What better way to occupy ourselves on a Bank Holiday Monday than to go to the park with a super bouncy ball! My friend Chris and I had done some serious shelf-organising (and dust-rearranging) and needed some fresh air. A trip to the local park with a rubber ball seemed like a good way to blow away the cobwebs we’d accumulated from the morning’s houseworkery.
Picture this – two senior women playing bouncy ball in the park. Then along comes May, on her electric buggy, complete with Sally the Yorkshire terrier. May drove up to us and said ‘Can I play?’ Of course! So we included May in the game and she wasn’t at all bad, though it was harder for her to retrieve missed catches as she climbed out of her buggy to fetch the ball. She was a good thrower though, and we had a fun fifteen minutes. ‘Good exercise for me to get out of the chair,’ she said ‘I used to love playing ball with my nephews’.
After a bit May became tired and waved a cheery goodbye, thanking us for including her in our game. 10 year old Sally climbed back on board and away they drove. I watched her trundle towards the park gates, and stop. The battery to her nifty vehicle had run flat. She was extremely embarrassed, but very grateful when we offered to push her home. It wasn’t far, so Chris and I took it in turns to get her home.
May is 95 years old. She certainly didn’t look it and although she asked us where we live a couple of times, on the whole she was bright, alert, and a lovely character. ‘Would you like to come in for a cup of tea when we get home?’ she asked. We said yes, and we needed it after pushing the heavy buggy. Thank goodness she didn’t live at the top of a hill!
We went down the road, then turned down a little lane. At the bottom was her tiny little terrace house; almost cottage like. She’d lived in it since 1970, originally with her father and older sister. She showed us in and instructed us to visit the garden – it was delightful! Narrow but well-tended, with Solomon’s seal, bleeding heart, peony and some beautiful shrubs, tomatoes in the greenhouse, rhubarb and runner beans in the beds; it was evident she has a green thumb. ‘But I get a chap in once a week, to help out.’
Whilst we were in the garden, she went back out the front of the house and put her buggy on charge. She’d only ever run out of juice once before she said, about 20 years ago.
We were given tea and cake (she didn’t make it – ‘can’t stand cooking’) and sat down for a chat in a homely little front-room full of bits and pieces. Not nick knacks or ‘tut’ (as my Welsh relative insists on calling such paraphernalia) but papers, books, photographs and a magnificent old bracket clock. We had noted a photograph of her in evening dress with a man with a huge gold chain around his neck – her father, it turned out – the Mayor of Poplar in his day.
She had never married, and nor had her sister. Her mother had been blind and so the girls had taken on family duties. May had joined the RAF then trained as a nurse whilst her sister cared for her parents. ‘Never had time for men’ she said. She was grateful for our taking her home and no doubt the chance for a natter, and we were grateful for the tea and cake and the opportunity to meet such an interesting lady. I’m sure she would have had many more tales to tell, if we had been able to stay longer.
An unplanned afternoon, but tea with Aunt May was very pleasant indeed.
Photo: Priory Gardens, from www.rightmove.co.uk