Exeter, 1976. DearHeart and I, pens poised to record insights into the poetry of Yeats. Dr Henderson takes off his spectacles and gives us all a Paddington-Bear long-hard-stare.
“I’m going to read you one of Yeats’s greatest poems, Lapis Lazuli. Before I start, can I remind you that the word gay did not, in 1938, have the meaning that it has today. So when I tell you that ‘Hamlet and Lear are gay’, I expect you to react appropriately. Thank you.”
“You remember this – answer from Never to Always passing through Very Occasionally, Sometimes and Often.”
We’ve done the neurology questionnaire three times now: at the start of the drugs trial, in the middle and now, at the end. Where did that six months go? Dr LaMancha knows me so well that his pencil hovers over my answers before I say them. We whip through the questions. Then there’s that moment when I long for Dr LaMancha to give me a red pen to mark my own paper while he runs through what the answers should have been. It’s a test and I want to know how I’ve done. Perhaps I could be put in a league table with the other Parkie patients.
“How do you do, Mehmet?”
“Very well thank you, Mrs Jellywoman.”
“How do you do, Ololade?”
“Very well thank you, Mrs Jellywoman.”
“How do you do, George?”
“My leg hurts.”
I approve of 2013.
In our neck of the woods, at least, 2012 lacked a certain something. It started with Pa’s eye exploding, followed in the spring by GrannieBorders being whipped into hospital with weeping legs.
She’s quite a lass is GrannieBorders. Paralysed with polio in Coronation year, she brought up ActorLaddie and his older but irritatingly hairier brother from her wheelchair, while GrandadBorders worked as the most civil of servants. Family legend has it that she once burnt out the engine of her disability trike seeing how fast she could drive it to Worthing.
As we established in yesterday’s lecture on the elasticity of time (T), the pace of time for a teacher on playground duty can range from 2T to 4T. So five minutes can feel like twenty. Whereas, the pace of time in the staff room increases the closer you get to the tea urn, sometimes – say during wet play, when you know the children will be ghastly afterwards – reaching T/10. So no sooner have you reached the biscuit barrel than playtime is over.
You weren’t at yesterday’s lecture? Well you’ll just have to borrow the notes from a friend.
She said eight and I said twenty-one. Key to the door and all that. She said eight and I said eighteen then. She said eight and I said sweet sixteen. She said eight and I said thirteen. To mark becoming a teenager. Final offer.
So it was that, in the summer holiday before she started Year Six, when she was – well, nearly ten, InfantPhenomenon and I set off to get her ears pierced.
Imagine. Young Mildred is rising five and about to start big school. You’re pretty confident about this parenting lark now; and anyway even Marks’s won’t take her back this late in the day.
You’ve tidied up for the pre-school visit, just stuffing the last bit of junk into young Mildred’s bedroom when the bell goes. She peers shyly from behind your legs as you open the door.
“Look, Mildred,” you say cheerily, “it’s your new teacher, Mrs …?”
“Jellywoman,” I chirp. “And this is my Nursery Nurse, Miss Sugarsprinkles. I’m sorry, we’re a trifle early.”
My Lord, this is the case for the defence.
Firstly, it is a truth almost universally acknowledged that some Parkinson’s medications cause, as an unfortunate side-effect, a reduction in impulse control. This can lead to excessive spending or gambling; or to over-eating; or to a greatly increased sex-drive even, I am told, in term-time! I know, beggars belief, doesn’t it.
“Here, come and look at this thing on the Parkinson’s UK website,” I say to ActorLaddie. “They want volunteers for a drugs trial.”
“I can’t – I’m stirring the soup. Give me the highlights,” says ActorLaddie. We’re big on soup in our house.
“Well, they want people who live in London, recently diagnosed, in their 50s. You have to mail for details. It might be good to feel that you’re part of the solution rather than part of the problem, don’t you think?”
“Don’t you mean as well as part of the problem?” grunts YoungLochinvar. He has a way with words.