Today is October 1st. It is my mothers birthday. She is 94 and she is not very well. Before me lies the unknown territory of “How best to look after someone when they can’t look after themselves?”. And by extension “What will happen to me when I can’t cope alone? ” Behind me lies an eventful three months of sunshine and shame, A summer when I lost my voice but the Scots found theirs. The establishment wobbled and I held my breath. But not a squeak came out ….. until now.
I remain astounded that the Establishment can wobble THIS much. But it restores my faith in humankind. The missing millions may be keeping their heads down sharing pictures of their cats on Facebook but they are ready to pounce given the right circumstances.
My summer of shame started when I returned home from the Camino del Norte to find a court summons lurking in a pile of mainly junk mail. The charge was “being in possession of a dog dangerously out of control”. What?!!! Said dog was ‘very dangerously’ and very tightly tied up outside a café in the Yorkshire Dales while negligent owner was inside partaking of tea and cake. Short, square and very aggressive gentleman burst into café shattering the tranquity of a balmy afternoon with shouts of “whose dog is that?.” and “you will be hearing from the police” and “you will be hearing from my lawyer”. And so it came about that I found myself in a courtroom hanging my head in shame in front of 2 rows of schoolchildren studying O Level Citizenship or similar. I now have a criminal record and dog has a conditional death sentence. I hasten to add that ‘the victim” was not badly hurt but the moral of the story is – Do NOT tie your dog up outside a cafe in the Yorkshire Dales. In fact, do not tie your dog up anywhere. She will feel vulnerable and there are short square aggressive men ready to take advantage of No Win, No Fee.
In order to exorcise my shame and extreme angst I had to take to the hills. So I started walking, stepping outside of my house and heading Northwards. I followed the Pennine Way. The sun shone and the terrain was tough. I slept in youth hostels and bunk houses and I walked and I walked until one day I reached the highest pub in England. But there I did not find a kindly giant nor any goose laying golden eggs. And worse still, my sins were not absolved. I think the problem was that the Pennine Way took me right back through the dreaded Yorkshire Dales and my nose was continually rubbed in metaphorical sheep poo. I saw a lot of border collies rounding up sheep and I really, really wanted to ask every farmer whether they would like a really, really intelligent and good natured dog to add to their menagerie. But I didn’t. And I sulked and I thought about George Monbiot’s Rewilding Theory. After all, the Dales are actually a green monoculture caused by too many sheep. But if we didn’t have sheep what would Border Collies do to justify their existence? They would have to stay as pets so perhaps I better keep her even though she has raised my anxiety levels off the scale of anything I have ever known. But then I’ve never been trapped underground in a collapsed mine with the cadaver of someone I’ve just murdered. Unlike Étienne in Émile Zola’s Germinal which I just finished reading for French book club. So I suppose I am quite lucky really.
Returning home I find that £500 roof repair has morphed into £5000 plus roof replacement because Yorkshire stone slates are very hard to come by. Can anxiety levels go any higher? Yes they can. Because I have to borrow £5000 immediately from very good friend and I have to collect the CASH from the bank and I have to stuff it into my bag looking over my shoulder to make sure I’m not about to be mugged. And then I have to hand over cash to roofer of as yet unknown reputation on trust that stone will materialise from dodgy deal and my house will have a roof again. Thankfully the sun is still shining.
By now we are into August and I have a roof and new guttering and Rebecca, the Lovely Lime Goddess, has painstakingly repointed the whole front of my house. I think I MIGHT now be watertight. But the suspicion i still have not paid sufficient penance for the past haunts me. My stomach churns periodically and I recall reading about the gut- brain connection. I won’t go so far as actually recommending the particular book but I was desperate enough to start boiling up bones which I got for free from the butcher on the pretext they were for my dog. Actually, I have to say the resulting ‘broth’ was amazingly calming once I’d got over the preliminary yuk factor.
As it turned out, I had to go to Lands End to finally get liberated. My secret ambition was to start walking from there to John O’Groats. I had met people doing the ‘End to End’ trail on the Pennine Way and the notion of just walking everyday for ever and ever had massive appeal. But the project was cancelled (postponed?). I opted instead for intense seaside therapy surrounded by close friends and my entire family (except elderly mother who was excluded by virtue of steep cliffs) and accompanied by all the joy and petty squabbling that close living can bring.
Obviously, I have eaten SOME vegetables but my enthusiasm and creativity have been at a low ebb. An exception has been the discovery of black cabbage (cavalo nero) salsa – an intense mix of finely shredded and blanched kale mixed with chopped mint, parsley, capers, anchovies and parmesan. Definitely one to be archived https://www.facebook.com/BurnleyCropshare
For the month of September I brought my mum up to stay in my house in the hope of selling the frozen North to her by way of an Indian Summer. But nothing came up to scratch. The house was too noisy, too hectic or too cold. Apparently, my friends paid too many unplanned visits and stayed too long. She didn’t seem to want company but resented being on her own. And she was sure all the doctors and nurses in the north were newly qualified and didn’t know what they were talking about. But she was ill and disorientated and missed her house and her friends and I was making a good job of completely de-skilling her by attending to her every whim. So now we are back in her house and I am trying to reconcile the fact that I might have to live in two places 200 miles apart. I find myself pining for a simpler time long gone when extended families all lived under the same roof, when Granny sat in the corner in the rocking chair, occasionally waking long enough to gently rock the baby’s cradle with her slippered foot.