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Category: Writing (page 1 of 10)

Experiences

When that I was and a little tiny boy, in my home town of Harrogate, I lived in a cu-de-sac whose fifteen houses mostly had children. So I gre up playing with them all in a quiet street. When I was a bit older a new family moved into the road; an older and his sister. I was that bit older so I don’t think we played together as much, but I remember his family settled into the road and his parents became friends with mine. My main memory of him, was when for some reason (and I have no memory of why), he jumped out of the first floor window, intending to land on the porch roof below, but for some reason must have jumped to far and missed the roof, ending up on ground floor level. He must have broken something but I can’t remember.

I left the road for university, and later so did the brother and sister. When Mum and Dad were in decline, their Mum kept in touch. Her husband had died some years back, and she was alone in the house. I hadn’t seen her for years but went up one time to say hello, and let her know about Mum and Dad. I mentioned my memory of the famous jump and her face froze. Of course it had never crossed my mind the impact on the parents of their child having an accident. I think he had been all right but she said she had never forgotten it.

Her daughter is a solicitor and her son is a top NHS consultant. My brother contacted me to say that she had phoned him and told him her son had Covid-19. I rang her. He is a top specialist but had been working “front-line” in A&E. She said he had been at home, but had been ill, and possibly had picked up another virus on top of coronavirus. She sounded cheerful but I knew she must be frantic. He had been in isolation at home of course, and his colleagues had been leaving him food on the doorstep.

She said what I had been thinking: this virus is striking down the professionals who care for the rest of us. There is no one to replace them. I have no imagination as to what it must be like in hospitals right now. It is all very well the Government saying the NHS has coped, but this is no where near over. How do these people keep going? There is no one to give them respite when things calm down. They will have to keep working.

I asked a friend of mine today how she is as she hadn’t posted much on Instagram. She said: I just don’t know what to post on it at the moment. Everything seems so trivial and all I’m doing is living.

We may be in this all together, but we are living through it in such deeply different ways.

Brief Explanations

I need to open up the last blog post from my Teenage Diary. Jeremy was my best friend throughout my Secondary School. He was one of the funniest people I have ever met, and constantly reduced me to tears of laughter. We would sit at the back of the classroom and mess around, though we both worked. I remember one time (April Fool’s Day?) when we were in different classes – we had to choose between Physics and Biology, and Jeremy did the former and myself the latter – I went into the Physic’s lesson without my school blazer or tie, and Jeremy introduced me to Mr Linton the teacher, as being his German exchange student Fritz. We sat at the back of the class with me saying Ja ja ja a lot (we were both studying German needless to say) and Jeremy chanting: Who won the War? We won the War! At the end of the lesson, one of the class members overheard the teacher saying “that poor kid was crucified”.

Jeremy had quite liberal, academic and in hindsight rather eccentric parents. Utterly different to mine own. His father was a teacher and the four children all had names beginning with J. I think Jeremy is now a teacher. The irony. I remember he went off to see one of the Emmanuelle series (soft porn cinema film rated X) and later told his Mum who laughed.

So ringing up a photography business and trying to arrange a photograph session with a dog and two gerbils, or a dog grooming business asking if they could do something fancy for his Afghan was the height of hilarity for us teenagers.

As for the beauty pamphlets, well…this was our English Teacher. Looking back as an adult now, I still can’t quite figure her out, other than she was probably a lonely woman. And writing this now, out of respect to her I am not going to say any more. Children can be so cruel.

Losses

It’s been a bit of a week all round.

Last week, whilst I had been visiting her, my Mum had started to breath in an odd way and the care home owner had phoned for an ambulance. My brother had come over too. The paramedic team had come, tested her, said she was in remarkably good health for a woman in her mid-nineties, but she had a chest infection.

Then on Monday of this week, my brother had phoned me to say she had taken a turn for the worse. I went into work and was told there was about to be a meeting. Long story kept short, the decision was made to close the theatre and cancel the rest of the play’s run – two weeks. Which was a bit of a shock because most people were expecting the theatres to go dark around April. I’m freelance so that was the end of my income. We had a meeting on the stage with one of the producers, and then as it was our final evening together we headed off to the pub. I then spent over an hour talking to a legendary stage producer which was quite extraordinary and totally unexpected. And then I headed off to South London to see Mum.

My brother was with her. We were the only two visitors allowed in the home because of coronavirus. Mum was in what looked like heavy sleep, though she is deaf so doesn’t respond to sound. Usually if you take her hand she will hold it, but she wasn’t doing that. I sat for a couple of hours, then had to get home so I said my goodbye to her. My brother stayed all night, sleeping in a chair next to her.

I missed the last overland train, had to get a black cab to a tube station, and got home about 1am. I slept ok. My brother texted early the next morning to say she was still the same, but called about 9.30am to say she had quietly died.

And that’s it.

Mum fell for the final time in October 2018, was taken in to hospital, not given the physio she needed, got pneumonia and had the norovirus in her ward (which I got from visiting her and ended up vomiting through a theatre performance into a waste-paper bin. Only one member of the audience complained by emailing in the next day that someone had obviously been being sick in the lighting box and there had been a lot of walking around.)

She came home and lived in a hospital bed in my parent’s downstairs front room, and a complicated care systemwas put in place by my brother and myself. Mum carried on regardless and was eventually taken off end of life care in February 2019. By which time my Dad had got cancer in his mouth.

He died in March and Mum lived on, but care costs were astronomical and we couldn’t sustain them financially, so my brother organised her to come and live in a London care home near where he worked, last summer. And so she continued to live there, with me visiting once a week and my brother seeing her most days until this week.

I had started therapy in February 2019 as I was worried about my mental health, and promptly uncovered to my complete surprise the extent and complexities of my relationship with Mum. I have worked them through over a year, and so Mum’s death has been manageable for me. Without therapy, I have little doubt I would have had a breakdown.

So now I am in a rather surreal time of my Mum dying, with impeccable timing as I lost my job with no prospect of another, and coronvirus suddenly tightening its grip on the country.

I have been reading and laughing and weeping over Elizabeth Strout’s astonishing Olive Again. There is so much human insight and compassion in her writing that it has been almost overwhelming to read. Even so, this caught me by surprise from the story Light:

After a minute, Cindy…..said, “Well I’m sure you didn’t scream and yell a lot like my mother did. She was difficult, Olive. But then she had a difficult life.” She turned her face back to Olive.

And Olive said, “Oh I think I did scream and yell a lot…I can’t honestly remember, but I think I did. I was pretty awful when I felt like it. My son probably thinks I’m a difficult woman, like you think your mother was,”

“Well I still loved her,” Cindy said.

“Yuh. And I suppose Christopher loves me.”

Mum was a difficult woman. She did her best for me all my life, and I did the same at the end of her life.

We loved each other.

The Americans Have Gone!

Things I learnt:

  • Pastry isn’t a dairy product
  • UK urinals are too high
  • Fluorescent orange is actually “tangerine”
  • Americans don’t wear coats in the winter
  • Why have one bathroom when you can have two
  • The Post Office will change old currency
  • Why have one oven when you can have two
  • Google maps doesn’t work in London

A jolly time was had by all – thank you again. Safe travels.

The Americans Are Coming!

They are here next weekend!

My to-do list:

  • Buy dairy products and coffee
  • Join a private members’ club
  • Remember what “pants” means in the US.
  • Remember for them a four hour train journey is not an epic quest. It isn’t far.
  • Buy a face mask to wear a face mask when meeting them
  • Dress moderately
  • Don’t swear
  • Remind them about the free app that opens and closes London Bridge
  • And that taking the stairs at Covent Garden tube is quicker than the lift/elevator.

We’ll have an awesome time.

The Hens. Again.

Let’s refresh your memory, Dear Reader. Take a moment….

Now let’s just say I got a text this morning saying: “I very much hope to see it in a blog post.” I think you know where this is going.

Neighbours off gallivanting for half term. Could I look after their new cat and I don’t have to worry about the hens. Sunday to Tuesday. Well that was all lovely. The cat – let’s call him Nicky – is lovely and his brother has just been run over, so he’s a bit lonely and so very affectionate and over the moon when I go through the door, tearing round my feet and jumping on every available surface to keep himself in my sight.

It’s now Friday. Shopping day. We needed 12 eggs, but as the neighbours’ hens eggs are building up in number, I thought I’d drop by and get half a dozen. That was my first mistake.

Glancing out of the kitchen window as I’m washing the mud off the eggs, with Nicky racing around my feet, I see 5 hens roaming the garden. Heart sinks. I go to the back door, treading in dry catfood which is scattered over the floor. Nicky bolts out, delighted as if he’s never been out in his life (he has a catflap), leaping on the decking bannisters as I go down to the garden, and racing around as I see the hen coop door is a foot ajar. It has two bolts so I am really puzzled.

I get two hens back in and realise I don’t know how many hens there are so have to message the neighbours. The other three are determined not to go back. They eye me up, skiddaddle, flap, go under a table, run faster than I thought hens could run etc etc. The garden is muddy and Nicky flies up a tree, sitting above my head watching with delight his own Netflix comedy.

Hens run round tree which is small, so every time I bend down and stand up I get tangled in the branches. Realising this is a two person job, I ring another neighbour. No answer but she gets a very long verbal message from me, sounding like some sort of incompetent idiot. I give up and go back to kitchen to take a breather, and clean the (rancid, uncleaned) wet catfood bowl. As I’m putting this in soak I hear a crash and turn to see Nicky moving sheepishly away from a horizontal half-pint glass, that seconds before had been full of water with a plant (aka ” a cutting” as I was later informed) in it. Water all over the work top, and a cascade flowing down the neighbour’s wine trays forming a pool on the floor. A bit like this:

I can’t find a mop or cloths, so make do with some paper to stem the flow, and head back into the garden. Nicky tears out alongside me, running round the hens. So I carry him indoors, out of the way and 5 seconds later he is back at my feet, because I had forgotten he has a catflap. So I take him back in a shut off escape route to catflap. Not a happy little cat. I head back in the garden and after a few more minutes of Benny Hill running around the garden, I give up. At which point my (other) neighbour rings (apparently in slippers and pyjamas) asking if I still need help.

Yes.

I somehow manage to get in another hen, and my friend arrives (in my head she’s riding on a black steed and wearing shining armour) and between us we get in the last two hens.

Meanwhile I have messages from gallivanting neighbours explaining why the hens were out (another story), and where the cleaning up stuff is kept. I manage to get it all sorted, including having to move wine bottles with 200 years of dust on them (so let’s hope they aren’t valuable) and set off home.

Now I can finally set off for the supermarket which I duly do. Fortunately it is half term and not very busy at lunchtime. I get home and wonder where the eggs I bought there are. Then remember walking past the eggs in aforesaid supermarket, so traumatised by the previous events that I was obviously in complete denial of their existence.

Now I am half a dozen eggs short and too stubborn to go back and let those birds get the better of me. Again.

Intermission

Three weeks. See you later.

Work Catch-up 3

And now it’s the wonderful Adrian Mole The Musical, which I absolutely love working on. A show whose book, lyrics and score are fresh, wittily complex and surprising, put together by a very talented hard working team, and which is still making me laugh out loud night after night despite having to work through a relentless 414 cues in two hours.

Work Catch-up 2

Waiting to open Door 4.

Work Catch-up 1

I had three very happy months working as part of Stage Crew for The Twilight Zone, during which I was known as The Spinnerman because I had to deal with the bloody bastard spinners (see above), which eventually I made my peace with. I was also Door 4. No one who worked on the show will forget Door 4 in a hurry.

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