Friday, August 24, 2012

Layer 543 . . . Reflections in the Rain

What a pleasure and a privilege it is to be back in Bungalowland. It's a privilege to have a private place to come to where it's possible to properly touch base with oneself; to  be quiet, reflective . . . meditative even. It's a proper retreat from day to day routines, and whatever passes for normality.

It's a pleasure to be somewhere where there's a calm, quiet, civilised atmosphere, big skies, stunning landscapes, and no emergency vehicles constantly blaring sirens.

I'm supposed to be mowing lawns, pruning shrubs & trees and pulling up weeds, but the relentless rain has put a stop to that. I recall mum saying, as she did so many times over the years she lived here, "What a pity the weather's always so bad when you come down here". She was exaggerating slightly, but it's true that the weather was rarely calm, settled, dry, sunny and hot, here on the west coast, on the so-called English Riviera. It's also fair to say it was rarely freezing cold here in the winter, thanks to the Gulf Stream - not until these past couple of years since mum passed away - but that was fairly small compensation.

Looking out over the valley today it's impossible to see the furthest houses, let alone the hills and trees beyond them. The greyness starts down in the valley, amongst the mist-shrouded buildings and trees, then goes right overhead and just keeps on going.

I bought a pack of CoOp 99 tea today, in memory of mum. One of my earliest childhood memories is of going to the Cooperative shop on the estate we lived on, and buying tea and biscuits. Back then the word 'supermarket' hadn't even been invented. Most people bought their groceries from the CoOp. It was - and still is - a great concept. It's a retailer and/or a wholesaler that nobody owns, and doesn't even have shareholders. As a member of the CoOp you had your identification number, which you gave to the shop assistant when you paid for your purchases, and from time to time you received a 'dividend' from whatever profits the shop managed to make.

The Cooperative supermarket in Paignton is a sad sort of place. Even on a wet Friday lunchtime on a Bank Holiday weekend there are hardly any customers - just a few dejected-looking people shuffling around, seemingly oblivious of the awful pop music that annoys the living daylights out of me. I wonder whether people are actually put off using the CoOp by its irritating advertising campaign that has a Scottish voice-over that says a simple, a very simple, slogan: "The CoOp . . . . Gud with Fud". I wonder which genius thought that one up.

Breakfast in Wetherspoons was fairly horrible. I was feeling quite relaxed, anticipating a decent cooked breakfast with free wifi and my newspaper . . . as I stood at the bar for the best part of 10 minutes watching the barmaid take orders from whoever happened to be standing closest to her whenever she looked up from the till. Finally she said, looking directly at a couple who had just arrived at the bar, "Who's next?" It was my opportunity to say, very calmly and quietly, "I am. And I've been "next" for the past 5 minutes at least, whilst you've just been serving the first people you see when you close the till. Surely, if you haven't a clue who's coming and going from the bar, which you obviously haven't, you need to ask "who's next?" every time you are available to take an order? Isn't that the way it's supposed to be done - so  that people who wait patiently don't then get exasperated and infuriated? Haven't you ever been trained to do that? Or do you just expect customers to shout at you when you ignore them and serve people out of turn? Did you even see me standing here? Have I been invisible?" I know old people are supposed to be invisible, but it can get very wearing.

The pub filled up with wet-looking holidaymakers and their offspring. Sitting in front of me and behind me were families who had no concept of asking their kids not to shout/scream/run about and generally make life annoying for other people. To the left of me was a guy with a glass of beer who muttered incessantly like someone who has no idea what he's thinking unless he can hear himself speaking. After a while he said something about "bloody kids", got up, and left. Meanwhile, to the right of me, the rain was pouring on to the pavements and running down the windows.

Thinking about it today, I suppose I feel fairly annoyed that I didn't get a chance to say goodbye to either of my parents - since both of them died suddenly and unexpectedly. There was no chance to mentally and emotionally prepare for life without them. There was no sign that I ought to increase the frequency of my visits to them in order to make the most of them before they signed off. Dad seemed like the same, quiet, unassuming guy he always was, and at 67 he hardly looked decrepit or like he was about to keel over. He still made things in his 'workshop', still drove his car, still went shopping with mum.

After turning 80 mum no longer went out shopping, and didn't care to go out at all unless she was really pressurised to do so. Had she gone out for that evening meal with her two grandsons and their partners when they asked her, then maybe they wouldn't have returned to find her dying. Maybe she'd have had a seizure whilst she was out with them, and maybe she'd have been rushed to hospital, and been taken care of, and recovered. Maybe.

Not that she really cared for life any more. Not that she enjoyed being alive any more.

What's to like about being housebound, lonely, bored, arthritic and dependent on carers for pills, food, cleaning and washing?

Which is why we all need to celebrate life and good health - for as long as we can, and as often as we can.

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