Couldn't wait up any longer.
Call in on your way up.
Any news ?
TO G. [Girlie=Marcella]
Couldn't find a hot water bottle for your bed.
Your friend (I've forgotten
her name) phoned. Sorry there's nothing but empty cake-tins
and the larder's bare. Sorry about your bed. Don't know where
the h.w. bottles are.
TO A. [Anthony]
I'll be up betimes - big washing to do. Leave the car keys if
I don't see you.
I'd like to wait up for you,
but it's cold. Bring me up any news'.
I've gone to bed - It seems
the most sensible place for me to be this cold night. See you
a.m. If you're not too late, call in to say "Hullo".
I'll probably be reading.
Anthony: 22.15 - I meant to
wait up until you came in,
but it's so cold that I've gone
to bed, with hot-water bottle. (Sorry, no supper!) Call in and
bring me news.
I'll be awake. I shan't rise
before 9 in the morning. I'll wash clothes in the morn. I hope.
22.30 It's so cold that I've
gone to bed (frozen) but speak in to me. I'm sure I'll be awake.
Close outer front door. I don't know where all the H.W. Bottles
Check greenhouse door. I may
do the washing if I get up in time and if il fait beau.
Sorry for all the notes - just
to keep in touch.
I've had tea and toast, which
will serve me, adequately, until morning.
0715 But - I can't find my hot
water bottle! and I'm cold.
Came down for a hot-water bottle,
but can't find one, so have returned to warm (?) bed.
I'll go to the Hospital
to-morrow, some time. Ward nº... ?
mid-morning:] I forgot to turn your blanket on! Sorry.
Where are the car keys?
I'm in bed. It's so cold, and
I couldn't wait up any longer - but waken me if you have any
news of Girlie that I should hear. Plans for to-morrow??
I may not be coherent - I'm talking to myself ! but I like to
know what's going on around me.
*CAR IN GARAGE, I HOPE.
To Anthony: I've gone to
bed - cold & lonely! Put the car in AND CLOSE THE GARAGE.
Any news re Girlie?
I'll be responsive - if
only half awake. Sorry for all the scribbles.
the time of the first notes, her car had been sold three years.
Her sister could not drive. (When Martha drove her car, I rode
a motorbike. It was only after she stopped driving that I bought
an old banger and took to four wheels.)
had been at least two years since she had last operated the
washing-machine or baked the delicious morning rolls which uplifted
breakfasts in my rural home some 25 miles away. In recent years
Marcella had done all the cooking, and Martha did the washing
and made her own breakfast and breakfast-rolls, grinding dark-roast
Java beans for coffee which she never offered her sister. She
watered hersister's wine, too!
this time she had ceased entirely to handle money: Her sister
did all the normal shopping. I provided the coffee and the wine
and I arranged for her to pay the hefty electricity bills by
direct debit, following her sister's complaints that Martha
paid for nothing.
aloof and independent, Martha was too proud to ask for lifts
from friends to the golf club where she had also played Bridge,
so her friends abandoned her. Her mind was, in any case, too
addled to play Bridge with them any more. But her sister's social
life intensified, with visits to old friends and the nearby
Northern Ireland Blind Centre.
my life Martha had dressed lightly with V-necked blouses. She
had a summer duvet on her bed all year. But, as the notes show,
she began to feel cold even in bed with the electric blanket
on, and the whereabouts of her water-bottle became a constant
I found it on the hot-water tank, sometimes under her bed. When
the weather got cold I put another duvet on her bed.
her coldness was also due to her getting up or staying up in
the small hours of the morning when the heating was off - and/or
turning off the heating. In many or the notes 'cold' is code
for 'unhappy' - at not being in control of her life, and refusing
to admit it.
have kept her original punctuation and spelling.
tilde ~ indicates
a separate piece of paper, and each new paragraph indicates
a separate entry.]
It came apart in my hand. Can
it be mended?
I did not drop it. I've returned to my warm bed for a spell,
with a cuppa.
- Bonne Nuit.
I couldn't cope with the baking
tin at this hour.
Put TEA on the shopping list.
I won't need nothin' till the morn - if then!
To Anthony: I'll boil dish cloth
demain. If I'm spared thru this cold night. "My resistance
Sorry for all the notes. I'll
wait up until 22.00 [scored
Gute Nacht at 2300 h.
times given may or may not have been correct: she kept forgetting
to wind her trusty Russian watch, and sometimes changed the
clocks in the house to agree with her stopped timepiece.]
No need to arouse me. I prefer
breakfast alone. Your plans for to-day?
I may need the car to go to
[The golf club]. Leave the keys.
is] NO COFFEE!!!!
That's a raw-looking morning:
I've gone back to my warm bed - with a cuppa tea. I'm scared
Hope the car was under cover
- wherever it is. Leave the car for me: I have plans, too -
and remove washing: it doesn't add to the décor.
Washing in bucket? Supposed
to be wet or dry ?
Hang it out.
Anthony, Car in garage, I hope
- Call in if you have anything interesting to say.
How's Girlie? Does she want
Good night! I think I'll have
Very little milk, I'm sorry
to say. Don't know where it went.
Little of anything
(heat in particular)- sorry! Don't know where the milk disappeared
Now no hot water bottle!!!
(Mattie) and Marcella (Girlie) in 1984 - 12 years before these
notes were written by the former.
I may not arise
in the morning - not that it will make any difference. I might
as well not be here at all. OVER
Where has all the coffee gone? Haven't had a decent cup all
day. Excuse the notes, but I just find out things as I go along!
Firstly: where are all the hot-water bottles? I can't find mine,
and I'm frozen - cold bed, too. And where has all the coffee
gone? Haven't had a decent cuppa all day. I suppose I may go
to a café tomorrow !
Anthony: Make me a cup of good
coffee, and bring a cup with you, & cheer me with news of
the big wide world.
Can't find a Hot-water bottle
& I'm so cold I could weep. So back to bed, cold feet and
all, & no toast.
Don't destroy this paper - there's
a letter from Ken [her
cousin in Canada] on the other side. [dated
No toast and no Hot Water Bottle.
Sorry about the fire. It decided
to go out, & I couldn't stop it.
* I'll be down soon (I hope)
(God help us all)
Open a bottle of wine, Ant.
(Choose from upstairs)
(repeat) I'll be down soon (I
hope) - if I've thawed. OVER
Does one die quickly from cold?
or is it lingering? Do you know who has the car? I didn't lend
it, but it's not in the garage nor on the street.
DON'T LEND THE CAR TO ANYONE.
GIRLIE: Fill a hot-water bottle
for me, if you can find one! They (hot-water-bottles) seem to
have disappeared. Why should I have to do without a H.W.B. ?
I'm tired of hunting for Hot-Water
Bottles. What about a roll-call, to establish how many are in
A hot-water-bottle is to me
a necessity with my poor circulation - so let's see how many
are in use, and we'll apportion them! None down here. OVER
Let's have a "roll-call"
of Hot-Water bottles.
*** All to be produced
for counting - and if you find a hot water bottle in your bed
at night do bring it down in morning.
Are there any stray hot-water
bottles lurking anywhere? I can't put my hands on one, and how
I need it! I've gone to bed proper COLD.
Search your beds etc., and I
hope some one will find me at least one; otherwise I'll freeze
stiff! What a 'to-do'! over some one's carelessness.
sister was in hospital at this time, and there were three hot-water
bottles being mislaid and found by Martha. I and my helpmeet
Malcolm visited frequently.
helps came in to rake out and light the fire and to give her
a snack. One ("The Slut') would bring her up a boiled egg
and sit at the end of her bed for half an hour cheerfully chatting.
Malcolm and/or I made tasty vegetarian
evening meals, while the home-helps brought undated chicken
or ham sandwiches.
home-helps seem to be fixated on feeding the inactive old, and
because of her absent short-term memory. Martha sometimes had
three or four breakfasts a day, and started to put on weight
- so much so that when the next episode of getting dressed occurred,
her slacks did not fit her. At one point we found her out walking
with her slacks sliding down her legs. We went out and bought
six nice pairs of size 16 in charity shops.
behaviour tended to form episodes. For weeks she would be dressed
only in pyjamas and a dressing-gown, whether she was in bed
most of the day, or up and about, or up and about most of the
night. Then, for several days, she would get up in the mornings
and dress herself, and occasionally go out for walks. In the
periods when her sister was at bome, Marcella would persecute
her for not getting up, and would complain bitterly at ber constant,
infuriating rendition of ditties such as "Just
a Song at Twilight", "Among my Souvenirs", "All
my life I'll be your Valentine",
and her favourite, "Count
found each other hard to bear. Marcella was driven to distraction
by Martha's constant reading aloud of the headlines and
the advertisements in the local free paper.
But Marcella went, or was taken out by friends, somewhere five
or six days a week, giving Martha plenty of space, if she got
up, to indulge in other compulsive behaviour, such as constantly
wiping formica surfaces with a cloth. She had no sense of time
and, if her sister was not close by, never knew where Marcella
was when her friends phoned. Even when she had been away for
weeks, in hospital and respite care; even after the funeral,
Martha would say to anyone who phoned:
"Girlie's gone out somewhere."
she turned off the heating, but generally the house was warm,
especially when the fire was lit, as it was nearly every day,
even in the cool Irish summer, when the following batch of notes
the neighbours at one side kept unforgivably aloof, and never
once came in to see how either sister was (let alone a hospital
visit), Carol next door on the other side (who, as Marcella
observed, 'didn't have her troubles to seek' with sons expensively
brought up in the unappealing image of their boorish father,
who worked in Dublin and came up at weekends) kept a watchful
eye and brought in treats and meals, and reported anything untoward
to me. Neighbours three doors up were also extremely kind and
Gladys Wilson, Social Services,
rang with all kinds of personal questions about you, me and
Anthony, etc. I think she's connected with Earlswood Home [a
respite home where Marcella stayed for two weeks]
- Well, I'm not going into a Home - at least for some time.
So discourage her.
Miss Wilson called again! Who
the Hell is poking their noses into our affairs ? When I'm ready
for a HOME I'll make my own arrangements (for a place in Cyprus).
Discourage Social Services on my behalf.
Workers suggested first that she might like to go into a residential
home, then, realising that she would have to be drugged to be
got there, suggested a 'little holiday' - i.e. a week's
"assessment" in an institution. These "assessments"
so disorientate the old that they become permanent, of course.
Martha's idea of a 'little holiday' was a nmonth in Limassol,
so they gave up on that, too.]
If you could lay hands on a hot-water bottle for me I'd be very
grateful. Can't find one, and I'm frozen! Back to warm bed!
0850. I think "Social Workers"
just nosey old things. Keep them away from me. I certainly will
never contemplate a home here.
***Why can't I just be left in peace in my own bed and surroundings.
When I'm ready it will be the Miramare Hotel in Limassol among
friends (and no social workers in sight, just nice friendly
I've had a cup of tea and returned
to bed, miserably cold. Don't need anything - unless you can
find a hot water bottle. Some have disappeared. the things that
disappear - incredible !!!
I've had a little tea and cereal
and gone back to my warm bed. Should do for a while. Any news?
Shall now fill hot water bottle. (over)
If Anthony comes, a little wine in my boudoir would be very
welcome s'il vous plaît.
Anthony: I didn't know if you'd
be late, or if you are coming home at all - so I've retired
as it's very cold and lonely. Call in, dear, as you pass
I'm in bed. I think Anthony
is also. Don't know about the visitors.
and I found this note when we came back one night from dinner
I'm still in bed. I let the
workmen in and they seem busy. I think they'd like to talk to
refers to speculative roof-repairers who cleared off when they
realised that they were unlikely to be paid.]
I'm too cold to stay up. 'Bed' seems more tempting. Can't find
a hot water bottle.
These men asked permission to
go on roof. I don't know who sent them but I've let them go
ahead. I can't check what they're doing.
Later. There's a chap checking
slates on roof - he asked permission, which I gave. I'll be
responsible. I can't supervise him.
ANTHONY: Come and talk to me
for a few seconds, and bring me news of your 'goings-on' in
the big wide world! (Some wine ?) Even the radio is hardly worth
listening to - (maybe it's not tuned in properly) anyway, come
up, if only to say "Hullo" - and not to say I'd be
better up !!!
I may not get up in the morning,as
I am feeling bloody awful tonight. Goodnight. M
Funny smell ???
I've tried "getting-up"
but it's so cold; so I'm back in bed with no hot-water bottle,
for a while. Hope to sleep, "perchance to dream".
(Have a hunt around for wandering hot-water bottles.)
To Anthony - There's no wine
in fridge, unfortunately. Produce a bottle (if you can) - probably
from the attic (and open it in my room)
[to prevent her sister from having any]
I haven't felt so cold - even at South Pole!
On second thoughts, I'll bring
a bottle to my room and you can open it there and we'll "have
it was only after I had amassed a corpus of these undated notes
that I decided to transcribe them for publication, I (who have
very bad long-term memory and can recall only a few things before
last year!) I can't rcmcmber if this was the period when Martha
was drinking a lot of wine and hiding thc bottles, which we
would find in unlikely places, somctimes half-full. Later, she
couldn't get it together sufficiently to fetch wine from the
case (which I brought downstairs for her convenience) and open
it herself. Remarkably, her sister, otherwise very fit and practical,
had never extracted a cork in her life.
rarely had any "news" that either sister was interested
in, since my life as a drop-out poet and painter was pretty
well beyond their comprehension. In the seventies and early
eighties, Martha had financed and provided transport for my
research excursions to ancient sites in Ireland and Romanesque
churches in France, Spain and Portugal. Because of lifelong
sibling rivalry, Marcella was excluded, and excluded herself
from these splendid trips. But when they stopped with the publication
of my book on "obscene"
sculptures on mediæval churches, Martha's interest in
my doings naturally declined...]
Anthony, mon cher, You're late!
Say "goodnight" as you pass by my door. I'll probably
grunt something unintelligible. But at least I'll know you're
in, and I can sleep peacefully. 'S true! If you'd been a bit
earlier we might have supped together - I don't know what we
are doing to-morrow - we usually visit you!! But that's
not on the cards - or is it ? Dormez bien, mon cher. Marthe.
Je n'ai pas le bon santé aujourd'hui. Toujours le mal
de la tête. Excuse the buttery marks. Gute Nacht.
had, up to about 4 years before her sister died, driven them
both (very slowly) the 30 miles (48 km) to my remote, rustic
and decaying old farmhouse for vegetarian lunch and crisp white
wine on Sundays.
Martha's spelling was generally impeccable, her grasp of French
was tenuous, and she never learned to use the second person
singular, nor, of course, terms of endearment.]
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