I actually remembered an umbrella this time. Usually I risk going out without one, but this time I remembered I had one in the door pocket of my car and black clouds were building. So it was quite satisfying to walk into town and briefly feel the rain on my face before sheltering under it.

I was walking up a busy street, up the hill towards food and a coffee, when I saw this small hooded figure. I didn’t think anything of it at first, in fact I nearly walked past her. I stopped because I heard her small, old voice say: “help me”. She was in her seventies in a padded coat, slowly getting wet and leaning on an aluminium crutch. Her face, now I think about it, was quite plain and drawn, like a tear falling upwards. She had that far-away look too.

“Help me down this hill would you? Otherwise I think I might fall over”

I brought her under my brollie and asked her if she was ok. She told me she needed to get to the bus station to get home.

“I don’t think I can do it on my own”

I took her by the arm and started walking back down the hill. She told me all about her life in the short distance to the bus station (which we got to the long way round). Her Jewish parents fled Germany before the Second World War broke out, changing their names too just in case Hitler ever made it across the Channel. Before she knew it people were taking advantage of her in her old age. Schizophrenia gave everyone the idea that they could help themselves to her money. Men told her they loved her and left with her possessions. Others sold her overpriced kitchen utensils and she bought them jewellery.

“I didn’t let them get the better of me” But she never said how she did that – It felt like they had.

It was difficult to see the truth in it all. Who am I to say that it was all a lie? While she was talking she seemed to forget her ailments, whatever they were and walked quite normally unaided by the crutch that dangled from her arm. I was glad that I could give her the time.

We got to her stop at the bus station and the rain stopped. My arm was aching from holding her up.

I offered to stay with her until the bus arrived but she had ran out of stories.

I said goodbye, she said: “Call me Diamond.”


Memory Loss

At work I hear dozens of stories every week. They range from the uplifting to the crushingly sad. To say that I have a roller-coaster ride of emotions everyday would be about right. Not the big loop-de-loop kind every day, more like the travelling circus kind that puts your heart in your mouth only once or twice is closer to the mark.

Anyway what I’m trying to say is that some stories really hit you and stay longer than others. They get the gears working.

I heard about a woman who has anterograde-amnesia last week. She hit her head and rattled her brain to the point where she forgets her day every time she falls asleep. She has a diary that she has to update, what the children are doing, why her knee hurts, what she’s spent money on…

I felt immensely sad. She thinks she’s hit her head every time she wakes up and goes to bed kissing her children, knowing she will see them a little bit older tomorrow and at first not understand why. She has to read about her life with an extra day each time, which she has to convince herself happened.

Her husband is a strong man. He stands by her, takes her hand, and guides her through her life.

I did consider the positives. Those little things that annoy you must melt away. You can choose to remember the good things and forget the bad. It can be whatever you write down or believe when you wake up. It reminds me of the Ghost of Christmas Past. Short-lived, but fruitful. I suppose she is a living reminder that today can be different to tomorrow and will be yesterday soon enough. Reminds you to make good memories and not sweat the bad ones.