London for me is somewhere to yearn. I cannot sit still in this city. Planes overhead constantly come and go. In my old neighbourhood in Isleworth, they hang like fat dogs in the air. You can almost see the people through the plane portholes, getting ready to land at Heathrow. Meanwhile, Tube trains shunt along the steel arteries of the city while the vehicular traffic is its smoky cholesterol. I just can’t help it. I’ve always felt that I needed to be somewhere else.
Wales in contrast, feels like nothing has changed in like, forever. Houses, farms, churches, fields and cemeteries. Dry stone walls separating the land look older than the family dynasties themselves. So much of London is all about change and about the same amount of Wales seems to oppose it. The result? A stalemate of sorts.
We were on our way to Alexandra Palace, via my mum’s house. She lives next door to her identical twin sister (very comfy hole in the fence stuff between them).. and here at my mum’s this weekend feeling sore and probably a little sorry for herself was my Polish grandmother Wanda. Don’t get my wrong; as much as I detected her self-pity, I know that it sucks to get old, especially when you still want to do everything and you feel about fourteen-years old. But time doesn’t stop for anyone and Wanda has definitely lived long enough to see this in effect.
‘She can’t die here,’ my mother and aunt insisted after dinner, ‘do you know how expensive it’s going to be to fly her body home?’
‘Can’t you just drive her back?’ I said, ‘I’m sure you can rent a refrigerated lorry and send her back that way.’
My mother gave me a withering look. ‘What, you want to send her on a three-day crossing across Europe?’
I tried not to wince. ‘Well, it’s not like she’s going to notice. And it might be about ten-thousand times cheaper than flying her back. You just can’t send her home on her own now. Not after she got conned by the gypsies and fell over all in the space of a week.’
My mother rolled her eyes. ‘How long do you suggest we keep her?’
Easy for me to say, living two-hundred-and-fifty-miles away in Celtic country. Since my grandmother is alternating between the sofa that’s been converted into a day bed, her bedroom and a day walker completing her cute, little urine-sprinkled path to the toilet.
I swallowed. ‘At least until spring.’
That’s their worry. It isn’t an unreasonable one either; that she’ll pop her clogs on foreign soil. London clay to be exact. You see, Wanda is the original Polish patriot. She called the Russians Komuchy (Russian flies) when everyone else was still being Imperius cursed into joining the Communist party. So we can’t leave her now in the crem in Feltham under the flight path unless we want to be cursed ourselves.
My mother sighed. ‘Maybe she’ll be feeling well enough to go back to normal then.’
I looked over at Wanda lying on the sofa. She was another person who historically-speaking, being in London tended to set on edge. Not anymore though… for her London has suddenly become the place to be. Two daughters. No son-in-laws. Two comfy houses. The only problem; at-times unrealistically high standards set by her daughter(s). Like not spilling Siberian moisturising cream on my mother’s new rug and holding her bladder until she can get to the bathroom.
Still, those standards can be ignored. At that moment, my grandmother was certainly sleeping her way through them successfully. And on top of that, we know someone with access to a refrigerated lorry. So let’s keep breathing. All bases covered.