Yesterday I went to Commercial End. I wish I had gone there with Mum. It’s delightful. Here’s a taste.
When Dad joined Mum in retirement back in the good old days when women could draw their pensions at sixty while men had to wait until sixty-five (if you notice some bitterness here, it’s because I shan’t get my state pension until I am sixty-seven, and even then it’s not certain, every letter I get puts it back another year), their first goal was to move to a bungalow as a preneed downsizing move in more ways than one. Dad’s second goal, which Mum was happy enough to go along with, was to get a camper van and starting with Scotland which he had visited as a lad on cycling hols, then trained in as part of his Commando instruction, visit the British Isles before moving ionto Europe.
They got the bungalow. Mum was insistent. Nursing geriatrics she had seen too many people for whom the internal stairs of their houses were as the north face of the Eiger.
They never got the camper van. Dad and I looked at some at the Southbank. At the time, that was the place in London where those who had travelled the length and breadth of Europe and were now ready to sit back and look at their slides sold their vans. Dad was enthusiatic. But a year into retirement and he suffered a subarachnoid haemorrhage. Driving was out for six months, and afterwards long distances were something Mum wouldn’t contemplate. Looking back, I can’t understand why they didn’t get a boat. Too late to ask now. I shall never know. Dad had another stroke a couple of years later that affected his speech and language skills; very hard for a man as articulate as he had been. The third stroke when he was just seventy killed him.
I didn’t take Mum to Scotland, but after Dad died when I visited we would head off to a hazy destination, stopping and exploring en route. Most of the places we went to were in Suffolk, some were over the border in Norfolk, a rare few in Cambridgeshire or Essex. Mum and Dad retired to Suffolk. There are a lot of bungalows there. So most of the guide books in the house were for that county. I still have three if them. They are what we would look at before deciding in which direction we would head.
Das Boot is in Cambridgeshire. Once Mum became frailer, and dementia made tourism less viable as she became disorientated and confused by new places, I didn’t really do much exploring anymore.
I was sufficiently interested in Reach to mooch about a little on one or two occasiuons travelling between the marina and the nursing home. I only made it to the pub the day Mum died. I think that is significant. Since then I have explored more, and been to the pub three times. I have more time. Instead of leaving the cat afloat and hastening to Mum, then trying to see Aunt, maybe Mum’s friend who hadn’t been well, I have more choices about what to do when I am East.
I am enjoying visiting places I have only driven through, getting out and looking, but it also reminds me of those days twenty years ago when Mum and I would get back to her house tired and happy, having got to know a little more of the surrounding county. Maybe these visits are a legacy of days we enjoyed together.