Flat for Sale

Jack, the guy from the estate agents, said there would be no problem selling my flat. In fact he had people on his books that already wanted to view it, they were interested in my flat right now. He wanted to know what he could do to stop the other estate agents coming to give a valuation, when he could sell it today.

My home really is wonderful, I have always loved this place. I don’t really want to go but circumstances now mean I must. An upstairs flat doesn’t work anymore, I need to be downstairs now and that will mean leaving Brighton. It makes me sad to leave but I’m happy to have been here.

Jack walked around my flat with his pad and measuring tool and I accompanied him. The main room he said was great, good size and well presented. I wanted to tell him about the parties, the music and dancing that had taken place over the years. How we have laughed till we cried on many occasion in that room. How wooden spoons make fantastic microphones and in here anyone can sing. I thought he should know that I have cooked for and fed the people I love in the main room. My lounge has been checked into a few times on facebook and the food and atmosphere are said to be amazing. I didn’t share this with Jack but I do think it adds to the value.

Lovely big windows, lots of light he said. Yes, I thought, the sun streams in lighting up the room and everyone in here; it is always summer in this room. There is nothing I like better than sitting by those windows in the morning with my coffee; it is where I like to think. The flowers in the window box lean into the room to join me and bring summer indoors.

The bedroom is a good size, huge window. I didn’t mention to Jack that I lie in bed looking up at the sky every day. I set the alarm early, just to lie there. I can’t just jump out of bed, not when I have to plan the day while I’m looking up at the big blue sky from that window. At night I count the stars that shine over the city from the window and the light it lets in casts comfortable and safe shadows around the room.

Jack said he liked the wooden floorboards, a good feature he said. Great for dancing, but we do have to think about Jonathan downstairs if it is late. That is apart from the time he was dancing with us, then we didn’t care.

My neighbours are just fantastic; I’m so lucky to have them. Jonathan is a homeopath who always understands my ailments and humour. You can see his brass plaque just beside the main doorway downstairs. He makes hair products too; they are standing on the shiny glass shelf in my bathroom. If you look out of that big window again, you will see his garden, it’s beautiful all year round, it must be where he gets his inspiration.

The house next door is the vicarage, so no problems there. Robert, the vicar, is lovely, we have shared a few glasses of wine and his stories are hilarious. It is a lovely road, full of great people. What’s more near the centre of the city it’s amazingly quiet.

Before you go, Jack, did I mention the planning permission to extend into the loft. You think that’s a good selling point. No I didn’t ever get around to it, my loft is full of boxed memories.

You’re a great sales man Jack, you remind me of my granddad and he could sell anything, same patter, same charm. Thing is Jack, you don’t have all the information. The best things about this flat are the memories in the walls, the smiles that have been reflected in the glass, the happiness and the love. I think this has always been a happy home and I think anyone that lives here will get that.

Does love and happiness sell Jack, will you tell the prospective purchasers about the love. I think they need to know that it’s a wonderful home, that when the door closes behind you there is nothing quite like it.

You see, when people buy a home in Brighton they buy into a lifestyle. But what makes that even better is the home you live that lifestyle from. This home, my home, has great vibes. I think that all the people that have ever lived here have been blessed and the happiness that has been shared in the flat will fill the walls for years to come.

Time Machine

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There is a time machine for sale in the local junk store and I’m thinking of buying it.  There is a disclaimer taped to the top that advises the machine should be used for display purposes only and that any time travel is at the owner’s risk.   I wonder about this, I’m buying it to travel back in time so it needs to work.

I want to go to a few different places but I need to get back from each of them to move on to the next.  Or maybe I will go from one to another and come back to today when I’ve had my fill.   Whichever way I choose to go I want to be certain I can come home.

I have some things I want to say, things I should have said first time around.  I want to let a few people know they are special, that they touched my life.  I realise I can’t make any huge changes, I need to get back to now but the little things I want to do and say won’t change the course of history.

I’m going to become a time traveler, I wonder if it will change me, will I still be the same person on my return.  I will admit, I don’t know an awful lot about time travel, science has never been one of my strengths.   I’ve watched a lot of Dr Who and loved The Matrix, so hopefully I will be fine.

I won’t be visiting family, the people who shaped me, that could change things forever.  Anyway they are here today and the ones that are not know how much they meant to me.  The people I’m visiting might not even remember the events I do, but I want to tell them what they meant to me.

I want to go back to Mr. Khan’s history classroom.  That week when I was leaving school and he kept me behind.  I remember he said to me that I should use him for a reference if I needed one for a job.  He told me that many of the teachers had little time for me and probably wouldn’t bother.  He said he saw something in me, to give his name.  When I was in that job, because of his glowing reference I wished I had said thank you that day.  I probably did, I had manners even then, but I want to be able to go back and say thank you with feeling.  I want to go back to that room and tell him I did well, I did eventually get my head down to study and that I have always remembered him.

I would like to be sitting on the bench with Mr. Davis when he dies, I don’t want him to be alone.  I want to tell him he made me happy, he made me laugh as a teenager and how sad I was that he was alone in the world.  I want to tell him I asked my mum to pray for him the night he died and that he was added to her prayer list.  Thing is with mum, once you’re on there you don’t leave so she has being praying for Mr. Davis for thirty odd years.  I think Mr. Davis would like to know that.

I want to go back to the girl we teased and called flee bags.  I want to tell her I knew she didn’t have flees, I was being a sheep.  I want to ask her if she would like to play with me and be my friend.  But most of all I want to say sorry for not stopping the bullies.  I hear she is happily married with a family.  My mum says she is a lovely girl, who stopped and gave her a hug last time she saw her.  I want to thank her for that.

I would like to smile and say thank you to my husband the day he said he was leaving.  Tell him it was the right decision, that I’m not as sad as I think that day and that my life has been just great.  I would like to suggest we forget the arguments to come, lets not have them.  Because in twenty years when we meet again we will realise we have grown into totally different people.  Some things really are good for as long as they last.

I don’t want to keep going back in time forever, I need to enjoy today.  So I need to make sure that the things I say today, and from now on, are thought about.  That I let people know how special they are on the very days they are special.

Where would you go?

Kismet

Walking through town today I was stopped by a man in the street.  I hate to admit it but I immediately apologised for not having any spare change, I didn’t, I was being honest.  This is awful I know, but it is indicative of living in a seaside town.  There are lots of people down on their luck and it is common to be asked for spare change.  I do give, I’m not heartless but I do choose whom I should to give to, I just don’t have that much to go around.  I often give to the same people, I don’t know if this is right or not.  There is the happy guy who stands outside Waitrose, I know he probably isn’t happy but he greets you like an old friend.  There are others who touch me and if I have change in my pocket, I do try and help out.

Getting back to today, when the guy stopped me, he said it wasn’t money he wanted.  Maybe because I had said I didn’t have any, who knows.  But he said he stopped me to tell me I was going to die on March 30th.  He said he was sorry, it had just come to him and he had to tell me.  ‘Well thanks for that’ I said and walked on up the road.  How strange, did he say that to all people without change or just me.  Now I don’t think for a moment he had a vision but it has got me wondering.

It gives me 18 days and March 30th is Mothering Sunday.  Great day for my son and my mother then, I better think very carefully about the words I put in my mum’s card.  Perhaps I should suggest celebrating the day before.

Now I know this sounds quite ridiculous but I’m starting to think of all the ways I could die and what I can do about it.  If I cut out driving on that day, that rules out a road traffic accident and that is one of the main contenders.   I won’t leave the house and that cancels out a few more.  My son wouldn’t poison me, well not intentionally and certainly not on Mothers Day, I wouldn’t think.  I don’t think the house is over any flight paths, unless they go off track.

I have always been a hypochondriac but even I can’t think of an illness that would kill me in 18 days.  The boiler needs checking, I will phone the gas board and get them round in the week.  Bananas, I won’t buy any to be sure there are no Brazilian spiders lurking.  I might mention the spiders to my neighbours too, just to be on the safe side.

Why didn’t I walk up another street yesterday, or get on a bus.  The man would not then have seen me and I wouldn’t be thinking of how to save myself.  He would have said the same to someone else who was too tight to give him any money.

I need to plan, like what I am going to do on March 31st.  After all I would have been cooped up the previous day and will want to get out.  I know, I will start planning my birthday party, not that I usually have one.  But this year I will be alive.

Aunt Sadie

Aunt Sadie was always strange according to my father, but to me Sadie was wonderful.  The day she died I knew, I heard her voice first when I was sitting quietly in the conservatory.  I looked up and there she was at the end of the garden, stroking the pussy willow just as she always did.  She had been poorly and I knew she was dead, she wouldn’t have got there unaided.   She had no shoes on her feet, her red wavy hair was untied and she was wearing an emerald green dress I hadn’t seen in years.  It had never occurred to me before then that you could wear what you liked when you were dead.  Sadie has told me since that you can be any age you like too, but I’m jumping ahead of myself here.  Anyway that was the day I started to talk to dead people.

From a young child Sadie was my favorite person in the world, she didn’t act like the other grown-ups, she pleased herself.  My father, her brother, despaired that his sister might influence his daughter in some way.  Sadie was full of stories, she collected them and wrote them down in journals she kept by her bed.  She told me once that there was energy in stories and when you recounted an experience and turned it into a story with meaning you were helping the world turn around and adding your own sparkle to the stars.

There were times I will admit that I did get a little scared of Sadie’s eccentricity, like when she would start to talk to someone but there was no one in the room.  The temperature always seemed to drop a little on these occasions but Sadie told me there was nothing to worry about, like attracts like and if you were a good person then that is what you would attract.  After she died when she started to visit me I kept this in mind when she brought along her new friends.  It wasn’t long before I would meet these people without her being present, like when I was shopping in town and a lady waved from across the street.  It took me a minute to realise but when I looked a little closer I could see she was not quite there.  It is like looking at someone through a net curtain, you loose a bit of them, but can see them at the same time.  I can turn it off and on now.  I worried at first in case I would be disturbed in the shower but I can control it, although if anyone really wants to talk they will make something happen to alert me.  Like a dish falling over on the dresser, a book falling off the shelf that you know was tucked in securely or a window blowing open on a calm day.

I don’t mind the interruptions to my life so much now, it’s like having a whole new circle of friends.  Not like the friends on facebook and twitter but friends you actually meet in person.  What is more than that I have found my vocation.

Sadie’s funeral was perfect, just like she wanted it.  She told me just how it should be and to be sure, she was sitting in the room with the family when the priest visited, whispering instructions in my ear.  He asked that we say a little about Sadie’s life for the service.  My father was dumbfounded when I was able to recall events as if I had been there, but it did make for a great day.  Sadie was sitting next to me at the front of the church and clapped and cheered when I read the eulogy just right and as we had practiced.  Okay, there were some confused looks when I curtsied but I didn’t mind as Sadie was happy and it was her day after all.  The music too was perfect and Sadie danced with the others as the curtains closed on her coffin to the tunes she had chosen.

After Sadie’s funeral I started a small business of arranging services myself, they are celebrations of life rather than funerals.  I sit with the family and we talk to the deceased, ask them how it should be on the day.  Plans usually move quite quickly once I can provide evidence through the memories of the person, that they are in fact there.   I’m amazed at how quickly my little business has taken off and how my name seems to have got around without advertising.   What is important to me is that the real story is told and from the person who knows it best, who lived it.  What is also great is how people are able to express their love to each other and know it is heard.

I’m busy enough but as more people have heard about what I do they are realising the importance of involving the dying in their celebration planning before death.  I’m sometime invited along to help tell the stories, but not always.  People who feel they have little control over the end of their life are now able to take the lead if they wish in a small way.  Choose what flowers they like, have the very best photographs around and invite the friends they want to be there.

Sadie does still visit and she is always around if I need her but it is not as often now, she is getting on with being there.  She tells me it is wonderful and she is not seen as strange there, but not to hurry myself as I have work to do and stories to tell.

Looking out for Martha

Martha makes a horrendous noise when she yawns. It is because she can’t get enough air into her lungs and this is the noise her body makes. It is terrifying to hear but what frightens Anne, her daughter, is that it has become an every day noise. When Martha made the noise today in the bathroom, Anne’s son ran from his room to check she was okay. Anne saw fear etched on his face, as he asked his Nan if he could help. She heard herself saying ‘Its okay love, Nan does that all the time’. She wondered when she became so immune to her mother’s illness, when did the pain she goes through on a daily basis become acceptable.

Martha was diagnosed with a lung disease 10 years ago. At that time they told her she had no time left, she was in such poor condition. Martha has defied the specialists and the disease in some way. Although she is in the later stages of the illness now, her amazing and powerful spirit is still fighting. As a family, they have had plenty of time to get used to the illness and know what Martha needs. The number one thing is love, but they also recognise and meet all her other needs.

The autoimmune disease Martha has affects so much of what the family does now. Winters are long and spent inside the home, as Martha cannot venture out in the cold. It’s not only the weather but also the fear of catching the winter viruses that imprisons Martha. She lives for the summer, warmth on her face and vitamin D for her bones. Anne feels her mother’s frustration during those winter months and wants to be able to make her happy in any way she can. Anne feels guilty that she can run around town and enjoy the fresh air but Martha always insists that she does.

It is not often Martha and Anne visit a café anymore, maybe only on hospital visits these days. But when they are in café and Martha has a coughing fit, Anne can see herself waving the waiting staff away when they attempt to help by bringing water. It is not that she is not grateful for their kindness but she knows it is not water her mother needs, coughing is what she does all day, every day. People and the germs all around are as dangerous to her autoimmune disease as anything else, so Anne attempts to keep them away and shield her mother. She has come to recognise the coughs and would know if her mum was in trouble, Anne hopes to god that’s the case anyway. Anne believes she must look like the daughter from hell to strangers, she doesn’t really care what she looks like to other people as long as what she does for her mum is right.

If Anne is honest, she has in fact always cared what she looks like to others. She has always wanted to be accepted and approved of, but she has also learnt to put these feelings aside for now. It is not about her at the moment, what is important is what she can do for her mum.

Martha is fiercely independent and when she goes to any of the many hospital appointments, she likes to go into her consultations on her own. Martha says there will come a time when she needs Anne with her, but until then she wants to be able to manage by herself. Anne understands this but it does not mean she doesn’t sit in the waiting room wanting the floor to swallow her up sometimes. She feels the looks and almost hears the thoughts of the people who witness her remaining seated while allowing her mother to struggle across the room trailing her oxygen cylinder. Anne wants to shout, ‘she won’t let me go with her’, but she wouldn’t dream of causing a scene. For now she needs to harness the same strength as her mother.

Old Bones

My bones ache, it seems they have had enough activity of late and are trying to tell me the only way they know how. I got up today and my bones didn’t want to get out of bed with me, they had no choice, my bladder was the victor.

I think back to my youth, when I could spring from the bed and into the shower with one bounce. Today I creek as I take the steps down the hall towards the bathroom. My legs are bent at the knee for those first few steps, shaped still as they have been in slumber, defying any messages from my brain to straighten up and stand tall.

My legs are like bananas today, they are not doing what they should. Oh how I once loved to walk, walking was my life back in the day. I was going to walk from John O’Groats in Scotland to Land’s End in Cornwall, downhill as I saw it. I was going to take a month off of work to complete the walk, but my retirement came and I saw more of my armchair and slippers than anything else.

I look down at my feet, its little wonder my legs are not up to much having to rely on those feet as their foundations. I have bones growing out of the sides of my feet now, my bunions ache today, it must be raining outside.

When I was young it was wet hair that told me it was raining, now it’s my feet and the joints in my hands. I wonder to myself if Noah had bunions when he built the arc. I suppose, to put a positive spin on things, I don’t have to get out of bed now or turn on the weather report to know what the weather is doing outside.

We never think the day will come when we are young, when our bodies automatically do as they are supposed to, that anything will change. We are invincible and believe our bodies will go on forever. How I thought the old were a different species back then. If only I had taken a little more care of myself, kept up with the cod liver oil and maybe considered a few less little treats.

I search around for my glasses, running my hand across the side covered in news articles I still have to read, in search of them. There they are, I prop them up on my nose and head for the kitchen.

I make up my muesli and pop a couple of prunes on top. I think about the days of doorstep sandwiches loaded with bacon and how much that would play havoc with the constitution now.

Outside I see the world busying itself for the day, people running for buses, children skipping to school. I turn back to my home and head for the sitting room. I switch on the morning TV to see what is happening in the world, the world I find so alien now.

The Park Bench

 

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The elderly man sat down on the bench in the park and looked across the lawn to the tennis courts.  It was the first day of spring and the courts were full with youngsters, it reminded him of the love he once had for the game.  He remembered the trip he took to Wimbledon’s Centre Court for the final, all those years ago.   He hadn’t watched a game in a very long time and today was not going to be the day for catching up.

At the top of the bench there was a shiny silver plaque, the inscription in italic read ‘George Knox – loving father and husband, died as he lived in peace and love’.  He looked at the plaque for a moment and thought about George.  The family had done well, the bench was in a lovely spot, it got the warmth of the afternoon sun but also benefitted from a little shade at one end from an old oak.  The oak tree had been there for as long as he could remember, before the tennis courts, before the playground and long before the bench.  The scene, together with the glorious sunshine, was perfect for today.

The man had not been to the park for a very long time, he had never before sat on the bench.  Today was special, he was in the park to meet someone.  He turned to the gates, she would come from that direction and it wouldn’t be long now.  The clock above the bandstand showed it was a little after two thirty in the afternoon and she would have certainly finished her lunch. There she was, slowly entering the park with her walking aid, a small trolley with seat she pushed along in front of her to steady herself.  It gave her some independence and allowed her to visit the park when it was warm enough, today the temperature was just right.

Even from that distance anyone could see Marion was a fine woman.  He didn’t move towards her, he had to hold himself back but he watched every tiny step she made as she walked slowly and purposefully towards the bench.  There was a glimmer of a smile on her lips as she approached, she would be happy to see a space to sit herself down.  Now he was sitting along side her, he looked closely at her profile and again marveled at the fine bone structure and soft almost milky skin.  There was no need for her to wear make-up but he noticed a little lipstick, feint and unnoticeable to most but there all the same.  Marion was wearing her Christmas earrings, red enamel clip-on’s with a little sparkle.  He wondered why she had chosen today to wear them again.

The trolley was left to the side of the bench, she had taken the last couple of steps unaided.  They would not be taking it along with them, he would give her all the aid she needed from now on.  Marion sat on the bench until the sun set over the park.  It was only then that anyone noticed the old lady had died peacefully, her heart stopping gently at three, twenty-three.

George and Marion Knox walked together from the park arm in arm, reunited once more.