I don’t do stairs if I can help it so I take the lift from the ground floor at the South Bank to the vestibule. We, my love & I were in the lift when we were joined by a woman of mature years. She asked me what I was going to see & I said Polari, she looked nonplussed. ‘I’m going to see Daniel Barenboim. I don’t know why they didn’t give him a bigger area, there are not enough tickets, but I have one!’ we spoke about Barenboim, me about his support for the Palestinian cause, she about his musical genius then she asked me again what we were going to see. I repeated ‘Polari. It is a literary event mainly by gay people FOR gay people.’ ‘Are you gay then?’ I told her I was and she gave a great hoot of laughter followed by: ‘I’ve never met any gay people before.’ she trumpeted! I bet you have I thought. But I smiled a benign smile. ‘Bit late for me to change eh? Anyway I never saw the need for it.’ I didn’t say: ‘It’s never too late’ I am not fond of clichés. She gave another hoot of mirth, wished me good luck and like a galleon in full sail with her large raincoat and bag she strode to the ticket office. I must say that she looked like my idea of what a dyke should look like…
A Funny thing happened to me on my way home one Sunday night:
It is between 2.30 & 3am we watch our bus trundle past as we reach the end of the road. We swear and go to the bus stop, consult the timetable and realise we have a half hour to wait. A young man approaches; he curses softly to himself and ignores us. He is restive and moves from foot to foot demonstrating his impatience and the importance of his mission, (unlike us who languish in resigned torpor – it has been a very good party and all we want is to get home.) he asks us about buses and we inform him that the 188 has just left. He mutters a little then stands still. Two young women in their late twenties approach; they are clearly totally engrossed in each other and their nice long hair entwines one with the other as they hold each other tight, stroke each other’s backs and kiss gently. I look at my love and say that’s good to see eh? The young man is not deterred, he advances on them. ‘Where you been then?’ one of the young women tell him they have been to a party in north London and now they have to get back to Woolwich. ‘Why didn’t you get a taxi?’ he asks and the women respond very politely though they are still in their private huddle. He continues to ‘converse’ with them. A couple of other people arrive, they are having an altercation in Italian according to my love, about Vincente who has given them the wrong information. The young man is still plighting his troth and now he talks of Ghana where he is from and then on to Kenya where one of the women has been. He compares their noses, the climate; they laugh at him but are very patient. ‘Where you going now?’ he says. ‘I just want to get home to my wife!’ she says. He holds out his phone and asks for their number The bus finally arrives and the young women get on and sit close their heads together.
The man asks for their number again. They don’t hear him. What is it that this man can’t or won’t understand?
Once more we are offered Cancer as the inevitable – and dead handy – way to get shot of a tiresome character ( in this case so that a gifted actor can get back to something more interesting perhaps). To induce a few tears and demonstrate the inevitability of death. The character is old, but no older than I am. He is annoying and cranky, me too, and I do hope this won’t warrant a death sentence. I do realise that there is a bigger picture here in East Enders & that we punters get peeved watching a dreary old person doing his stuff – even his love life is truncated before it has had a chance to develop into the usual screaming hysteria of the Eastenders normality. And yes I do understand that the soap opera is not reality but thousands watch it and are influenced by what is shown a ‘normal’. In fact Timothy West has convinced me of his character brilliantly.
First we went to Vienna where my friend saw the Breughels while I nursed my filthy cold and hacking cough in our room. My affliction synchronised nicely with the start of our holiday. It blasted in the dayI was to go to stay in Kent with her so I decided to hot toddy myself well and join her at St. Pancras.The day I set off for London I felt marginally worse & hacked & sputtered my way to Waterloo where Irene met me.
The Eurostar was a bit of a disappointment, a little snug to say the least – I had had visions of Orient Express luxury with nice gals wafting among us with flutes of Champagne. Not so but adequate and not as sardine – like as my trip to Cuba. We changed at Brussels and then at Cologne where we had a break of a couple of hours. We went to our couchette and realised why the ‘ette’ is the operative part of that word. It was tiny, the attendant had all the charm of a rattlesnake. An abrupt rattler at that. She informed us that we must get our bunks down NOW and bustled us into the corridor while she performed her ritual and we slunk back in. we had gift packs of odds and ends including flip flops and water, nicely done up in cellophane and finally we settled on our bunks, me barking and hacking only taking time out to blow my hooter. We did not find the temperature gauge and woke to dry mouths and aching heads. Dehydrated to a terrible degree.
Since I was diagnosed with cancer of the lung and pelvis in late July I have lived a rather exciting life, it has made me increasingly aware of time’s winged chariot so I had a short break on the Riviera and have plans for a holiday in late March. Then there was my visit to the Penny Brohn centre which I insisted on calling a boot camp. Nothing could be farther from the truth and the days spent there were some of the most comfortable and useful I have ever enjoyed. I also met one other woman who was taking the same route with her cancer as me. She is convinced, as I am, that cancer is not the big bad monster, enemy but a new and interesting vagary of the body that must be dealt with as such.