Half-a-ton of bricks

   9.08pm. Freda felt so ill [with migraine] that she left the breakfast table in the conservatory and came in here, the TV lounge. I was up soon after 6am and moved the car off the forecourt ready for Wollens to deliver [several] pallets of bricks at 8am. They were here a minute early with a huge, immensely strong vehicle supporting a crane. The bricks were soon neatly stacked in front of the garage and I gave the driver a cheque for £98.88.

   I washed up before and after breakfast then, on an impulse, decided I should begin moving the half-ton of bricks (or whatever) from the forecourt down to the bottom patio, so that Chris should not have to do it all. I carried the first brick down without undue difficulty and climbed up the two flights of steps, wondering whether there was someone I could ask to help me. I came through the gate and had my hand on the second brick. At that precise moment a voice sounded behind me: “You must not lift that!” It was a young man walking his dog and I was surprised to find that he knew my name: he saw me working in the office every day. He was a friend of Freda & Jenks. Freda (I learned} was always talking about us, but Jenks had died last year, and their daughter Susan had died of cancer three years ago; Freda was now 94 and had been very poorly.

   I doubt that a day goes by without our thinking of these two dear friends whom we stayed with in Spain and Portugal. We think of them every time we cross the top of Hill Head Close on our way to town and back. The problem was that though former Squadron-Leader R.F. Jenkins and I got on well together and had a common interest in philately and gardening, any mention of things spiritual was verboten. So we gradually lost contact, especially after we put a note through their door, offering our help, but receiving no reply.

   I learned that the young man was Michael Lewis, that he lives across the road from Freda, at No. 30, and that he goes in to help her. This in itself was an answer to prayer, to have news of Freda and to know of her continuing love and appreciation for us. Then Michael repeated: I must not try to carry any more bricks, he had a friend Roger, who was a bit subnormal but very strong and would be only too pleased to help me, at only £5 an hour.

   While Michael and I were talking, Freda appeared at the front door, feeling suddenly much better. The three of us talked about the Jenkins (and the little dog waited patiently to resume his walk), then Michael and his canine companion carried on up the hill, Freda came indoors to phone Chris, and I carried another brick down the garden. I then came indoors to go up into the loft and find the Birmingham Planets for Alton [Alton Douglas].

   Then the post came. There was a statement from the Giro and the balance was so low that I had immediately to write a cheque for £500 and take it down to the Post Office. This I did then went to St John’s to fold the newsletters for St Ben’s, where I met Elizabeth and Jo as usual, and also Dawn [Bonham], who was waiting for Neill to finish the printing. Then Jean [Lobb] came in to collect the newsletters. She was pleased for me to take them instead, and we had a nice conversation about our visit to Birmingham next week.

   I had not been back very long before Chris arrived and joined us for coffee (though he has herb-tea) and we had a further talk about the pond and good fellowship together; Chris said he would make himself responsible for hiring Roger and paying him. I washed up again after lunch, we watched a few minutes of Laurel and Hardy, then both went to sleep. Later I looked at some of the Planet newspapers, took Freda to Ian Franklin’s at 4.45pm, had a bath when I got back, learned that Birmingham City had lost 3-5 at Middlesbrough, then collected Freda [from the hairdresser’s] towards 6pm.

   While we were having tea we watched Dice Life, six different dance episodes illustrating six ages of life; and then probably the funniest of all the Dad’s Army episodes, in which the platoon has to guard a captured U-boat crew whose captain is played by Philip Madoc. “Don’t tell him, Pike” is one of the funniest moments in TV history.

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webwork by Jim Nagel at Abbey Press, Glastonbury — this edition published 2007-06-30