Two of your children have been haunting your flat. They are trying to act normally but they are talking about things that you don’t understand. You feel frightened.
You haven’t been sleeping well for a long time now. The place where you live is big and dark and quiet at night and there are people who are out to Get you. Your daughter leaves. The other one stays.
Later it becomes clear that the Strange Man who is in your flat is going to kill you. You scream and scream until the Man telephones your daughter. She's only just got home, she says. She can't come back. It'll be another hour. She's tired. She's with Francis and the boys.
Instead she tries to reassure you. She puts on her best and calmest voice. She tells you that this Strange Man is your darling youngest son called Neddy who has been with you and her in the flat all day. And the day before. You've never heard anything so ridiculous! You can’t possibly believe her and anyway she isn't even here. She’s in her home somewhere miles away where she doesn’t want you. She doesn’t know who’s in your flat at night.
Or perhaps she does and she’s in a conspiracy with this Strange Man? You try not to think that because you want to trust her, even though you think she’s far too bossy and sometimes very stupid. But you’re in your nightdress now and it’s getting dark and this Man says he is staying in your spare room. He says he did it last night too.
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else comes. You don’t know her name but she’s a “lassie”. They work here. You're used to them
She makes you talk to your daughter again but you know she's far away. She isn't any use. So the lassie helps you find your bed and you hide there. The Man does not come back.
Your flat looks different today. You’re not sure why. Did your children say something about moving? Perhaps you’re already living in the new place? Perhaps that’s why everything seems so strange. You ask them but they say no. They tell you you’ve been living here in this flat for six years! How can they possibly expect you to believe that? This place is so completely strange that you can’t even find the bathroom. Just occasionally when you look out of your window there’s a patch of garden that you think you know…
It’s later. You don’t know how many days. Your son Neddy has come down from Scotland and has been staying in your spare bed. He helps you find your way around this new place. Although he says it isn’t a new place. He says this is the old place. But the only thing you still recognise when you get up in the morning is the collage of family photos. If you’re going to move anywhere you want this.
Your children agree but they say they can’t get it off the wall. It’s screwed on and it's too fragile, and their brother called Nick has promised to come and take it down and bring it carefully in his big car. That's all very well but where is he? You don't like leaving your photos. Who is going to look after them if you're not here?
It’s time to go, they say. Boola’s here and her car is full. You’re going to live near her house in Essex. It’ll be an adventure! It's what you said you wanted.
Your lassies are in the hall. They hug you and smile and wish you well. You remember that you love them. Has Boola has given them money? She says she hasn’t, just flowers and chocolates and a card. As you drive away she tells you that the reason that they were smiling and hugging you wasn’t because of money but because they want you to be happy in your new place. You keep on asking whether she gave them money. You think she should have given them money, a decent amount. She says she’s sorry. She thought presents would be easier to share. She means well, Boola, but sometimes she’s very stupid.
It’s a very long journey. At the beginning you see a bridge that you recognise and you like the fact that the road signs say London, though Boola tells you that you’re not going quite that far. Then a man begins falling out of the sky. He’s going to hit the car when he finally comes down.
Neddy’s in the back. He’s gone to sleep and Boola doesn’t want to wake him. She can’t see the man falling from the sky. She says she has to keep watching the road. That does seem sensible but why is the man still falling straight at you? His falling doesn’t stop. It follows you. If Boola turns a corner or slows down or speeds up the man is still falling. Why?
Boola gets it in the end. She says that what you're seeing is a chip in the car windscreen, not a man falling from the sky. You want to believe her but it does seem strange. This is a very long journey. You’re not clear where you’re going and your brain is tired.
"This is Dunmow. It’s my nearest town. It’ll be your nearest town as well. We're nearly there now."
Where is there? I don’t recognise these places. I don’t know where we are or where we’re going. Or why we’re going there. I don’t like this at all. I’m not excited. I’m frightened.
She drives in through a large gateway. "Here we are," she says. She doesn't sound so sure now.
She stops and they get me out of the car, quickly. A big house. Huge. Steps and pillars. A door slides.
Big flowers in a shiny vase. Too big. Too bright. Polished furniture and magazines. Not a real place. Not a place to live.
A lady from an office enters, smiling. “Do you remember me?”she asks.
What a stupid question. I try to be polite. Want to run. Boola talking. Neddy holding me.
Someone in a white jacket comes close up in my face. Short hair. Flat chest. Looks like a man. “I’m the nurse," s/he says. "I’ll be taking care of you.”
Suddenly I understand. They've brought me to a hospital! There'll be doctors or ... Scientists?!
I’m being locked away. And then they’re going to chop me up.
Everyone I ever trusted has betrayed me.
This is the story of my mother's move to a specialist dementia suite in the few days before Beloved Old Age was published, as I think it may have felt to her. Francis and Bertie, two of her favourite people in the world, were waiting in her room to greet her and we'd hoped to picnic together. I will never forget the pain and dignity with which she told us all -- in dibbledydobbledy speak, because she couldn't quite find the words -- that she had admired and loved us and she couldn't quite bear to believe that we had done this to her. She was certain that there were laws against kidnapping a person and locking them away. She had not given her consent to be chopped up and she wanted to call the police, immediately, and after that she would catch the next train Home.
From my point of view -- and I am the villain of this melodrama -- we finally had no choice in making this move into care if we were to avoid her being sectioned under the mental health act (as poor Margery Allingham was, fifty years ago). These have been some of our worst days but I have to tell you that I am relieved Mum is living nearby and I hope we can put the principles of family caring into practice for her here, as well as we could when she was living in that lovely sheltered flat, fifty miles away in Suffolk.