This is the second experience Sally Hill has shared with us.
One of Mum’s favourite pastimes is observing life from the windows of her second-floor flat. She only goes out if my sister or I take her, so looking at the world from the safety of her home is a less challenging option at 93 than joining the fray.
I join her in watching life’s rich pageant flow past. We cannot be seen, which is excellent, but we have an unimpeded view of everything from show-off gymnastic ducks on the river to soggy pedestrians struggling with umbrellas.
You don’t need a telly for daytime entertainment when you have a window with a view on the world.
Mum particularly likes to see small children. She empathises with the ones who lag behind their hurrying parents, trying to thrum their fingers along the railings or craning over the bridge for a glimpse of the diving ducks.
We weave stories about some of the passers-by. “They’ll be off to her mother’s for lunch,” Mum will say, indicating a youngish man and woman on the opposite pavement. “You can see her husband is reluctant. I expect they go every Sunday and he hates it.”
I haven’t the heart to spoil it for Mum by telling her it isn’t Sunday and that it is more likely, by their body language, that the man and the woman are work colleagues heading for a business appointment. Her take on it is far more entertaining.
Sometimes we see a crocodile of schoolchildren, always a cause for delight. “I expect they’re on a nature ramble,” Mum says, and I agree, though knowing that we’re both way off the mark. It prompts a little memory-nugget in Mum.
She tells me, for possibly the 32nd time, about the day she was walking to school and fell in step with Maurice Tomlinson (the name changes with each telling) who was struggling to carry a very large tortoise, so she helped him.
She is adamant it happened and who am I to doubt her. And yet . . .
More memories of her early days pour forth, prompted by the sights we see from the window. What a rich and valuable resource it is. Even the seagulls, which line up so smartly on a nearby rooftop like sailors in tropical whites, remind Mum of the day she walked to the seaside town four miles from her home village, her small hand safely in her big sister’s every step of the way.
The other day there was the sudden excitement of a large lorry backing into the area below Mum’s window. A handful of men swarmed as sheets of MDF and sacks of plaster were unloaded into the hall of a house opposite. We were riveted. One man was doing all the work while the other four stood and watched, not knowing, ha ha, that we were watching too.
We admired the lorry, with its on-board crane and folding-down sides, and I know, given half a chance, Mum would have loved a ride in it. Me too, but I have to remind myself that my caring duties include setting a good example. What a shame.