Thursday, September 09, 2004

Hazelblackberry: we are still good friends

Dear Nick

Today is Wednesday, and that can only mean one thing. No, wait; actually it means two things. Right. So the first thing is: it now becomes freakish and weird to wander into someone's office and, for want of other conversation, to ask them what they did on their weekend. Conversely, and this is the second thing, it is now okay to start contemplating, and conversing about, what the coming weekend might hold for you.

Colleague enters your office. Yawn, stretch arms, "Weekend's just around the corner." "Yeah, thank God. What are you up to?" (Such are the exciting tête-à-têtes that take place round here.)

Mind you, I generally start planning my weekend first thing Monday morning. Those intervening five days are to be got through as expeditiously as possible. ("Don't wish your life away!" I can hear Don Mary screaming. I guess she knew that of which she spoke. Many was the family drama in our home - you know, weevils in the flour; that sort of thing - concluded with the mighty screech of Don Mary: "I wish I was DEAD! I wish you were ALL dead!" as she flounced off to sulk in bed for three days before re-emerging, feathers smoothed and turning to us, still standing with our jaws hanging open, to ask, "Well, what's got into you lot?")

I know what Grumpy probably has in mind for the weekend. Lots of televisual activities. Let me clarify: I am not opposed to the television. Indeed, I think what a miracle device it was in the last years of The Fuehrer's life when he no longer had the energy, concentration or patience to read or do crosswords, or even engage in prolonged conversation. Television was his entertainment, sometimes his lifeline, I think. One time Grumpy and I were visiting while The Fuehrer was having one of his stays in hospital. He was in a pretty cranky mood during this particular stint. He'd kicked a nurse - no harm done; it was with his gammy leg - who hadn't been able to interpret the complex lacing arrangements that The Fuehrer and Don Mary employed on his Florsheims. As she'd skedaddled from the room (I think the hurry was to avoid bursting out laughing in his presence) he turned to us and muttered, "Dull girl." This was the depths of damnation from The Fuehrer. His was a more moderate personality than Don Mary's.

So we'd come to visit one day and a particularly black cloud did shadow my grandfather's countenance. He denied that anything was wrong but answered questions and participated in the conversation with a heavy, sorrowful air. I looked at Grumpy. Grumpy looked mystified. He shrugged. What with The Fuehrer's lack of conversational sparkle, the chit chat was starting to dwindle a bit, when I suddenly realised something WAS amiss. How could I have not noticed it before?? The television was off! Whenever The Fuehrer was forced to endure the indignity of round-the-clock medical care he would soothe himself with a corresponding 24-hour television subscription. But his friend and companion was silent now. I finally managed to wrangle from him the truth: that he was in a snit because his TV access had run out. I couldn't believe that Don Mary or my aunt, Raggedy Ann, hadn't paid for a few more days when they'd come in. And then I found out that we'd been his only visitors that day. I did feel sorry for the poor old geezer. He would have felt abandoned and desolate, and on top of that the mind-curdling boredom - and a whole night of it in front of him. The Fuehrer was always the stoic, uncomplaining type, but he'd reached the end of his tether here. I believe his bottom lip may even have trembled momentarily.

I was leaning on the bed, feeling rather miserable myself, determined to keep him company for as long as possible but also wondering what on earth we could talk about and dreading having to leave him in his lonely, silent room. I was fiddling around with the remote control when I twirled a switch and suddenly, the TV sprang - sprang! - into life. It was like the circus had come to town and a marching band had entered the room. There was light, there was music, there was the Nescafe ad where that woman went to that valley and fell in love with that man. It may have just been the cathode rays, but The Fuehrer's face was bathed in a serene, heavenly glow. Turns out he'd accidentally turned the damn thing off without realising. Grumpy, being an in-law, suppressed his mirth but I was the old boy's flesh and blood so I got to grip the bed sheets while the tears of laughter ran down my face and The Fuehrer looked a combination of grateful and embarrassed.

We left him in much better spirits, absorbed in the plot line of some crappy show, the night looking not quite so wide and empty as it had a little while ago.

People like to put the television down, but it can work miracles in the smallest of ways.

Until next time, Nick.


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