Life can turn on a sixpence.
Ann from next door and I were chatting yesterday whilst sweeping leaves off the pavement. Ann has an uncle – we’ll call him Pat – in his mid-nineties. He’s been married for forty-seven years to his second wife. Let’s call her Jess. She’s about ten years younger than Uncle Pat, so mid-eighties. There are two sons, both abroad.
“We’d been calling all afternoon,” said Douglas’s daughter. “We were about to have one last try when he rang us. Apparently he’d been out with some neighbours. They’d gone, Dad told us, to ‘sing to the old people’.” (Douglas was nearly ninety four.) “I do hope he mimed. Even the old people don’t deserve Dad’s singing.”
“Who’s he? Have we seen him before?”
“He’s married to the woman who posts the blog.”
“The vlog. We’ve established it’s a vlog.”
“Yes her. With the blond hair.”
“OK. Can you pause it a minute? OK. Tak.”
Put aside quilt. Dash into bedroom and return with reel of thread. Install self back on sofa and start to thread needle.
“OK?” says ActorLaddie. “Say when.”
“Nu. Tak… Hang on – who’s he? Is that the Russian Roulette guy?”
It’s two in the morning when the phone starts to ring. I stumble onto the landing; this being the early 80s and cordless phones the stuff of science fiction.
“Hello!” A voice bellows in my ear. Very loud; very Irish. “Is Mary there?”
“It’s two o’clock in the morning,” I answer. “She’ll be in bed.”
“Is Mary there?” comes back the yell. “It’s her brother in New York.”
“It’s still two o’clock in the morning – she’ll still be in bed,” I repeat.
“Can you get Mary for me?” I give up, go downstairs and bang on the bedroom door.
“Your brother’s on the phone again.” Eventually Mary appears, dressing-gowned and curlered. I make my way back to bed while my landlady and Seamus yell across the Atlantic at each other.
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And what season is it? asks Julia.
The painting is called ‘The Last Day in the Old Home’. Through the window on its left, we can see leaves turning golden and brown and branches starting to bare. It’s Autumn. The answer’s Autumn. Pick me, Miss. Fifty years ago, I’d have stuck up my hand.
1. This summer, I wittered on a bit…
“I’ve got this clear memory of being at school – it must have been more than 65 years ago – and our teacher said something about Parkinson’s. I went home and asked my mum what it was. She frowned a little, then told me it was a brand of cigarettes. So when the teacher asked the next day what we remembered about Parkinson’s…”
There is a chortle across the room from the thirty-odd Rotarians who are listening to Colin thanking me for my first ‘after-lunch’ speech. They seem an affable bunch of chaps – they are all chaps, so just me and the waitress holding up the distaff side of things. Which is a slightly strange experience, vaguely reminiscent of taking Physics A Level.
“Is Mrs Vestibule coming to camp?” asks an Elfin, over the washing-up.
I’m at the other end of the trestle tables, in arm to arm combat with a hefty pan which is coated with industrial quantities of baked bean sauce. So the question is picked up by Brian’s mate, Graham, who has taken a week’s leave from pen-pushing at the Civic Centre to be here, washing dishes in a cold, wet field with the Woodcraft Folk.
“No, she’s afraid of camping.” The entire rota group stops to gawp at this news. As does Sheila.
“Now, when someone joins the department you write their name, date of birth and reference number on this card. It’s called an M11.” I nod and try to look intelligent. It’s my first proper graduate job and I’m being shown the ropes by an old hand in the staffing department.
“What’s the purpose of the card?” I ask.
“Oh, it’s not for us: it’s used by other people in the department. We just make them and put them into this index box.”
I don’t know about you, but what with trying to catch up on Thursday night’s sleep; and with the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth; and with the resolution to treat the result as a personal call to arms, I’m right behind with my Rogation Sunday shopping. So here we are again, Rogation Sunday morning and I’ve barely bought my cards, let alone sent them.
Don’t you think it comes around quicker every year?
AnonymousRelative was working for a college teaching English when – just before Christmas – the college was closed and he found himself out of work. He started applying for work: teaching jobs, admin jobs, any sort of job. With his savings fast running out, he signed on for Jobseeker’s Allowance to help him, well, seek jobs. In his neck of the woods, it costs nearly £20 a day to go up to town to look for work. So three days trawling around with CVs pretty much wipes out a week’s JSA. Continue reading →