Friday, 23 February 2018

Like my Mum?

The lack of posts reflects the stark fact that I'm not able to get out much at the moment. Oh, I do local things - that has never stopped - but my longer-distance outings have been few, and consequently the number of stimulating places visited has been few as well. Not so many outings, not so many posts. 

Why? The toe of course. Its healing is so slow. I will admit that, on the whole, the toe is now showing increased signs of recovery from its early-January surgery, but I am not yet convinced that something isn't holding it back. And yet, for instance, it doesn't look infected (and I have some recent definite assurance on that). But the longer this drags on, the more I feel inclined to get the toe checked over yet again. I chafe at this present inactivity. I'm not a very patient person!

And besides, I do so want to spend long afternoons - or even whole days - visiting spots, taking pictures, and getting some fresh air in abundance. Especially as the first signs of Spring are here, with sunshine to enjoy, even if it does remain cold outside. But that cannot yet be. The toe will tolerate confinement inside a boot or shoe only for a couple of hours, even when driving: after that, it feels uncomfortable. Walking about for any distance, or over rough ground, is also uncomfortable. I stumbled in a country churchyard the other day. Ouch!

So I spend a lot of time at home with my feet up, doing whatever you can do when sitting around.

I have recently been comparing myself to Mum, as she was at my age.

When she was sixty-five and coming up to sixty-six (as I am) it was 1987, and Mum and Dad were living in a quite-new house at Liphook in Hampshire. Here it is, in 1993, much as it ever was.

I was still working in 1987, of course, and could see them only on weekends. Still, the Sunday Lunch with Mum and Dad was a regular thing, an institution, and it always seemed to be sunny at Liphook. I generally went with W--- at this time, and after the ritual lunch we would wander around the village, or go for a stroll in Radford Park opposite, an area of historic meadowland and old mill races, with lots of restful running water. Mum was no rambler, but had been keen on extended casual strolling all her life, had no aches and pains, and in her mid-sixties was still good for some seriously long walks.

She was could be pretty mumsy too. Here she is, holding my niece Jenny (then a toddler, now a grown-up mum) in April 1987:

And this is Mum (left) with my auntie Peg (right) in the same month:

Eighties fashions? No, a hangover from the seventies and earlier. Mum was never a fashion diva. 

In June and July 1987 my parents were in Pembrokeshire (where I wanted to go to in April this year, but had to forego). Here's Dad, Mum and Peg on the sands at Broad Haven:

And here's Mum at Tenby, looking a little more stylish:

None of the above shots were mine: I wasn't present. They were Dad's pictures, or Peg's.

Five years on, in the early 1990s, after W--- and I had separated, I would go down and see my parents on my own. Mum was by then seventy or so, but the extra years had not slowed her down much, although, loyally, she walked at Dad's limping pace. Arthritis was getting to him, and in 1993 he would have a double knee-replacement operation.

I remember Mum and I taking a particularly long and strenuous walk in the Devil's Punch Bowl at Hindhead. That very occasion was notable for her quizzing me on my long-term plans, now that I was separated and looking at a divorce. I remember choosing my words with great care, as you always had to with Mum. She was inclined to pass a well-meant but scathing comment on everything, and many a cherished idea or plan had been unnecessarily pooh-poohed by her in the past. It was a fault that worked to her disadvantage, because in self-defence I'd be secretive with her, as a way of avoiding any argument, for I couldn't win. I often wondered if she guessed that I was keeping some things from her.

And it had a bad effect on me too. Over the years, I gradually developed the habit of being secretive about most things with most people, not just her. This must have led to a situation where I'd subconsciously thrust odd or difficult notions from my mind, to stop myself dwelling uselessly on them. Uselessly, because I couldn't bring them out and discuss them with anybody - and by doing that, possibly see a way to make them real. A form of blindness, I now think.

Here are Mum and Dad in 1993 on the beach at Oxwich, on the Gower. This time, it's one of my photos. They had me along - bribed with a free autumn holiday all at their expense. Although I did really enjoy their company most of the time, and Dad's car was very nice to drive!

But you can sense how united they were, and what a forthright and formidable couple they made - and how hard it might be for me to stand up to them.

How do I stack up, now that I'm more-or-less at the stage of life they had then reached? Here are some photos of myself from late last year, when I had turned sixty-five:

The first thing to remark on is that these are all selfies: I am not one half of a couple. And I holiday alone. Neither of my parents would have dreamed of taking a selfie, and neither would ever have set forth unaccompanied. They were each other's lifelong support - perhaps (in a psychological sense) dangerously so. I have no such dependency on another person. 

Although I would never claim to be adventurous, and I am nervous of quite modest heights, I do think nevertheless that I am more inclined than Mum ever was to do dodgy things, such as getting near to cliff edges for the sake of a photo. And I certainly drive faster than Dad would have. I'm guessing that the lack of a family leads to a degree of personal recklessness, or dismissal of danger. In other words, if your demise can make no practical difference to anyone, you tend to take the odd extra risk. The lack of a family - never having been more than a light-handed step-parent, and that for just a few years - also shows up in having a less careworn demeanour. Or is this actually a generational thing - that my generation, having no wartime experiences, and long used to healthier and less stressful living, genuinely seems younger, fitter, and more energetic? (Post-surgical toes aside, that is!)

I certainly don't share Mum's sharply-defined attitudes. I'm less dogmatic, far less likely to take a stand on a principle, and I am certainly a good deal more diplomatic - something learned from my Dad there. 

Enough said for the present. I will return to how I compare with my Mum in future posts. We must have strong similarities, but mostly I can't see what they are at the moment. I am chatty, just like Mum was, but I wouldn't build too much on that. 

I was always too different from my younger brother for there to be a close affinity, but if he were still alive, we could at least see each other and discuss our parents, Mum in particular. But that cannot happen. It's at times like this that I wish there had been a sister...

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