Lark’s Diary XIII

The weather has been yucky, yucky, yucky. The dam opposite the house is all brown and going very fast so I wouldn’t like to fall in, even if I was in a little boat, although I don’t know how to drive any kind of boat. Honestly, I’ve been taught no survival skills. And round the apple tree there is an absolute lake! Where does all the water come from? And the silly thing is, Archie and I have to go out to hurry up so we just add more water, making it worse. Mum really doesn’t like me going in the house. And the other day, I went out in the garden and there was more of that white stuff coming down. I was in the nude and freeeeezing so when I came indoors, I went straight up to Mum’s bed and threw myself under the duvet. She wasn’t very pleased when she saw the muddy footprints on the sheets and she said “I wonder what Jan will make of these?” I expect Jan thought I had thrown myself into a warm bed as anyone else would have done but Mum was muttering things about hammeroyds, whatever they are, and saying it was good the marks weren’t on her side of the bed. Sometimes I really don’t understand her.

I seem to have grown out of lots of my clothes and sometimes they’re a squeeze to get over my tummy. Archie has been wearing his dinner jacket suit but he’s lost the bowtie so he looks like one of those men who go to Church and talk a lot.Yesterday we went out for the day to a new beach but Mum wasn’t happy, even though she had something nice to eat at lunchtime because she saved some for me which was a delicious piece of ham. Archie told me something bad had happened 4 years ago  which is why she is often poorly now and that it makes her very sad every year, even though she doesn’t want to be.  I told him she needs to run about a bit more and I’d even let her borrow my squeaky hedgehog which is one of my favourite toys but he said that wouldn’t help and she couldn’t do the running bit anyway. He told me the best thing to do is to stand next to her and lean on her or, if she’s sitting down, stand in front of her and put my head on her lap. That was I get stroked and she is made happy. Archie is a wise dog, I think, even though I don’t understand half of what he says and he STILL puts my head in his mouth when he feels like it!

A very nice lady came to the house the other day and she was very complimentary about me and stroked me a lot so I thought I would share one of my best treasures with her. I had to go all the way to the bottom of the garden for this one as it was very special and I ran into the house and put it in her lap, expecting cries of joy and praise to be heaped upon me. Instead, she screamed “Your dog has just given me a dead bird!” so I whipped it away quickly and put it in my crate. It was very pretty but I wasn’t going to let her have it if she was just going to scream like a human and not appreciate it. Mum and Mark came in quickly, too, and Mark took it away and I never saw it again which was very sad. Usually Freya catches the birds and then, when they don’t flap around any more, she lets me have them as one of my treasures. My treasures include Jumbones, real bones, birds (when they are not taken away by silly screaming women), socks and an orange that Mum was going to eat. I thought I would surprise her with it one day when she was feeling sad as a dog giving you an orange would cheer anyone up.

The old lady hasn’t come back to the house so I’m not sure what they have done with her. I hope they didn’t take her to Dr Bum as although she was always telling me off and getting me into trouble, she was quite good at stroking when she wasn’t thinking about it. And even if they have taken her to Dr Bum, they haven’t brought her back so she can’t be one of my treasures and be buried in the garden, although that would take an awful lot of digging. I don’t know why humans make life quite so complicated. I’m not sure I’ll ever understand them as well as Archie does.

Mr Mason’s mild-mannered rampage

Following the breakdown of Mr Mason’s coffee machine, I fear he has turned into something of a monster. Having slaved over our tax returns, he is despatched to the bank so he can pay a cheque in for me. I do hate it when people pay by cheque – is it designed to stop me cashing it? They have not factored in Mr Mason’s tenacious spirit but I digress (my specialty). He is also going to the bank to pay his tax bill. When he returns, he presents me with a stamped and authorised paying-in slip which is unusual as I use the diy drop system. Did you queue? I ask. “Yes” he says, with an impish look on his face. It’s quicker to use the drop box, I say. “Yes, but it was all kicking off in the bank so I waited to see what would happen.” Clearly Mr Mason needs to get out more, or less, depending on your perspective. He explains that the bank was crowded with Polish builders, all trying to pay their money in or tax bills, he wasn’t sure. There were only 3 staff in the bank and they were arguing amongst themselves having been shipped in from other banks when the local staff all went off sick. The builders were shouting about the amount of time they were having to wait and the staff were complaining about the local staff. One of the staff was just going on her lunch break, one was serving customers and the other said she couldn’t help because she was an Advisor and not trained to take money. She apparently sat in full view of everyone doing absolutely nothing which can’t made the situation easier. What an awful situation, I say. “Yes,” says Mr Mason. What did you do? I ask. “I egged them on!”he says. “I sympathised quietly with the builders about how terrible the staff were and then when I got to the desk I sympathised with the bank staff about how awful the builders were.” I guess this is what happens when your coffee machine breaks down.

Tuesday finds me on a train to Leeds for a meeting at the Thackray Medical Museum but the train isn’t going anywhere fast. Apparently a car has hit a railway bridge (I initially typed ‘cat’ which would make the story so much better) near St Neots and this means trains from London to Leeds and beyond are delayed and cancelled. A woman nearby appears to be having a restrained and quite polite nervous breakdown. She makes phone call after phone call telling various people she is sick of someone’s behaviour and is going to put a stop to it. I gather she is in the tv business and that they have someone appearing on The One Show (known in our house as Celebrity Lawnmowers ever since Miss Mason, on watching the first ever show, swore this was a real segment of the show). She is called Clare (without the ‘i’) and the group of people she represents are all texting each other and causing lots of upset and, of course, she is sick of it. From her conversation, I put 2 and 2 together and deduce she is involved with the programme called Big Ballet where heavier people are allowed to dance ballet under the tutelage of Wayne Sleep. Now I want to know the names of the dancers to see who the source of all the rumpus is. I wouldn’t want to cross Clare, though. As we are de-trained (which I believe is a real word) at Doncaster into freezing wind and rain I am able to get a glimpse of Clare and she looks quite fearsome as well as having poor dress sense. Or maybe she got dressed in the dark. Clearly Mr Mason’s mean streak is catching…

But before you cheer or boo us, karma is already catching up in the form of a leak in the roof, right above Master Mason’s bed. Cancer and its treatment, having robbed me of so many brain cells, meant that for a few days we put a bucket on Master Mason’s bed and lay at night fretting and listening to the insistent drip, drip, drip that has been the soundtrack to the awful weather. Only when we were getting a man in to look at and assess the damage did Mr Mason think to put a bucket in the attic. Brainwave! But then I am so easily pleased.

Tea with Sandra Bullock

Today I am at the Young Women’s Group at the Maggie Centre. In enabling my membership they have clearly stretched the point regarding age. We spend a comfortable hour talking about some of the aspects of how cancer has impacted on us individually. Although we are all very different people, we recognise themes and threads from each others’ experiences and the talk is not maudlin or depressing. It’s a space we can talk openly about how we feel and our interlinking experiences form us into a definite group. Our membership ebbs and flows as life pulls members back into work or further treatment and as new young women find us. It’s a good space to have. Our conversation is so intense and centred around cancer that I forget to tell everyone about my recent encounter with Sandra Bullock. It’s either that or my memory is worse than I thought.

On Saturday afternoon I have tea with my friend Emma. It’s a birthday treat and she invites me to a lovely hotel overlooking the Thames at Richmond. The weather is wet in an American horror movie kind of way – the sort of weather you see in films when you know there are people holding huge, cascading hosepipes to replicate a downpour. This one is real and, despite offering her a lift, Emma decides to walk from her home to the hotel. We drive and park right next to the hotel entrance. In the 5 steps it takes me to get from the car into the lobby, I am soaked. Emma, already waiting in the lobby is beyond wet and sheltering with a group of open-mouthed tourists who cannot believe this British summer. You wait until Wimbledon, I think.

We squelch our way through to the restaurant where we are given a table with a lovely view over The Thames where even the river traffic has stopped because of the deluge. Our attention is soon drawn by the 2 glasses of champagne which are put in front of us, followed shortly by tea and a stand with elegant sandwiches, scones and an assortment of tiny cakes. We are very democratic and eat one of every time of sandwich each. But we are terrific gluttons and Emma thinks we need another round of sandwiches each which duly appear. Beyond a low partition in the restaurant a loud party of women are having tea in what we think is an unreasonably exciteable way. We scrutinise the back of their heads and think ‘hen party’ but we’re proved wrong when they burst into a very loud rendition of Happy Birthday. The party at the next table join in gamely. Eventually they get themselves together and stagger off, women of a certain age on a good afternoon out. A short while later, the second round of sandwiches and a scone each into our tea, the Maitre D’ asks if we would mind moving to the bar area as the restaurant is being set up for dinner. We are quite happy with this and are duly moved.

By this time, the rain has cleared and the sun has come out. It is now blazing into my eyes, making all conversation impossible so I move to a chair with my back to the window and facing the party who joined in the singing earlier. There are about 6 people and a small boy all enjoying tea and chatting quietly. That’s Sandra Bullock, I say to Emma. ‘No, I don’t think so’, she says. It is, I insist, trying not to look whilst looking hard. We eavesdrop a little on their conversation, hearing that they plan to eat dinner within the next couple of hours after a short walk and where they are going for dinner the following evening. Sandra and her son head off for their walk while the rest of the party go elsewhere. As soon as they are gone, a woman who is having a drink at a table next to us says ‘Wasn’t that Sandra Bullock?’ The waiter reappears and confirms it is, indeed, Sandra Bullock and that she is very nice. Emma comments her skin is very good and we agree she looks good in the flesh. The waiter then proceeds to have a cab driver kind of conversation. ‘We’ve had them all in here’. You know how it goes. He mentions an actress who was in the restaurant recently hiding away because she is pregnant and doesn’t want anyone to know yet. Hmmm. We leave feeling full and happy. The rain has stopped and we walk back into Richmond so I can catch a bus home. We critique people who walk past the bus stop. Famous or wannabe? There are quite a lot of wannabes and several women wearing shoes we wouldn’t be seen dead in. It’s an entertaining end to a good afternoon.