A little bit from the narrative that doesn't require any background, except that Andrea's a physio.



Alice is a tiny, cute, lippy twenty-two-year-old. When she was twenty she had an aneurysm or thrombosis or some sort of arterial disaster in the back of her neck, with results similar to those caused by a motorbike to the head. Her presentation, as they call it, is almost a mirror-image of mine; weak left side, more useful right. I’ve never seen her walk; she cruises around quietly in an electric wheelchair. Her speech is slurred but not slow as she has no breathing problems. She hasn’t eaten or drunk anything for fourteen months although she sometimes orders a Chinese, chewing each mouthful then spitting it out. For an occasional treat, a bag of pickled onion Monster Munch does the job.
Sometimes she goes to other hospitals like Bart’s to have expanding plastic plumbing stuck down her throat. One Wednesday Andrea asks where she’s been. “Spearmint Rhino,” she says, “I’m going to be their first wheelchair stripper. I told them I can’t swallow but I can spit.” See ? Lippy.
She’s so small and skinny – apparently she went down to five stone in Intensive – that she only goes out in the garden when it’s still. One day she ventures out in a slight breeze and blows away over the rooftops like an errant kite, two nurses chasing her. She misses power lines, trees and railway tracks, coming down in someone’s back garden and hanging on to the swing until the nurses arrive.