Last week I waxed lyrical about Liverpool in the sun. It was warm and relaxed. People were smiling. I was smiling. Last Monday I came to the rain. There was to be no gentle parade down to the Pier Head. It was not a time to stop and admire the wonderful old architecture sitting alongside the modern straight utilitarian lines of dark glassed facades baking in the afternoon glow. No, it was taxi, train, taxi, train and taxi. I had to smile at the big fat friendly Liverpool cabby driving a rattling old bus; much used and much loved. Nothing was too much trouble for him. He waited to make sure I was back inside number 28, safe and sound.
But the weather was autumnal. Late autumnal. The journey itself was super normal. Preparation was straightforward and is now a well oiled routine. Half my baggage is for my MS baggage. You know, the just in case stuff, just in case I get caught short. I’ll spare you the details but there are shed loads of precautionary equipment focusing on the need for those extra little visits MS invites you to have. But sometimes there is nowhere to visit.
In the old days when I could walk, there was still an issue of urgency but it was no trouble to just find a little nook for a discreet slash outside the off stump. Now the act of standing up incites macaw-like screeches of neuropathic agony. The standing up in a darkened corner option is now confined to history. I was such an expert.
Even in London, I knew so many sneaky little places. Now I don’t even have the luxury of a car, I can no longer park in the uninhabited end of a DIY centre car park in some anonymous retail complex. So needs must and I’m spoilt for choice. The disabled loos at all the stations I go to have played a blinder as a form of quick change refuges.
When I say quick change, I mean slow change. The use of the word quick affords me the illusion of being super efficient in the art of dignity preservation.
My arrival signalled the need for beer. Then you know those little moments when you think you’ve already had something but you find it nestling in your bag? The little bottle of Malbec I’d bought for the train came out blinking in the dazzling mist of surprised delight.
I’d eschewed my on-board tipple, preferring a cup of tea instead. Then it got better. There was still a healthy amount of Old Pulteney left from the week before. So that was it; sit, relax and enjoy.
Outside the wind was raging. It was a familiar recital. The gale sings its long plaintive notes down the chimney while angrily shaking the tall miraculous weeds standing firm on the top of the walls. (Kenilworth Road is not known for its lush luxuriant gardens so weeds on a wall are a thing of shock and awe.) It was a long haunting melody sending me back to the early mornings of my younger days when I’d be preparing to face the cruelty of another winter’s day, deprived of light and joy. It always gives me gentle warm smile because now, I just don’t have to go out if I don’t want to. For me it’s a reward for years of hard graft.
The next day my dad was eighty eight. Two fat ladies. A grand age for a grand man. He had the three sons under his roof.
We exchanged anecdotes of our chequered past. Dad likes to hear about the naughty little deeds we dared not tell him about at the time. It was just lad stuff really but sometimes we were really close to the wind.
I managed to have a little more whisky before my friend Jules picked me up. I was cooking. It was going to be a Malaysian fish curry. I’d brought my own spice preparation of turmeric, lemon grass powder and mango powder. We added tamarind, coconut milk, chilli, onions, toasted cashews, cray fish tails and some lovely cod. I made some chapattis too. You can always tell when I’ve been on the bread. The carpet rocks a frosty rime of scattered flour with an arabesque of linear interlocking curves from the dance of the wheelchair.
An evening of good food and superb music sent us back to the old days as we looked to the future. It was a shame Colin, Julie’s partner missed out.
I retired in the fresh daylight of early summer. Colin texted at 7 am to see if we were ready to sit down and eat; it never ends early. It was great to meet up with the neighbours as well. Katie and Joey are teachers so suffice to say, we had a few things in common.
After a sleep on the sofa, the next morning, sorry, the same morning, required a revival of old skills. Yes, I suppose I can claim a number of mediocre talents but my best one was developing techniques of handling hangovers. As your eyes flicker into the rude mid-morning light you have only a few seconds to consider your options.
Does my head hurt?
Do I feel nauseous?
Am I dehydrated?
Have I got a mouth like a buzzard’s crotch?
Do I need tea?
Do I need to throw off the duvet and start dancing with a toilet driven urgency?
Will I just lie back and shout tea with a weak voice of pathos, expecting sympathy for my deliberate indulgence?
Well I got the last two. Obviously it wasn’t a dance; more of a flurry of arms in some attempt to raise my leaden body for the first act of my morning ablutions. The tea song was heroically performed with just enough edge of annoyance that would ensure a prompt response.
Jules is a star. I’m not a morning eater but that pack of breakfast biscuits took a hammering. I remained on the sofa feeling the need to recover.
The thing about trips home is the joy of meeting up and drinking. My next appointment was three that afternoon. Andy, Christine, Trevor and George joined me in Wetherspoons. I know some people get a bit sniffy about the spoons. Yes it may be a mish mash of the town’s great unwashed but it doesn’t have music, it’s prices are OK and it has a proper radar loo.
The other thing about meeting with the gang is that it’s rapidly becoming a joyous occasion of happy chat. You realise why you were friends in the first place. Andy may be the world’s leading authority on everything but he’s kind hearted and loyal. so are the others, without the leading authority bit. The chat ranges from work and ailments to domestic bliss. It’s so middle aged. But that’s what we are and I love it.
The journey home was incident free; apart from alighting at the bus stop down the road. My front wheels are free. Only the back wheels steer so I’m governed by the rather severe slope. I have to go down the hill to come back up.
The narrow pavement inclines towards the road. The driver often gets puzzled whilst I sit static waiting for him to move on. One false move and I’d be under his wheels. Then it was a mad dash on the scooter to put my cross in the Labour box. I drank little that evening. I’m looking forward to fruit and veg.
Oh those damned northern pies.
Thank you for reading.