I called my father last night in order to discuss our arrangements for the remainder of the week. First, however, he wished to tell me about his expedition earlier in the day from the coast to central London in order to have lunch with an old friend – in both senses of the word – at an hotel in Portman Square. Said gentleman lives something of a solitary existence (no family left), assisted by a carer.
“I’m reluctantly reporting myself to you …” my father began mischievously, “As we pulled into the station at Three Bridges, I found myself wondering, for the life of me, what the hell I was doing on the train. It took me until we were nearly at Redhill before I remembered!”
These lunches, for which my father tries to rope in another senior couple when he can, are something of an ordeal. The gent they go to see is not only hard of hearing but speaks very softly, a practice that my father also now suffers from. In consequence, amidst the general hubbub of chit-chat at neighbouring tables and the click-clacking of everyone’s dining utensils, few in their irregular party can catch more than occasional snatches of the conversation being held.
There’s an old saying that ‘in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king’. Here, in their world of the quasi-deaf, he (or she) who can hear or even just lip read is an equivalent monarch.
The other problem with veteran great friends in their ninth or tenth decades is subject-matter. They’ve all heard – if that’s the correct term – each other’s anecdotes previously, often many times.
“Jeez …” my father commented of his luncheon, “… I know my wartime service stories are boring, but hearing his for the umpteenth time are worse. If I have to listen again before Christmas to the tale of his four-hour watch on board [a 20,000 ton aircraft carrier] going through the Suez Canal as a 24 year old junior officer, I swear I’ll swing for it!”
We then rehearsed again my schedule from today through to Monday, now complicated by the arrival of my son from Portugal for the weekend.
Although we had been through it the day before, my father had now got the wrong day for both my son’s arrival and the day we would be going to see him so that my son could collect his car. This state of affairs was not helped by the fact that my father is himself attending a Fleet Air Arm reunion in Hampshire today and lunches on Friday and Sunday. I was pretty confident that if my social diary was as full as his, I’d be a tad confused myself.
I compounded that impression this morning when, after loading the dishwasher, I took a dishwasher tablet from the box beneath the kitchen sink and … having thrown the tablet into the kitchen dustbin … only realised my error when attempting to stuff its wrapping into the dishwasher ‘box’ designed to take the tablet!