Volume 6 part 033 armless enough and enough is enough
2006 was as greater turning point for me as 2003 had been for Joe.
No doubt the Canaries had taken its toll on Granny. Following the scare when arriving in Vegas I should have realised that an eighty-year-old is better left to her terminal snooze. The week-end after we returned from Berlin was intended to be routine. Friday was a commute for Pete and I to Cromford. Saturday morning was for car cleaning and Saturday afternoon for the office followed by late lunch or early dinner on the way back to Cromford after shopping at Tesco. Sybille was particularly mute over lunch at the Fulwood Inn. Enquiring as to why she looked flushed she admitted feeling odd since the previous Thursday. A range of walk-in in clinics and A&E’s failed to diagnose a problem. By Sunday Morning the pink was decidedly red. She was admitted to Chesterfield Royal the same day. It took four days to determine the obvious. A nasty bout of Shingles kept her in Hospital for the best part of the month with Joe in attendance from Italy for moral support. Poor old Syb suffered serious scarring whilst at the same time giving up on life. Her robust character simply fell apart.
The newly expanded paternal role took its toll on the relationship between me and Pete. Pete likes attention. An old-timer with whom we had become acquainted with in the Fleur De Lyse in Totley observed that whilst we lived apart and could always “go home” we were never going to grow closer or, indeed ever resolve any differences.
Two weeks later while bubble was still in hospital, we bought a house!
Having arranged home help and a string of social support Joe disappeared back to Italy in Late February. For the rest of Spring I was back and forth to Abu Dhabi and Paris sorting out a project as a client’s advisor for a Women’s’ Hospital proposed for the UAE. Pete collected the keys to the new house by himself on June 9th 2006. We had become the proud owners of 123, Newbould Lane. With Granny becoming increasingly and rapidly dependent, buying the house looked like being a very rash decision. Joe returned in late June to take Ma back to Italy for the summer whilst we raided Ikea to furnish the new pad.
While Sybille was slipping not so graciously into a very old age her elder sister was literally losing an arm and a leg. Always trimmer than Bubble, her only sister, Finney was the “lady” of the family back in Germany. In her mid-eighties, she more than ably looked after husband Peter, by now in his early nineties. Stepping out to buy some paprika to flavour a homemade goulash she forgot to halt at the traffic lights causing grid-lock throughout Aachen whilst surgeons cut her free from the wheel-arch of a forty-foot Hungarian articulated truck. She lost most of the limbs on the right side at the road side and the rest, up to shoulder and hip joints in the local “Klinikum”. Sybille and Finney had always enjoyed a strained relationship. With Joe over to assist Ma for the summer it was only fair that we took Syb to Aachen to see her sister in ICU for one very last time. Ironically, Finney outlived Sybilla by almost three years dying a couple of years after her husband, Peter in the flat at the nursing home they shared until the end. On the one occasion that they spoke on the telephone after Finney had been discharged from hospital she sounded much more upbeat than Syb had done for many years despite being armless and complaining that having only one leg had seriously affected her balance. Finney’s English was remarkably good considering her lack of practice which is just as well as by this time Bubble was forgetting most of her German.
The three of us travelled to Germany in the Pale Blue Disco MkII. It was early July. Peter stayed at home to watch the dogs. The ten year old S class had been swapped for a new tiny A Class. Bubble preferred the high-ride of the Disco and the A-Class would halve the cost of commuting and depreciation.
Aachen was just a long week-end. We did our duty at the hospital, put flowers on Graves, shopped on Adelbert Strasse and ate Snitzel. All part of a well tried routine albeit at a snail’s pace with granny becoming increasingly slow and dependent upon support just like her mother had done when I was eleven. Upon our return, Joe obliged by taking Ma to Italy for the summer whilst Pete and I adjusted to living together.
Money set aside for holidays was commandeered for the house. A share pay-out was invested in a new Silver Discovery… now a Mk4 generation. We took delivery the week-end in September when Joe brought Granny back from her summer break. After collecting the new car we bought Bubble a wheel chair. The only protest at being officially designated infirm was her insistence that she got the “Blue” One. For four hundred pounds, the time taken to complete a circuit of Meadow Hall was slashed to less than a quarter. Along with hydraulic suspension to aid access, the wheel chair took up residence in the back of the new Land-rover officially christening the new car as the “Spas-wagon”. Joe disappeared home while I took to commuting from Cromford to Sheffield in the A-Class leaving Pete to rattle around “123” alone on Monday’s and Wednesdays. I stayed in Sheffield on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays and both of us stayed over in Cromford Friday’s and Saturday’s.
The money for new cast iron railings was spent on the cost of my business class ticket and bed and board to accompany Pete to New York in October 2006 after he won the first prize at the office outing to celebrate one hundred years of Swanke Haden Connell. The first prize turned out to be a very expensive free gift. I had won second prize of a combi-TV and DVD.
The trip to New York came only one week after an extended weekend in Italy to attend the Holy Communion service for Nadia’s eldest daughter, Sophia. After Church, we did lunch and obtained some obscure unicorn present…
October in New York was a first. Slightly drizzly but jacket weather at worst. We did the Office Centenary celebration albeit marginalised to stand with the peasants on the ballroom floor where we were introduced to the obligatory office gays. Being Gay doesn’t equate to having anything and everything in common with other Gays. “Straights” fail to see how patronising these introductions can be.
Peter countered with pleasantries including “Nice to meet you, can I introduce you to my fat friend and … Nice to meet you, do you have any Blacks I could meet? Etc. etc.” Being in America, this method of communication was, of course orbital. Pete’s responses went so far over their heads to the point where they invited themselves along for the post-party entertainment. Not until they heard directions to the Taxi driver did they have second thoughts about joining us. A three piece Versace suit in the Phoenix Bar intermingling amongst the chinos and cashmere is a curiosity but just about credible. A Versace suit in the Eagle sandwiched between studded leather harnesses and backless denim jock straps is something altogether different to behold. Being English gets you anywhere. Being English you are expected to be mildly eccentric. I was indebted to the Eagle for temporarily suspending its strict leather or denim dress code.
Using the executive lift in the office building was clearly an affront to the “Mr Haden” who exhibited remarkable diplomatic skills in totally ignoring us the day after the party. Why Pete felt it necessary to accept an invitation to see the Interior design studio when we were in NY for only two days is beyond me. Julian attempted to make amends for Haden’s pig-ignorance by inviting us to lunch. His astonishment at being rejected in favour of a pre-arranged appointment at MOMA to see the Campbell’s soup cans was more to do with him considering northerners cultural Philistines as it was having to dine alone when presumably, he couldn’t screw the company expense account. We arrived home via JFK and Stansted just after twelve noon on Saturday October the 26th. Floral displays had been unceremoniously dumped in the front garden, the caterers arrived a four pm and Howard and Johns “civil-partnership” party went into full swing at seven. We threw the party as part “wedding present” and part consolation for accepting a trip to New York and missing their big day.
It was foggy and cold for most of December. For our first Christmas at “123” I deported Bubble back to Italy. After a short week-end in Italy I returned alone via Ancona only to be marooned at Stansted for twenty-four hours due to thick fog, the likes of which hadn’t been seen since the London smog days of the late 50’s.
This was to be a traditional festive season at the new house with eight friend’s around an eight-man oak table tucking into Turkey and all the trimmings. The party extended through Boxing Day climaxing with a drive to Bakewell to get pissed in the “Peacock” with a bunch of Rugby Players. Steve and Paul totally missed the carved cold meats laid out for snacking on upon on our return but polished off the remainder of the beef and pork marinating in cold gravy reserved to be reheated for our lunch the following day. There was a lot of belching on Boxing Day that year!
Two weeks into 2007 Joe brought Ma back to Stansted. We ate at the Devonshire in Baslow. It was Saturday evening, cold and wet. Pete and I had words. Something to do with being back to “normal” and Bubble being more dependent than ever. In response I left Ma to find her way unescorted to the car where she missed a two inch step and was face down a puddle before Sir Walter could have filled it with a cloak. Not until the Monday did Joe realise that there was something amiss. A small fracture north of the thumb put her in Whitworth Cottage Hospital with a pot on her arm. The lady in the next bed was called Betty.
In Hartington a farmer was advertising Jack Russell puppies for sale. At the age of six Stella needed a play-mate. With the likelihood of diminished stop-overs with Pete in Sheffield he also was in need of a new play-mate. We picked a tri-colour and named it “Betty”.
Quiet whispers concluded that Bubble could not stay in Whitworth indefinitely. Joe wasn’t up to washing Bubbles arse having done her bit through Enzo’s last months. Bubble needed a nurse or a “Home”. The nurse was ruled out by Syb refusing to share her house with a complete stranger. A boy serving tables at the “Grouse and Claret” was up for the Job but ruled out as being unreliable. To get someone to bring the bill at the end of a very slow feeding session, we had the use the mobile phone to ring the restaurant to get his attention when the booking hot line answered.
Joe used her acute sense of smell to settle on Fulwood lodge as a suitable stable. Within a week of Grannies incarceration Joe high-tailed it back to Italy. Grannies stay was intended to be temporary until the plaster was removed and she could manage her own arse. Six weeks later and with two weeks rent still to expire she had the offer of staying-on while she acclimatised to her new hand or going home immediately. Her choice was emphatic. She would stay. She “liked having servants” and with me just a mile down the road could call me whenever she needed something. Peter and I gained Mitzi, the Yorkshire terrier as a full time border. Betty entertained herself by slowly stripping Mitzi Bald. Pete entertained himself by terrorising an unwelcome guest into regularly crapping itself on the conservatory floor. Mitzi was not a happy bunny! Joe volunteered a home.