July 30: a week with my olde dad part 9

We are sitting in the bit of garden left over after the extension. It has cleared up since this morning. Dad says, see that hedge. A few years ago it was thin and little. I could talk over it and see through it. I look at the hedge. It is dense and about nine feet high. Yes, I say, it’s all grown over. Then I say, you know I’m off tomorrow. Ah, says dad. I’m taking the train. But David’s coming on Friday, so you’ll only be on your own one night. Oh, he says, you’ll have to stay another night. I can’t, I say. I’ve got my ticket now. I know this works best; the material trumps everything. You’ll be all right for one night. Then David’s here for the weekend. Then Liz is back from Italy on Monday and she’ll come and pick you up and you’ll be at her house for a couple of weeks till Helen comes back and it’s back to normal again. He likes normal. Remember your glasses and your pills and everything, won’t you? when Liz comes to get you. I shouldn’t have said that. He starts to fret about everything he’ll have to remember.
When I came here a week ago I thought I’d write a post and call it Egg and Chess because I wanted to get dad playing chess and get him eating egg. I thought that’d be good for him. He soon put me right on that: didn’t want to be taught chess and didn’t like eggs. Fair do’s. We are looking at the hedge, which is mature and tangled, formidable really. Do you want an ice cream? I suggest perkily. No, he says and looks somewhere else.

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July 30: a week with my olde dad part 8

What’s it doing out? I say. Dad is sitting in his chair looking out of the window. He says he likes that chair because he can see out. From the angle he can just see the sky and the top of the house opposite, but he can see weather, which is the main thing. Not doing anything at the moment, he says. Not spitting? I say from the kitchen as I put my eyes in (contacts). Dad has already put his teeth in. He does that in his chair. He is going to pop out to Bargain Booze to get some more milk for his honey hoops. Isn’t there enough in the fridge? I say. What? Milk. Isn’t there enough in the fridge? I need some for honey hoops. But isn’t there enough in that bottle in the fridge? You put too much in yesterday remember and had to throw it down the sink. What? Milk. Yesterday you put too much in and had to throw it down the sink remember. Go way. Dad is putting his gear on. Jacket, shoes with velcro fastener, cap. Have you got your glasses? What? Have you got your glasses on? Dad goes round to find them. There are a collection of different glasses throughout the house that must mostly belong to people who are not here this week and then there is dad’s reading glasses as well as his distance glasses. Ten minutes later. Have you got the right ones? What? The right glasses. Don’t know. What are those ones there? Who put them there? says dad. Don’t look at me, I say. What’s it doing out? I say. Not doing anything at the moment, he says. Not trying to spit, I say. Nah, he says dismissively. Got some change? I say. He is rummaging though a coat pocket where he keeps coins. Take an umbrella, I say. He makes a quiet guffaw. For some reason, he has never liked umbrellas. That way, if it rains you put it up. Go way. He’s out the door.

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July 29: a week with my olde dad part 7

We went to the bank. There has been much confusion because my dad has two bankbooks from the Halifax (he won’t do bankcards). One bankbook has a lot of money on it. One less. I said, they’re putting your pension money into the bankbook with a lot of money, dad. He insisted they weren’t. His reasoning seemed to be that because he was using the other one to take money out, that was where the pension was going. But this one’s got no deposits in it, dad, just your withdrawals. Go way. So we had to go to the Halifax to get it confirmed by an eighteen year old teller. The bank is the authority. I know nothing. I remember a few years ago we went to see my sister on the other side of Manchester. We had to take the tram back to to the centre of Manchester. Are you sure we’re going the right way? This is the only way, dad. We just follow the line. It can’t turn off and go down a back street. This wasn’t enough for him. He went round asking people on the tram if we were going the right way. There’s only one way, mate. And then there’s the next door neighbour Paul. At the slightest confusion dad wants to knock on his door and bring him in. How do you switch the oven on? I’ll just have a look, dad. I’ll go and bring Paul in. No, Paul’s got his own family, dad. He doesn’t want you bothering him. I’m too late. He’s out the door and comes back with Paul. And then he asks him for the number of a qualified electrician for the lamp? I’ve told him an electrician will cost £100 to come out. We can buy another lamp like this for £10. Go way, says dad. I look at Paul. Paul gives his assent. That’s all right then. We won’t call the qualified electrician. Paul the neighbour is now the biggest Paul in dad’s life. He keeps calling me David anyway. David’s my brother. The other day he actually said it. Which one are you? I’m Paul I said. Go way!

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July 28: a week with my olde dad part six

My dad has never been what you call a swift walker. Even in the splendour of his middle age, the middle period of Illyrian swagger, even then his gait was unhurried. He has always been someone that refused to be hurried. He had a way of resting his hip mid-step, making the stride an elaborate double-action rather than the simple mundane shift of most people. These days it remains unhurried but is more of a painfully slow shuffle. When he is crossing the road he insists in engaging in one of his diagonal short-cuts, so that he is spending a good two minutes on the road itself. I play the role of watchful rook to his slow-motion bishop, scouting round for any vehicles as he performs his laborious hypotenuse. My dad is big on the short-cut. The one journey he does, to the shop to get his strawbery tart, has to be run through the tortuous labyrinth of his short-cut circuit, up behind Acre St, round alongside the primary school my mum went to eighty years ago and past the futuristic elevation of St Mary’s, the Seventies Catholic church. If you accompany him, you are not allowed to deviate from this route and must cross the road always at the same places each time, usually diagonally. And don’t bother with traffic lights. You’re too sow to cross without the lights, I keep barking at him. Yah! he scowls back dismissively.

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July 28: a week with my olde dad part five

This morning about half-past-six the door to the bedroom where I am sleeping swings open and there is my olde dad. You have to take me to the hospital, he says. I am unfazed because I know this scenario. What’s up? I say. Everything, he says. Have a cup of tea nad we’ll see how it’s going, I say. This should work; it usually does. When I come down it’s 7.25 by the clock. What time is it? he says. Seven o’clock, I say, irritated. Seven o’clock in the morning in this house is like four in the morning in most houses. The day stretches out long and barren ahead. Dad talks me through what happened. I thought I’ll have a cup of tea. See how I feel. If that’s how you want to think about it, fine, I think. A few minutes later he says, did you say have a cup of tea? Who else? I laugh. Ther’s nobody else here. It’s just you and me.
The cup of tea is a leitmofif that holds the day together. Are you having a cup of tea? he says whenever he has one. I’m having coffee, I say. I don’t drink tea in the morning. It is now nine o’clock. I have said this ten times already. Still, it is a theme to embroider around. You’re having a mug this time, I say. I couldn’t find the cup, he says. I see the cup and saucer sitting forlornly on the kitchen top. You didn’t look very far. It’s here, I say. I like a pot, he says. Pot means mug, not teapot. This is in direct contradiction to what he usually says. It’s good to articulate this so I say, you always say you like a proper cup. Go way, he says. Go way means rubbish. After a few minutes I sit in the extension bit of downstairs. I hear him clapping. He has taken to clapping loudly. At first I thought it was for attention. He told me it was because his hands went numb. I said he should take up boxing. Go way, he says. It’s for attention too, I’m sure. When you get older you get ignored more, so you do what toddlers do for attention: Clap and want to see authorities like hospitals and doctors, and the nextdoor neighbour Paul, but I’ll tell you about him another time.

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July 27: a week with my olde dad part four

The plan was to get him playing chess again. He used to about thirty years ago. So I sat him down and tried to get him interested. It’s all gone out of my head, he said. That’s all right, I said. We’ll put it all back into your head. But I could see his eyes roving round, looking for a way out. His eyes rove around when he watches the telly now. They don’t focus on it. The go looking for the bits of the room where the least is happening. Crannies and patches of empty air. After a minute he says he’s got a heaache and makes his escape. The chess plan is not going to work.
Last night the lamp in his room stopped working. This was a big problem because he likes it on when he goes to sleep. In the end we just pulled the curtains back to let the lights of the street in. This morning I went to Morrisons and bought some bulbs bu twhen we put one in the lamp still wasn’t working. He is fascinated by why it still isn’t working and wants to show me how the electricity runs form the plug up the lamp to the bulb. This bores me. My eyes start roving round looking for a way out. My eyes go looking for bits of the room where the least is happening. I can’t fix wires. I come downstairs and sart playing with the chess on my own. He stays upstairs and keeps messing around with the wires.

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July 26: a week with my olde dad part three

Dad wants to buy a new electric razor and I said we can get one from TK Max at Crown Point North Shopping Centre. So that’s today’s trip. Each time I come home we get him one personal purchase. Last time it was trousers. Next time it’ll be a new pair of underpants. At this rate by the time he’s two hundred he’ll have the full gentleman’s wardrobe. When we get there I can only find so-called personal groomers and no electric razors. So-called Personal groomers trim your moustache and keep your facial growth apparent but optimal. They don’t actually shave you. It can’t be that there is a whole department devoted to personal groomers and no electric razors, can it? I ask a young man with a TK Max tag on. No. It’s true. They don’t do electric razors any more. I can’t believe it. So-called Groomers but no electric razors! It’s like putting the cart before the horse! I tell my dad there are no electric razors. He registers no surprise.
We both need a sit down. We retire to the Cafe Costa. We get a small capuchino each and he wants a chocolate cake with cream in it. A chocolate muffin comes closest. I watch as dad puts three sugars in his coffee. He is trying to open the fourth sugar. You are NOT having four sugars in your coffee, dad, I say. I noticed yesterday how much tomato ketchup he had on his pasta. You eat like a Florida schoolboy, I tell him. He smiles confusedly. It might be that he’s thinking: that girl’s got four songs on her i-pod; that bloke’s got four aps on his smartphone; I had four years in the Second World War; you’ve got four supplements on your Saturday bloody Guardian, you chattering class bastard. Now tell me I can’t have another sugar in my coffee.
How’s the coffee? I say. Creamy, isn’t it? He looks at me. Too creamy, he says.

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July 25: a week with my olde dad part two

I am going to cut my olde dad’s toenails. My toenails are not great but his are really not great. These toe nails are not great, I say. Ah! he says. When did you last cut these toenails? I ask. Don’t think I ever cut them, he says. My olde dad is 90. You must have cut them at some stage. They’re not that long, I say. I have the big industrial nail clipper but it still isn’t easy. Have we got a bowl or a bucket or something where you can soak your feet? I say. We must have, he says, but can’t think where it could be. In the end I find a plastic box that’s being used to put pills in. I take all the pills out. You could put some soapy water in it and it could fit one foot. These feet are smelly, I say. They are not clean. Roll your trousers up! We fit most of the foot in. With the bunion it’s difficult. I need a file, I say. There’s such a lot of stuff behind the toe nails. This is not pleasant work. You’ve got two good nails, I say. Good quality. But some of these others I just can’t cut. They’ve grown into funny shapes. They have and all. They have become like tusk, thick and twisted. One of them is the shape of a walnut whip. I can’t get the clipper round them. They are like stone. What I need is a barber for nails, says my olde dad. Chiropodists, they’re called, I say. Next time you see the doctor, ask him to get you an appointment with a chiropedist. Ah! he says. I’ll tell Helen, I say. Helen is my sister. She lives with my olde dad full time. She’s on holiday. That’s one reason why I’m cutting his toe-nails today.
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July 25: a week with my olde dad part one

I am spending a week with my olde dad (90). It is a very hot day. Must be 26 degrees. I am sitting in our little square of garden on a deck chair. Half the garden disappeared when the extension was put in. Now there’s just this bit. What time is it? I ask my dad. He is inside wearing a vest and thick shirt and thick socks, long johns and a pair of thick trousers and heavy duty slippers. It is about three o’clock. I’d dropped off in the deck chair after lunch. Dad says Ah. I repeat the question. The clock is in the house. What time is it? Dad says Ah. I can’t see the clock from where I am on the deck chair. What time is it? This time he says What type of what? I repeat: What time is it? and point impatiently at an imaginary wristwatch on my wrist. This is not for anyone’s benefit. He can’t see me. Ah! he says after a minute (really. A minute!) He emerges into the garden. It’s a quarter to twelve. I know it’s not a quarter to twelve. It’s not a quarter to twelve, I say. How can it be a quarter to twelve. It was half past one when we had that salad. Ah! My dad goes back into the house. He comes out after about five minutes (really. five minutes!). It’s a quarter past three, he says. Right. I’ve got the time now. That took about fifteen minutes. I get up and go in the house. Time to go out. I glance at the clock as I pas by. It’s not a quarter past three. It’s a quarter to three. Let that be a lesson to me. Next time just get up from the deck chair and go and look at the clock myself.

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July 24: tatoos on the bus

Oh, you are nowhere without a tatoo these days. As a little exercise on the bus in Manchester I thought I’d try and find someone without a tatoo. Not easy. All the young people have tatoos. All the single mothers have tatoos. The students have tatoos. There was an old woman. She won’t have one. But wait, there it is, a serpent sneaking up her ankle. And that woman over there won’t have one, will she? Oh but she will. It’s creeping up her neck from out of her collar. There’s a baby in her pram; she hasn’t got one. Yet.
What are the functions of the tatoo? One, it is decorative. Two, it signifies apartenance. You post up your tribe to the world. Three, it signifies your creed. Three reasons to exhibit a tatoo. As a tatoo-wearer you are committed to aestheics. You are tribal. You need to define and publicize your beliefs. It was traditionally a working class aesthetic. The patricians would not look to define themselves. The patrician did not commit. He hedged his bets. The patrician was a diplomat. A Hermes. He held himself in a number of loci. His identity was slippery. He had a bank account in Switzerland or on the Isle of Man. Just in case. For the tatoo-wearer there is no just in case. You only define yourself if you are committed to remaining fixed. What is the old woamn saying? I may look a bit thick round the waist these days, but I’m still basically a sleek and serpentine individual. I have not changed.
But what is this blog of mine if not an attempt to define? Although I do find that much of its material is the impossibility of definition and how changeable identity is.
I confess I am not a lover of the tatoo. Neither as a decorative feature nor as an idea. Of course, this is mostly a generational, cultural thing. I am not for a moment claimimg that I can transcend my own particular tribe and hold an individual opinion on the matter. Oops! Crown Point Denton. Time to get off the bus

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