Sunday, 25 September 2011

Markets and Malls

Yesterday we hurtled down to Portsmouth to see my mother, her first sight of me since my transplant. We discovered in the process that taking the new tunnel on the A3 makes for a quicker journey than our normal route down the M3 and then through Farnham to pick up the A3 further south, although the slower route is pretty much exactly 2 miles shorter and probably more economical.

Mum was on good form and very pleased to see me standing on my own two legs. We had a pleasant lunch in her bright house, which is in a small development in the old part of the city, among streets steeped in naval history. The small houses all look inwards upon a central garden, which is beautifully kept by one of the residents at shared expense, and the shrubs and small trees were all very colourful in the autumn sunshine that is bathing the country at the moment. My mother’s sister lives in the same development and she dropped by for a chat in the afternoon.

Unless I push myself, my default state at the moment is “the armchair doze”. In order to avoid this my wife and I walked to the nearby shopping mall known as Gunwharf Quays, which I have mentioned previously in this blog and which houses outlet stores for a number of major retailers, selling seconds and ends-of-lines. There are also numerous restaurants and refreshment stops. My wife had a voucher to use in Marks and Sparks and I was surprised to find that I had sufficient energy to help her find some items of the right size to try on. Then I flaked and went to sit on a bench outside while she battled her way through the fitting rooms.

While I was people-watching in the open air, I was struck by the difference between a modern mall—even a relatively small, low-rise one—and a street market, such as you typically find in France. People do not go to a mall with the expectation of meeting others casually; the set-up is just too large and anonymous, whereas in a market, the close proximity of the stalls, the immediacy of the interactions between customers and traders and the local focus all create more fertile ground for social interaction. It would be interesting to see whether other cultures experience their malls at all differently from the socially awkward English, but I would be prepared to bet that malls tend to generate a communal anonymity wherever they are found.

After a characteristically tummy-stretching tea back at Mum’s we gave her an early Christmas present of an album of photos of our son’s wedding back in June. It was good to be able to look back on that supremely happy day together before it was time to hit the road.

Once we got home I realised that I was completely wiped out physically. Acting with all the speed of a clockwork mannequin whose spring has wound down, I just managed to clean my teeth, take a couple of pills and collapse into bed. This post-chemo fatigue is a strange thing, curiously all-enveloping and impossible to resist once it gets to you. My wife was also tired, but she had of course spared me all the driving.

Awoke this morning feeling much refreshed and at a reasonably early hour. Have just had a very mellow cup of Australian-grown coffee that my mother presented us with yesterday and our son and daughter-in-law have just arrived for lunch. They are returning our little second car that they have had some use of while they have been settling into their first married home, so I will now have a little runabout to enable me to inflict my company on a wider geographical circle of friends and further my recovery.

Today my friend John Penny runs the Ipswich Half Marathon in aid of WM research. So many thanks are due to all those who have contributed most kindly and generously to his sponsorship, which has now (including Gift Aid) exceeded £1,500. What can I say?

Some cheery yellow flowers seen in my friends' kitchen a couple of days ago.
Should have "cloned out" the battery with some whizzy software, but it doesn't detract too much.

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