Someone else’s clothes

I asked her about her Dad. She told me the same story she’d told him last week, the one about him telling her that her grandfather was upstairs and she’d better pull her fucking finger out. He’s in hospital now, the home couldn’t keep him as he needs three people to get to him dressed. He’s waiting. Bed-blocking, she said. Waiting till someone in the home in Welshpool dies. There’s two in the list ahead of him, she said. The stories make her laugh. She needs to tell them. They were so understaffed in the home, she said, that they had to put him in other people’s clothes. They didn’t have time to sort his own out. I do understand, she said, but he was such a fastidious man, hardly ever wore casual clothes. Polo jumpers, but that was about all. Engelbert Humperdinck on the radio talking about his wife’s Alzheimer’s. You think stars are exempt from such tragedy, such falling apart. I ask how her mother is taking it. She’s grieving, she said. She’s lost him. He has no stimulus in the hospital, she continued, no telly, no radio, nothing. He just stares into space. And he’s lost his spacial awareness, she said. He has one of those feeder cups and he keeps missing his mouth. He used to be a business man, a noise about town. It’s come to this. As it did with him, and with him. Clever men, astute men, men of power and influence, reduced to baby hood. She described a kind of sensory plaything that he’s been given, a ‘twiddle-muff’, I think she called it. He plays with it all day long, he loves to fiddle with the buttons. It is so unbelievably sad.

Radio 4 Extra seem to have things on a loop so that some of the plays and fiction pieces are now being repeated. Geoffrey Household’s Rogue Male is on again. I remember listening to it in our last flat, working at the kitchen table as I had to do then. I love the writing. It is sparse, cool, cold even. But it is more the description of his survival. He keeps going, relying utterly on his own resources. So little detail. No name, no real sense of place, just the ditches he hides in. Calmly practical. A fantasy of course, unless you are Bear Grylls, though I suppose even he must have an Achilles’ heel. Mustn’t he? I only know him by reputation, so I cannot say.

Tuesday night and Radio 3 play a Choral Evensong live from some church or other. It is sublime. I think of Bath Abbey and feel a pang. It calms me. Church music, and the services calm me, though this last one was a Catholic one so it felt unfamiliar. I remember Mrs Eglin babysitting us and singing to all the hymns on Songs of Praise. She knew them all. She’d take her teeth out sometimes. We went to her house once to see her budgie. She had a little dog then too, a tiny one, long before it became fashionable to have a lap dog under your arm. It snapped and yapped.

A cold still morning. A group of kids coming at me out of nowhere along the Prom. A raggle-taggle group. One was playing at being a plane, his friend was laughing at him. Another was in their pyjamas. They had a dog. A foxy looking dog.

I have a yearning for an advent calendar. I know it’s a silly thing. I used to love them. The traditional ones, not the ones with gifts and chocolate. It was just the process of opening the windows. One each day. Shall I get one?

Time to go and call her. The sky is heavy with white-grey cloud. It’s getting cold out there, he says, as he comes in after coffee, his newspapers in a bag in his hand. Cleaning done. All’s well with the world. For now. For now.

And the cross stitch issue. I meant to talk about it. What to say? I want to do it. Something compels me. Is that enough? It’s feels like a going back to something. Repeating them. Doing the Sunflowers over and over again. Is that a kind of practice? It is if I want it to be. Isn’t it? I just need to follow the path where it is leading me. Something like Rilke said. Succumb. Don’t fight. Let it be. Let it be.