Thursday, 12th August, 2021

[Day 514]

We had made plans for today several days ago along the following lines. Down at the bottom of the Kidderminster Road and neighbour to some of our closest friends is a French lady who has been widowed quite recently. With walking up and down, we have had snatches of conversation with her but felt it would be nice if we had the opportunity for a more extended and leisurely chat. So about a week ago, we agreed that we should meet for tea in our garden and, of course, today is the agreed date.We decided to go down in the car because we thought we would pop into Waitrose and get a few things necessary for this afternoon and then we would make our way to the park. When we got to the park it was absolutely teeming with a huge fun fair that had been organised primarily for the benefit children of the younger school children. So there were masses of organised activities for the children as well as the more usual collection of slides, bouncy castles and the like. The park was so busy that some of the local authority staff had had to tape off various areas of the grass to act as an overflow carpark and, as you can imagine, the whole park was teeming. With a heavy heart, we suspected that every bench would be occupied but we were fortunate enough to find an unoccupied bench so we sat down to have our elevenses in the midst of the hustle and bustle. We were quite pleased to start off on our way home and have an early light lunch, knowing that we were going to eat again during the afternoon.

Our guest arrived at 3.00pm, absolutely on cue. We have a well-worked routine by now where we throw some cushions on the metal garden chairs, a table cloth on the table and then prepare the food for the afternoon. We had a very entertaining chat with our guest who had come over to England as a French ‘assistante‘ and then met her future husband in the school in which she was employed teaching Modern Languages and where she carried on working for much of her professional life. We exchanged a lot of stories about the places in Europe that we had both visited in our earlier lives and then wistfully tried to imagine what trips we might make in the future. However, her son had visited Italy recently so perhaps there is hope for us yet. The Foreign Office website mentions the necessity to quarantine until August 30th so perhaps this restrictions are time limited and might be lifted after that date.We shall have to wait and see.

In the late afternoon, we received some very sad but not completely unexpected news. Our near neighbour who lives across the way from the communal green area in front of our house had had quite a severe stroke but was currently in an assessment unit in one of the local hospitals. This afternoon, her son called around to say that his mother had had another massive stroke from she had died at about 5.30 this morning. Apparently, the doctors had told the family that they were surprised given the severity of the first stroke that she had actually survived it – she appeared to be making some progress as recently as yesterday as she was walking about and her power of speech was gradually returning. However, I sensed that the emotions of the family as well as a natural grief were a sense of relief that their mother had not lingered on for months in a kind of twilight world.

Our neighbour had introduced me to Pilates several years ago so we used to walk down the hill to the class together every single Tuesday, without fail (but of course the pandemic put to a halt to all of that) She came from Huddersfield so we shared some Yorkshire roots in common and indeed found that we shared many similarities inner outlook on life. As well as our Pilates classes, we joined with each other to attempt to stop the housing development which took place immediately adjacent to us when an apple orchard was mercilessly chopped down (but paradoxically would have an automatically protected status if it had come under the jurisdiction of Worcestershire County Council rather than Bromsgrove District Council.) We were actually very successful in opposing the planning application and were successful on the first three occasions but ultimately lost on the fourth one. A developer is allowed to appeal a decision for ever more until successful whereas residents are not allowed that right. We also, with another neighbour, bought the communal green area in the middle of our houses and this effectively stopped any would-be developers from driving a roadway straight past our houses which would have made our lives hell. I also wonder whether the additional stress of having to cope with the vibration cracks that appeared all over her bungalow as a result of heavy earth moving vehicles moving in the vicinity whilst the new estate was being built actually contributed to her ill health. She will be sadly missed.