We have good days and not such good days, but mostly things are going well. I am only too aware that it is up to me to make it go well, my stay here in Suffolk. On the face of it, that should be easy enough, but somehow it never is.
Yesterday was cold and wet and horrible. Rain turned to sleet – briefly to snow – then back to sleet again, and the sharp wind of the morning became a chilly gale by mid afternoon. It was Thursday, and Thursday is the one day of the week my mother ‘escapes’. My father doesn’t like going out himself, but no longer likes her going out, and sadly she has gradually given in to this over the years, so now he panics if she’s not close by. It’s probably too late to change that, but it makes me both sad and cross that my once busy mother is essentially incarcerated within her property.
However, on Thursdays their cleaner comes in the morning so while she is in the house, Ma nips down to meet her friends at a church coffee morning that she herself instituted some years ago. She only goes for half an hour or so, but then, later in the morning, she goes up the road to get her hair done – another all-too-brief half hour. Two tiny windows in her week.
‘Why don’t you go down for coffee?’ I suggested chirpily at breakfast. ‘And don’t rush back – stay and eat all the biscuits.’ My father grunted in the manner he reserves for plans he doesn’t like, but I ignored him and bundled her off. I have far more steel about me than my mother. While she was gone I unloaded the freezer to defrost it and surveyed the shed roof with their marvellous handyman who popped in specially. He will fix it asap, but while he was there I got him to fit an extra light in the kitchen. Later I cut my father’s fingernails, as he can no longer do them for himself and in the afternoon, while Papa ‘zizzed’ by the fire, Ma and I played Scrabble. I think my brother rooted the game out in the hope of exercising her brain – a clever idea. Once, she used to beat us all at Scrabble, but yesterday I had to remind her how it was played. Still, no matter, we got there.
Today we had planned to go into Ipswich on the bus. They panic at the idea of driving in to such a large town, as larger towns are complicated and involve finding somewhere to park. I drive them, of course, as they both ceased driving a few years ago, but I don’t think my father really believes women can do anything much (outside the kitchen), especially drive. The day dawned cloudless and beautiful, crisp and cold, the gales and sleet a distant memory. Over breakfast Papa announced that he wasn’t up to going into Ipswich. No surprise there, but I had a secret plan. Feigning resignation, I reluctantly agreed to let the Ipswich trip go, but suggested we compensate Ma by taking her somewhere nice for lunch instead. He was in a bit of a corner and couldn’t wriggle out, so somewhat later we set off for Framlingham. I have never been to Framlingham. Some rather hoity neighbours only every shopped in ‘Framlingham, of course’ which rather set my parents against the place. But today I chose the destination, and off we went.
Needless to say, no sooner had we set off than Papa asked me to slow down. As usual. I was doing under 30mph/50kph, and pointed out that I’d stall if we went any slower. (I often pull in to let frustrated motorists overtake.) I just have to keep reminding myself that he has forgotten I’ve been driving for well over 40 years (in Central London for 20 of those). At least, that’s what I try to think. Sometimes it helps.
Framlingham was lovely – of course! We didn’t walk around the town or the castle, we just went straight into The Crown, a coaching inn dating from around 1750, settled ourselves beside a roaring fire, admired the dog lying under the sofa next to us and ordered a slap up lunch. It was perfect, but then, what else would you expect, in Framlingham?