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Friday, February 04, 2005

the performer

Yes, well, here is the real thing: a grandchild!! No 3 to be precise. No's 1 and 2 to follow in very due course. Taken on Monday in a much warmer room than this.

IT IS COLD. And the sun has gone in. Among travel agents there is a profitable myth that these islands live in permanent summer. They don't. Locals sensibly clothe themselves in wool. Even Beloved acknowedges winter with a second t-shirt, he also wears long trousers instead of shorts (mainly because Grannyp complains he makes her feel colder still if he doesn't.) None of this would matter much, the sun can be warm enough, if the electric heaters put on to counter the chill indoors didn't instantly trip the electricity, meaning constant plunges through the dark house to put it on again. Three American women from Houston are appearing on Sunday, all of them claiming to feel the cold dreadfully. In the light of which Beloved and Grannyp headed for the big ironmonger on the other side of the island this morning to buy gas heaters. Successfully. Only problem is heaters need little bottles of butagas to feed them and acquiring them is more of a problem. According to some they can bought over the counter at any garage; not true; we tried 3. According to others a special certificate has to be acquired from a centre in the main town before the garages will even release them. Possibly true, but since they haven't yet found the little orange bottles of gas obtainable with or without the requisite piece of paper, granny and Beloved are still in the dark on this one, in all senses. Sunday is approaching fast. They will have to try again tomorrow.

As for electricity; in order to upgrade it seems that yet another certificate of 'potencia' is needed; whether or not that's obtainable without months of negotiation or possible short-circuit - ha! - via exchange of illicit cash - if only they knew how to set that one on- who knows? Not they. So why didn't they stay back in England where at least, baby, it's only cold outside?

(In the course of this expedition they did find source of a) fair trade coffee b)risotto rice; good. That's one less thing to hump back from London. Failed to find promised source of real smoked haddock. But you can't have everything.)

Granny, despite everything, is pleased to be home; really. A few days before leaving she encountered one of the lesser pleasures of ageing; news that an older friend, ex-boyfriend, had had a massive stroke a few months back; a once quite athletic, certainly strong man, barely 60, recent owner of an olive grove where he happily shinned up trees, pruning etc, in between building himself a house next door, is now able only to walk - just - and talk just - but unable to drive needs 17 hours care a day, so totally dependent on his family, round members of whom he is shunted for a few weeks at a time.

Would it have been better if he'd died? Who knows? Only he can answer that. Meantime Granny, who hadn't actually for one reason or another expected to encounter him again - or even to know his fate- is now beset by fond images of her friend's former lively self. (Also by rage that he refused to take better care of himself - blood-pressure checks were not for him, stupid bugger.) A kind of mourning; which she duly expects will be repeated more and more often as time goes on and her less robust friends succumb to one thing and another. It is said they will abolish old age; but it hasn't happened yet. Wh cares about creaky bones and wrinkles and all that if you can still walk, talk, look after yourself, depend on noone much? Poor friend. Meantime granny is left also, guiltily, relieved it wasn't Beloved. Who does take care of himself, more or less. Granny herself is flourishing still and intends to live FOR EVER. At the same time who knows what, or when? True of everyone - aren't we lucky to live even as long as sixty really; look at 26 December? But wrinklies, not to say crumblies, I guess, think about it more. Free travel on the London Underground cannot make up for all this. (But it helps.)
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