Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Tuesday, 7 October 2014
The night before last, H.I. and me took an old friend - a 90+ year old friend - out for dinner at a half-decent restaurant, partly because we wanted to, and partly to repay an act of kindness she had shown a few months before.
She had been having problems communicating with the administrators of her sheltered housing accommodation, and had been left without heating for most of last winter, which - thankfully - was an extremely mild one.
I shouted at a few people down a phone, and the problem was eventually sorted out. M was so grateful that she handed us £100, though she can ill afford this sort of gesture. She refused to take it back, so we decided to spend it on her.
Because of some unspeakable behaviour by her despicable husband, none of her many children have spoken to her for many years, and have left her to grow old and die without the support that any ordinary family would give to a parent, and M thinks that this was the final act of her ex - turning her own children against her to deflect attention away from his foul acts. The less said about this, the better now, as I don't think the situation will ever be remedied.
M was one of those people who really enjoyed herself during the war, when she was stationed in the Cotswolds to keep a weather-eye out for Bomber Command by collating all the reports from the other stations across the West Country which were used to decide on the suitability of any particular night for raids. She is also one of those women who - when the war ended - found herself back in 'housewife' status after the surviving men came home to take their rightful places back in civilian life, which obviously meant all the best or most responsible jobs.
She ordered onion soup to start, and when the little bowl arrived, it had a coating of cheese on the top which had melted completely in the heat. Her arthritic hands would not allow her to twirl the cheese around a fork as you would spaghetti, so she continued with a spoon, as if it were a liquid.
I was transfixed by the sight of a multitude of yellow strands reaching the two feet or so between her mouth and the bowl and - not having ordered a starter myself - I had plenty of time to watch, as the strands stayed there for the whole time it took to eat the cheese layer and get at the actual soup.
After she had got through the cheese, I looked up at H.I. and we exchanged glances - hers having a look of profound empathy and compassion, and mine more like the sort of expression you might pull having just watched the scene in the movie when the Alien finally gets its jaws on one of the crew-members.
I know that H.I. had just washed her hair, and I know that she was wearing a very pretty and glittery Armani jacket which sparkled in the soft candlelight, but somehow she looked even more glamorous than ever.
It took me a while to realise that staring at M and the onion soup for an unbroken five minutes had produced a similar effect as staring at a patch of red colour for the same period of time, then looking at a white wall to see the same shape in complimentary green.
This did not detract from my appreciation of the charm of both of them, though. We had a very nice evening.