“Where are you?” Mr B wants to know. It’s the kind of conversation we often have when I have rung him on my mobile from the Pulse bus travelling home from town. But whereas I could always reassure him
that I was on my way, that I’d be home shortly, that I’d not forgotten whatever he’d asked me to buy for him - now I am at home and he seems so very far away, in his hospital bed. He must be wondering why I am not there to (I) drive him crazy
with my endless chatter and (ii) keep him supplied with endless glasses of “nice, cold milk.” (“He does drink a lot of milk,” his nurse tells me, “Is that normal for him?”)
The hospital is only a few miles away but it could as well be the other side of the world as I am not allowed to see him at all. We are like Saturn and Mars, the Great Conjunction supposedly visible in the night sky today.
It’s the closest they have been since 1226. We look as if we are joined together but, like the planets, we are nearly 500 million miles apart. Or at least that’s the way it feels.
Also like Saturn and Jupiter we are surrounded by our many moons who circle us with endless love, phone calls, Zoom sessions, thoughtful gifts and cards. Life would be pretty desperate without them. Saturn has 82 moons while
Jupiter has 79. We probably don’t have quite that many but at least all of our moons have names, unlike those of both planets.
Telephoning Mr B is an exquisite
torture; most of the time he is too drowsy to speak, more than once he has fallen asleep to the sound of my voice. It would be sweet to think that hearing my voice has reassured him and sent him into blissful slumber; I suspect it’s more likely that
I am just boring him into dreamland. With the help of my Little Sister and her fella, who stayed to keep me company over the early days, I purchased what was described as “the very simplest of mobile phones”. I left it for him on hospital reception
with a letter explaining its functions which I hoped somebody might read for him. I even marked with a heart shaped sticker the button he needs to press to get straight through to me on my mobile. I had a choice between a black phone and a red one. Personally
I’d have opted for red but then I remembered that when I bought him a smart red wheelchair he complained bitterly that it was “Arsenal colours.” A Spurs supporter through and through, that’s Mr B (but please don’t hold it against
him, remember he is Proper Poorly!)
Most days I have taken something in for him without ever actually knowing if they are reaching their destination. A letter
and his glasses on one day, the mobile phone on another. This morning’s delivery was rather special.
Today, you see, was the anniversary of the Day We Met,
fifty-seven years ago, outside Woolworths in Sittingbourne High Street. Last night I made him one of my hand-crafted cards with five photographs on the front, pictures of the two of us, stretching across the years. I’m hoping if he can have it standing
on his bedside cabinet (always presuming he has one) it will help him to feel I am close by. When I spoke to him on the phone today I reminded him it was our Day We Met anniversary and asked him if he could remember how many years ago we had first set eyes
in each other. I think his muttered response was on the lines of “a b****y long time ago.” There’s no arguing with that - and it was a peculiarly reassuring response.
I keep looking out for the Great Conjunction in the sky but I am probably looking in the wrong direction. I like the idea of those two great planets, in all their apparent togetherness, shining bright on our anniversary. I decided
not even to try to tell Mr B about this timely and appropriate phenomenon - he would doubtless have told me I was being fanciful. Though not in those exact words, you understand...
Woolworths is no more, of course. Saturn and Jupiter will move apart and won’t get together again until 2080. Mr B and I - he in his hospital bed, me at home - are still together after all these years. As I wrote in my card: “Look how far
we’ve come together!”
The Great Conjunction, you might almost say...