Tuesday, 19 July 2011
One, Twice, Three Times...
The Ageing Process 2: I met up with two old friends yesterday in the refectory of Southwark Cathedral. Visions of Cadfael and "The Name Of the Rose" were conjured up on hearing of the venue. It was nothing like that. The bog standard eatery that litter museums, National Trust old piles and Peter Jones.
The combined age of the three of us was in spitting distance of the cathedral's own age, founded circa 1100 AD and much like the venerable see life had left its mark on our countenances. Although, looking at the two faces before me I thought they both looked remarkably well preserved in their own way.
I've known both for nigh on 40 years, one was the vicar at the local church where I lived in London; I shared a house with the other. My vicar friend has had parishes all over London and has recently retired, my other friend had been a solicitor and retired, reluctantly, at the age of 66.
Life has dealt each quite different hands.
My ecclesiastical mate is an emeritus canon of Southwark cathedral; still regularly does weddings, funerals and Sunday services - he's the religious equivalent of a supply teacher. He's the Chair of a number of charitable trusts, runs literary tours and you'll often find him giving lectures on educational boat-trips down the Rhone or escorting a pack of tourists round the Holy Land. He has a lovely wife of over 40 years, two natural and two adopted children, with grandchildren popping out regularly.
My old flat mate is an angel, investing in films, in art festivals and supporting the arts generally. He is a leading light in his local community and the church. Sadly his partner of nearly 30 years has Alzeimer's. It was suspected 6 years ago when she went into town and didn't return. She couldn't remember where she lived.
She deteriorated rapidly and since last Christmas has been in a home. This has been somewhat of a blessing. Before then my friend had little free time to himself; she could simply not be left on her own, and except for two days a week when she went to a day clinic he was on constant duty. Now, he is able to pick up the threads of his life. He visits her once or twice a week. Sometimes she recognises him, sometimes not.
It is difficult to imagine the distress and loss he must feel watching his partner for so many years slowly vanishing before him.
The refectory does a mean lunch. While my friends accompanied theirs with a glass or two of wine, I had a Pepsi Cola - the first one since about 1974 - tasting it I knew why. Then off to see the ruins of the Bishop of Winchester's mansion just around the corner. It was a pretty impressive place in its day - huge cellars to hold all the wine,beer, cheeses and meats and above that a lofty hall. It even had its own prison the "Click", which today is a popular tourist trap.
But before we left, my solicitor friend had to use the loo.
After the "Clink" we headed for Shakespeare's Globe Theatre - more accurately Sam Wanamaker's Globe. Here I lost sight of my solicitor friend. "He's gone to the loo", said my vicar mate.
We parted at the Millenium Bridge which straddles the Thames between St Paul's and Tate Modern. My vicar friend had to dash to a meeting of one of his charities; I and my solicitor friend to catch a bus to Liverpool Street.
But not before my friend said, "There's a toilet in Paternoster Square, just behind St Paul's. Two glasses of wine were a bit too much, I can't risk the train journey home unrelieved."
To misquote the bard "Sans teeth, sans a working bladder...." But it's a Christmas gift puzzle solved - a Stadium Pal for my solicitor friend.