‘….As You Wave Me Goodbye’

1948I don’t like being miserable. For a start, it peels at least 20 points off my IQ, and at my age, that’s too significant to ignore. Second, it makes creative thinking well nigh impossible. It closes up the essential gaps between those bubbling, spontaneous irregularities that sit in my unconscious, and the conveyor belt of conscious delivery. Third, it makes my face look like a smacked arse, and frankly, I prefer it less baggy and more crinkled, when the crinkles are herded into place by an irrepressible urge to giggle.

But today I am royally stuffed. My father died last week. One of my cats died this morning. His brother is on the blink (same age, different disease), and will have to be despatched soon. I have toothache. Does it get much better?

There are people who need me to be detached and sensible. The inland revenue who need to know my dad should no longer be considered for tax purposes; the pensions agency who have to stop paying him, and start paying a bit extra to my mother; and the bank who need to know that he isn’t a partner in the joint account any more. That the joint account will not be administered by my mother, whose dementia has left her in an equilibrium of detachment about the whole process, is a further complicating factor, and there is more to do in that regard.

The organisation I work for – Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, a part of the National Health Service – has been more than tolerant. I’d like to think it is a combination of empathy and recognition of the commitment most NHS employees show, often working several hours a week unpaid to the benefit of patients. But it probably isn’t. It is more likely a reflection of the profound understanding of how far events of this kind can throw people who, otherwise, seem to sail through adversity, untouched. Most of them will not have experienced this, which makes their understanding all the more remarkable. I did not ‘understand’ it two years ago when one of my team lost his mother to major illness, without warning. I hope I was as undemanding at the time he needed his head and heart needed to be elsewhere.

But there are joys. The bringing-together of old friends and family members who had been ‘once removed’ and are now less so. The wonderful accommodation of the care home whose owner seems to know everyone who lives there, and which provided hospice standard care without even having registration for nursing. The re-discovery of the big band music that was the heart beat to my parents’ romance in the 1940s. These elements, fundamental and at the core of what matters to all of us, will be the centre piece of our goodbyes, when we make them later in October. Music, love, friendship, care – all real and not manufactured or legislated for. Not scripted or rehearsed. Not for show, but for real. We will plant a tree and wrap it in twinkling lights while we sing along with Vera Lynn to ‘I’ll Be Seeing You‘, and a few of us shuffle out a boogie to Ken Macintosh’s Big Band. Maybe more than the lights on the tree will be twinkling as we leave at the end of that day.

People who deserve thanks: Burlington Care, Marie Curie Nurses, the medical and nursing team and social workers in Driffield.

car in street 1948

You wait ages …

The Oxford Book of English Short Stories

Image by dalcrose via Flickr


… and three come along at once. Well, five, if you count ‘Lovely Girls‘ and ‘No Arrests‘. In the last few days, Full of Crow have taken ‘Arthur’s Stone’ and expect to publish it in October; Read Short Fiction took ‘Baby Bird’ to put up in the Spring; and Zouche Magazine & Miscellany have picked up my essay, ‘A Tale of Two Sixties’ and scheduled it for some time in the next 5-6 weeks. All a little bit wonderful.

I Don’t Like Mondays

Parking Lot

Image by chunter01 via Flickr

I Don’t Like Mondays

I was reminded of this by Sabrina Ogden’s piece ‘Excuse me, have you seen my shirt?‘ in Pure Slush this week. What our minds get up to when we’re not fully a-hold of the reins!

I’d gone to work as usual but changed my route slightly with a view to using the outdoor parking area. So, tootling gently along and preparing to turn right at the appointed moment, I was mildly irritated to find that there was an obstruction accompanied by a degree of ill-disciplined vehicular negotiation (bad tempered spat) which conspired to prevent my egress onto the other lane. Never mind, it’s Monday morning, that’s likely it for today’s grot. I tootle on.

Missing that turn meant heading for the underground car park, a dismal affair at the best of times but, with the influx of new parties having permission to use it, it’s currently wearing an air of contained chaos alongside the obligatory grunge. My car and I plunge down into the murky depths. At the bottom, there’s a narrow-ish track with, to the right, some shops and to the left, a railway line. In fact the track is a lot like a station platform actually with all the random movements you’d associate with that environment. Vans juggling around bikes and bikes juggling around people. Everybody rushing. The buses come down here too to discharge passengers bound for the day care services above so wheelchairs and the occasional lurching individual unsteady on their pins but going like the clappers anyway appear, like those targets used by the military to see who’s inept enough to be the fall guy in a friendly fire fiasco. I pick my way along, keeping an eye on the drop to the left onto the rail line.

Suddenly, a van pulls in from the right and starts to move into my space. But I’m already in it – Oi! Any further and I’m taking the 8.45 to Victoria, assuming my unorthodox boarding strategy doesn’t impede its progress. I holler. Mr Idjit ignores me so I stop. This is one situation in which discretion is likely to be the better part of anything else going, unless you can get out and give the offending party an earful before he gets away. There’s a convenient jam ahead so I hurl myself up the road after the Twerp With No Ears. He has no ears when I berate him either but lets off a stream of invective a propos of whatever it is he thinks I want (or don’t want). As he hasn’t stopped to hear what it is perhaps this is some kind of routine for him. If it is, he’s going to win isn’t he? He’s more practised at downright ignorance with added volume than I am at righteous indignation on speakers from the pound shop.

I retreat and return to my car. Well, that was the plan anyway but there’s a flaw – no car. I trawl the locality, up and down, in and out of road-side establishments. Eventually I come across a man at a fruit and veg stall who knows what happened. It’s not good. It’s far from good. He’s been talking to a Detective Chief Inspector and now I get to talk to him too. I explain what happened and he tells me my car has been impounded so I’ll have to apply to get it back but it might be ‘a while’ because they’re investigating a murder that has major implications and my car is one of its casualties. ‘But I’m going on leave!’ I wail, with all the naïve optimism of a person whose winning lottery ticket just emerged from the heavy-wash-spin cycle as a bedraggled lump of papier machee. At this point, I notice also that the fire sprinklers have been turned on and that the new T shirt I just bought has become transparent in the time-honoured fashion of 1950s swimsuits. My car has been impounded in a murder case and won’t be released for decades, I am late for work and I am essentially naked in a public place.  To say this is not turning out well looks like an understatement of cosmic proportions so what to do?

Well, wake up of course. They say some dreams take only seconds of real time; that one flippin’ took a life time’s worth of anxiety metaphors and, when I’ve got them all pinned down and translated I am SO going to have words with the local chapter of Psychotherapists Anonymous! They’d better have insurance is all I can say.

©suzanne conboy-hill 2008.  First published on MySpace 12/08/08 writing as Bee Boomer

‘No Arrests in 2039’: you might prefer to walk home …

Out on Every Day Fiction today. Suddenly, I want to know where my council tax goes!

There is actually some science behind this piece of fiction. The Google research car has travelled thousands of miles without incident (see TED talk by Sebastian Thrun), and other vehicles have been driven remotely, including one by Gadget Show presenter Jason Bradbury in a race against an F1 driver. Both cars were live on the track. This set the scene, in my fevered mind at any rate, for a virtual cab company whose ‘drivers’ operate passenger pods from call centres. Then came the idea about what to do with drunken, offensive punters: round ’em up, wash ’em down, and – er …