She talks readily, cheerfully and in detail about her health, and would tell you all about it herself if she could, so I know she won't mind in the least if I do. This is not a post for the squeamish.
Margery is my cleaner. This is the term she uses, no pretension to being a Housekeeper, although she doesn't mind in the least being called a Treasure, which she undoubtedly is. She has been coming to help me for ever, since the days when the only way I could afford my mortgage single-handedly was to have a couple of lodgers. Usually daft young 'uns, students who (like their parents) preferred a bit of motherly landlady oversight rather than to flat-share with other domestically-challenged young people. While delightful, they didn't have a clue about keeping a shared house in reasonable order. I worked long hours and wasn't prepared to be chief cook and bottle washer, continuously fighting to stem the tide of squalor at home, or being in a perpetual strop about the state of the cooker.
She was what used to be called a Home Help, and was glad of some extra private work. She did her White Tornado act on the shared areas once a week, and a house rule was established that things should stay nice for at least half a day after she left. The lodgers tried hard to comply, bless their clueless little student socks. The house rule was resolutely ignored by the cats, but as Margery doted on them, they got away with it; they still do. They have rather more mixed feelings about her, attached as she so often is to that object of terror, the hoover. Margery could hoover competitively for Britain and win.
When my mother moved to this city, Margery became her cleaner too, and they got on famously; being a Home Help meant that Margery understood the needs of the elderly, and would cut toenails, go to the Post Office, sit chatting over tea and biscuits and put the world to rights, sometimes exchanging trenchant (rather right wing) political views that supposedly could not be uttered in my hearing.
A very touching moment occurred after my mother died and the dog came to live with me. She knew and loved Margery as a visitor to my mother's home, but had never seen her at my house. The first time that Margery let herself into the house, the dog, still subdued, anxious and grieving, threw herself in ecstasies of delighted recognition towards her, the first happy moment she had experienced for days. Margery holds not only much of my domestic history, but a wealth of memories of my mother.
Now that I have the house to myself, and am perfectly capable of doing my own housework, I still have Margery to help once a week; she says it's like coming to family, and who am I to argue? I can't imagine her not coming. But she offers much more than cleaning.
Apart from her energetic ways with hoover and mop, she's talkative, lively, opinionated, and a superb story-teller - she often tells me about a film she's watched, always something light-years away from my usual taste, and I find myself listening, rapt, open-mouthed, to her narrative, delivered in a broad Geordie accent, punctuated with sweeping arm movements and, sometimes, a faithful re-enactment requiring full use of the kitchen floorspace. Thrillers, horror films, gruesome and terrifying dramas; all are material for Margery's considerable comedy skills at re-telling. I love those moments.
But there has been a recent cloud. Margery has been finding swallowing difficult, feeling that she had a lump in her throat, with other symptoms that sent her to her GP. Immediately, to our considerable alarm, she was fast-tracked to specialists, and various procedures followed. She would describe them to me later, either by text or in person, and I now know exactly what happens, more vividly than a hospital leaflet or a doctor could convey.
First: The Camera Up Me Nose. Margery was anxious. Having her nose explored came as a surprise, as she had been expecting The Camera Down Me Throat. "There was nothing there. They're sending me to the gastros."
A few days later: 'The Gastros' and the Barium Meal. Margery's partner had experienced this procedure himself, and slyly, he told her that it was a flavoured drink, perhaps strawberry, banana, toffee. Sweet-toothed, she hoped (in vain) for toffee. The vigorous re-enactment of this horrendous experience made me laugh despite the ghastliness of it all.
"Eee, it was just like drinking gloss paint. Glug. Glug. Glug..... and I wasn't allowed to burp, or they'd have to do it all again.... and the Barium San'wich! A triangle of bread dipped in gloss paint!" What did it taste like? "Like chalk. Chalk-flavoured gloss paint."
See what I mean? Could your GP have described this common procedure to you so clearly and honestly?
Yesterday: The Camera Down Me Throat. I haven't seen Margery yet, but she reports that she has a hiatus hernia, and not the dreaded possibilities we had feared. Newcastle has the highest incidence nationally of stomach and gullet cancer. I asked if it had been a horrible day, and she texted back:
it was sprayed me throat which was ok tasted like bananas n this thick tube which they described as thin i was burping n drooling with a thing in me mouth protecting me teeth bt it was over in 5 mins not comfortable at al glad its over x
Later, when I rang her, she said that biopsies had been performed too; she was quite sanguine about her ordeal, and added "It didn't hurt or nowt, like." I'm printing off the diagram below for her; she'll love it.
We await results, hoping for good news; I look forward keenly to the re-enactment she'll carry out for me next week; it's bound to be lively. And educational, in ways I might not have imagined.