Sunday, 1 May 2011

Brief from Oxford

Today was the surprise party for A, dear Estonian friend. Her son had invited her down to Brighton, where he lives with his partner. A few friends were also invited for a long celebratory lunch.

In order to get this done we drove to C's parents' house in Hertfordshire on Saturday and spent the night in the empty house, first visiting c's widowed mother in the nearby nursing home. She can't live by herself and needs constant care now. Her memory goes on and off like a switch. Little by little there is less of her: thin armed and legged.It is as if life had moved into a furious reverse. She remains sweet and sharp in patches, then the internal light flickers and goes off, before turning on again.

The next day the trains to Brighton, all packed with Bank Holidayers. We walk the 20 minutes or so to the address and settle in the garden. Just three other guests. There is a Russian spread and toasts - three of them - with vodka that is clear as crystal. Eggs with caviar. Aubergine salad. Bowls of cold delicacies. And more vodka. We talk about art and language and institutions in the small garden. We hug and bid farewell and dash for the train. At London Bridge we part - I to Oxford, C home. It's late. Workto read. Plans to make.

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