Day Seven – Tuesday 13/4
I complain about the attitude of the Day Centre Manager to her line manager. She suggests my mum should be assessed. I say there is no need. She says she should go to a centre for special needs. I tell her that my mum doesn’t have special needs. I also tell her I am not happy with the way the centre manager tried (or didn’t try!!) to contact me. I don’t get a satisfactory reply other than she will investigate! Yeah; and I’m the Pope – I beg pardon for the flippancy, but........ We see. But as Paul said, I think Mum will be better off staying at home. Neither of us would be happy for her to return to Raleigh House.
We go to New Malden. We take Mum in her wheelchair and walk via Clarence Avenue and Beaconsfield. The first thing we did was visit Cafe 32 close by Waitrose. Coffee and cake re-energises us and we are ready to tackle the shops. We start with the bank. Money is needed for us to go shopping!! Our first stop is Oxfam. Mum delights in finding a couple of books. Paul had suggested I buy a pair of slippers to keep at Mums for when we visit. I found a pair. Hallelujah. I also find a green and yellow oriental style blouse. Yep; I see myself in that. I’ve heard of the author Kay Hooper but never read any of her books. I’ve never seen any of them on sale. I am delighted; I find two. We are thrilled with our purchases. We are attracted by the new store on the old Woolworth site; a bargain shop. Paul finds a suitcase for £30. He needs a new one. His old one has seen better days and was damaged even further on the flight over.
We catch the 213 home. The buses are marvellous these days with their ramps for wheelchair usage. It gives the disabled so much more independence with the ability to get about by public transport.
Day Eight – Wednesday 14/4
We’re on the road again. We walk into New Malden again. This time we take the K1 via Old Malden, Tolworth and Surbiton into Kingston. It goes around the houses. We could have gone to Kingston quicker on the 213 but that doesn’t matter. Mum enjoys the ride; seeing the sights of suburbia.
We wandered around the Bentalls Centre. We had coffee and a sandwich in an eatery there. Paul had a tuna mayo with salad. Mum and I shared a Coronation chicken sarny and salad. Energy recharged, we wandered around Waterstone’s. If only I had a bottomless pit of money. How I’d love a house sized library. We then meander to HMV. We buy series 2 of ‘24’, the Michael Palin series ‘Around the World in 80 Days’ and ‘Great Expectations’. I wanted the John Mills version of ‘Great Expectations’ but that was £20. We bought a version where Michael York plays the adult Pip – for £3!
Then it was back home on the 213; tired but happy. It was so good to see Mum enjoying herself. She seems contented these days to go out in the wheelchair. I remember years ago her saying she’d never go out in such a contraption. How the times change with our circumstances.
Day Nine – Thursday 25/4
The District Nurse came to take a look at Mum’s ears. She’s been having trouble hearing. He was older than I thought; probably in his early sixties. Trevor his name is; one of the old school. He suggested we buy some olive oil ear drops to give her twice a day. He will call back next Friday to syringe them. I asked him about the issue with the Day Centre. He didn’t seem to think there was a problem; that they were making an issue out of nothing. He suggested a route to follow so that she could attend again. I thanked him. However, Paul and I discussed the issue afterwards and decided that at present we wouldn’t pursue it. I’ll discuss things with Ranji and she will monitor Mums feelings re the Day Centre and consult with me.
We had a ham sandwich a cup of minestrone soup for lunch. Then off to Matalan. Our route was simple – the Triangle, Dickerage Road and the railway bridge. Yep, a simple roite to us but for Mum it was just delightful and full of lovely surprises. Even a bright yellow dandelion trembling in un-mown grass is like an exotic treasure from Kew Gardens.
We had a good look around Matalan. Paul found himself a white shirt and a striped blue tie for our wedding. We found a turquoise blouse and white lacy white bolero jacket for Mum. She has a skirt already to complete the outfit. Then we found a turquoise handbag and bracelet to complete the outfit. I tried a dress that looked lovely on the hanger. When it was on, it didn’t flatter me. There were lots of things I liked but nothing I thought appropriate for ‘my big day’.
Day Ten – Friday 16/4
Mum was happy for Paul and myself to go off and do our own thing. Much as we love Mum and adore taking her out, it was good to have ‘our’ time. We walked into Kingston town. Along the way, we stopped off to chat with the guy in ‘Woofs a Daisy’. I wanted to thank him for delivering Fleur’s goodies. OK, I pay them to do that but it’s always a pleasure to do business with them. I passed on Gilly’s regards. It was Gilly who told us of ‘Woofs a Daisy’ and we are so appreciative.
Next stop was ‘Pink’ which is a small Asian run coffee shop in a mall close to Kingston town centre. We have coffee there every time we go to Kingston on our own. The food always looks so tempting and we promise ourselves that one day we’ll sample their culinary delights.
Marks and Spencers was our next port of call. It didn’t take long for us to find me the dress I’ll wear on ‘my day’. So, Paul was with me. Does it really matter? I don’t think so! I can never understand this superstitious crap about the groom not seeing the brides outfit prior to the wedding or seeing the bride on the day before the ceremony. What the heck; it’s a wedding and a marriage should be a partnership. Hence the planning and choosing should be shared. So my dress is sleeveless with a V neck but not deep; just enough cleavage without being tarty!! It’s gathered at the waist with a full skirt. Colour? Shades of turquoise and purples and splashes of white. A dark lilac bolero jacket sets it off. I also bought the perfect accessories – a turquoise shell on several strands of turquoise beads and matching earrings. Shoes? They’ll provide an excuse for another shopping spree. However I did manage to buy a pair of shoes for Mum. Then we walked to the river at the start of Lowe Ham Road where we thought ‘the Hand and Flower’ was. Just a pub called ‘the Boaters’ right on the water’s edge amongst a myriad of colourful boats. We walk on and come across the boating club. A couple of sailing types are just leaving.
“The hand and Flower?” we ask.
“Never heard of it,” they say.
“No, it’s not around here. The only pub is ‘the Boaters,” they say, then apologise.
Thanking them, we decide to ask in ‘the Boaters’. We figure a pub should know all the other pubs in the area. We’re not let down. Cornering a barman, he tells us that ‘the Hand and Flower’ is actually about a mile down the main Richmond Road. He knows; he use to work there. It’s on the edge of Ham Common, he adds.
We head back to the main road and head towards Ham. I almost suggest we catch the bus but I need the exercise. The Hawker Siddeley factory is now a housing estate and I wonder if the residents realise the significance of their road name. Ham parade hasn’t changed; it’s as non descript as ever. Some forty minutes after we’ve left Marks we reach the pub on the corner of Ham Common. I’m ready for a glass of wine; the house vinegar will do!! My appetite has certainly been activated. We walk in to the homeliest of pubs. Age is no object. Students dine alongside pensioners. In-between office workers strike many a bonus pumping deal. No one cares. Everyone is welcome.
We browse the menu. We choose and pick again. Good, traditional English dishes set our thirst buds oozing.
“I’ll have this.” I think.
“No, I’ll have that,” I change my mind.
Finally I have the sausages and mash with green beans. It’s the poor man’s caviar and I’m in heaven. Paul had burger and chips. He said it was the best burger he’d ever had. A glass of house red was nectar from heaven. We even had a desert each. Well, I had done a lot of walking so figured I’d earned it. I’d opted for the banana and toffee cheesecake with ice cream whilst strawberry cheesecake and cream. I need a cup of coffee afterwards and that finished the meal off nicely. We have already booked the pub for our wedding lunch so we chat to the manager, Belinda. She gives us some sample menus to browse and says nothing is written is stone so we can mix and match. It seems we have made the right choice in booking the luncheon with them.
I don’t usually have a desert. I feel a piglet so decide that we’ll walk home. We do. I’m tired. My feet ache. I’m ready for bed.
Pat calls later that evening. She says Mum has called, She says Mum has said she is going out the next day (Saturday). My reply is that if Mum has said she is going out then so be it. We’re happy to take her. Pat suggests Mum isn’t well. I say, truthfully, that she is fine. I tell her that Mum is upset she (Pat) never talked to her about the phone call she had from the Day Centre. Pat doesn’t answer. I don’t know why but quietly hazard a guess. I tell Pat the D C had short thrift from my tongue in that they seemingly lied about their inability to contact me. Pat doesn’t answer. I suggest she talks to Mum about why she spoke about her behind her back and failed to tell me they had called her. I tell Pat that Mum and I are honest with each other; we don’t keep secrets. I tell Pat I am going to pass her over to Mum. I do. Pat tells Mum she is sorry she can’t chat but she is cooking dinner. So why if she is cooking dinner did she phone in the first place? Something tells me she has a guilty conscious. She feels awkward. She hasn’t the guts to say face to face what she says behind backs.
Day Eleven – Saturday 17/4
The cupboards need replenishing so we head to New Malden. Mum doesn’t mind where she goes. Out is out. We don’t mind going there either. It’s a novelty for me now I don’t live nearby. We turn into Beaconsfield and see two fire engines sitting alongside the kerb, blue lights a flashing. Firemen meander and we can’t see the reason for them being there. However, it would seem they’d dealt with the problem. No sooner had we passed them by then they moved on. It was some excitement for Mum at least!!
The first stop is the bank. We chat to Caroline and remember when we worked at Kingston branch all those years ago. Those were the days indeed. We ‘do’ a couple of charity shops and buy ourselves a couple of bargains. How I miss the charity shops. I’m happy to get my fix. I never shopped anywhere else when we lived in England.
Shopping is such a tiring game. Time for coffee. We visit the cafe in the Malden Centre. The coffee is good but served in cardboard cups these days. We have a muffin each, served on a serviette. I remember the days when they used real china cups and plates. Ho hum; how times change.
Paul reminds me we’d said we’d walk through the park. It’s good to it being well used. It’s still half term and good to see parents with their kids playing in the fresh air rather than sitting them in front of the computer. Then it’s back to the Fountain and into the high street again. We came to town for supplies so decide we’d better go into the Co-Operative. Two large bags of shopping later we opt to walk home. The exercise will be good for me. I’ve done a lot of that lately.
Day Twelve – Sunday 18/4
Paul and I go to church. Whenever we visit with Mum we go to Sunday service at Christchurch. Mum was married there way back in 1949. I went there for several years when I lived in Norbiton. It was there that I helped run their Guide Company. Going there is like going home. Nick Clegg is talking there this morning. It’s World Poverty Day and he is going to speak on how he will contribute to alleviating world poverty. When we arrive, there are a couple of suited gents outside handing out leaflets. They are bringing to everyone’s attention that Nick Clegg is an atheist. Does it matter, I ask myself. Didn’t Jesus mix with non-believers? He also mixed with tax collectors and prostitutes. Why shouldn’t the Church admit atheists? Isn’t that the first step to conversion?
The 9.30 service is fun. Stephen has done wonders to boost the congregation. I believe he is people orientated. We have a christening during the service, How wonderful to have the honour of witnessing a baby entering the family of Christ. Christ Church is a real family. We wish we could go more often. The family service was as friendly as ever. I felt so near to God.
Nick Clegg spoke so well. There was a police presence outside. The Curate said they’d had the sniffer dogs around that morning. Paparazzi were much in evidence. Like the cowboys of old, their cameras hung around their jean belts much as the Colt 45s of old did in the days of Bonanza or Rawhide.
Nick and his wife walked casually down the aisle. Flash guns exploded by the score just inches from his face. I was impressed by his composure. He sat just two pews in front and still the cameras flashed. I hoped they caught my good side!
He spoke well and I admit to agreeing with each word. World poverty starts with looking after just a couple of people on your doorstep. You can’t cure world poverty in an instant with a blink of the eye. Just a couple of instances at a time....... It goes back to the old saying of just one day at a time!!!
Later that evening I just relaxed. Terry phoned in the middle of Foyle’s War. He was attempting to explain the procedure of the warfarin clinic. I need to know this procedure but sometimes he ‘does my ears in’. He spends half an hour telling me what could be said in ten minutes. I feel the pressure is on. Why does Paul stick with me? It’s as if we are treading water. I feel he could do better than me. I often tell him he could do without the problems caused by mum and me. I tell him he could find a girl better than me. There are lasses without the baggage I bring. He says he loves me and my baggage. I cry. I don’t want to hold him in this nightmare. He says he loves me and takes me for who and what I am. He knows I’m not out to trap him. We have arguments often created by the fact I think he could do better and I’d like him to walk. He insists he doesn’t mind at all; that he loves me. I believe him. He is a saint to put up with me. Yep; I get emotional but he knows why. We need to figure things out; I guess we’ll do that.
Day Thirteen – Monday 19/4
Mum had a blood test at the Warfarin clinic, Kingston Hospital. I phoned the clinic and did manage to speak to someone regarding the system. The lady puts my mind at rest that nothing can go wrong. Mum will have transport each time she has an appointment. They will show her to where she has to go. Afterwards she will be put in the right direction of her transport home. They won’t allow her to be lost; they haven’t lost anyone yet. There is no reason for me to think they ever will. She puts my mind at rest and she is one person I am happy to have talked to. She inspires confidence.
The transport comes at about 10.30. Off she goes and so we do too. We wave to her. We drop our declaration into the registry office. It’s late but they aren’t too bothered. We are in need of a coffee. Under Norbiton Rail Bridge is a snack bar. We buy a coffee and sit at a table on the pavement. How exotic! We don’t care; we’re in holiday mode.
Suitably refreshed we cross the road and catch the 213 into New Malden. We do a bit of banking and browse a few shops. Then back home. Mum has beaten us to it. We make lunch and laze the afternoon away watching television.
Day Fourteen – Tuesday 20/4
We were up bright and early as we had an appointment with the Registry Office at 8.45. We were there about 8.30; better to be early!! The Registrar went over all our papers and identification. That was all pretty straightforward. Paul then had to wait outside for a few minutes whilst I had to confirm my details and those of Paul. Then I waited outside and she saw Paul. I guess it’s to ensure we do know each other and haven’t just met, deciding to marry for something other than love. I guess it happens all the time. People wed to stay in the country and all of that; whatever ‘that’ is – ho, ho.
We’d already decided that we’d go to London afterwards. I know London oh so well but Paul hardly knows the capital at all. We get a one day travel pass (£7.50) and go by train from Norbiton to Waterloo. Deciding we should make use of the facilities, we discover the privilege now costs thirty pence. Makes a mockery of wanting to spend a penny! We have enough change, just. Wouldn’t ya know? The machine doesn’t take five pence pieces. Paul goes in search of someone who’ll swap our five pence pieces for ten pence pieces. Mission accomplished. Just as well we weren’t desperate.
Bus route 211 takes us to Parliament Square. Each time I see the giant stone lions that guard Westminster Bridge I feel quite emotional. It makes me feel as I’m really home. You can take the girl out of London but you can’t take London out of the girl. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Wherever I am, London is always home. We take a look at Westminster Abbey from the outside. I say we’ll go in another time. Checking the time with Big Ben we saunter back across Westminster Bridge to the London Eye. We want to check out how much it costs. It’s £17.88 a person. That’s a lot of money to us. Standing below the wheel, we um and ah. Shall we? Shan’t we? I tell Paul that if don’t pay out, we’ll regret it when we get home. Yes, there is always next time but then it’ll have gone up. Decisions, decisions. Finally we make up our minds. We’re going on the Eye. I feel a mixture of emotions. I’m excited. I’m eager to see how many landmarks we can spot and far we can see. I’m scared of heights so I feel afraid too. How will I cope with going so high? There is a seat in the centre of each pos so i figure I can always sit there and bury my head in my lap. As long as I can’t see the height I’m usually alright. I step on gingerly and the wheel moves slowly. It’s almost as if it’s not moving. It never feels like that. We go round and London is at our feet. St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Gherkin one way. The Houses of Parliament sprawls below us on the other side. The red road that is the Mall leads the eye to Buckingham Palace. Horse Guards lays empty filled with the echoes of a thousand veterans. London sprawls to the horizon and we know not how many miles. I feel no fear. My eyes drink the view. The flight lasts around forty minutes; I wish it would go on forever. Terror conquered, I disembark. I feel full of elation at my achievement.
By then it’s quarter past midday. We enjoy our cheese and ham sandwiches sitting on the grass by the embankment. The rest of the day we ride the buses. We have no plan. Our first bus takes us along Whitehall past the Horse Guards, Downing Street and the Cenotaph. Passing Trafalgar Square and Nelson’s Column we soon find ourselves in Regent Street. We disembark and wander some side streets until we find ourselves on the edge of Soho. We see a cafe that calls us for a coffee stop. No fancy lightening but bright enough. Wood predominates as the pierced and tattooed over forties enjoy the after lunch frothy coffees.
Soho suddenly takes us by surprise. Sleazy strip clubs alternate with peep shows. Perhaps it’s too early but no one is going in and no one is leaving. Are they just being discreet? No, there just isn’t anyone frequenting these establishments. Perhaps later in the darkness of night....
Minutes later we find ourselves in China Town. I love China Town in London. This time we weren’t in the throes of the New Year but that didn’t matter. We are drawn into the atmosphere of authentic China. I love it. The people are so gentle and friendly. The smells are inviting. I love to visit time and time again.
Three new places for Paul. They are old favourites for me but I loved visiting them with Paul. I saw them through new eyes. The rest of the afternoon we rode a couple of buses passing through places I’d not been. It was great fun. I saw the reasons I love London. It’s the most cosmopolitan city in the world. There are people of all nationalities living hand in hand. They have their own communities living alongside each other. Their musical delights caress their culinary aroma. Dialects clash lovingly. Colours blend with harmony. Whenever I think of London I remember the song –
England swings like a pendulum do.
Bobbies ride bicycles two by two.
Westminster Abbey, the Tower Big Ben,
The rosy red cheeks of the little children.
Says it all, doesn’t it?
We ‘did’ Selfridges. Can anyone afford to shop there? I guess so else they wouldn’t have been in business so many years. I looked at a pretty flowery dress. My kind of frock. £315! No way would I have given more than a fiver for it in a charity shop. Oh well, each to his own and I figure some people earn enough to pay those prices. Dream on, I tell myself. Leaving there minus any purchases, we feel a coffee stop coming on. Close by there is a side street and a waffle bar catches our eye. We have the loveliest of coffees at a fraction of the usual London prices. It’s almost 5 o’clock and we decide to head on home. We take the tube four stops to Waterloo and the main line train back to New Malden. A bottle of red vino is bought from Tesco Express and we catch the 213 home.
Seemingly Pat has called and posted an envelope through the door returning her key. Seemingly, she is angry at my attitude and no longer wants to be a key holder. Paul and I chat and feel she is somewhat embarrassed. She has nothing to be angry about. She is feeling awkward as she couldn’t answer the questions I put to her and can’t account for what she did.
I smile; my attitude was witnessed and I’m told by those who observed that I had no provoking attitude. I’m not worried or concerned about her. I don’t give a toss. Her loss, our gain. We sleep well that night.
Day Fifteen – Wednesday 21/4
We walked into New Malden first thing and went into the internet cafe. The internet cafe is run by Koreans. The elderly guy in charge is a hoot and greets us like old friends. We only ever go in there when we visit Mum. Perhaps he has a good memory. We check out easyJet flights. They look to be back to normal so we book our flight back home for Friday. I take Paul for coffee in Cafe 32. It’s ‘our time’. Passing the bank, I call into see Lesley. We decide we’ll make arrangements to go for a drink next time we’re over. Then we catch the 213 home.
We’re going to have lunch with my cousin Michael. He phones and says he has been delayed; he’ll be with us around 1.30. He arrives just after that. I know him straight away and the years fall away. He comes in and chats to Mum awhile. Then we go to the Royal Oak for lunch. Bless Michael; he takes us in his car – what was Uncle Derek’s car. We have ham, egg and chips – something typically English. Only England can serve a proper ham, egg and chips. Oh, manna from heaven. We chat over lunch. We get on amazingly well. We’re cousins but we never really had much contact in the past. Our fathers fell out in 1939 and didn’t talk. Michael traced me through Friends Reunited about three years ago; it was Uncle Derek’s idea from what I gather. Derek wanted to lay the ghosts to rest and I think between us we have. It was an enjoyable lunch and we got on exceedingly well. I was so pleased that we are finally in touch again.
The only fly in the ointment was that during the afternoon the left hand side of my face became rather stiff. I felt at times it was difficult to speak. It didn’t stop me though but I was rather conscious that one side of my face was quite taut.
Back home and the packing. It was quite emotional as Mum was crying. It seemed harder to pack up. I wonder if Mum is feeling it more difficult to let go especially after recent goings on. I need to be strong but I do find that more and more difficult. I get e motional and often feel guilty. Thank goodness I have Paul who helps me keep my strength. He is my rock.
Day Sixteen – Thursday 22/4
We are ready to leave by just after 9am. We had said we’d wait until the Carer so that Mum would have someone with her. But we figured it was better to go then and know the Carer would be along in the next half hour or so. That way Mum had someone to look forward to seeing. The 213 came just a couple of minutes after we got to the end of the road. That connected almost immediately in town with the 285 to Heathrow. We booked a seat on the National Express for 12.10. The hour wait gave us time to have a cup of coffee and a muffin each; Paul had chocolate and I had toffee. That certainly set us up for the ride to Stansted where we arrived an hour and a half later. We’d booked into the Radisson on the airport complex for the night as we knew we’d never get to Stansted by public transport in time for the flight in the morning. We’d booked the room the day before and the only rooms they had left were business suites at £159 a night. We never pay that much but had no choice. We did like the room however and enjoyed all the extras that went with it. After sorting ourselves out we went back into the airport and bought a few things for a picnic supper from the Spar shop there. Our Spar picnic including a bottle of wine cost £14. The cheapest meal on the Radisson menu was £23! Quite a saving. We made sure we enjoyed all the luxuries the room had to offer that evening.
Day Seventeen – Friday 23/4
The buffet breakfast (included in price I’m glad to say!) was delicious; the best I’ve ever had but then it should be for the price of the room – ha, ha. After we’d eaten, we wandered to the airport terminal and booked in. We had to be there three hours before. Surprisingly the airport was quite empty despite the fuss seen on the television that all the airports were being inundated with people trying to travel. In fact the flight was half full – this is a flight that is always full!! The three hours of waiting soon passed. I did a bit of last minute shopping. I bought some of my favourite cosmetics that I can’t get in Spain. Then we had a glass of wine at the bar. Time to board suddenly arrived and the flight took off on time. The hour and three quarter flight flew!! Customs cleared and luggage claimed in half an hour. When thw taxi drew up outside our house it was a pleasure to be home.
First things first, I put the kettle on. I looked out the window and saw Pepe working on our finca. Why, I asked myself. I lean out the window.
“Coffee?” I call.
“In a minute,” he waves back.
Promptly, he walks through the door. He’ll have a small glass of wine, he decided. We open a bottle, not begrudging him. During the time we’ve been away, he has been weeding and hoeing the vegetables we planted before we went to England.
“The weeds would choke them,” he explains, adding that it was better than sitting alone in his house with nothing to do. Seemingly he missed us.
We chat awhile. He tells us that one of the cows in our field had a calf in our absence. It becomes apparent one of the six residents is a bull so doubt less more calves will be born below our kitchen window.
Time to drive to Navia and collect the cats from the cattery. Tiger has been doctored during our absence. Simpson is sick, and is on medication. He is really out of sorts but it doesn’t surprise me. He is a cat that has a tendency to allergies and picking up ‘things’. We are allowed to bring him home with instructions on how to minister his medication over the next two weeks. The grand total? 460 euros. Oh, well. That is life and I’d willing break the bank for my cats.
Back home we finish off the opened bottle of wine and wonder what the next trip will bring forth.......