Bruises and a Damaged Ego

I’d called into the café a few times in the last week to see if Armando had seen or heard anything from Lil. His response was consistent and negative. We hadn’t discussed possibilities as neither of us wanted to articulate what could have happened to our elderly friend.

It was Thursday and I had no trouble getting out of bed. In fact I was out of the door at 9.30am and seated in the café with a cup of Assam tea by 9.45. I’d sat in Lil’s seat so as to have the best view of the door.

I’d hoped she’d already be there or that Armando would finally have some news.

I didn’t order breakfast until I knew.

9.50 and 9.55 passed and still no sight. I couldn’t focus on anything other than the door and my hands wrapped around the cup containing the tea.

The time indicator on my phone changed from 9.59 to 10am and still no sign. I called Armando over.

‘This is ridiculous Armando. There must be something we can do to find her. Have you asked anyone else who comes in regularly if they know anything about her?’

‘I’ve been asking everyone I could think of. You know what it’s like in London. People don’t know too much about each other. It’s very different in Spain.’

‘But this is Crouch End. People do care. It’s like living in a village.’

The door opened and we looked from each other to the entrance.

Thank goodness. It was Lil. There was no shopping trolley and she was unsteady and heavy on her stick but it was her. She wore a long puffer coat and a fancy felt hat with an artificial rose on the side. Armando efficiently wove through the tables to her side, and offered his arm, and his support.

‘What you doing in my seat? Bloody hell I miss one week and you’re in my grave!’ Lil said with a weak cackle.

I apologised and moved. I’d forgotten where I was sitting when I’d seen her arrive.

As she removed her hat I noticed two new features; a purple rinse and a purple face. I let Lil settle, remove her outer coat to reveal her housecoat and reached across for her hand. We looked at each other with appreciation to be in each other’s company once again. Armando pulled up a chair and instructed the kitchen assistant and waitress not to disturb him, and to bring fresh tea.

‘What happened? Are you OK?’ I asked.

‘I’ve been a bloody fool,’ said Lil with water welling in her eyes. ‘I was fed up with a particular piece of peeling wallpaper above the mantelpiece in my sitting room. I got the steps from the hall cupboard and climbed up to rip the paper off. I lost my footing and fell off cracking my face on the side of the armchair and smashing to the floor.’

‘Lil, that’s awful. Did someone take you to hospital? When did it happen?’

‘It was last week Tuesday afternoon, and thank goodness my care-worker was due to visit otherwise I could have been stuck all night. The pain in my side was excruciating and I felt so sick.’

Lil looked away from us both as if deep in thought. ‘I’ll have my usual Armando please. I need to keep my strength up.’

‘Of course,’ and with that Armando ordered breakfast with a look to the staff. We could now settle a little and enjoy some sustenance. I, as usual, had a vegetarian breakfast with one sausage.

‘I was in the hospital for two days while they checked me out. Fortunately it’s all knocks and bruises, but I could have fractured my hip and cheek. Apparently I was in shock but that all sounded a bit like the modern mental clap-trap.’

‘Who’s looking after you?’ I asked.

‘I have some support but I’d rather do it myself. I have to keep moving. There’s no use relying on others.’

Lil said that when she was young an older lady she’d looked up to had taught her a rhyme, a mantra she had applied her whole life and proceeded to share it with us:

‘If your face wants to laugh, let it.

And if a smile you can get, get it.

Never look down. Don’t wear a frown

Because everyone else will hear about it

All over town.

So if at times you think you’ve got troubles

You’ll find someone else has double.

So laugh and grow fat

And if your face wants to laugh, let it.’

It made me think of my Auntie Rose who lives in Norfolk who says something similar.

‘Lil, we’ve been so worried and had no way to get in touch with you.’

‘Trust you to make it all about yourself Boulevardier.’ Lil smiled and picked up her cup with both hands. ‘And I’ve missed this bloody Assam, and that’s your fault too! I used to be fine with PG Tips.’ Lil was lightening the atmosphere. I would have to do likewise.

‘So what happened to your hair?’ I posed.

‘Bloody cheek. It’s to match the colour of my face. One of the support workers thought it would cheer me up! I hear Kelly Osbourne has hers the same colour.’

‘More like Mrs Slocombe-‘

‘-You can give us your number now, and we give you ours,’ Armando interrupted before Lil had a chance to react to my amusing comment.

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Lil knew better than to refuse the offer and we exchanged telephone numbers and continued breakfast. We conversed and laughed about the mundane, with Lil offering blog improvements as always. Equilibrium had been restored to Crouch End.

Our breakfast club was a recent but increasingly special event for us all and it was clear we were determined to keep it intact.

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Tis the season to start getting ready for the season

What is it all about? Your Boulevardier loves immersing in the spirit, the smells, the tastes (especially the mulled wine), the sparkle and the music. I have already had celebratory dinners with good friends, attended early Xmas parties, a festive show by Mari Wilson, an orchestral winter concert, a Christmas musical show hosted by the Supreme Fabulettes and a 40th birthday bash. Yet to come are classy lunches, a carol concert at Westminster Abbey and of course the Selfridges sale on Boxing Day.

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But does it really mean anything else to me, something deeper?

It’s quite often said that no one should be on their own for Christmas or not get a hot meal. But there are many people worldwide who are alone and lonely, and without a hot meal on the other 364 days of the year. Do they feed lonelier at Christmas because they are told to?

I love the superficial side of Christmas as sited above but struggle with the deeper meanings or real sense of giving just because of the season.

Conversations surround us of anxiety to make certain gifts are appropriate and appreciated. I do actually prefer to give presents when someone needs or wants something, or for an event such as a wedding or anniversary.

Is it a time of goodwill to all men? Or is it a time when people put up a faux happiness and allege a sanctimonious good will to all?

I wasn’t sure.

And then I heard something several weeks ago which has moved me tremendously.

The Haberdashery, an independent café in Crouch End, which I have previously wrote about put out the following message:

We need your help! Please read…

On Christmas day we will be providing Christmas Dinner and entertainment
to about 30 elderly people that would otherwise either have no means to celebrate,
or be lonely.

This will happen at The Haberdashery in Crouch End.

The guests will be chosen by AgeUk, a local charity that looks after
elderly lonely people.

On the day we will provide Christmas Dinner (with all the trimmings),
drinks, Bingo, Secret Santa, music and lots of happiness!

I need your help though.

There are many ways to help:

– donating any amount of money (even £1.00 would help!) to go towards the
food and drinks for the day (any extra money leftover will be donated to
AgeUk)
– donating a present for secret Santa
– donating a bottle of wine or something that would be consumed on the day
(mince pies/Christmas pudding/turkey etc…). Please do get in touch if
you want to donate food/drinks so can organise not to have 20 turkeys and
no booze!
– fundraising through your friends/family/customers/circles… Seriously,
£1.00 each could make the difference!
– by donating any old item you might do not want anymore: we will have a
table selling all the donations at the Christmas Barboot at The
Haberdashery. Books, shoes, clothes, anything will do!
– spreading the word through twitter, facebook, word of mouth…
– putting me in touch with someone that might be able to help with
discounted food or someone that might want to donate for this cause

Any donations would be extremely helpful!

For the first time in years I am looking forward to Christmas day like
when I was a kid!!! Super excited!!!

Spread the love,

Massimo.

It was clear to me then. The religious, and the sanctimonious reasons for Christmas don’t matter. It is a time when the truly generous in our midst get together to be with family and friends, and help those in need.

The elderly in our society are often overlooked unfortunately, and have only their memories of enjoying wonderful Christmas lunches and celebrations in the past. Surely the elderly will rejoice the most in sending and receiving Christmas cards. They won’t be as competent online or use Facebook or Twitter. However, how can they send cards when the cost of a second class stamp is now 50 pence. When you multiply the price of cards and stamps by the amount you send the cost skyrockets.

Family is so important and I wouldn’t miss Christmas lunch at my parents. The time with my ageing parents, aunties and uncles is precious. However, I want to make sure the Haberdashery have all the help they need with this amazing and selfless initiative.

I offered to go and help, but they already have so many helpers on the day, which is fantastic in itself. I have to say I’m not sure my waiting skills would be up to much, but I would make a great welcomer or accompanying Sherry drinker.

So it’s the fundraising that I’ve focussed on. I set about speaking to a number of local retail businesses and was overwhelmed by their generosity to this cause. Any surplus generated will be presented to Age UK.

If you live in or around Crouch End, own a local business or have the means to contribute please let me or the Haberdashery know.

This to me is Christmas. It’s time to help those less fortunate than us and I think a Boulevardier engages in these activities and gives his all…

I even have a few decorations up at home (some borrowed) to really get into the swing which makes the Sherry taste much sweeter!

Have great holidays my lovely readers!

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TNW