Working again

A weekend working in Paris. Wonderful to be back in a city I lived in very happily for five years. Getting a cab to the studios, we pass the end of my old road and delightful memories come flooding back. Running to and from work (did I really do that!) through the oldest quartiers, shops opening on the way and closing on the way home. Walking along the river, catching sight of favourite views.
It’s like running into an old lover years later, when all that remains are the good memories and none of the arguments. You hug and are just pleased to see one another and a little wistful. The past is still there, but it’s not the same as the present.
Two long days of work is fine, I can manage, but know I’ll need a few days to recover. But oh it’s worth it to feel that old adrenalin running through the veins, discovering that I haven’t forgotten my trade and that I’m really rather good at this.
One of the few good things about having a stick is that it whizzes you through the queues. So I come off Eurostar to find a queue of about a hundred people waiting for a cab. A gendarme armed to the the teeth and straight out of central hunk casting, welcomes me to Paris and ushers me to the head of the queue, chatting aimiably.
Paris is full of heavily armed guards and there is a palpable feeling of anxiety, unlike London, where we are just as vulnerable. Something to be said for English phlegm ( as the French call it), not so much stiff upper lip as a stubborn refusal to live life differently.  Without the spitting.
As we go through security on the way back, another gendarme asks me if I can walk without my stick. I want to go full Simpson and say ‘duh’ but know better. I lean against the security. barrier while they test my stick. Then set off the alarms when I walk through with stick. Any metal bits or plates? I think, but no. He produces a magic searching wand which beeps when it gets anywhere near my ankles. He hums, I ha in a noncommital sort of way. I sense we are approaching removal of shoes time, not easy without a chair, or being unable to stand on one leg.  He prods both my ankles but finds no metal. He hums again, I lean heavily on my stick and he smiles and lets me through.
See you next year, says the French course leader. I do a momentary double take and realise she doesn’t know I’m ill. Next year is a long way off, I deal in quarterly bites between tests. But who knows? There’s a bitter sweet wistfulness as I look for Montmartre as we pull out of the station. It’s still there and so am I.

On the road again

Off to Paris for a few days for work and it’s remarkable how quickly the old habits return. I travelled all the time for work in the past and I click back into the efficient list of hotel, passport, money, connections, research for lectures etc.

The difference now is that I have to allow myself a lot more time than I used to and no more braving the metro and its long tunnels and endless steps. Taxis for me these days, which means I get to see the city I lived in so happily as I whizz through town. Plus the delight of speaking French all weekend.

I miss that world of work terribly so it’s heartening to dip my toes back in the water, especially doing something I’m really good at.

To Tesco for some supplies, the fridges aren’t working and there are notices everywhere apologising. Each one stuffed to the gills with spelling mistakes and a liberal sprinkling of inappropriate apostrophes. Where’s my red pen when I need it?

Zut alors!

Coughing and spluttering

When you’re seriously ill, it seems adding insult to injury to get the normal, everyday maladies. I’ve been laid low with a combo of hay fever and chest infection, coughing like a character out of Dickens. Today I ventured out to get a paper for the first time in several days and heard a weird, regular banging sound, like an old rusty boiler. I looked around but couldn’t tell where the noise was coming from, then realised it was my breathing.

Rest is the only solution, which is fine in the early days of high temperature (although I’m always on red alert these days for something more serious) but gets boring after a few days. I wrestled with the digital thermometer yesterday (just what you need when feeling really unwell) only to find I was completely normal.

My dear old immune system is not what it was, but is doing its best. I’m doing my best to feed it with bananas, cereals and scrambled egg on toast, with plenty of water. Tonight I might even venture a radish.

Not many of those in Dickens.

What a week

It’s been quite a week. Caught up with a former work colleague last Friday. Her husband sadly died and I had no idea as I’m no longer on the work email. Discovered the news by chance, so really wanted to see her. She was always a wonderful colleague, cared deeply for the students and we taught a module together which was great fun. We’ve both been through the mill in the last couple of years and as soon as we meet, it’s straight into deep waters, no time or patience for small talk. We have lunch near the sea and she fills me in on the gossip, we talk about our mutual situations. I tell her that I’m sorry to have missed her husband’s funeral, she tells me she didn’t text me as she thought I’d probably be dead by now. Cue much hilarity.

Scans followed by visit to the specialist. It’s an odd feeling in the days leading up to the appointment with the consultant. It’s either goodish news or very bad news, difficult to hold both possibilities in one’s head at the same time.  I’m not one for crossing bridges before I come to them, but hard not to play with the what ifs scenarios. It turns out all is well, back for another check-up in three months.

Musical interlude

Second afternoon of music after lunch. Mum and I avoid G’s table, he tends to be rather too prolific about his sexual conquests, which makes awkward conversation. We sit with H and P who both need feeding. P continually asks for her purse and is reassured that I have it safe, for about ten seconds. I help with her feeding and drinking. Mum tucks into her fish and chips with gusto.

The singer is dressed like a medieval fairy, straight out of an illustration. She has lots of songsheets and rifles through them, Mum whispers that she’s a bit disorganised. The teacher never leaves you. It turns out she sings like an angel and has brought all sorts of instruments including a guitar, zither, several tambourines, maraccas and fifteen different drums. We sing and play and if you haven’t heard thirty people with dementia drumming their hearts out, you haven’t lived. Joyous orchestral manoevres in the penumbra.

Dancing with dementia

There’s nothing quite like being in a room with thirty people, all at different stages of dementia, singing along and doing the actions to YMCA. I’m back with Mum for a few days and this afternoon was another singing one.

We know that music reaches people who are lost in the mists of dementia, but to see it in action is extraordinary. Many are classics for this generation, like Vera Lynn or Gracie Fields. But Elvis gets them going too. And YMCA is the hit of the aftenoon, we’re all singing and acting out the chorus, the more mobile stand up and dance. Pure joy and hilarity.

A man dances with his wife, they jive, waltz and twist expertly, I assume they’re visiting a parent. But later the man comes up and asks me how to get home, he’s a resident. But for an hour this afternoon, he was a dancer again, sashaying round the room with his wife.