All this seems far away, as I haven't set foot in the university for nearly a month. I'm almost a housewife. My mum has little interest in food when she's on her own and is an abstemious drinker, quite the opposite of me. I've been cooking Thai curries and spicy fried rice dishes, all chillies, lime leaves and basil, piquant Spanish stews with chorizo, bayleaves and smoked paprika and whatever else I can think of to entice the jaded appetite. Mum worries a bit about the impression given by the glass-box out by the front gate. Next door's contains a couple of jam-jars and a light bulb. Since my arrival, ours looks as if we are running a restaurant. I've discovered that Sainbury's cheapo rosé for £3.58, served just this side of freezing, is acceptable enough with a virulent yellow curry, and I can't tell their 'basics' gin from Gordon's, which is twice the price, so long as there's plenty of ice and slices of lime.
I get away occasionally to visit friends, either at their house or sometimes for lunch in town. I have a friend who works at the local Magistrate's Court. If we meet in her lunch-hour for a quick pizza or curry, I wait in a far corner of the square outside the courts for her to emerge, as I don't like the umm, clientele. For example, there was a solid, brick-red man in a t-shirt and waistcoat. His hugely muscled arms bore crude tattoos that looked as if they had been executed with a biro. On his shaven head was a tat of a spider's web, the interstices adorned with what might have been paper fasteners. He scanned the square impatiently. A woman approached him hurriedly, worriedly, and was upbraided for her tardiness: 'Where've yer fuckin been, yer fuckin knew I ad a fuckin appointment, din't yer, yer fuckin fuck?' She fuckin told him what had fuckin delayed her, and they went purposefully and beligerently into court as my friend emerged. She spends a lot of time with such Neanderthalers.
When we are not discussing J's cases, we usually get onto the matter of aging parents. Her father is now disabled from multiple strokes and her mother, fit and well but approaching eighty, cannot be persuaded to take in someone to do respite care on a regular basis. Just like my own mother, Mrs G. will not appear before strangers until she has done her hair and make-up and selected an appropriate outfit, and on the day the respite care lady showed up, Mrs G. emerged from her bedroom in her nightie and housecoat to find a cheery stranger letting herself in the front door. She had to dash back into the bedroom to put on her face, and later complained to J. that she'd woken up to find 'this woman' letting herself into her house at the crack of dawn like some brazen squatter. What kind of respite was that going to be if she had to start getting ready at all hours of the morning?
'That's the bloody point,' J. will tell her doggedly. 'You say in bed and have a lie-in and a leisurely levée while she gets on with seeing to dad.'
'But what if she comes when I'm in town? I can't hang about in town for five hours in mid-November!'
'You don't need to! Go home, get yourself a huge gin and tonic and have an hour in the bath! That's why it's called bloody respite care!'
Parents, we say, ruefully: who'd have 'em? Of course, we'll probably be like that eventually, making little assertions of independence in the teeth of evidence that we are no longer in a reasonable position to back them up. What that might be like is the kind of consideration that comes to me often at three in the morning: health worries, money worries, sanity worries. Sometimes these worries are not dissipated by the morning sun. This last couple of days I've had a mild reccurence of the anxiety that set me climbing the walls for ten days last June, but it has subsided a bit now.
Right, there's enough o' talk, I've a washerful of clothes to hang out (it's a grand drying day) and then a Spanish omelette to make, so I must be getting on.