illustration of snails


I popped in to see my friend – she’s 86. I sort of keep an eye on her, but truth be told, she also keeps an eye on me.

We’re friends, you see, and that’s what friends do. We used to be neighbours, when I was 22, though we didn’t really get to know each other properly until a year or so later when I was off work expecting that first baby (now man sized).

I used to spend those long Summer afternoons sitting in the garden and reading, and dozing off, the baby hiccuping and fidgeting inside me, planning his escape. Joan used to lean over the fence and chat, and the excitement of the imminent arrival hung in the air like the smell of mown grass.

I’m having the baby here, Joan, I said one day.

Here? Not in the hospital, dear? Here?
Yeah, in the back bedroom, I said, gesturing at the top window. I don’t like hospitals (that’s still true). I’m just going to have a home birth. The midwife will come whenever we call her.

What does the doctor think, dear?

I told the GP, I said, but she wasn’t at all happy, ’cause I’m just a wee thing and it’s my first baby, so I just haven’t been back to see her again… * The midwives are fine with it… we’ll see how it goes. I know it will be OK.
Something in her eyes glinted, a flicker of fun and rebellion. I think that was the moment when we became allies, Joan and I, and we have enjoyed mutual respect and admiration ever since, with only a very few ups and downs along the way.

illustration of snail on colander

This morning we went out and picked some of her spinach together from the garden – for your lunch dear, and then we both said ‘with a poached egg on top’, which made us laugh. That will do you good, she said (she is perpetually monitoring my well being). She gave me a hug and said that she’d come with me to the hospital for those tests, if I wanted her to.**

Which is funny, because I am usually the one going with her.

We’re friends, you see.



*True – but the doctor did have to come to our house after the birth to check the baby, that’s the way it works. She was tickled pink and said she felt privileged to see a teeny baby only hours old. I think we won her over! She came after the next one too, and was, I might add, very excited to do so, being a Granny herself by that time 🙂

**That’s another story for another day.

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