Only a little snow, merely a dusting. Only a little fog, let’s call it mist.
I recently hoped aloud that 2023 would be better than 2022. Well, in the last couple of weeks I’ve been to the funeral of an ex-work colleague, lost a lad my wife and I have known since the 80’s, and spent the whole night in hospital at the bedside of my wife’s uncle before he passed away yesterday, his brother and nephew with him while I grabbed a couple of hours sleep.
We are not even out of January yet.
But City Jackdaw can’t only be a list of unfortunate and tragic events. We’d all need therapy.
We all need balance.
As the year goes on there’s other stuff going on. There’s plans to make. Projects to complete, projects to begin. Children to lead through this patchwork of emotions we call life.
Winter only lasts so long. There’s new light coming.
A friend took this photograph of the last leaf clinging to a tree near his place of work.
He wrote of Autumn, still hanging desperately on at this late hour, before finally conceding to the inevitable winter.
The symbolism is obvious, but to me it reminded me of another liminal point. My Mum, suffering from Alzheimer’s, is nearing the end. She is still hanging on despite a possible chest infection. A stab in the dark Hail Mary, she is receiving antibiotics to counter any such infection, with the hope of an improvement over the next 48 hours (I’m writing this on the Saturday).
If that doesn’t materialise then end of life care will begin.
To be honest, I kind of hope it isn’t a chest infection. What is the point of coming back from the brink for further struggle? A struggle she won’t even be aware that she’s in. A struggle she cannot win.
The irony is that for a while now my wife and I have been administering medication and calorie-providing drinks to prolong what she didn’t want prolonging. To keep her where she didn’t want to be. (Such is the nature of her illness that, even though she is still here, I speak of her wishes in the past tense.)
But it’s not for us to decide the hour. A ‘time for all seasons’ and all that. At least not until we react to her failing heart and begin the end of life care.
Maybe the leaf in the photograph can also stand for one final moment of clarity, glimpsed among the fog of confusion, where those clouded eyes show recognition, and the lips twitch in that old grounded humour.
But I fear that is wishful thinking. The leaf is hanging on but, despite those blue skies, there’s a cold breeze blowing now. The natural order cannot be defeated. One season is giving way to the next.
I have a few projects at the moment that have been put on hold due to a local oral history project that I volunteered for. This has taken precedence because, sadly, some of the people that I was due to speak with died before I got the opportunity, and I have also been to the funerals of two people whose stories I have managed to preserve.
So the clock is ticking. Talk about a deadline. Literally.
In pursuit of finishing this endeavour, I was due to catch a train to interview a Bishop who lived on my estate in the 1970’s.
“Who are you going to see this time?” my daughter, Millie, asked.
“I’m going to see a Bishop. And guess what my first question is?”
“Is it true that you can only move diagonally?”
Long pause. “I don’t get it.”
Things didn’t fare any better with my older daughter, Courtney. She asked me “Where is it you are getting a train to?”
One of those pauses again. Must be a family thing. “What does that even mean?!’
“It’s a place,” I explained, deciding to slip back into English. Historically it was the upperland area between Saxon land and Viking land, and I love that kind of stuff.
But I didn’t go there (metaphorically speaking). I had a train to catch.
At Manchester Piccadilly, I made the fatal mistake of looking at books in WH Smith, something that is always liable to distract me. It was only when I saw some bottles of Buxton Spring Water on a shelf that I suddenly remembered why I was there.
That was the destination my train was heading for, with my stop coming two stations before. It was, dare I say it, divine intervention of my dawdling. And off I dashed.
In short: I made my train, on disembarking was met on the platform by the Bishop (“Jack?” “Andy?”) and was charmed over lunch by both him and his wife. Not realising on my arrival just how close to the station that they lived, I declined the offer of a lift back to the station, insisting that I’d like to walk. I am an ex-postie after all.
However, quaint though the local train station was, what I didn’t realise was that trains to Manchester ran only once every hour, and I had forty minutes to wait.
Just as the rain came in with a dampening down of mood.
There was a shelter on the opposite side of the tracks, (the Manchester side), so I could sit down and take in the setting. There was nobody else around. Windswept and empty, it was obvious that the locals were all au fait with the timetable.
At first glance, looking to the opposite platform, I thought that this said ‘Home of Frodo’.
A friend later told me that when she was there she’d thought that the sign said ‘Home of Freddo’.
In the autumn chill I was pretty sure that at least some of the locals were snug and warm.
I couldn’t help but contrast my surroundings with this welcoming depiction of the town. I think a bit of artistic licence had been used, especially with the climate. I could just feel that heat. Almost.
The time soon passed, (with still not a living soul arriving to keep me company), and my train rolled in to puncture this almost picture-portrait of times past. But not before the clouds broke and I was given one more contrast before my departure.