Relative values

Visiting relatives and friends with dementia is not for the fainthearted. Some cope by not visiting at all or come and pretend all is well, trying to drag their loved ones back into the normal world. So husband or wife says something odd and they contradict. W was asking his wife for some money for when he leaves and she says that he can’t leave and if he gets better, he can jolly well come home. She’s in denial about his mental and physical state. She tells him to get up and when he struggles, whacks him with her umbrella.

C’s husband comes every day, but leaves before meals when she refuses to eat. She whacked me with a cushion today twice, but not at all her fault.

D holds my hand and kisses it repeatedly. When her brother arrives, she clings to him and they spend the afternoon clutching each other. He sits there quietly weeping.

L comes and visits her mum sporadically,  trying to chivvy her back into her old self. It doesn’t work of course, just causes them both more distress.

Mum smiles broadly at me all day and tells me she feels the world is safe when I’m here. When I ask her how come, she shrugs her shoulders in the way only a French woman can and says, ‘it’s magic.’


Custard apple

You never forget your first custard apple. It’s such a contradiction in terms, a fruit that looks like a cross between a squished apple and a green mango. Open it up and it has black seeds, but the yellowish green flesh tastes exactly like stewed apple and custard. The first mouthful is a surprise and you keep tasting, not quite believing.

I saw some at the greengrocer this morning on my way to visit Mum and thought of our holiday in Madeira when we gorged on them,  after visiting the Christmas market in Funchal which was such a riot of colour that it hurt our eyes.

A pear on the road in front of me made me look up, beside the supermarket car park was a valiant pear tree. None of them reachable unfortunately.

Fruit hits the memory like snatches of song. Melons, peaches and nectarines from my French  childhood summers that were so perfectly ripe that we used to eat them in silent appreciation, quite something for our very chatty family.

Mum still loves fruit, I imagine it takes her back too. New arrival B sits next to us at supper. He seems clearheaded and makes normal conversation. Then he tries to eat his pizza with a spoon and my heart lurches.  I point him towards his knife and fork and he says, ” it’s all a learning curve.”

Ain’t that the truth B.

A good customer

Today I went to the pharmacy to get a new rubber end for my stick, the official name is a ferule. I’d bought one elsewhere a couple of weeks ago, but it wasn’t quite the right size and had already worn through to the metal, making walking dangerous.

The pharmacist found the right one and fitted it for me. He refused payment and generously said,”You’re a good customer.”

It’s only since I’ve been ill that this is now my designated pharmacy, to make getting my numerous prescriptions from the Gp as smooth as possible. So I never run out of essential medicines that are keeping me alive. Two years ago I rarely set foot in any pharmacy and had never heard the term ‘designated pharmacy’.

I was very touched by the pharmacist’s generosity. But Lord, what I wouldn’t give not to be a good customer.

Antonio Carluccio

I once went mushroom hunting with Antonio Carluccio on Wimbledon Common. It was early in the morning and we came well equipped; me with camping gas and frying pan, him with stick, sharp knife, garlic and a small bottle of olive oil.

It was an absolute delight of discovery, his enthusiasm was overwhelming and infectious. Nobody about except a couple of dog walkers.At first the mushrooms were difficult to spot, but under his brilliant teaching, I eventually got my eye in. We gathered enough for a panful, eating a glorious picnic. He’d even got a lump of bread in his pocket to soak up the juices.

As we walked back to the car park, with me marvelling at our morning’s feast, we were stopped by a warden who accused us of lighting a fire on the Common. One of the dogwalkers had reported us. Antonio deployed all his charm and we got off with a warning.

As we got into the car, Antonio giggled and said, “Only in England.”

A lovely, generous, life-enhancing man. Ciao Antonio.