I feel as though I’m on a treadmill (stay with me) and I’ve set it to a ridiculously high level but I can’t find the ‘Stop’ button! So much going on, I’m that rabbit in the headlights who thinks maybe it would just be easier to lie down and pretend it’s not happening … but it is! House for sale, website design underway and oh, so much more, which I won’t share. Faced with uncertainty and decisions galore but, in the words of the song, ‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going.’!
I can’t wait for my website to be up and running thus enabling me to upload daily instead of scribbling notes. I have a backlog of topics to get off my chest, most deserving of anger or disbelief, whether news items or gleaned from programmes I have watched on television – or, perhaps, feedback on a rare outing to the cinema. I should follow my instinct. Last Saturday, however, I was persuaded to go and see Mary, Queen of Scots: two hours of my life I can never get back! Firstly, although I have included one, there is actually an absence of the required comma in the title; however, that is the least of it. Suffice to say, had I been alone, I would have walked out at the earliest opportunity. Almost childlike in its interpretation with the desolate landscape and foreboding ruin of a castle supposed to be Holyrood, the film proved no more than a vehicle for gratuitous sex and violence never mind the ‘poetic licence’ attributed to historic fact. Nicola Sturgeon would be proud of Saoirse Ronan’s Scottish accent, as Mary, particularly in view of the fact that Mary had been in France since the age of five and, now 18, had just returned to 16th Century Scotland! Striving to be inclusive and politically correct, virtually every race and colour held prominent roles in the Royal courts – apparently – and Darnley and Rizzio were gay. Enough. Well, perhaps it’s just worth mentioning the fictitional meeting between Mary and Elizabeth in what would appear to be some sort of shed masquerading as a wholesale warehouse for net curtains … Have I twisted your arm?!
Actually, apropos that enjoyable Saturday afternoon foray, I have another note to self regarding one of the adverts on the big screen – sacrilegious in my book. I had to laugh, it was so sad, if that makes sense? Bracing myself for the main event, I was distracted until I heard the instantly recognisable Wizard of Oz music and looked up to see Dorothy & Co in the Yellow Brick Road scene. The inimitable voice of Judy Garland, the memorable lines from the film and then … the Halifax mortgage adviser! No words? Yes. How Warner Bros could sanction the use of a timeless childhood classic in an utterly tasteless bank advert is beyond me. All those involved have merely served to compromise the dignity of a beloved masterpiece. Once again, everyone has a price …
On Wednesday, I was alerted to a discussion apropos a letter in the Moral Money column of The Telegraph, I think, regarding a couple returning from their honeymoon in Vietnam. In summary, the groom was offered an upgrade to First Class. His request that his new bride join him was denied. Granted, I do believe a debate followed at the end of which she told him to accept but … unbelievably, he did, leaving his beloved to fly home in Economy! Has she the right to be enraged in this climate of feminism, demanding of equality? The lines are so blurred now. Chivalry has been castrated; consigned to the past and those women determined to have it all have sweepingly deprived those of us who still believe in the existence of gentlemen and like nothing more than to be treated like a lady. What is wrong with this world? Suffice to say, the man in question merely showed his true colours reminding me of an incident in my own past which was filed away but never forgotten – certainly by my mother!
Three years married, we were flying to Zimbabwe for a holiday of a lifetime – and my parents! My now ex-husband had spent his formative years in the country once known as Rhodesia but neither my parents nor myself had ever been to Africa. It had been my dream since the age of six, when I saw Born Free, to go to Kenya but I was thrilled to be going to Africa at last! Anyway, boarding the plane, we were allocated pairs of seats behind each other allowing two of us those beside the window. Young, naïve and wishing to please (hard to imagine), I accepted ‘my beloved’s’ argument for his right to the window seat: he needed to be there to take photos of dawn breaking over Africa despite the fact that he had been privy to the wondrous spectacle many times before! Me? I could just lean over and glimpse what I could of the country I had longed to visit for forever. Failing that, I could just look at the photos afterwards … Hindsight? True colours. As I say, my mother never forgot that and reminded me of it many times over the years.
Where there is darkness, there is always light – isn’t that what they say? Well, yesterday I met Ludovic and he reminded me of life’s rich tapestry. In an increasingly beige world, there is still colour and gems of human beings to be found, however scarce.
Ludovic is Polish and, born in 1927 (the same year as Pop), he is ninety-two years young. He has a tiny little leather shop in the Tollcross region of Edinburgh and he was recommended to me when looking for someone to repair Becca’s precious vintage Cartier bag which she bought in Rome. I had phoned him earlier in the week and recognised immediately, from his voice, that he was a character. That character, however, was nowhere to be seen on my first visit. Returning yesterday, I found him – just as I had imagined: a little stooped by his ninety-two years, he was wearing a waistcoat under his jacket with wispy grey hair framing his head, brushing his collar, and eyes that twinkled. He told me that he was ‘for the bucket’ and had to sit down. I loved him immediately and knew he was just what the doctor ordered! He, too, must have seen in my face someone who thrives on humour for he teased me repeatedly as he offered me snippets of his extraordinary life. I had only put ten minutes or so on the meter but I could have spent hours. Seeing the old photographs behind the counter of him in uniform and as a young boy, he told me that he had fought with the Allies, in the Polish army, at Monte Cassino in WWII. Already feeling privileged to be in his company he, then, asked me to guess how old the young boy was in the photograph alongside … taken in 1941, he was thirteen/fourteen and said photograph was taken just before he was dragged from his home by the Gestapo and taken to Germany to be, in his words, ‘a slave worker’. He never saw his family again … The emotion took me by surprise as the tears welled in my eyes. In so many ways he reminded me of Pop: his ‘anger’ at old age and a world which now shows little respect for a generation deserving of it all! Most consigned to ‘a cell’ in a care home, we, in our ignorance, are the losers. Time waits for no man and the wealth of the untold story dies with the old and the lonely who, as though invisible, have so much to give. Ludovic says, with a twinkle, ‘Life is hell!’. Pop used to say the same …
Only fitting, then, that I leave you with a very real pathos disguised in his inimitable humour …
‘The highlight of my day is phoning you – that’s how bad it is!’
Pop, on the phone to me, 12th August, 2018 – two months before he died.
This is Trish, signing off.