Beetroot

I’ve told you of his habit of quizzing me on birthdays over breakfast, haven’t I? He reads the names from The Times and I have to guess their ages. It’s mostly celebrities and authors, some politicians and some sportsmen, though with the latter he usually says, you may not know him or her. When did they play? I ask, then I can give a rough guess based on how old I was at time. How about some beetroot? he said this morning. Beetroot? he said to himself, before I had a chance to question him. Beetroot? he said again, I meant birthdays. Sometimes I get them spot on. But I was way out with Olivia de Havilland. Over a hundred I think he said. And I was right out with Carl Lewis. I like it. He is usually impressed, and I bask in it. A little thing. A cosy thing.

I’ve cleaned the house before it got too hot. Three hours from 6.30 to 9.30 am. And we went shopping first. And I did some of the windows. I do find cleaning windows a challenge. It’s so unsatisfactory. I don’t have the skill to make them mark free and in the sun the blemishes stand out a mile. I remember doing the windows as an au pair for the first time. The family had windows everywhere, from floor to ceiling. I was given vinegar and newspaper to clean them with. It was messy and frustrating. And then she’d come home and point out the marks and I’d have to do them all over again. I didn’t mind. I understood and shared her wish for perfection. It isn’t so now. She has relaxed into a more smeary kind of living. She is old now, though still energetic, and perhaps doesn’t see or care as she did. Other things have taken over. He hasn’t long, she tells me on the phone. I want to go and see them. It is so far away, and so expensive. But it is in my heart to do so and I will make it happen. By hook or by crook. What does that mean?

Small gangs of boys haunted the town this morning. Feral lads on the prowl. My back stiffens. Two on the Prom, stopping every two minutes to check their phones. Another group running along South Road. Another three in the Castle Playground. The Perygyl was mine though.

Why are you so bad-tempered? he asked last night. He lost his temper with me. It is rare. But I was scratchy. I had been all day. I couldn’t articulate it. Then it came, the tears and then the laughing. All that bile, all that disappointment. That’s why your tummy was out, yesterday, he said. Yes. It was. I hadn’t realised it. What a nightmare, he said, when I told him of the day. The stress of being amongst strangers, the discordance of us all, the flies, the ridiculous expressive dancing, the blue shorts, the pants showing under skirts. I made him laugh. It was better. He understood and so did I.

I dreamt that Jennifer in The Archers committed suicide and I was the one who broke the news to Brian. They hadn’t been told. How did I know? Had I seen the script? I felt sorry for them. They would probably be written out of the show. I could see the fear across Brian’s face – he didn’t care about Jennifer. What a bizarre thing to dream about, he said, when I told him. Do you think so? I said.

I love the summer sounds. I can hear rooks, cawing and a peeping sound coming from the Quad down below. Is it someone’s fire alarm in need of a new battery? Generators, lawn mowers, and children’s laughter. The noise collects and hangs in the air like a sound cloud. It makes me happy. I like to be around people. At a distance but part of it. I do care deeply. Really.

He was sitting on a corner of Llanbadarn Road. He recognised him by the crutches. He was in the shade. That’s the lad I spoke to the other day, he said. I remembered, he’d told me he’d wanted to see if there was work in the fishing tackle shop. What can we do? I asked. Shall we ask him in for dinner? No, he said, you don’t know what you are letting yourself in for. I know. I know. Then he told me of the homeless man who killed a mother and daughter. I want to open up. I want to help but the intimacy of it is always a stopper. Always.

Give me the grace to do what I can. x