Went to visit the mater today. She and I have been on a roll recently, something I put down to her having gone just a tiny bit fuzzy around the edges – not that she’s letting up on the aerobics/pilates regime or anything, and she isn’t losing the plot so that anyone would actually notice. But she has definitely been showing signs of enjoying my company and we’ve had a couple of conversations where she has revealed things I hadn’t known, such as the fact that as a young child in Germany, before she was shipped over here on Kindertransport, she used to make up poetry. We were tootling along in the car after apple strudel in a local tea room when she began spouting some of it and you could have knocked me down with a feather because it was quite lovely. I have asked her to write it down for me. There is so much darkness and damage in our history, I would like to gather a few of the other elements to set alongside: there was a boy she fell in love with at school. She wrote him a love letter. Yes, but even this sweetness comes with its opposite because her teacher found the love letter in her desk (it was a secret) and read it out to the class, pointing out the spelling mistakes. My mother was pleased when the Nazis (but what did she know?) removed the teacher from the school for not being rigorous enough about national socialist indoctrination.
I looked in at her house today to say hello to an old family friend who was having lunch there. He has known me since I was born and is, I suppose, the nearest I have to anyone who feels remotely like father since mine died. In contrast to the greeting I usually receive from mother’s partner, who doesn’t suffer her offspring gladly or (given the choice) at all, old family friend rose shakily to his unsteady feet with a full sun-in-the-eyes smile and embraced me. While he enjoyed the rest of his roast bird followed by a cheese course with quince jelly, he asked me about my children, how they were and what they were doing. Then he looked up from the piece of stilton he had just speared with his knife, adjusted his spectacles and said, and what about you? What are you doing? He is a doctor, one of those it doesn’t pay to discuss M.E. with. If I were a patient of his he would be hell-bent on discovering what was really wrong with me. I can’t actually remember how I managed to cobble some kind of answer together. The mater seems to think I’m still teaching, even though I told her about my “sabbatical.” I could have said something about writing poems and stuff, but you know.
Actually, I am looking to cut down and do even less. This is, paradoxically, so that I can do more, or at least be more efficient with small amounts of energy. I’ll keep you informed obviously. Meanwhile, I’m singing: