Health & wellbeing

Midsummer madness: The absence of Her Majesty spares my blushes

13 May 2023 | Written by By Geraldine Durrant

Geraldine Durrant is berated by her husband Patrick for disturbing the Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey…

You can find the previous instalment of Geraldine’s column here.

I called downstairs one afternoon for Patrick to bring me up a cup of tea after a nap, the only thing he could still do, but he arrived in my bedroom tea-less and unexpectedly cross with me.

Ssssh! For heaven’s sake will you keep the noise down,” he said urgently, “you are embarrassing me…”

My curiosity got the better of me and I wondered aloud what I could possibly have done.

“There are about a thousand people here listening,” Patrick explained, “and they are all staring at me…”

I contemplated the unlikely possibility that a thousand uninvited guests had crammed themselves into the sitting room in the hour I had been asleep, but my imagination, strong as it was, could not come up with any scenario where even a tenth of this number could have arrived so inconveniently.

Or where, had they done so, they could possibly have crammed themselves.

Then I heard the sound of organ music and singing wafting up the stairs.

“Patrick – have you been watching television?” I asked suspiciously, putting two and two together and coming up with the Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey.

“Will you be quiet,” he hissed again between clenched teeth.

“You are making a noise in the cathedral and spoiling it for everyone…”

Fortunately, perhaps, the Queen was not able to attend last year’s service so she at least was unaware of my social faux pas vis a vis the tea, echoing around the pillars and bouncing blush-inducingly off the cathedral’s vaulted ceilings.

I explained to Patrick that his supposed guests were mere phantoms conjured on the screen who could not see anything going on in our house: and I suggested that, if they were upsetting him, he could just go back downstairs and switch the tv off.

“I can’t go back to my seat, because I’ll disturb the service again,” he protested holding a warning finger to his lips, “and if I switch the tv off it will make everyone disappear and ruin their day.”

…which was a kind thought on his part.

The music below began to swell to a noisy climax so I told Patrick that if he crept back quietly into his pew right then no-one would notice.

And apparently he did, because he risked the wrath of the congregation to shout cheerfully up to me that he had arrived back in the cathedral just in time to bag a blessing…

Bless indeed…

The following morning when I took in breakfast on the dot of 7.30, as I did every day, Patrick was unusually eager to be up and dressed.

“What’s the rush?” I asked, surprised, but he was in no mood for idle discussion.

“Come on,” he urged, “we’ve got an appointment to get to…”

“An appointment?” I asked. “Who with?”

(The pedant in me noted I should have said “with whom?” but Patrick was too impatient to allow me to dwell on my linguistic lapse.)

“With the doctor, of course,” he said, with every appearance of sincerity.

“But you haven’t got an appointment with the doctor,” I replied.

“Well you’d better make one. You can’t just turn up, they don’t like it…”

“Well what would we want an appointment for?”

“For you of course,” said Patrick.

“But there’s nothing wrong with me,” I protested (or at least nothing that a doctor was going to sort out any time soon…)

“How do you KNOW there’s nothing wrong with you if you haven’t seen a doctor…?” he asked with sudden cunning.

I repeated that the week’s diary was innocent – for once – of any medical assignments, but he was not mollified, having thought of further complications to our imaginary mission.

“But how on earth are we going to get there?” he asked. “I haven’t got a licence any more and we don’t know if the car will start.

“And where are we going to park? Have you got enough change for the parking?”

I repeated that there was no appointment, but that if there were I would take us there, in our perfectly-working car.

“Aha!” said Patrick, who suddenly saw an open goal and wanted to kick the ball decisively into the back of the net.

“So you admit you are going to take us there…

“What time do we have to leave?

“And am I coming, or is it just you?

“But don’t forget to make an appointment before you go because they don’t like you just turning up…”

Rinse, and repeat…and repeat…and repeat…

Geraldine Durrant is a retired journalist, feature writer and children’s author who – since her husband was diagnosed with dementia a year ago – has kept a diary about her experiences as his carer. We have the privilege of publishing Geraldine’s incredibly personal story on our blog every Saturday, so keep your eye out for more on this series next Saturday.

If Geraldine’s writing resonates with you in some way, please do leave a comment to let her know.

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