Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Friends for all seasons.

Good friends make you happy

It's a balmy spring evening when I meet up with my old school friend, Susie. "My mother sends her love," I tell her, as we stand hugging in the courtyard of the Royal Academy of Arts, which bizarrely is closed suddenly on account of a structural fault discovered in the Sackler Gallery. "I think she will always think of you as a little eleven-year-old-girl."

She laughs. "I will always think of me as a little eleven-year-old-girl!" she says.

That's it, I think. That's why old friends are so important, they remind us of who we used to be, perhaps of who we still are deep down: little eleven-year-old-girls, or boys, or anything in between.

I remind Susie of the bassoon story (two blog posts back). She doesn't remember it and nearly wets herself laughing (she's had four children) as we stroll off arm in arm, looking for somewhere else to eat. She reminds me about our charismatic, slightly mad, French teacher, Miss Coleman, who used to sing us the days of the week and the months of the year in French. Apparently one day Miss Coleman hit her over the head with a French textbook in a vocab test, and I laughed. I don't remember that. I do remember sitting in Susie's bedroom listening to The Pretenders, Brass in Pocketwatching her put make-up on, thinking she was the prettiest girl I knew. I also remember going to her house to collect her to go to a school disco, dressed up to the nines in a new dress I bought in town that afternoon and being aghast when she opened the door and was not wearing her new dress as she had promised but jeans and a flowery top, again. She says she still remembers the look on my face. We stop reminiscing for a moment and look at each other now, two grown women, definitely not off to a school disco, walking along the pavement in Piccadilly, she wearing jeans with a flowery top, me in a dress, then we fall about laughing. Plus ça change, as Miss Coleman would say. 

Spring fever

A newly minted spring has finally sprung in south London, my favourite season. The only downside is my accompanying hay fever, which apparently is increasingly common at my time of life.

I was meant to go to Guy's Hospital for an allergy trial but never got round to it. Not just for my allergy to tree pollen but my allergy to raw apples and pears as well, and various other random fruit. But I've found a solution myself: I eat tomatoes and radishes instead, tons of them. Did you know that 100 grams of radish contains 18% of your recommended daily dose of vitamin C? I eat about eight a day. My grandparents used to serve them for tea, fresh out of the garden, with slices of bread and butter and a bit of salt. I would visit them every day after school because I liked their company and there they would be, watching Countdown, with their pot of tea and cucumber sandwiches, or fresh radishes. For years my love of radishes had to be kept under wraps because they were only available in summer but now they're here all year round in Waitrose and Lidl, and no doubt in Sainsbury's as well but I never go in there. Have you noticed? In all colours, even wild ones. I eat them constantly. Sometimes without bread and butter. Sometimes even without salt. I'm that crazy.

Love E x


P.S. That's 'un radis' in French, just to keep Miss Coleman happy.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Doubting Thomas.


Last Sunday I went to church. How come? I hear you ask. I was invited by a seventy-five-year-old Jamaican gentleman. He's become a friend since I started hanging out at the Make a Difference Afro-Caribbean Senior Citizens Group in Streatham. Some of my mates went to France over the Easter holidays, or to Italy, or Spain, I went to the Make a Difference Afro-Caribbean Senior Citizens Group in Streatham, and also to church, when I went anywhere. Mostly I stayed at home and cooked and put a wash on. I'm hoping to get my reward in heaven.

So anyway, in church - the United Reform Church in Herne Hill - I was open to being convinced. Come on, I thought, sitting on the back row with Margaret, a 78-year-old-lady who took pity on me and came by for a chat before my friend turned up, sock it to me. I'd quite like to be religious. Everything about it looks great. You get to dress up, go out, hang about in historic old buildings, be with people, sing. And it must be a comfort, especially when someone you love dies. It was a good topic, too, the resurrection, which lots of people struggle with, me included.

There must be some theological arguments to support the idea of the resurrection, I thought, so let's have it. The minster read from the bible (John 20:24-29). "'But he said to them, 'Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.' And it must have been hard for Thomas to believe that Christ had come back from the dead," said the minister, "but he did believe, and so must we." Then he announced the next hymn and that was it, he moved on. Nope, I thought, that's not gonna cut it.

At the end of the service my NBF, the Jamaican gentleman, gave me a copy of The Pilgrims Progress as a present, which was really lovely of him but to be honest I'm struggling with that too, although I do like the allegorical thing and I reckon I was stuck in the Slough of Despond for years, I just never had a name for it before.


If I can't believe in God what can I believe? In people, I guess. I believe that people are basically good and we need to hold on to that, as well as to them, to stop ourselves falling into a Slough of Despair.

So, speaking of holding on to people I'm meeting up with an old friend on Friday who I haven't seen in years, Susie, she of the bassoon mentioned last week. Susie was my best friend at secondary school and in the last few years we've lost touch, which is ridiculous when you consider she lives in Surrey and it's only an hour away. We were very close way back when, literally as well as figuratively. She lived next-door-but-one. We met when we were eleven. We'd both moved into new homes in a new area and were about to go to secondary school. We were put in the same class. I vividly remember sitting in her bedroom, which was the same as mine, the day before school began, telling her the date of my birthday. We were doing that thing girls do when they swap information really fast like they're playing ping pong. 

"That's mine, too," she said.

"But it can't be," I replied. 

"But it is," she said.

I just refused to believe the coincidence and yet it was true. She thought that was funny. Many years later her three beautiful girls were my bridesmaids. I have some pictures of them somewhere...

I made a BBC children's programme with them - Words and Pictures - using her house as the location and one of the girls as the star - Mary, the youngest. Now Susie's an art teacher and also a grandmother. It's terrible how you can lose touch with people because your life takes a different turn. Still, I'm seeing her again soon, I believe.

Love E x


P.S. Sometimes there isn't a P.S.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Dreaming is free.


Dreams are a universal language. We all dream whether we remember it or not.

We got talking about dreams at the dinner table the other night and Middle One said he writes his down on his phone every morning when he wakes up. He has 130 so far. He's looking for recurring themes but can't find any. His stress dream is running through a labyrinth pursued by a minotaur-type monster and when he looks back he's actually being pursued by himself. I guess you could call that a classic. Youngest said he doesn't have dreams, but he only means he doesn't remember them. My most recurring dream is not having revised for my 'O' Level geography exam and it's tomorrow. I have no idea why it's geography when in life I got a B and my real problem was maths. My regular dreams are not having any clothes on when I'm delivering a speech, not being able to get through on the telephone when it's an emergency, and flying. When flying I take off from the roof of the house and have to concentrate really hard to stay up. Despite sometimes dipping and skimming the surrounding roof tops I can usually fly quite far. The other day for no apparent reason I dreamt I was getting it on with Tom Hiddleston, and I don't even like Tom Hiddleston. I guess we can't be held accountable for our subconscious.

Sorry if I'm boring you. They do say listening to someone describe a dream is the most boring thing ever but then I guess you're not actually listening, you're reading, and you don't have to read this if you don't want to. In fact, if I'm boring you you know what you can do... you can take a running jump.

Middle One's friend, who was with us at the dinner table and who is a brilliant trumpet player ,
said his recurring stress dream is having his trumpet with him and having to get it to the other side of a busy motorway. I thought that was pretty funny.

Bassoon missing

It reminded me of my friend Susie at school and her huge bassoon. It was taller than she was. She had to carry it to school for orchestra practice once a week when she was in Year 7 (except we called it the first year in those days). It was so heavy she could only take a few steps before stopping to rest. One day she called in at the Co-op to buy crisps to supplement her otherwise horribly healthy packed lunch and when she arrived at school realised she'd left it in the shop.

Fair Game

Speaking of motorways, the car in which Eldest was coming home from university for Easter hit a pheasant in the fast lane outside Exeter. He said there were feathers everywhere. They had to stop on hard shoulder and call the AA. The AA man turned up and pulled it out of the radiator. It was still warm, its guts hanging out like creamy threads of macaroni. Eldest refused to eat poultry all over Easter as a result. I had to make him his favourite instead: moules mariniè.

Love E x


P.S. In case you were wondering the bassoon was still in the Co-op.