He had his opera glasses with him tonight. Last week he didn't and he fretted constantly about it. This evening he picked them up several times, to peer at me from his comfy chair four feet away. What he saw, I don't know. Perhaps my fingers clacking on my flute keys, or the title on my sheet music.
And she was there once again, so smilingly steadfast. She asked if I'd been before? Yes, I said - omitting that it has been at least a dozen times - and it's lovely to be here again. Decades later she still sparkles and holds herself with exquisite grace, a true ballerina.
Many are grumbling today, complaining that performers are always late (it's not time for me to start yet), and will one of the carers get me a drink - how rude they are! Management is never told about these problems and there shall have to be a meeting to sort this all out.
When I suggest that I play them a piano programme tonight (because they must be tired of me playing the flute), I am immediately shot down. A lady in purple is truly upset. But I came to hear the flute! I'm not staying for boring piano!
Change of plan then. I whip my flute out of my bag. This is going to be more improvised than I thought.
I play J.S. Bach's Allemande (thanking my stars I memorised it in music college), and tell them how old Johann Sebastian had twenty children. Gasps and chuckles all around; the mood has changed. Some Andrew Lloyd Webber on the piano goes down well too.
The 'recital' becomes less formal. I play a Welsh Air from my 'Book of Tunes Everyone Loves To Hear,' and a bespectacled gentleman asks for something Scottish. So I play Bluebells of Scotland and Auld Lang Syne. One or two soprano voices join in from a corner of the room.
Somebody keeps ruining your music, grumbles Mr Opera Glasses. Well, I really don't mind, I say (actually, I LOVE hearing them sing along), but tell you what, I'll play this next one alone - Skye Boat Song.
Do you have any James Galway? pipes up a white-haired man. Hmm... All I can think of is Annie's Song and I don't have the music with me. Next time, I say, I'll bring lots of James Galway. Mr Opera Glasses: Well who on earth is James Galway anyway? I've never heard of the man!
While I'm explaining about the man with the golden flute, a little old lady next to the door says she really really wants me to play Annie's Song. So I give it a go... And, YES, there it is - as if by magic, my fingers find the tune, even though I honestly don't know what the notes are. Uninhibited by sheet music, I have freedom to look around. My favourite ballet dancer looks positively enraptured. The lady next to her... I'm not sure that's she's actually awake. Mr Opera Glasses is tapping his foot. The man who asked for James Galway is smiling serenely. Most - some are definitely asleep - clap enthusiastically when the song comes to an end.
The evening passes in much the same vain, with my grumpy audience thankfully transformed into a rather enthusiastic bunch by 8:30pm. They ask me the normal questions at the end - Where do you live? Have you far to go? Yes, very far this evening, as I'm taking an overnight coach to Preston.
As I walk past the clock tower to St Albans station, my suitcase rattling on the cobbled stones, I reflect that this kind of work is why I'm still in music. For all their foibles and gripes, I'm very aware that for these retirement home residents, the music I give them truly is a gift. I can see it shining through their faces.
And as for the ones who sleep through it all, if I have made their dreams just a little more joyful, it's all infinitely worth it.