Lead, treats and notes for Kalis minders: the dog minder who I called Sally but is not, Tom and Kit. Dressed in Valerie’s stylish silk dress cut on the bias, and feeling, unusually comfortably and happily like my mother, I set off from my provincial Halesworth station to London. I was not, however comfortable with my small handbag which at the last minute I added another to, then on the train changed my mind, and put the second into left luggage at Liverpool street station. Prevarication mixed with letting go.
‘Tickets Bought and sold’ touters called out on the way from the station.
‘Big issue, the cheapest thing you’ll buy all day!’ made me giggle.
Edward, Tim’s brother who I had not seen for these 30 years, must have recognised me from my hat. Serbian, from Beograd, worn in case of rain. Tim was waiting in the members lounge, his back to us, a back which expressed in its still form, patience and preparedness, in the wheel chair, still in a room of moving people. I touched his shoulder, kissed each side of his cheek, and we settled down to lunch. Pimms naturally. Self service of crab and hot smoked salmon, Tim asking for something gentle for his stomach. Edward took the reins, paying for food, collecting drink, and finally guiding us to the allocated place up the lift. We sit with the other wheel chair people, people Tim had shirked from all his life, until now. Only when he moved into Mote House did he first encounter a fellow polio man, who lives in the same glorious surrounds of Tim’s new home, a so called ‘retirement home’, a converted stately home set in acres of parkland replete with lake.
‘As you know, Rachel, old people can be surprisingly interesting’ he said
His life before had been lived deliberately in the clan of city folk, with pin stripped suit and Rover car, playing golf, drinking wine. Until his heart attack of last year when his life ‘took a a turn’, his marriage to Jane tumbled, his future suddenly narrowed in a hospital bed. His brother helped to navigate him to Mote House. Despite Edward being a member of the Lawn Tennis Assocation, Tim had not been to Wimbledon for as many years as me. Another change in his new life emerging.
The other four wheel chair people are considerably less dexterous us than Tim. Tim, dressed in a smart light suite his boyish good looks under his panama hat. One woman claps oddly when a ball is missed, the people near by turn to look in dark frowning judgement before adjusting their faces to poor girl sympathy. After the women play, we take a walk, or in Tim’s case a wheel, to find a newspaper, following the signs for wheel chairs (no steps). Tim refuses to allow me to push him.
‘I like the way your dress moves’ he said.
Whereas in silks my Julia goes, how sweet me thinks how sweetly flows the liquefaction of her clothes.
He wanted to see the shop. but once inside he suddenly said he was bored, so we exited.
We returned for the Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov, seeded 13. The list of entrants is predominantly East Europeans, Czech, Bulgarians, and finally the Serb, Novak Djokovic. Umpires accents are colourful, no longer the Dickie Birds or .Don Maskalls of white Caucasian plum English.
Time caught us up. Tim took my hand. I looked at him. We held on until we had to clap, and I had to go. I hated leaving him there, vulnerable, dependent on Edward to collect him.
The intensity of his life is overwhelming. He had to move and lift his body up every so often. Imagine sitting for 6 hours in a chair, it is unimaginable.
Send me a text when you get home, he said, so I did, and he returned, as he often did commenting on Kali welcoming. I am left with a feeling of warm hearted friendship, but at the same time nervous of Tim’s expectation. Where do we go from here? I am not used to the detailed attention he bestows on me, and I don’t want to let him down.