2016 article by Age UK. ‘No-one should have no-one”
“Half a million older people go at least five or six days a week without seeing or speaking to anyone at all”.
2020, 1st Dec ember. BBC News reporter speaking in front of the Houses of Parliament i n London
It has been over six months now since Lockdown restrictions began to be gradually lifted. How has the world reacted since? After the initial spate of street parties and delayed celebrations such as marriages and birthdays, people have been eager to settle back into ‘normal life’. Many of those still in employment have returned to their nine-to-five routines, though not all to their previous locales. The worldwide ‘Stay at Home, Work Well Campaign’ has been adopted by many firms and businesses, who are now benefitting from lower rents, rates and general overheads by moving to smaller premises. Shops have re-opened, though sadly not all. With significantly reduced numbers of personnel, hospitals are s till busily catching up with the backlog of treatments and tests postponed in March. Official UK Government Reports say the Parties are steadily working through the details of the Brexit aftermath. The ordinary man in the street is saying that it is going to be the most celebrated Christmas season ever.
11.35am. Harriet, 72, in her dressing gown, sitting at the window of her third floor flat, looks out at the street … and thinks.
“ I suppose I should get dressed. Heavens it’s nearly lunchtime. Well there’s no one t o see me, and I don’t feel steady enough this morning to go through that rigmarole. Nearly fell over yesterday trying to put those stupid trousers on. If I’d fallen, I’d be lying there still. This flaming arthritis! My mobile’s useless now with these stiff fingers. It would be easier on a laptop, Mrs Wilson from the Church says, and a laptop ’s supposed to be great for that video calling and ordering food an d stuff. Well it’s just too late to teach this old dog! I ll never learn how to use one properly now. Anyway, I’m warm enough and these pyjamas are comfortable. I’ll just stay as I am for now.
Let’s see, who’s in the street that I know? Look at the dirt on those windowsills. Well it’ll have to stay there, I’m not leaning out to clean them. Those pigeons! I ’ll….. Oh, there’s that young lass from No 14. She used to wave up at me every morning on her daily exercise. Hello love. (Sh e calls and waves) Oh, she didn’t look up. Must be very busy now sh e’s back at work. Doesn’t she look smart in that suit! Make s a change from those track bottoms. She’ll be so fit after all those weeks of jogging.
Anyone else I know in the street? So many people now, I can’t see clearly when they’re all bundled up i n their winter clothes. Different when there was only a handful in Springtime. Always used to be a few queuing outside the corner shop. That s closed now for good. Such a pity, the Patels were such hard-workers, t hey deserved to do well. But Mrs Wilson told me most people went to the Tesco in Waterloo St. I suppose if you only go out shopping a week you want to get everything at once. The Patels did their best but they just couldn’t stock everything. Mrs Wilson said, when she was bringing me my shopping during Lockdown, that she went to Tescos every Friday.
Isn’t the house quiet! The flats were so full of noise and life then. The students in 3 and 5 went home to their families of course, but 1 and 2 were so full of noise and life….! It must have so cramped in No 1 with three children. All day the television or the radio or music, except when they were in the back garden. They must have had their parents’ heads turned, but it was so good to hear voices and laughter. I’m sure Melanie and Tom had just as good a time in the sun in Melbourne, and that Louise kept them busy too. I do miss Louise, but I must remember to be grateful that she was offered such a great job in Australia , that it was right for her to go! And the photos of her house, so big and such a lovely garden with all those strange colourful plants….and a swimming pool! Alan has a kind face, I hope he’s good to her and t he children. Such a pity I haven’t met him yet. But then I rarely s ee Thomas and that Maria he married, and they’re only in Scotland! Might as well be Australia. He was such a cuddly boy growing up – always th rowing his arms round me, saying I love you Mum. I remember his Dads last night in the hospice -Thomas would’ve only been four – he grabbed hi s dads’ leg on the bed so tight, the nurse couldn’t make hi m let go. Oh well, I suppose he’s happy, and he did call me on the landline every week during Lockdown.
Now where was I? Oh yes, Flat No 1. I’m sure it was tough for them, keeping those young uns busy! But at least they always seemed to be getting on. That poo r couple in No 2! Raised voices all the time. Supposed to be working from h ome they were. Bet they got little done with all that arguing. I m not surprised they split up after it all. And as for that lovely young nurse in number 4. Her flat was always so quiet. Not surprised, poor thing . So white-faced when she came home from the hospital. And not much better looking when she went back. Such long hours… and what she must have seen! I’m glad she took a few weeks off when it was over.
I miss having life in the house! It used to float up and f ill this flat. Now it just feels empty. With the children back at school, and just him on his own in No 2 still working from home, and that lovely nurse back at the hospital. She still seems to be working very long shifts tho ugh. Strange how no-one came back to 3 or 5. I wonder what happened. If the students didn’t want the flats, why hasn’t the landlord rented them out again? They’re good flats, that’s why we bought this one all those years ago. Three flights of stairs mattered a lot less then. That and the fact it was near my school, no long walk to work. And Stella and David were living only two streets away when we moved in. I ’ll never get over the awful accident! Oh, I still miss her so …… as children we were so close growing up! No matter, it ’s still a good flat. I know they say no-one has the money anymore, but you’d think someone would want them. Mind you, it looks like t here’s a lot of empty flats in the street now.
Oh, they’re carrying a Christmas tree into No 12, how lovely! No 8 beat them to it though, they’ve their lights up already! So nice to see the lights in these dark evenings. I wonder will Tom and Maria come to see me at Christmas! Well, there’ll be a big parcel from Australia to open on Christmas Day anyway. I hope Mrs Wilson remembers that she ’s promised to get the Church to deliver a Christmas lunch for me. Though she’s been very good. After Lockdown, she did come and sort out a weekly shopping list for me and then arrange for Tescos to deliver it each week. It’s a bit boring eating the same stuff each week, but I’d never get up all those stairs now with bags of groceries. I ’m not sure I’d never even make it to Tescos, my legs are s o stiff these days. She was so good! And that young lad Rolf who does the delivery, he’s a ray of sunshine he is. Always joking, and so kind. He puts the stuff away in the cupboards every Friday morning to save me doing it. So sad he lost his Gran. He says he’d do it for her if she w as still here. Such a nice lad!
Now what was I thinking! Oh yes, the groceries. It’s probably time for lunch. Oh, I don ’t want to get up and go to the kitchen, I felt so dizzy that last time I went to the toilet, I don’t want that again. And I don ’t feel like cooking. But I know I’m supposed to take my he art tablets with food. Maybe just a sandwich and a cuppa. I must be more careful with the kettle in future. Don’t want another burnt finger. Heavens, look at the time!. Where’s the tv doofer? Ah there! Down th e side of the chair. I’ll watch the news and then have something to eat, not hungry enough yet though for a walk to the kitchen. I’ll leave it a while yet. Maybe I could just have an early tea. That d do! Now what button do I press again? Oh yes, the big red one. Thank heavens Mrs Wilson sorted out the subtitles for me. I’m getting deaf as a post. But my eyes are grand in these glasses though. It was good of Help the Aged to see that we all had a check-over after Lockdown ended. The hearing aid’s no use, but these glasses are great. Would be nice if Mrs Wilson could visit more often than once a month when she brings my hea rt tablets but she’s such a busy woman now, she tells me .now that all the Church activities are up and running again. Well I ’m sure people are getting married and having babies christened and going to services again. And she’s such a good organizer, the Reverends Right Hand, she calls herself.
Oh dear, it ’s got very dark, that’s a heavy sky. Did I dose off again? Must have. Now where’s that red button…..”
|Mary Farrell, born in Northern Ireland, returned from France three years ago to live in Portstewart. Facilitator of Two Northern Ireland Writing Groups and sometime public storyteller, with poems published in the 2019 Bangor Literary Journal and the 2019/2020 CAP Literary Anthology ‘Vision’ and a trilogy of short stories completed, she is now enjoying the challenge of writing individual stories with a Flash Fiction piece published in Flash Fiction Magazine in April, 2020.|