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Diary: Elizabeth Figg

04 August 2017


Tackling Everest

BY THE time you are reading this, we will probably still be surrounded by boxes; we should be safely over the Pennines, however, and settling into our new vicarage.

I’m writing this in a pause from the frenetic packing. I have given up trying to sort things, and am now heaving everything into the boxes, hoping that the bottom won’t fall out and that the packing tape can hold the whole kit and caboodle together.

This technique is proving satisfyingly speedy in dealing with the Everest of “stuff” that remains in the boys’ rooms. They have been good about getting home to help at weekends, but packing has occasionally had to take second place to other forms of filial support.


Brief encounter

“HERE we go,” Number 2 Son sighed. I looked up to see a man bearing down on us with a rather unsteady gait, face alight with the fragile geniality of the inebriated. “Big sister!” the man boomed. “Big sister, you’re great, you are!”

It was late on a hot Saturday evening, and Number 2 Son and I were in the revamped Accident and Emergency Unit of our local hospital, and “great” was not among the feelings I was experiencing. It has been many years since I worked in A&E in the old Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh, but some things, as they say, never change — including the cast of characters to be found in such a waiting room on a summer Saturday evening.

The worried parents with the sick child; the barbecue casualties nursing burns; the high-heeled revellers with twisted ankles; the “high as a kite” and coming down fast; and, of course, the “worse for wear”, such as the man staggering his way towards us.

After a rambling discourse on how great the staff were in our A&E, as opposed to those in the one in the city near by, he paused, and said: “They tell me I have to stop drinking; so when I get home I’m going to have two tinnies, and then, tomorrow, I’m going to stop.”

The look in his jaundiced eyes told me that this was a promise he had made to himself and others many times before.


Cry of recognition

WHY, you may be wondering, were Number 2 Son and I in A&E in the first place? It had been a hot day, and I was watering the plants I’ve been growing to take with us to our new parish; I plan to plant them in front of what will be my mother’s bedroom window.

Unfortunately, as I moved the hose around the different trays and pots, I didn’t realise that I was being stalked. Our dog has something of an obsession with hoses; so I usually leave her safely in the house when I use ours. This particular evening, somebody must have let her out. As I turned around, the dog launched herself at the nozzle of the hose, and clamped her jaws down on my hand.

Number 2 Son came to investigate the commotion, and drove me to the hospital, staying with me until I was discharged — bandaged, tetanus-proofed, and full of antibiotics. As we walked back to the car, I heard a shout of “Sister!”

I confess that my heart sank a little at the thought of continuing the waiting-room conversation: all I wanted to do was get home. Hearing footsteps rushing up behind me, I turned to see a different man approaching. This one was twinkling with excitement.

“Sister — I thought it was you. You won’t remember me,” he panted; “you delivered our first child.”

As he spoke, I began to remember them: a young couple, totally smitten with each other, and with their daughter when she finally arrived after a long labour. “Orinoco Flow!” I cried, and he laughed; this was the Enya song they had played over and over again during the labour.

It emerged that they had just had baby number four: a healthy boy. “He was a bit of a surprise, to be honest,” said the father, beaming with obvious delight. “We never thought we’d be back here again.”

I hadn’t, either, but this encounter cheered me up; although the reminiscing that it sparked on the drive home may not have had the same effect on my very patient Number 2 Son.


­­Plague of one frog

“THERE’s something in the study!” My husband rushed into the sitting room, where I was constructing a “leaning tower of Kildwick” by stacking packed boxes in an already crowded alcove.

He had been sorting out his study, and had seen a sudden movement out of the corner of his eye, but couldn’t find whatever it was. Hoping that it was a mouse, but fearing it might be one of the humongous spiders that all our shifting of furniture has disturbed, we went to investigate, and found — a frog.

Quite how he had found his way into the house, we have no idea, but we were happy to see him: he was easier to catch than a mouse, and much less fearsome than a spider.


LOL at leaving

I HAVE discovered one unfortunate consequence of my “chuck-it-all-in” packing technique: somewhere in one of the boxes is a toy sound-effects machine that, at the slightest movement, releases a burst of raucous laughter.

Unpacking is not an option; so it seems that the soundtrack to our departure will be laughter. Given my husband’s weakness for bad jokes, perhaps it’s not a bad way to leave.


Elizabeth Figg is married to the Vicar of Kildwick, near Keighley.

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