Tag Archives: old age


4 Apr

Image“I’d like to go to the opticians again, these specs are useless” mother

“Its your eyeballs that are knackered Mam” son

“Yes, but if I could only get rid of the mist, its so misty” mother

“Its a clear sunny day” son

“Don’t be silly” mother

Age related, wet macular degeneration. It has taken my mother’s eyesight in small leaps as blood vessels burst and retinas detached; in bounds as helpful Opthalmologists spot welded the damaged parts back in place, causing yet more blind spots. It has played tricks with her perception; “Why is there a boot on the wall?” and it has made a tough old bastard very vulnerable. It has supported various opticians income as, annually, they fitted her with very expensive and totally useless varifocals – when they knew she had only very limited peripheral vision.

This woman survived four years in a Japanese prisoner of war camp as a teenager, chopping wood and digging graves to survive. She is of a stoic tradition which will disappear when the last of her generation passes on. Women like her possess an indomitable spirit worthy of the hardest, toughest warrior. But cellular degeneration, old age, too many fags over the years and, probably a truly crap diet as a youngster, threw her a curve ball to which she was not able to adapt.

If she had been weaker, she might have accepted all the help we tried to arrange, instead of telling the cleaner “You can sod off, I don’t like your attitude”, or squirrelling all the ready meals in a deep freeze “for a special occasion”. Like eating.

As the gangster says to Butch in Pulp Fiction “Its your pride fucking with you”. I know, I’m her son.



Kissing Gate

3 Apr

In a dark little hollow leading down to the western edge of Gillefield Wood is a kissing gate erected by the Friends of Gillfield Wood with my help in Ranger guise a couple of years ago. The path from the Hathersage road meanders along a plantation of rowan, hazel and ash on the right hand side and a more mature stand of Scot’s pine and larch on the left – the aspect is sunny and is a favourite haunt of butterflies along the messy borders of wild flowers and grasses. But as you cross the boundary of the wood though the kissing gate you become acutely aware of a transition from modern to ancient, youthfulness to senescence, for you are entering an ancient woodland. Here the cycle of life has turned many times, yet left the land relatively unchanged – the spring wood has been coppiced and re-coppiced by generations to make staves and poles, hedging stakes, binders, axe handles, charcoal and white coal in the Q pits still evident within the wood. The evidence of great age is all around you in the swathes of bluebells and wood anemones, in the fabulous array of fungi and invertebrates in the leaf litter, and the cool shady stillness.

VLUU L200  / Samsung L200

Last night I knelt beside my mum’s hospital bed with my wife Clare and daughter, Polly Littlewood – we were at a different kind of kissing gate, for the ancient edifice that is Jonkvrouw Adriana van de Poll (Jos to her friends) was losing her battle with pneumonia. There seemed to me to be a transition occurring between light and shade. Standing in the light we could only make reassuring noises and observe, as a my mother seemed to shift a little further into the shade.

Clare “Do you know who is here Jos?”

Mam “Yes….. it is Clare …. who is your man?”

“It’s Henk, your eldest son of course”

“Oh… fuck …. ha ha… how pathetic, I knew that really”

So I kiss the gate of her forehead and bid her goodbye, knowing I shall be back up the A1 within a day or two. I say “I love you Mam, you can just let go now and rest, think about playing in the garden with your brother Henk”

She murmurs “Yes….that would be fun”