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  • Oxford Together Stories

Lovely Cold Custard

She says, Look down there, and when I looked by me feet, there’s a little bunch of flowers. She said, I was shopping with my mum and dad and I seen these flowers and I thought of you. That brought a tear to my eye.

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Before Covid I was doing two days a week charity work for the League of Friends, in the John Radcliffe Hospital. It’s a voluntary organisation, a cafeteria. I make the rolls up, and I do the teas and coffees, and then there’s somebody on the till. We have the doctors coming in, we have the nurses and we have people from the hospital – it’s in the women’s section at the JR. I’d do two days a week voluntary work there, which I loved very much. And then I had to have a new hip replacement so I was off for a long while.

I’ll be glad to get back to it, to be honest. I miss it. It used to get me up and out, you know, because I suffer with depression and I was mostly in bed all day long. That’s missing life, you know, sleeping all the while. Alls I did really was just go to me voluntary work and come home, do me shopping, come home, go out at weekends with me friends. I miss that. Miss going out to the pubs and clubs. I’ve been in a lot more than ever, with the pandemic. Nothing to do, nowhere to go. Dreary, and not much good to you, I don’t think. But I’ve had a lot of support. Mutual Aid, Age UK and Oxford Together have been very good, they’ve been coming out to me. They come out once a week for whatever, whenever I need them. And they go get me shopping for me, and I get a phone call from Lizzie every night.

Lizzie keeps me going. She’s really, really good with me, she phones me every day. How it happened is I said, I’m lonely, and the council said, Would you like someone to talk to? I said, I’d love to, yeah. We talk about food mostly. What she’s having for tea and what I’m having for tea and all that. We talk about her teenage children, my son, what she’s done for the day, if she’s been out on her bicycle. Things like that. Hers is a busy life, a different life altogether to mine. I look forward to her call. She cheers me up a lot, you know, because I’ve got no family over here. I’ve got a few friends, but they’re around when they want to be around, sort of thing. And when I’m on my own, I’ve got no one, then there’s always Lizzie to phone me up to see how I am. How am I getting on, am I taking my medication? If I’m not too good, you know, she might say, do you want me to phone the doctor? Where would we be without telephones?

There was a conversation where I says to her, I love me custard. And she says, Oh I haven’t had custard for years. So I said, Well, why don’t you try it, get some custard. So every day she says, I’ll get that custard, I’ll get it. Finally she made a banana custard for pudding after dinner, for the teenagers that she’s got. The kids said, What’s this?! She said, Banana custard. Ooooooh we’re not eating that, they said, we haven’t had that since school. But then they had to have seconds. It’s lovely cold, custard is. With jelly. Jelly and custard’s really lovely.

We have a lot in common really, even though I’m older than Lizzie. You talk about eating, what we used to have, you know. It used to be every day was like a set meal. Friday was a fish day, Sunday was a roast dinner day, Wednesday was scouse day. I’ve been on me own since my husband died, three years in August. I’ve been living out of the microwave. But lately, the last couple of months, since the lockdown, I’ll have a go doing a roast dinner, proper food and that, whack up apple crumble and whatever. Good food, home food. You can’t beat it.

With the shopping, I phone up the organizer, and she puts the feelers out to see who can come and do it for me. I usually have a lovely young student. I tell her what I need over the phone. She drops off the shopping and gives me the receipt, and whatever the money is, I give her. She came here one day, knocked at the door, and I said, I don’t need nothing today babe. She says, No, today I’ve got something for you. She says, Look down there, and when I looked by me feet, there’s a little bunch of flowers. She said, I was shopping with my mum and dad and I seen these flowers and I thought of you. That brought a tear to my eye. I can’t get over that poor kid doing that. She’s only a student. She doesn’t have much money, you know, and I think, God love her. Kind of her to do that. Ever so sweet. I have a smile on my face.

When this is all over, I’d still like Lizzie to phone me. I get lonely, you know. And it would be lovely if I could continue with the calls. I think she’ll still continue to phone me. I’ve got that feeling that she most likely would. Mightn’t be every day, maybe once a week or something, but I’d still look forward to that call. I think it’s brought more people closer, neighbours and that. If they’re having barbecues or anything, they’ll invite you round. That’s a new thing that has happened.

I just hope we never ever have this illness again. Because it is just as bad as the war. At least in the war the pubs were open. But it’s given me plenty of time to get used to me new hip, anyway. I’m okay now, I’m out and about, but I’m not as quick as I used to be. I’m back on the mend again now, so just waiting for the phone call from the office telling me I can come in on such a day and do my shift at the League of Friends. I miss going on the coach to Liverpool, too, back to me hometown. I miss going to the cemetery to see my husband. I’ve missed his birthday in May and I couldn’t go. Well, everything should be all right eventually, I hope, so I can go over again. We’ll all get back together again.

Edited by Sofia Smith-Laing


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