Three Cultural Events in One Week and Fatima for PM

If I had a halo this week it would have a cultural hue. Three evenings out with Celia enjoying the printed word and its practitioners.

Monday saw us at a very couth venue in west London. They do things differently in Notting Hill these days. It’s a far cry from the place I knew in the 1980s, and Celia had digs there she described as grotty when training to be a teacher. Digs close by the venue.

It was an ex Baptist church, now replete with bar and disco ball. We went to listen to five authors and didn’t realise we should have got there early to nab places at a round table and buy a bottle of wine. We sat at the back on seats that were less comfortable than they looked.

But it was worth it. One of the five writers was Helen Macdonald who wrote H is for Hawk. She is an entertaining and unpretentious speaker. I bought her book for Aunt a while ago. Aunt’s AMD is making progress slow, but she was delighted to find that much of the book is set not far from her home. When I bought my own copy after the talk and Helen Macdonald signed it, I asked where she lived as the slides she shared showed a landscape that looked very familiar. It turns out she lives in the village where Mother had her flat in the very sheltered housing scheme. That would explain it.

I shall look out for her at the pub. It’s the one Aunt liked so much and wants to visit again.

Aunt is not feeling great. She is having difficulty swallowing and losing more weight. She will probably have a stent inserted on Tuesday. Tonight she was talking as though she expected to have only weeks to live. I trust she is wrong. Work stops me going to see her at the moment, but it sounds as though I had better get busy making nourishing soups.

On Wednesday Celia were back in familair post codes, taking the bus to Canada Water and another statement library in Southwark, this time by Piers Gough. It has quite eclipsed Will Alsop’s Peckham creation, and is a great space. We were there for a Quick Reads event with Sophie Hannah and Fanny Brice. Coincidentally, Sophie Hannah goes to the same pub mentioned above.

Celia’s husband asked her what Quick Reads were about. She explained they are aimed at people who do not necessarily think of themselves as readers, maybe they are struggling with literacy. He didn’t seem to think we were quite the target audience. Perhaps she forgot to mention the charity is sponsored by Galaxy, and as well as receiving two free books, we could also expect a large bar of chocolate. He found out later as Celia generously shared her chocolate with him. I guess that’s what a good marriage is about. Continue reading

Of Banking Mysteries, Swotting for Work, Memories of Mother, and a Happy Aunt

Back in London my local bank is being decommissioned. The letter I received explained that more and more people are turning to internet and telephone banking with the result that the footfall in branches has fallen. It suggested we could use the Post Office instead, or go to another branch some two miles away.

Goodbye NatWest

Goodbye NatWest

There are obviously a couple or three things wrong with that. A bank two miles away is a lot less convenient than one round the corner from where I live. But it also ignores the fact that this was the busiest branch of NatWest I have ever used. Absolutely no sign of reduced footfall there.

Bizarrely, other branches where there are acres of floor space and no queues stay open. I would guess that the author of the letter has never been in our local Post Office, where the queue often snakes out of the door.

I suspect it will be turned into a luxury block of flats. Everything else is.

I have quite a bit of work to do for jobs I accepted with gungho confidence, only to realise once committed that they are somewhat out of my sphere of knowledge. So some mega swotting required. The dusting will have to wait. Continue reading

Of Aunt, MasterB and Visiting Cousins

Well what can I say? MasterB a complete star. Actually that should be STAR with glitter and lights around if only I knew how to do that. Ditto Aunt. Though you may have expected that anyway.

We travelled gently, MasterB quiet and sleeping after some initial objections about getting into his basket. I stopped to shop, to eat, to enjoy the beauty of the day.

After a little prevarication, I turned off and instead of heading straight to Aunt’s, went to the marina. Now, at midnight, I cannot understand why I didn’t take pictures. It was beautiful. Blue skies; quiet; a newly clad and insulated showerblock; birds; water; boats. Pretty darn heavenly.

I called Aunt to say I’d be with her soon, then went to the organic farm and bought a fennel plant. (Celia, if you want one, text me. I think we’ll be at Reach tomorrow and I can get some fresh eggs for you.)

Continue reading

Raising the Bar

The elders of my family set very high standards that I fear I am unlikely to match.

Aunt received the news we did not want on Wednesday; she has oesophageal cancer.

Is she cast down; feeling sorry for herself; weeping copiously?

Not she.

I think she has hardly been off the ‘phone in forty-eight hours. I’d almost say she’s enjoying herself. Well, I have said it; she’s enjoying herself.

Two months short of her ninety-second birthday she’s taken control; said no to chemotherapy or any other invasive treatment; made clear to all concerned that she wants to be in her own home; to be nursed in her own home, if that proves necessary; to die in her own home when it happens. Continue reading

How I Spent My Evening; or Three Hours (including travel) I Shan’t See Again

He seemed a very nice man, knowledgeable too. But as a public speaker he lacked certain skills one would usually group under the heading *essential*.

To wit: the ability to speak clearly; to finish sentences rather than tailing off in a self-deprecating mumble leaving the audience with a series of confusing non sequiturs; to explain the slides that seemed to have little or no connection with what he was saying; to show said slides the right way round.

Being able to speak without clearing his throat every three or four words would have been a plus too, but to be honest by the end of the evening I had more or less got used to that.

He wasn’t helped by the burglar alarm that continued unabated for well over an hour of his talk, nor by the Chair’s mobile ‘phone beeping. The odd ambulance siren screaming down the road merely added to the general confusion.

I sat beside D, someone I trained with years ago. Every now and then we looked at each other in disbelief, but when giggles threatened to overcome us we adopted the eyes front option as the only means of survival. Continue reading

Between the Seasons

Seeing the signs of spring as I drove to and from Aunt’s was a tonic.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Drifts of snowdrops beside the road; slightly more light at the end of the afternoon; busy birds.
From Aunt’s flat I watched blue tits and blackbirds. A male pheasant strutted by, his feathers gorgeous in the sunshine. A green woodpecker attacked the grass. Aunt and I gazed at him from the window.
At the front of the building the river birds were noisily in charge. The geese were the most evident, but ducks snoozed on the grass, and a pair of swans paddled by. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
On the way home, I was surprised to see signs of snowfall. There had been a dusting of snow on Thursday night, but I hadn’t thought it had been enough to settle. These are the strange weeks where winter and spring seem to intermingle.Today i dried my washing on the line and walked around outside with no coat gloves or scarf. Yesterday I felt as though the cold had seeped into my bones.

Reflections on the Visit

I think it was a good visit. Aunt looked better than I had dared hope, and she ate and drank everything I put in front of her, even the Greek yoghurt and honey which she did not think she wanted, but the bowl was quite clean in a short while.

Also useful was establishing that MasterB can stay in the guest room; that I can buy my own fob to the front door; talking to the specialist nurse who Aunt saw the other day; meeting the part-time warden and being able to tell her some of my concerns.

There was no hospital appointment today after all. The specialist nurse was very helpful when I ‘phoned, and Aunt willingly gave permission for me to be told her medical details. Being at a distance, that is very reassuring. So if I don’t get the picture from Aunt, I know I can call the nurse.

The sun shone and it was a beautiful day. I left rather later than I had intended and so didn’t have time to go via the marina to check the ropes at the boat as I had hoped. Next time.