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  • She is my heroine.

    She is everything I aspire to be.

    She is 94 years old and my best pal where I live. We spend endless afternoons having cups of tea and listening to her days gone by.

    One day, she drove me to Kew Gardens. SHE DROVE. It was an experience I can tell you, and on one or two occasions we had to pull over but she got us there and back. She grabbed hold of my arm, not for support but to drag me this way and that and she showed me all the trees she saw grow before her eyes. Trees that were now caressing the sky. We always came off the path and wandered through the overgrown bushes. She is an adventuress. We stopped for lunch in the brasserie and her wit and optimism captured me every second of our time together.

    She said she was setting off to Australia to visit her son and his family out there. "My time is running out so better now before never." She had done the trip countless times before but this time she was saddened. She desperately wanted to visit her best friend in South Africa as she would normally do, but because of her age, they would not allow her to enter the country unless she paid a hefty sum up front. "They're afraid I start kicking up the daisies whilst I'm out there, you see." I had to laugh. She made it a joke and I did laugh; but it was no laughing matter. "Even at my age, Anne, there are still mountains to climb. What can I say. I can't blame them but I do so miss my friend and wish I could see her." My dear friend then entrusted her faithful plant to me for safekeeping whilst she was away (brave woman) and before now, I had never tried so hard to maintain something as I did that plant. If I forgot to water it and I was in London, I was ready to drive the train. My mother always spoke to her plants and trees and so I found myself doing the same. The kids were amused.
  • Eight months would pass before I saw her again and when she did arrive, we were back to our tea drinking selves. She is very particular about her tea and would lay her table with her finest and the first time I showed up in my flip flops, she very diplomatically told me I was not dressed for the occasion. She was brought up by Victorian parents, in the heart of the potteries in Stoke on Trent. Tea was TEA and china was expensive and tea was expensive. I was sure to look the part thereafter, although I was not leaving my private close.

    She is very modern in her way of thinking or perhaps I am doing her a disservice by saying so. Let's just say, she adapts to change very easily and as time went by, she watched many of her loved ones go and she saw the evolution of technology. She calls my mobile phone "the machine"; how endearing. She comments about children misbehaving, to me, but she does not approach the parent so as not to "upset the apple cart". Her idioms open my eyes and I long to record her speaking but it would take me away from the moment. She is too captivating for my mind to dare flutter to a piece of paper or to my phone.

    We chat about everything you can think of. She loves her cricket and would often drive to our green to watch the games. She watches the tennis, golf....such a sporty woman. She showed me all the cups her husband and daughter won with their cricket and tennis. She herself was a tennis player but what really astounded me by her past is that she was in the RAF. "That's where my Darling and I met." My dear friend then brought out hundreds of letters. The tears welled in my eyes. She reads a couple of them every single day. It was her secret to her longevity. "He keeps me going from up there. I had the best 46 years with him and when he was stationed abroad during the second world war, he wrote to me all the time. I have every single letter.

    My eyes fall on the stacks and they are a stained blue. Lettergrams. That's what they are. They are filled with exchanges between two people who took the time to put ink to paper and lick stamps and post it and the thrill of opening it and lying on the bed reading the hand of your darling. I cannot imagine the relief when that letter arrived for they were in the middle of a war.

    She sailed on steamships and remembers the SS Montcalm and SS Rose, to and from Canada and I can only place myself there in my imagination.

    She speaks of her past...but she does not dwell there.
  • My phone rang and I answered. On the other end, "My darling, when am I seeing you?"

    "I can come over this evening if you wish. We haven't had our tea for a while."

    "Very well. I shall see you at 19.30. Bye bye, darling."

    As I entered the flat, I noticed the table was not set.

    My dear friend picked up on my questioning silence.

    "We don't have tea at this time, darling."...... And out came the decanter with sweet sherry.

    "I'm going to send you back to your husband, sloshed!"

    Haha! That's my girl.
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