It is with deep sadness that we have to announce the untimely decease of Mr B. Ready, N.U.H.S.E., who was a symbol of old-fashioned virtues and believed to be one of the last surviving hospital porters in the UK.
Back in the days when porters were still fashionable, even at British Rail, Mr Ready set an example to all. With a ready smile and a quick wit, he would be on hand to move anything that was asked, instantly. (And remember, this was fifty years before the iphone was invented.)
He discovered his true calling when the job involved transporting people. (It’s only when you have been sick, in pain and terrified out of your wits, that you realise the psychological importance of a friendly porter.) I remember one ambulance trip with Mr Ready, delivering assorted humanity from A&E and the orthopaedic clinic back to their homes. The trip began with collective misery but, after a succession of crutch jokes, mass hysteria became the order of the day. Each patient in turn convulsed with laughter as he or she attempted to find the steps and tottered, crutches flailing, into the wide beyond. Fortunately, Mr Ready also played wicket-keeper for Yorkshire in his spare time; he fielded each patient expertly before they hit the ground.
Mr Ready was also a keen decathlete, which came in useful towards the end of his career. It was said he had held the world endurance record for wheelchair pushing without a tea break. As the N.H.S. cuts began to bite, he had (like many of his kind) to develop new skills. As a matter of survival he learned to look away, to avoid being greeted by the plaintive words: “Are you a porter? I’ve got a few desks that need shifting; it’s only three flights of stairs… ”
Sadly, his amiable character and desire to please made refusal impossible; but after his third hernia he became a master of disguise. So good was he that several consultants sought counselling after repeatedly greeting themselves in the corridor.
Of course, it’s only now that porters have become officially recognised as an endangered species that their true value is recognised. Since Mr Ready’s retirement there were three recorded sightings of other porters, but NHS managers will neither confirm nor deny that the remaining porters were sold to an American millionaire.
Whatever happens, all of us will remember Brian and his colleagues. He once said that he would like to be remembered for being reliable; for being a light in the darkness. Hence his epitaph: Every Ready.