Disclaimer: Characters from The Professionals are © Mark-1 Productions Ltd and are used without permission but with no intent to defraud. I'll put them back once I've finished playing. I promise.

Growing Old Disgracefully

When did I start wearing slippers?

Bare feet. That used to be more my style. Or socks. But never slippers.

What kind of impression would that have given to a bird? 'Come in, have some wine, excuse me while I slip on my slippers'.

But at 82 the cold seems to set in a bit quicker, everything's a bit less flexible, it's a lot easier to slide the old feet into a nice warm pair of slippers than it is to get pneumonia walking over a tiled floor.

Ray Doyle you're getting old.

Oh come on my old son, be realistic, you're not getting old you are old.

Now that little bit of self-revelation deserves another nip of whisky.

Aah. Can't beat a good malt scotch.

Getting a bit chilly in here tonight. Where the hell did I put that blanket? Oh Christ, I can't believe I've turned into the sort of old sod that tucks a blanket around his knees. And it's a tartan blanket. The shame.

I can just hear Bodie now. 'A blanket? What the bleedin' 'ell do you want a blanket for, sunshine?'

Where is Bodie tonight anyway?

Oh right, he's with Mrs Stanley.

He's been quite restrained lately, not his usual philandering self. Mind you, he's still recovering from that incident a few weeks back when he was discovered in a cleaning cupboard, in a somewhat compromising position with Mrs Carmichael from the Orchard Wing. Or was it the Grove Wing? And was it Mrs Davenport? I get confused.

Either way he got caught, in flagrante, by one of the staff nurses. Not an unusual occurrence for Bodie, granted, but the fact he'd somehow got his foot stuck in the cleaner's bucket and had been trying to get it out when he'd elbowed Mrs C in the stomach. And that had been the day we'd had the somewhat dubious lasagne for lunch. And of course he was a bit late in jumping clear what with his trousers being around his ankles at the time.

So understandably he's been keeping a low profile and limiting his visits to 'the girls' as he calls them.

Not that I'm complaining mind, I get peace and quiet when he's off somewhere and I don't get into as much trouble as I do when he's around.

Flippin' laughable at our age that we can still get ourselves in trouble without even trying. I suppose the old magic never dies.

God I'm tired tonight.

I really don't know how he has the energy to go gallivanting about after today's escapade.

Sometimes I think it's worse than a bloody prison in this place. You wouldn't think that a bloke wanting to go and see his very first great-granddaughter in the hospital would be such a big deal. Maybe we should have gone with Bodie's original plan for me to fake a heart attack; it would have been a lot less hassle.

Reminded me of The Great Escape. Just as well we've got the staff rota figured out and have acquired a set of keys, not that they're strictly necessary but it does save time.

Blasted doctors don't know what they're talking about, I'm perfectly able to get about, the foot has healed fine. I should bloody know how my own body is feeling, it's not like it's not been damaged before.

I say that but the bus trip was a killer, all that bouncing and jiggling, and I'm not even going to think about all those stairs in the hospital. But by God it was worth it. Just to see her.

Ann Elizabeth Doyle, 8 pounds of cuteness that's the spitting image of her great-gran. She would have been so proud.

I still miss her.

Ah well, what's past is past, can't bring her back so there's no point in dwelling on it. Can't pretend the cancer didn't happen. At least we had time together at last, enough time to produce 3 amazing kids. Although I'd never admit that to them, wouldn't want them to get any more bigheaded than they already are.

Of course when we turned up today the whole lot of them were already there. All of the little monsters and their associated parents. Bodie immediately made a sharp exit and went off with a bunch of them to play an impromptu game of footie on the grass out back of the hospital. He claims he wasn't playing, only watching, but judging from the mud and grass all over his trousers it doesn't take an ex-copper to figure out he's lying.

But I couldn't tear myself away from Ann. Me, my grandson-in-law Jeff, the proud father, and the granddad, my eldest, Billy, hovered around the little angel, much to the annoyance of all the women.

Sarah, my career-minded middle child, was particularly acerbic in her jibing of her older brother, making harsh comments of someone who was nearly half-a-century acting like a simpering idiot over a little baby. Susan, my youngest, was quick to his defence and suddenly it was like the years had been stripped away, the bickering causing an officious nurse to insist on silence or else we would all be evicted from the premises. Sarah threatened to use her police credentials, she's a DI in the Met now (to my eternal shame) but the nurse thankfully was having none of it.

And then it was time to go, Susan collected her three boys and husband from Bodie, and Billy gave the two of us a lift back to the home. He still hasn't forgiven us for a slight incident in Tesco's a few months ago, and so, when he found out that our trip to the hospital had been unauthorised by the Wicked Witch, or Matron as we're meant to call her, he was not best pleased. My pride and joy gave us a bollocking that old George Cowley would have been impressed by.

I suppose I can't blame him after the Tesco thing. Getting a call to tell you your dad has just been cautioned by the police for public affray and having to go and try to talk a spotty faced manager of the store into lifting the nationwide ban on your parent and his friend wouldn't, I suppose, have been that much fun.

It all started innocently enough, me and Bodie going to Tesco's for a bit of a wander, and we decided to try out those motorised wheelchair things they have lying around for old codgers like us to use.

Did you know that they can get up to quite a speed? Not so good on cornering though and as for the brakes, well let's just say I just wish I'd thought to figure out where they were before I started off.

It wasn't so much the race that got us into trouble, more the finish. We'd successfully managed to avoid hitting any civilians, and had up until that point only knocked a couple of things off the shelves, but then the bloody manager had to step out in front of Bodie. With a hand raised in the air as though that might make him stop.

So Bodie swerved in front of me and I swerved off to the side and straight into a huge towering display of beer cans they had precariously balanced by the main door. It teetered, it tottered, and then they started to fall. The fall, of course, shook the cans up a bit so when they hit the floor they erupted. Right next to the manager.

Well, by Christ I laughed. Laughed so hard I wet myself. But then at our age that's pretty normal.

And then police came and Bodie got quite vocal in whose fault he really thought it was and it was only when I managed to stop laughing that I realised that I'd broken some bones in my foot. But it was worth it. I haven't had such a good laugh in ages.

It's been like that most days since Bodie convinced me to come here after Ann passed on. He was right. We might be getting on a bit but there's still life in us old buggers yet, even though we might tire out a bit faster than we used to.

So I'll raise my glass one last time to fallen friends and lost loved ones. And then I think I'll go to bed.

I'm tired, it's late and I'm sure it'll be a busy day tomorrow.

It usually is.