Follow one crying eye on

A more cheerful, and much more beneficial, week

I inadvertently failed to post my last missive on the day it was written – no doubt my brain was operating below par and most definitely below optimum temperature as I plumbed the depths of our bathroom and heating tribulations.

Said tribulations are not yet entirely forgotten, but my rational self has returned (rational, you scoff? Ha!) and I have thrown myself into pleasurable busyness.

Inside the chimney
In all its sunny glory

On Monday last week we ascended en famille into Battersea heaven via a glorious glass lift up one of the iconic and now restored chimneys of the forty-year project that is the old Power Station, to the accompaniment of a Pink Floyd instrumental. This was in honour of the offspring’s birthdays which occur in rapid succession around this time of year. Somewhat bemused by the paucity of explanation by the clip-boarded and be-microphoned staff, and underwhelmed by the ante-chamber displays, we were whisked up the chimney into fabulous winter sunshine and a perfect blue sky. We were told, not the history of the building or the speed of the lift or the directions to look in order to see the Wembley Arch etc, but instead not to touch the controls at the sides of the lift pod. This of course served only to encourage us to ponder what a disobedient action might trigger and, in my case, a nagging reminder of a scene from Charlie & the Chocolate Factory.

It all made a good talking point for a long lazy lunch afterwards. So nice to get together like this from time to time.

In fact, the birthday season continued two days later as Daughter J celebrated the turning of her personal year by inviting her decrepit but still young at heart (honest! Well, sometimes…) mother to be spot-welded at Liberty of London. The welding was a Christmas present from Daughter to Mother and this seemed a good opportunity to ‘get it done’.

An invitation not to be refused (or properly understood, it seems), for when we arrived, it was to the jewellery department we headed and not the famous boutique forge. (Perhaps I have been muddling Liberty with Horrids. I’m sure they have a blacksmith’s.) 

I produced the appropriate gift certificate from my, in the context of these hallowed environs, distinctly shabby but suitably capacious handbag, and a lovely Liberty lady exhibited the range of chains from which we were permitted to choose. Nervously wondering how many shifts at Daughter J’s restaurant I would be able to survive whilst shackled to her, I chose a very fine chain and bravely surrendered my right wrist for measuring. It transpires that, unlike the other increasingly generously proportioned areas of my person, my wrists remain those of an underfed child. As the appropriately short chain was prepared I mused that this would perhaps provide some infinitesimal boost to Messrs Liberty’s profit margins. No wonder the nice lady was smiling; not just to comfort me and my nerves then.

Just look how brave I am

Continuing in ‘brave’ mode, I volunteered to go first and was led to a mysterious counter-top box with a side flap, into which I was gently invited to thrust my right hand. And so in I thrust, and as my hand disappeared I took a seat alongside the nice Liberty lady who was now wielding an implement (which I refused to inspect, for fear of an onslaught of nerviness on my part) and we were off!

Magnification assists the welder

Daughter J kept up a gentle, and possibly ill-advised, patter of chat about tattoos and piercings, whilst the nice Liberty lady played with my wrist in the box. I kept very still. The chatter progressed to laser treatments, as I realised the nice Liberty lady’s ‘weapon’ of choice was in fact neither hammer nor tongs, but a laser. Fortunately, before my mind raced too far and caused me to flinch, it was all over and my hand emerged with a  slender gold bracelet now seamlessly attached. Not attached to or embedded in my skin, I hasten to add, but seamlessly welded into one unbroken circle.

Matching, but not actually shackled together.

Relieved that in fact there was no invasion of my bodily sanctuary, nor any scar or scab, I ceded my chair to Daughter J who cheerily proffered her own right arm and, notwithstanding a small delay possibly as a result of her fidgeting, saw our joint endeavour through to the end. I was able to watch this time, through a hugely magnifying lens. I concluded this must be just the same as keyhole surgery, and felt immediately proud – of us, and of the nice Liberty lady’s remarkable skill. Ludicrous, but one should always make the most of such positive vibes. And now we each have matching gold chains to remind us of each other at all times. A rather lovely thing, I feel.

Between these two exciting and celebratory days, came a chilly and foggy Tuesday. This saw me installed at 10.30am behind a folding table, my iPad at the ready – in the middle of a patch of grass outside our local community hall. I had my regulation ‘singing in a cold church’ thermal clothing on, countless layers of fabric including proper woollen items, but by 11am it was quite clear this would be insufficient. I was with a colleague in similarly Michelin-man attire. We had both been trained a few days beforehand in the hugely beneficial granting of Fuel Vouchers for issuing to qualifying claimants with pre-pay gas/electric meters. We were ready to go, and expecting a steady stream of applicants. 

Whilst we got ourselves organised – with Mrs J revealing her IT strengths in a) identifying immediately that the MiFi device we had been lent was not working (despite being told repeatedly that it WAS) and b) setting up a WiFi Hotspot on my own phone and getting us both logged onto it (I am indeed a complete techie now). I was, however, sadly lacking when it came to downloading the necessary materials to my colleague’s Android phone, so we resigned ourselves to working in tandem. No matter.

Once the excitement of connectivity abated, and we had issued our first two vouchers, we realised just how cold we had become, and the friendly lady from the Food Bank (which was located and in full swing inside the community hall) brought us some space blankets (tin-foil) which we stylishly wrapped around our lower portions. The hot water bottles she also brought were never filled with hot water – I guess it’s the thought that counts – so they sat beneath our feet, at least providing a barrier between us and the cold ground. 

Sun had reached us by now, but we still had our space blankets on.

In fact, a little later, the fog cleared and the sun peeked around the tower block to our left, affording us at least half an hour of replenishing warmth, before it crept back behind the next tower. We had earlier refused a gazebo, on the basis that it was not raining or windy, and we didn’t think it would be any warmer. In the warming sun, we congratulated ourselves as we surveyed our other charity colleagues in the gloom of their gazebo. At this stage, we even managed to get the Android version of the application to work. Perhaps it just needed some solar help.

Fourteen vouchers were issued between us. That’s just short of £700 handed out, to some very grateful people. It was a privilege to be able to do this, and although it took me a good hour or two at home to thaw out properly, it was most definitely worth it. And hopefully by March, when our next event takes place, the weather will be a little more clement.

NB. I volunteer for an organisation called RBKares which helps the local community in Kingston upon Thames, which is not quite the rich ‘leafy’ borough it is often thought to be (at least, not for everyone).  Donations always welcome, or come and join us if you live locally.






Follow one crying eye on