I am staying in London this summer on a grandmother mission to help a dyslexic grandson.
Dyslexia is, or can be hereditary, and in this case, it is my side of the family that is culpable.
In my day it was not recognized, but today it is, and more importantly understood.
Living with a grandson of 13 is an experience that takes me back to my days of being a mother, but only partially,
as the young today are a different race by comparison.
Their minds revolve and evolve around technology, so, getting to the core of what they think and feel is
complicated and can be bewildering for them and for me.
Getting back to our living together. My son has taken a small flat for us at the very top (53 steps up… no lift)
of an old building, down an ally way just off Kensington High Street.
This takes me way back pass motherhood and into my teens. We are surrounded on all sides by restaurants.
Right next to our front door is a pizza and pasta place, very appropriate.
Not so much for the table that is situated exactly next to our entrance, which is mounted with an automatic slamming system.
I am continually apologizing to the unsuspecting diner that have spilled their wine.
In front of this there are 3 other restaurants, 1 just opening and 2 other french bistros.
It makes for a fun and lively atmosphere, we could almost be in Montmartre.
A little less so at 5 in the morning with the arrival of the bottle collection.
However, the early morning is the best part of the day, especially for me with Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park so close.
This is where i find myself.
I find my old rhythms and habits.
My thoughts and mind take me to a place i understand.
Approaching the park from the high street there is a guard of ancient chestnut trees.
At this time of the year they are literally covered in great cones of white blossom.
The park is closed at dusk but opens at dawn which suits me perfectly.
At the hour i go to the park it is by no means empty, but if i go just a little later it is like a marathon with runners,
sprinters, power walker, and even swimmers. At my time it is the birds, and the other creatures that inhabit the
park that are busy preparing for the day.
My walk takes me through Kensington Gardens and under the Bridge into Hyde park.
Following the path around the lake called the Serpentine.
I walk quite fast and just this morning a rabbit hopped along beside me. I did not modify my pace and nor did he.
Around the corner and the squirrels are out in force and have no hesitation in begging for breakfast.
Hanging from the railings like acrobats. In the hope I have a nut in my pocket.
They make me think of Fagin’s pickpockets in Oliver Twist.
I am taking a particular interest in squirrels at the moment.
I find their antics comic and endearing, hence their playing principal role in the children’s wallpaper i am designing.
I am not a good photographer, unfortunately, not quick enough and am all of thumbs.
Further on i arrive at the water. There is an old willow tree that has now hunched right over into the water.
A perfect hiding place for the ducks. All along the waters edge the swans and the moorhens are doing their morning ablutions.
The white breast feathers of the swans give way to the smaller black ones. What a mess!
A man walks pass with his dog, the dog doesn’t seem to notice the water fowl, or they him, and the man is on his mobile phone.
Well whats new! I miss my dogs, what would they make of this. Just the image makes me smile.
The British are a strange race. I can say this because i am one. They are so ridged in certain ways; table manners, etiquette, manners in general.
“Diddly squat” as one of my sons would say. The essence of a gentleman being thought of others. In other ways they are the complete opposite.
Very tolerant, extrovert and eccentric. I notice this in the park, and it is not just the British. People smile and say good morning with what seems like genuine pleasure,
but then again on the bus i find the same warmth, strangers, particularly mothers discuss their children.
Young men will ask about the football. Who knows what. Harry Kane? Will the manager manage the Colombians? I find it mainly in the young who will get up and offer their seat,
will help if you look lost. This is not the reputation the British are known for. It could also be the beautiful weather of course, the weather being a favorite topic of conversation here.
Perhaps the nature of the beast is changing! Notice i say British, the Irishmen is an Irishmen, the Welshmen, a Welshmen. Let alone the Scottish.
I am proud to be British, a great mixture.
Back at the flat it is time for us to start our day, new experiences to experiment. Bottles are not going to do the trick, or a brass band for that matter! Getting my grandson
out of bed is a major feat. Perhaps the smell of frying bacon? We have armed ourselves with blue oyster cards, we are beginning to understand the colors of the various
routes on the underground and where each number bus goes, no jay walking here as we do in Italy. He has school.
I have placed a table under my window where i can draw. The window faces onto the back of various houses surrounding me with an ugly jumble of air-condition machines, water pipes,
air vents from the restaurant below, broken or boarded up windows, chimneys and a few struggling weeds. Upon deeper observation i realise my view it is not so ugly as fascinating.
Each part telling its own story. That however would be another tale.
By mid-morning, smells of cooking are coming my way, reminding me i need to shop. We have 6 weeks in front of us. We will learn from each other and i hope this will be a time,
when he is older, that he will remember with a smile. His grandmother trying to teach him the art of conversation and a turning point in his learning.
We took a tube on our way out of London for the weekend and on the side in front of us there was a poster named “poems for the tube.”
This one read;
I have crossed an ocean
I have lost my tongue
From the root of the old one
A new one has sprung
This is a poem by Grace Nichols.
I hope it will be true for my grandson .