In the ten days I had been away the streams in Morden Hall Park had swollen and the coot family were thriving. The roses were now in full bloom and groups of schoolchildren accompanied, I guessed, by intrepid teaching assistants were on a field trip. Those plumbing the depths of the fast-moving water were able to plunge their sticks in a bit deeper than the boy I had seen a while back assuring his Dad that it was ok to do what he was doing. As I did a turn round the Park the wind was blowing up a gale just as it had done almost 42 years ago the night Rebekah was born. Twigs were flying around like a disintegrating witches broomstick and rose petals were strewn around like confetti.
This could not have been more appropriate, since our daughter had been born in a thunderstorm. Insisting that she wanted another boy Jackie went into labour that August with the backdrop of a truly Gothic sky. Becky is the third of my children, but the first of the daughters whose births I witnessed. I still retain the image of that chubby, sleepy, head, with eyes clenched shut like a dormouse having been disturbed from hibernation, crowned with thick, black, damped down hair. Even more indelibly etched on my memory is her mother’s reaction to being told she had a little girl. When Jackie expresses joy her smile illuminates the room. She gave just such a dazzling smile on that occasion, but it is her voice which will ring in my ears as long as I live. Lingering ever so slightly, lovingly, over the last letter, ‘A girl!’, she cried. She had expressed a wish for another boy because she dared not hope for a girl.
That little girl has always been a determined, caring, and courageous decision maker. Perhaps it was consideration for her Dad that caused her to wait more than thirty years to change the spelling of her name to that which both she and Jackie preferred. I had registered the birth not realising that I had not spelt the name in the way her mother had wanted.
Whilst I was walking in the park Rebekah was on the operating table in St. George’s Hospital undergoing potentially life-enhancing treatment which is not without its risks. The spelling of her name had been a decision which changed her signature. Today’s implementation of a far more courageous one may change and extend her life. That is why my thoughts were of her, not of what I began this post with.
Jackie and I collected our granddaughter from school in Mitcham in a raging tempest and drove her to visit her mother in St. George’s Hospital, Tooting. By the time we arrived at the hospital the rain had ceased for the day, but the powerful wind continued so as to put the World Cup supporters’ flags flying from Mitcham’s bedroom windows seriously at risk.
A drugged and drowsy post-operative Becky largely dozed through our visit but still managed to display flashes of her trademark witty humour, such as fixing her mother with one eye when she disapproved of what had been said, or placing her small cardboard sick repository on her head as a makeshift hat. When a pharmacist with a foreign accent was trying to find out from the rest of us what, if any, medication she was on and whether she had any allergies she opened both eyes, removed her oxygen mask and pronounced something unpronounceable followed by ‘and no’, thus quite lucidly answering both questions. We stayed a couple of hours.
It was with relief and exhaustion that Jackie, Flo, and I ate at ‘The George’ on London Road, Morden. This is a Harvester pub offering perfectly good yet very cheap basic pub food offering a wide menu (largely grills, burgers and pasta) with a vast range of unlimited salad and dressings to which you help yourself, and similarly available bread rolls. Tetleys or Old Speckled Hen were the beers on offer, or you could have a variety of wines, juices, etc. Flo and I had fish and chips which neither of us could finish. My beverage was ‘the hen’. All this is served with friendliness and efficiency.