stuck pig by eight thirty that morning.  He looked at his early list of duties: Help to feed, wash and dress Harold, Maud, Walter and Rene, and then a tea break.  He decided he would surely need one by then.

Eddie saw Harold looking at him suspiciously as he came into the bedroom.

“Hi Harold!”  Eddie kept his voice light and cheerful. “I’m Eddie, I’m going to help you with your cereal, and then give you a wash.”

“Piss off!” 

“Now that’s not a nice welcome, is it?”  Eddie wanted to laugh, but kept his face straight.

“No.” Harold sighed.

“You haven’t eaten much.”  Eddie lifted a spoonful of cornflakes to the old man’s lips. “Let’s see if we can get some more down you.”

Eddie was relieved that Harold opened his mouth obligingly as the spoon touched his lips.  He had a sudden flashback of trying to feed his mother two days before she died; desperate to get some nutrition into her yet somehow accepting the inevitable. 

Compared to Harold, Maud seemed happy in her own little world.  She had already eaten her breakfast by the time Eddie had finished with Harold, and was sitting on the bed in her nightdress with a soiled incontinence pad on her head.  Eddie, unfazed, helped her to get cleaned up.

The smell of faeces hit him as soon as he entered Walter’s room.  The old man sat up in bed, with the remnants of his breakfast scattered all over the sheets.

“Morning Walter!”  Eddie wrinkled his nose. “Has something died in here?”

Ignoring Walter’s puzzled look, Eddie collected the breakfast plates and cutlery together on a tray, and then searched in a nearby chest of drawers for some clean sheets.  It was only when he had taken two sheets out of the top drawer and closed it again that his gaze rested on a photograph in a silver frame which had been placed on the smooth oak-panelled top.  The photo depicted a red-haired woman laughing in somebody’s sun-drenched garden.

Eddie stood frozen in shock; the woman was his mother.  He peered at it again to make sure.  Yes, there was no doubt about it.  She looked younger than he remembered and so healthy, obviously long before the alcohol had ravaged her looks and taken her from him.

Stunned, he picked up the frame and took the photo over to the old man.

“Walter, who’s this?”

Walter peered at the photo and smiled.

Just then he was aware that Sandra, another carer had come into the room.  She shook her head.

“He doesn’t talk, I’m afraid.  We’ve never been able to get a word out of him.”

“Sandra, this is my mum.”  Eddie waved the photo in the air and wanted to cry. “Who is she to Walter?”

He saw Sandra step back in amazement, straight onto the tray he’d left on the floor.

“Oops!  I’ll help you get him cleaned up, and then I’ll get Pat to look at his files.  He needs two carers, does Walter.  He’s totally bedridden.”

“He might be my grandfather.”  Eddie gripped the photo as though for dear life. “I never knew my mum’s father.  Mum went off the rails early in life, and she always told me he had disowned her.  She would never talk about who he was or where he lived, and after a time I stopped asking her.”

As they worked on making Walter respectable, Eddie stared long and hard at the old man’s face, trying to find any family resemblance.  His skin was fair and freckled as though he could have been a redhead, but as his few wisps of hair were white, Eddie could not really tell.  Walter’s eyes were blue, as blue as his mother’s and his own. 

He was astounded at the speed of the Sundowners’ grapevine.  Within only ten or so minutes of Sandra departing, Walter’s room was filled with carers.  The old man smiled benignly at them all. 

“His next of kin was his only daughter Denise, who is now deceased.”  Pat scanned the yellowing files. “His last known address was here in Sandown.”

“Denise was my mum’s name.”  Eddie looked at Patricia as though in a dream.

“I’ll go and see to Rene.”  Sandra smiled at Eddie. “You sit awhile and get to know your grandfather a bit better.”