Sunday, November 03, 2013


My Mum once asked me if I was happy as a child. She picked up on the moment of hesitation (dangerous habit of mine, always thinking before answering any question) and said, 'You only had to say 'Yes''. True. But not me.

Truth is I was happy and sad. The addictive personality was settling in. I loved things too much but didn't know that was odd or a problem. I tried everything (illegal drugs excepted) and moved on. Today I am quite good at lots of things and great at none. I had the biggest downs of my life at school. I should have, but couldn't face it, made myself work at things I didn't enjoy. I haven't had so many nights dreading waking up since then. About two or three in my whole life.

When you ask me about my highest highs I will always think about tomorrow. That's just the way it is with me.

Having time to spare yesterday I drove into Birmingham through my childhood haunts of Selly Oak and Edgbaston. It was good that the traffic was bad because the memories were so close together I felt frisked. There's the shop I bought my first seven inch vinyl single. It's an insurance brokers. There's the bank. It's a bookies. There's my Gran's. It's still a house and looks largely the same outside.

In the centre of Birmingham I found myself walking, navigating by old landmarks that hadn't moved. But the new library and the Bull Ring are dramatic statements that my former home has moved on without me, made progress. How dare it?

I was going to meet a woman. She is like someone I used to know. It is very sad. Everything about her life is wrong and distresses her. Immobile, deaf and forgetful. We have nothing to talk about yet she wants a chat.

I took my iPad full of photos. I thought they would help. They confuse her because she doesn't know the people and the ones she knows she forgets. The name of her grandson's partner this last ten years eludes her. The gender of a six foot seven inch Scot is not apparent to her. She cannot master the tap touch required to enlarge a picture.

Everything she says is worrying. She cannot but find fault and then describe her experience as lovely. Thus a lunchtime pub pie, which she didn't finish because 'it was burned', was 'absolutely beautiful'. She is one of the few people in the world who can find find sharp bits in wilted spinach.

I had Brew 11 for old times sake. One of the things I am delighted to say has improved.

She wants me to go back for coffee rather than having one in the pub. I gaze at the coffee machine longingly but have to accept a filter coffee at her flat made by someone who has a post-war austerity approach to coffee grounds.

I try, I really do, to be patient, but when asked to adjust the picture on her new TV, which is perfect, I find it hard to please her. After ten minutes of being told what to do I ask if the result is acceptable and she says 'I'll just get my glasses.'

The question, 'Who provides your TV, is it a cable package or just Freeview?' is treated as a declaration of war and she shows me the Saturday Mail TV guide to demonstrate where she gets her TV from. I show her the range of channels she can get and the whole +1 thing is a step too far.

The modern world is very counter-intuitive to old people who never had a paid job. We failed to teach them menu technology. DVD menus are ridiculous.

I am sent on my way refusing a book I don't want but accepting two chocolate biscuits for the journey. She says they are Kit Kats but they are cheap imitations.

I don't get depressed but driving home from three hours with her (it is about all I can stand) I understand what it would be like to be permanently down. That was most of my day off this week. She is lonely and it needs to be monthly. She wants to see me and gets cross when I'm there. I am a pretty horrid person to write all this but I edited out the worst bits.

I sing along to favourite tunes and feel OK by Bromsgrove.

If you know who she is don't show her this.


Darren Hill said...

very moving... and nicely put together

Marcella said...

These are familiar thoughts and emotions, beautifully expressed. This way of life will come to all of us in the end, and I hope that younger relatives have as much time for us...

RuthJ said...

Yes, moving indeed. And also a challenge: as I grow older will I end up as a chore to my loved ones, even though they will still love me? I move as fast as I can with the changing times but the change goes faster and faster, and already I am not up with the newest technology as at one time I would have been. One grows weary without wishing to be obsolete.