Mary was walking down the High Street of a little town a few miles from Knittingham. Here stood tall trees, which have been hacked into stumps by the local council,They are vehemently opposed to anything that might change the town into an upmarket suburb of Knittingham. They wante it to be ‘modern’, like a small version of Manhattan or Paris, maybe, or even London. but there was not enough room to build a skyscraper or a Gherkin, like the one that Ken Livingstone had erected in London after he went to Soho
Mary was wearing a long, blue, unlined, woollen coat from Marks and Spencer, over a dark grey and green sweater dress, with matching leather boots . iIn her hand, she carried a large green handbag, which contained her Kindle Paperwhite and her purse
Suddenly she had a loud cry: “Mary, Mary!”.
She looked round and there was an old friend whom she knew before the advent of smartphones and computers and, therefore, not being very well organised, she had lost the address of this dear lady, Margaret.
“Shall we go and have a cup of coffee in that Turkish restaurant?”, Margaret inquired politely.I have my cat in the car and I’ll get him a scone.The people are very friendly
“What a brilliant idea!”, Mary cried, “I have come out just to have a change of scene and Annie, my friend in in Knittingham, has got measles I have a cat myself
“I do hope you’ve had measles already”, said Margaret.
Yes, I have”, Mary lied.
“Well, tell me your latest news. How is your rheumatoid arthritis? Have they given you any of these new drugs, which suppress your immune system to stop it from attacking your own body?”
“No, they haven’t given me any yet”, Margaret replied cheerfullyA bit late now
“I believe that, nowadays, they give them to people right at the beginning of the illness tbut, in my day, they did not give them to you until it was fully developed , unfortunately, I have become somewhat disabled.”
“Well, how do you manage living on your own?”Do you have a lover who might help you?
“No lover as yet but I have various devices that I can use”, Margaret told her with a twinkle in her eye, giving Mary the impression that Margaret was the owner of a gigantic array of vibrators and other similar implements trying them out for some Health Magazine for the handicapped
Mary was thinking that they were probably better than codeine for taking your mind off your pains and aches which, in the case of arthritis can be excruciating, making it impossible in many cases for a woman to have sex though she had imagined marrying her cat Emile as he had expressive eyes and did not desire her body
She did not tell Margaret what she was thinking but said:
“I know that you can get a stand for your electric kettle, so that you can pour the water out of it without lifting the kettle up from the work surface., and you can also get vacuum cleaners that are self-propelled.”
As Mary had a great many books, she was unlikely to buy one of these vacuum cleaners, because they would knock over all her carefully choosing piles of scholarly works and art books, not to mention the tubs full of pens and pencils, and coloured pastel chalks.
When they went into the cafe, the waitress was very polite and soon they were drinking their coffee at a little table in the window, from where they could see the local people passing by.Many were wearing badges asking for an end to the Civil War in Britain
“You’ll never guess what happened to me”, Margaret said
, “I was in the bookshop, where they have a folding chair for me to sit ; they know I can’t stand up for a long time without suffering pain. I’d just sat down when this young woman came up to me and said:”
“You can’t sit there and read: you have to go upstairs and sit in and armchair.”
“Well, if you show me the lift, I will be very happy to go upstairs ” , I said humorously
.Or maybe you can carry me up as you are very heavy and strong
“We don’t have a lift”, t he woman cried loudly, “We only have one for us to take books upstairs and we do not allow customers to use it, because it is not insured.”
=Would you mind if I just sat here for 5 minutes?”
“No!, you cannot sit there for 5 minutes”
“ Well, I was unable to get up, straight away”, said Margaret “but, as soon as I could, I put the expensive book, which Ihad been going to buy, back onto the rack of new non-fiction and saved £20 there and then
” “That’s not very nice”, continued Mary. i“It might even be illegal to tell a disabled person to go up some stairs, when there is no lift or escalator.”
“Let’s talk about something else. I like that coat: it’s a lovely shade of Prussian blue
“Never say the word Prussian to me”, said Mary “it reminds me of the war.”
“Well”, said Margaret “if our luck continues on its present track and also the Middle East, there will be almost no country that we can talk about it without getting distressed by the name.”
It’s a real indictment of humankind.Civilisation is inextricably linked to War.Let#s put that thought aside and talk about clothes instead
“I like this coat however we name the olour”, said Mary “because it is made of wool and the sleeves are lined but the body is not lined, which means that is suitable for this early spring weather and also quite llight to wear always an advantage for the older lady. iIt also covers up whatever else I am wearing underneath because it is quite long.”
“What on earth are you wearing underneath?”tMargaret asked humorously
“For all you know I might have nothing underneath it”, said Mary “exccept a pair of silk knickers and a silk vest.”
But I have a dress on over my silk and wool underwear,I am using an deodorant called
Unarmed and dangerous
“ I have changed a lot since my husband died and I do all sorts of peculiar things. For example, I believed in times it will soon be legal to marry an animal and I would like to marrylEmile, so that he can sleep in bed with me rather than on top of the bed.”
“But he might scratch you accidentallyy! “, cried Margaret.And can he kiss you?
“Oh, there’s always a fly in the ointment”, Mary said.
“Well don’t marry the fly”, her friend responded.”I don’t think that Father Brown would like that, even if it could speak and say ‘I do’; it would definitely not want to sleep in bed with you. it will be flying around your bedroom, buzzing all night, and I don’t think it’ll be the only. one”
“I have to marry a spider then”, said Mary, “Maybe two spiders”
They both laughed uproariously, to the amazement of all the other people in a cafe
“It’s good to see old ladies laughing isn’t it?”
It certainly is.”
“So will you be going back to that book shop?”
“Well, I did try to go back but, as I approached the door, my mouth went very dry and I realised I was getting that ‘fight or flight’ reaction, even though I didn’t feel so anxious but something inside me was worried that history was about to repeat itself and I ’d be the object of scorn and derision.”
“Yes, it’s horrible to feel humiliated isn’t it”, said Mary.
“I was reading an article in the Guardian, which said that some scientists of the most social sorts have discovered that even the nicest people unconsciously see disabled people as less than human.”.
“Oh my god! that is very frightening because I am getting older and I might get disabled and then I will suffer like you do.”
“Well, you have to be tolerant of suffering”
But how tolerant should one be? I don’t want to have back some of those politically correct people who go around like Methodist -preachers, attacking people who are agnostic or who want unisex toilets
“Are there any heterosexual toilets?”
“I’ve never seen any but you never know.”
After drinking their coffees, they walked into Marks and Spencer’s to look at the new spring clothing
That looks like a satin tracksuit!”, Mary called politely
“I believe that the short trousers are coming back into fashion. tThey are a big problem because itthey puts all the focus on your ankles, so you cannot wear those dirty old socks that you can wear at home or with long trousers. I think they are a plot to make us buy ankle boots.”
Everything’s a plot now, isn’t it.
“Don’t say that to the doctor or she will think you are getting paranoia.”
“Getting paranoia? I’ve been paranoid all my life.”“How sad!”
We’ll, nowadays you need a bit of paranoia, especially if you come from Europe and believe that you can work in Britain and contribute to the economy, while enjoying all the lavish pleasures of London city and nightlife.”
“The so-called foreigners are much more courteous than English people. iIn fact I a’m ashamed to be English now and I pretend that I came from Ireland instead.”
You look more like a Valkyrie.”
“Don’t say that! I hate the composer Wagner.”
“I do believe the word existed before he wrote the music but I understand how you feel. It’s not your fault that you’ve got blonde hair and blue eyes and a white skin.”
“My hair isn’t really blonde any more. I think it’s more silvery, like Helen Mirren.”
“Does it really matter what her hair looks like now?”
”“Well, we have to amuse ourselves somehow and, since we no longer have husbands, wel ’re deprived of much pleasure and love, and we have to put out the wheelie bins ourselves, which I think is really awful.”
Well, it’s a sort of exercise, isn’t it?”
“If that’s all I got, I’d be paralysed by now!”
“So, what else do you do?”
“I do some vacuuming, now and then, I move books out of the bookcase and carry them into the other room and, you won’t believe this, last week I accidentally put a bag of nearly new clothes into the ‘dirty’ wheelie bin and found I still had the rubbish in the hall.! Unfortunately, the bins had been emptied and there was nothing I could do to get them back.Mind you, I did feel a certain relief but as the hall was no longer full of black bin liners and other stuff like that..
Not to mention all those cables, cords, and chargers that we have nowadays. I think the computer was invented purely to give us more things to buy, to keep the economy going. Nobody really wanted to have computers but they realised that, once you got one, you would want to connect it to your camera, or your television, or the printer, and so it would mean a big market for those cables and cords.
But it gives me something to do, while the Government argue about Brexit.”
It’s not just the Government who are arguing. My gardener nearly hit me when I said I wanted to remain in Europe. I am forbidden to mention Brexit anywhere near him.”
“I have noticed that it doesn’t matter what the evidence is,; even the most intelligent people will not change their minds, so it must be coming from a deeper level.”
“It sounds as though people are trying to understand why Hitler wanted to exterminate the Jews and they have come up with all sorts of theories about his childhood. I thought it might be related to sexual fantasy but the latest idea is that it is beyond explanation in any human terms; it is evil beyond our ability to explain. It is not true that, if Hitler did not exist, someone else would have behaved the same way. He could have lost his mind when he was defeated by Russia at Stalingrad but, if you lost your mind, would you go and exterminate six million Jews and gays or 6 million other people?
The frightening thing is that it could so easily become the way that Muslims are treated. People say to me: “I don’t want to think about politics, it’s upsetting me”,
but isn’t that what the German said in the 1930s? If we don’t bother about it, we may find ourselves in a trap that we can’t escape from.
It is painful to think about these things, when we would rather think about the daffodils and the magnolia flowers, but who will protect us or guard us, when we go further down this lunacy track.”
“Yes, I see what you mean. iIt’s like thinking that know, if people are depressed, sad, worried, it’s just thought to be very, very bad and they have been put on tablets and getting CBT when, in fact, it may be appropriate to feel that way, as long as one can channel it into some useful activity.”
i“It can give you energy… I believe there’s a big march in London against racism and fascism. I don’t know wherether the big marches have any effect. dDo you remember the one against the Iraq War? One of the biggest matrches ever seen in London and yet it made absolutely no difference to Tony Blair.”
“Anyway, just give me your news before we depart.”
“I shall tell you what; I’ll give you my email address and then we can communicate about our children or our other activities: grand-children etc. Maybe we can meet more frequently now, as we don’t have to rush home to make the dinner.”
The two women hugged each other before they separated and then Mary went back to the High Street. although she couldn’t remember now what she was going to buy.It might have been an electric tin opener, or a bottle of wine, or a throw from Robert Dyas to hide under, if anybody looked through the window.
Does it matter what she was going to buy? s She just wanted to get some fresh air, and meeting old friends always a good things, especially for aged people
I’m sure Emile would agree, if Mary brought him with her in her handbag, but he was putting on weight and is a little bit too heavy to carry. It would be wonderful if Emile were very big, then Mary could ride on his back as if he were a donkey
Why not buy a real donkey?
“Oh no! cry all of us .”