The day has finally come: Miss V and her beau have packed up and left for the big city. I rocked up at their place at about 9.15am and was welcomed in with a cup of tea. 'Right, what do you want me to do?' I asked Mr. V, 'Well, we have a lot of ice cream that needs eating. No really, that would actually help.' So there I was perched on a futon mattress on top of the sofa eating Tiramisu ice cream straight from the tub... in order to help the moving effort, honest. We started hauling a few things downstairs but we mostly lounged until the man with the van came (we were hoping he'd be called Iman or A. Mann, but alas it was not to be). It took about an hour for the lads to load up the van. Once they were on their way, Miss V and I got hoovering, or I tried at least but the hoover is rubbish so I ended up using a dustpan and brush for a while. We popped to the shops and picked up some bits for lunch, some more tights, some babywipes for the surfaces and a new shirt for Miss V who was feeling very sorry for anyone who would have to sit next to her very sweaty self on the train to London later. It was mercy shopping, really. We had a little picnic lunch in the roughly empty living room and then I started to wipe down all the surfaces and the skirting boards. Once that was done we tackled upstairs. We made the place roughly presentable, finishing at about 4.15pm just in time to get a taxi into town and return the keys to the estate agents before they shut at 5. Good little scrubbers, we are (ha ha)! Both of us were feeling like it was a bit unreal, and frankly, the fact that both of them managed to get organised enough to move out and into London is quite a thing in itself. She gave me a tight hug good bye and went off to drop off the keys and then onto the station. I took the taxi home, an unexpected luxury, but given that Miss V had just given me lots of stuff, who am I to complain - I now find myself the happy owner of her Grandma's sewing machine (yep, another one!), a magimix juicer and the rest of the ice cream mentioned above, as well as a gorgeous handmade coat (made by Miss V's mum), a sparkly skirt and a pair of palazzo trousers that make my bum look amazing. Good haul, hey... and worth paying a taxi for in my book. Mr. V also left me his bike but it's locked up somewhere and I said I'd come back for that.
I now find myself in the position of having two sewing machines... hmmm. Is the universe really trying to tell me something?! It was a nice day actually, I'm pretty happy to help clean, it's like a little party if you're doing stuff together. I think it will be really weird going to my jive lessons without them, but I suppose I'll get used to it. Miss V has already found a place in walking distance for us to go dancing, a lido for swimming and an amazing local WI group so I'm sure both of them will have a lot of fun being there. It's not that far away and I'm really happy for them - though I am a little sad for myself, I must admit. And maybe this means that I'll get up to much more exciting things? Here's hoping - I'll keep you posted!
'I don't know what you're expecting, but she's a lot worse than she used to be.... you have to be prepared for a big change', my mum says to me looking concerned. Our friend, Rivka, makes us tea while we unpack our things. She calls from the kitchen, 'It's a funny thing about your grandmother, she has no quality of life, she says she wants to die, but she's holding on... I don't know what for, but she's holding on'. My mum might have fears about how I would cope with seeing Grandma, but actually I was fine. It's been hard going on Mum though watching Grandma get more and more confused and distant.
We arrive at her flat the next day, her carer welcomes us in and disappears to go and make tea. I drag a chair over to the side of the bed. Grandma looks up beams at me. 'I love you!', she says taking my hand, 'Fantastic that you could make it! It's been a long time since you were here, it must have been three years or more'. We look at each other for a while and smile. I hold her hand for a while. I hear her laboured breathing where she didn't quite get over her pneumonia. She catches me looking at a watercolour over her bed. 'Do you paint? Yes? What do you paint? Yes, it's very important to paint what you love.' She frets about me being cold ('Do you have a jacket? Yes? It's very important, you know.') and asks the usual questions ('Is your job satisfactory? Do you like where you live?') and worries about what I'll have for lunch ('I hope it's good'). We sit in silence for a long time. I can hear Mum next door making phone calls, bustling about, using up all that nervous energy. She scrutinises me for a while and exclaims, 'You look the same. You look lovely. How old are you now? 34? Oh, so young! Young and beautiful - good that they go together', she twinkles at me, wrinkling her nose and batting her eyelashes at me - I remember these gestures from old and it reminds me of the grandma I grew up with, demure but a little sparkly. The next day she asks again. 'How old are you? 34? Marvelous! I'm 86. That's not marvelous'. She sighs and looks down at her hands and then gets lost in her thoughts again. She looks at me and says 'I didn't get much sleep. I dreamt of you though'. 'What was I doing?' I ask. 'I don't know, you were just there. It was lovely. I love that you're here, it keeps me going for some days after you've left.' She lies back down on her pillows and looks up for a long time.
Every day as I come in she exclaims 'I love you!' and we sit and hold hands. Mum gets things done mostly, but sometimes she comes and sits in with us and the silences get longer and Grandma gets lost in her own thoughts. Mum looks at her nails, looks around the room, moves things about a bit, crosses and uncrosses her legs. She is restless and uncomfortable. Eventually she goes into the other room to continue sorting things out. She gets papers out of the wardrobe, leaving the door open. I see Grandma's shirts and cardies hanging up, ones she doesn't need these days because she doesn't even sit in the living room anymore let alone leave the house. For a moment, my heart tightens as I remember the days out sketching, reading, drinking coffee, in cafes, museums, theatres. The sound of my mum's voice comes from the other room and brings me back into the present. She is on the phone. She comes back in and tells Grandma she need to talk to a man on the phone, 'Just say who you are, Mum.'. Grandma takes the phone, 'Allo?.... Yes?.... Come next week, I have guests..... Please ring before you come,.... Thank you.' Mum takes the phone to talk to the man from the Visa company, 'Do you see what the problem is? That's why I'm dealing with her affairs.' We go through the same procedure with someone from the phone company. Grandma looks at me anxiously, 'Is she coming round? Who was that?', I pat her hand, 'No, no, we told her you were busy'. 'Oh good. I don't want anyone to come round.' These are the times when I see the confusion starting. One day, as I come in we chat for a bit, she looks away and then looks back and something seems to have shuttered in her. She starts speaking German to me, the first time she has done that. After a few bits of conversation (I answered in English), she recognises me again and asks me in English where Mum and I were going for lunch. 'I hate this food. I hope you have a good meal'. After she eats her lunch ('Don't watch me eat!') I come back in. She leans in conspiratorially, 'I like it best when you're here alone', she smiles at me.
Finally, it's our last day and she asks over and over again about the taxi to the airport, where we're having lunch and if I have a jacket. 'I'm never hot, you know, I always wear a cardie.' She looks at me, 'You're beautiful. Lovely.' We look at each other again for a while. 'I love those earrings. Very nice.' I thank her and mention they were made by a friend, from real dominoes. She looks at me. 'Well, they're lovely. You wore them yesterday as well, didn't you?'. She catches me looking at the chest of drawers, 'I had that imported here from Vienna. A very long time ago now. I'm 86, you know.' She shrugs, sighs, and frowns a little. I look at an old photo perched on the drawers. 'That was my son. He died when he was 17. Yes, it happens.... what can you do?', she shrugs and makes a dismissive gesture with her hands, her breathing becoming more difficult again. 'He loved me and I loved him, at least that was alright.' She gives a sad little smile and goes back to thinking for a while.
The time comes for us to leave. 'It was fantastic to have you here. Come back and see me before I die, won't you?'. We look at each other a little more. 'You should always do what you think is best', she nods sagely. She pauses for a while and then looks over. 'You take care of yourself. I love you', she twinkles for a bit, looks me in the eye, 'I always love you.' And then one last look and smile from both of us before I go on my way.
I was sitting in the cafe happily stitching when a little girl came over and asked what I was mending. I said I was making a blanket. She asked if it was for a baby and I said it was for someone just a bit older than her (give or take 30 years....). She then pulled out a black straw and told me that I had to put it my mouth because we were going snorkelling in the sea. She then made me put on my sunglasses because you need goggles in the sea. The mum came over to me and tentatively asked if I was ok and I said I was fine, so she left the little sister with me as well. The little girl's name is Sasha and she is 3, while her little sister Serena is 1. We perched on the sofa and did the breast stroke, as the old lady across from us watched us to figure out what were were doing. I asked Sasha if she could see any fishes and she said, 'Yes! They are pink and stripey.' It turns out the sea was pink too, but there was no seaweed ('Yuck!'). She then decided that we were now on a trampoline, and started jumping up and down on the sofa we were sitting on, trying to reach the picture that is halfway up the wall. Meanwhile, Serena burbled happily and crawled into my lap and played with my necklace, my blouse, my hair,...well, with any part of me she could touch really. Their mum asked Sasha to go up and ask for the bill, so she grabbed my hand and dragged me up to the counter. The family have just moved up from London, they have only been in town for about two months. Their grandma came up and asked me if I was a nanny - apparently Serena, the little one, rarely goes to anyone but her mum and certainly never to strangers. She was really surprised that both the girls were so comfy with me - I was very touched. I think we were all confused about how I had ended up swimming in a pink sea with a snorkle made of a straw for the afternoon.... It was delightful though!
It is hot hot hot at the moment - it was about 27 C at 6pm, which means it must have been over 30 during the day. Where are we, the mediterranean?! And we all know what warm weather means: picnics, barbeques and beaches, hurrah!
Yesterday, Red decided to get us all together for a lazy day picnic in the Westgate Gardens. I whipped up a potato salad and wandered down there to knit, natter and eat yummy food. As it happened we also had a bit of a jive as well - we got a few wows when we did the Hip Hop and I also got a bruise on my arm again! and the other one hadn't even gone! There was an old man strolling about the park with headphones in having a little dance around as well, it was utterly charming. I also got quite a few people stopping me to talk about my knitting - I reckon it's the most sociable activity I do!
Today we got suited and booted and jumped in the car and headed up to sunny Margate towards the beach front where The Keytones had a free gig going on in the Piazza outside the Old Town. It was lovely seeing everyone out in the sun! Luckily we remembered the sunscreen and my fan came in very useful. Most people were way too hot to dance, but I managed a couple of strolls with some of the girls and a couple of dances with Pete and with Ingrid which made me happy. There were lots of little kids who were happy to jump about though, and one of them had a go on the drums during the intermission - she was amazing!
Red is quite a fan of the band, and said he would have them play at his wedding they were that good. Once they got playing, I saw what he meant. The band have been going for a really long time, they sometimes play under the name of Hullabaloo, but today they were just a three piece. They had some great banter going between songs - the singer / double bassists would introduce the next song and the drummer would come up with these really delightful retorts while the guitarist messed around on the guitar. I went up to buy a CD from them after the show and the singer thanked me for dancing in this heat! What a sweetie! They did some originals and some covers, including a slow Elvis one for Ingrid and funnily enough, a cover of a song from Carmen (see below).... delightful! If you get a chance to see them then go, they're fantastic, and lovely blokes to boot.
I bumped into Miss H and we were having a chat about G: I love G, she is so positive about me that it's hard to be down on myself when I'm around her. In fact, I would say that if she thought it was appropriate she would probably be dancing about behind me, singing my praises and banging a tambourine if she could. Miss H exclaimed, 'Oh is there a vacancy for that? I would have applied if I had known!'. I was so delighted that I recounted it to Middle B to which she promptly replied, 'Well, there would be a whole group of us behind you!'. At this point I blushed a bit and stammered slightly - I mean, really?! But that's the point, isn't it? None of us really know the impact we are having on other people and it appears that I underestimate my impact on a fairly regular basis.
I was talking to someone about all the changes that have happened in the Buddhist Centre over the past few months and how that's been pretty up and down for me, and he said, 'I come in for a class and see your big smiling face..... you're my inspiration, you can't give up.' It really moved me actually. I'd been thinking about my feelings and how disconnected I felt, but it hadn't occurred to me that other people haven't had that experience of me. It made me realise that other people remember what I say and that they look to me for some stability and I have to be careful not to lose hope, if only for other people.
Can I say though, that when I told this all to Mrs Im she chortled and said, 'But I don't like tambourines. What would I do?' I said, 'How about dancing round behind me playing a small piccolo or something?', she said she reckoned she could live with that.
Mrs Im and I haven't seen each other for a while and I go a bit weird if I haven't connected with my roots for a too long. I went up to them yesterday, Im and her Mr. are both pretty overworked these days so we decided to keep it simple and not do much. I had a chat with Mr. and we watched the womens tennis for a bit, then we moved into the garden in the sunshine and drank tea and did some painting. In the evening, Mr. set up the bbq and we cracked open some beers. As the sun was drawing in we sat in the garden a while longer and spotted bats. Finally we watched a bit of Wanted and ate some champagne truffles and drank Mont Basillac and then went to bed. It was a really uncomplicated, lovely day that was really necessary to restore my ruffled nerves after the last few weeks. Splendid.
I don't know if you remember me receiving this sewing machine the other day but I finally got a chance to give her an airing. I went to see a lady called Fran for my first sewing lesson yesterday. She could have come to me, or I could go to her, but what we ended up doing was me taking the sewing machine (who I have named Dolly), to the pop up shop in town that she is working in. Since I am carless at the moment I had to think about how to get an old, heavy machine into town. I ended up putting her in a wheelie suitcase and wheeling her into town, which caused an awful racket and jiggled her around no end but it got the job done.
We started off by having a look at Dolly and going through the instruction manual and all the bits and bobs. She showed me where I'd have to oil, and we threaded on the cotton. We couldn't use her much because the drive belt is slack and I'm a bit worried about some of the electrics so I'm going to take her to a place in Whitstable that can give her the once over and make sure she is safe to use. In the meantime, I got to know her a little and then put her away and used Fran's machine for the actual project.
Fran then taught me how to start off and do the little reverse thing to secure the stitching, and then how to turn corners. Once she was satisfied that I'd got that down on some scrap, she let me loose on an actual project. I stitched up a book bag in just over an hour - I was pretty impressed! Sewing is really fun. I made a couple of mistakes, but I'm really happy with the results (photos will happen when my camera decides to play nicely...). I now have a cute, little book bag that I made myself - hooray!
The next project is a little purse, where I get to learn how to put a zip in. I'm going to take Dolly to the doctors for a check up first though, so maybe the next thing will be done on my actual machine. How exciting!
I spent the weekend having a much needed rest. On Saturday I went for an unexpected coffee with Miss V - her other half declined coming because he was very hung over after our Friday night shenanigans. So while he stayed in bed, Miss V and I decided to try Leonora's Kitchen for lunch - the food was good, we sat outside in the sun sipping coffee, it could almost have been somewhere Mediterranean... well, almost. We sat and people watched and chatted about life, the universe and everything (though mostly dresses and family) and then went our separate ways in the late afternoon.
In the evening, my friend Deb was throwing a party to celebrate the end of her second year of uni/ her divorce coming through/ summertime/ her daughter coming back from Australia/ just a reason to get everyone together. I was on cake duty so I jumped on the bus with a plain chocolate loaf from How to be a Domestic Goddess - I'm getting quite used to carrying cakes around in my handbag now! Deb has a really eclectic mix of friends so I met some interesting people and ate some lovely food (most of it was vegetarian, yippee!). We moved the party out to the garden and I got chatting to a man in advertising, a dentist and a police officer who has just started in an intelligence unit. After dinner, various instruments like guitar, violin, and various drums surfaced (and Deb handed out maracas and tambourines to the rest of us so we wouldn't feel left out), and then some people started playing some folk music and some old jigs and reels. It was really wonderful! I had to go home not too long after but I suspect by the end of the night dancing would have happened. Deb texted me today saying she loved it but, 'never enough time to chat when playing the hostess with the mostess... now I know why I prefer to go to parties rather than have them! But it was still great to share all good things in my life - events and friends'.
Then on Sunday I hopped on the high-speed to Margate to spend sometime with Fairy Princess Mummy and the little fairy princesses. Daddy was away on a stag do, so we got some girly time in. We spent the afternoon with another mummy down the road sitting out in the sun and drinking bucks fizz and watching the kids play in the paddling pool. Big FP and I sat down and played with some stickers while Little FP found every which way to climb onto things, little monkey that she is. We rounded up the kids and said goodbye and Big FP wanted to show me her bicycle skills so we had a little peddle up the road before going inside and making dinner for the girls. The girls and I watched Fantastic Mr. Fox while Mummy got some bits and pieces done. I think it went a little over the FPs heads, but Big FP started to enjoy it once she understood what was happening. I loved it, of course - I love Roald Dahl anyway, and I appreciated the aesthetics a lot and the way the story was told. It was a lot of fun. Then I got to hang out and watch some Poirot while Mummy wrestled the FPs into bed which always takes longer than you think. Then finally we had some grownup time to sit and chat over another glass of wine and properly got caught up over things - mostly boys and family and what we've been up to.
I don't see FP Mummy and the girls as much as I'd like, but I really love my weekends when I get to stay over. It really does feel like a holiday. We got to bed about 11pm, which is not too bad for us, a little late for a school night... but hey, how often do we get a proper girly gossip! I got to help out in the morning getting the girls ready for school - this mainly consisted of getting shoes on and helping look for dummies - and then getting a lift into town so we got a chat in the morning as well. We always end up having really interesting conversations (today it was about the education system and gender roles), and it was a lovely way to start a Monday morning I must say. I'm looking forward to seeing them all again soon. Maybe I should move into their spare room - and then every Monday could be this lovely!