a question. Are there any real barmaids left? I mean the type who was very well-endowed who could carefully dispose of the bounteous nature of her assets to allow the pulling of a
full pint, whilst mysteriously a third hand would bat away any
lecherous advances whilst; smiling genially and discussing Irish
literature with a fourth patron? She would also be able to drink any
bloke under the table, cheer up anyone who had been dumped by a
would-be date, without seeming to want to be a stand-in? I thought not.
Kate, from the early 70s Lamb in Lamb's Conduit Street, must be a
granny now, but by the gods us young blokes lusted after her, would have defended her and in no
small measure revered her as the epitome of the barmaid. Her
counterpart, was the urbane, well-dressed but often fractious and very gay, Ray. He
catered for the Bloomsbury crowd and their antecedents with real style
and panache. So camp and so courageous in those less understanding times that even us
straight blokes wanted to give him a big hug.
About then, I made
it a point of honour on a Monday (a regular day off, in lieu of Saturday) to set off from Loughton, in Essex, and
then travel only by bus and foot to the Lamb, having lunch there with a
very good friend and a quick spag bol at the resto in the Sicilian Parade,
which is still there! I then got back on the buses to travel all the
way to Staines. This was a very, very long journey by the then London Transport. This plan only failed once, when the driver and
conductor of the 117, thinking that there was no-one on board, turned
round and went back to Hammersmith with one sterterously snoring
drunkard on the top deck. But Kate and her impossible talents, and sunny good humour remain
in my memory forever... There is something really quite magical about a good barmaid.
I have been, in a sense, writing this ever since I heard Rachel Luttrell's death song in Stargate Atlantis. I don't share my feelings easily, unless I think that it might help someone else. There is no shame in being helpless, there is no guilt in not doing what you feel is, at least in one sense, a moral imperative. And in some senses, your grief must have a voice and that is what Teyla gave to me at a very, very dark time.
I miss and grieve for my mother. I still do, five years after her death; in some senses, ten years after. Fifteen years ago she started to exhibit the early signs of senile dementia. I started to miss her then; about two years after that she stopped solving the Telegraph crossword on her own; three years after that she stopped trying to solve it. At that point I knew what hadn't been said, that her brain was silently destroying itself, that she was effectively passing into shadow and distress. Inevitably, she was going. The pain of this is like a knife in my heart, even now. Nine years ago, when my then wife was not in the room, she simply looked at me and said "I know I'm repeating myself, but if I'm not me any more; if it gets worse, please make sure I don't just carry on."
I am still unbearably upset by that, the true measure of helplessness is when someone you love asks you to do something you know you can't do. Even so, I felt I should do it for her - I wrestled with this, in the dark of the night. When, three years before she died, I came to visit and she had wandered out of the house leaving the front door open; I knew it was time. But although I found her and brought her back I had someone much younger with me, so there was no opportunity. There is something about age and appreciation of mortality which only age can bring. Her time had come. I knew it, and what was much worse, so did she in her lucid moments. But then we had to get her into a care home. I am still in a part of me, ashamed that I could not kill her, bring her long long suffering to an end. You can judge me or not, as you please. But I still miss that very bright, highly intelligent cantankerous old bitch. She was my Mum.
The bluebells have been and gone and the poppies are now gathering pace.
This is just a quick post to give you all (if anyone is still reading!) a quick grovel; my spare time is spent on ephemeral activities, mainly to take my mind off my imminent redundancy. I am and have been working really hard on finalising the accounts, closing down the office and all the consequent transfers and notifications. The transfer is to my erstwhile boss's house and at the end of June I will be unemployed. This is not immediately a problem, as I have rainy day money, but it is a long-term concern, because at 61 it will be really difficult to gain further employment (even for a bloke of my calibre!). The worst of it is that all this hard work feels, if I may use a grim simile, like digging my own grave! Anyway, apologies all...