Went to see Gruesome Playground Injuries at the Gate, Notting Hill yesterday. First time I’d ever been – sweet little venue, though I admit it took me a while to realise the door was “hidden” behind a massive poster. Will talk about the play a bit later, but will just say I was very impressed by the design and (most of) the performances. The play itself, a sort of postmodern Forrest Gump, falls away after a promising start but promising enough for me to buy a book of the playwright’s work.

What happened after I posted  straight onto my Facebook in fragments so as not to forget it. Will republish it here:

Went to the theatre. Older lady asks me for a glass of wine after. And I go…

She’s just had a hip and spine operation. She uses the phrase “the film with that coloured fellow?” unironically. 

Her first two questions (in order):
“Is Rioja fine?” & “Where are your ancestors from?”

Married 18 to 72. 11 grandchildren. Husband died 5 years ago. 3 trips to India.

She don’t see Caryl Churchill because she put out an anti-Israel play. Her name is Lena. She’s pro-Israel. “Here we go….” I think.

She’s a sculptor. She’s a member of the Chelsea Arts Club. She’s seen a great film she can’t remember the name of.

She took a minicab here. She’ll take the tube back. She invites me to dinner in the future with 14 other guests. “Can you help me with my coat?” she asks.

She wants a new chair for her living room but is scared it will change it from how her husband left it. Her husband loved the theatre too, much more than she did. Walking down to the Tube, I tell her she moves very well for someone who’s just had a hip operation. “Never had a cold. No flu. No nothing. But now my body…gone. Outside. Not inside.”

“I can’t complain. Hitler didn’t finish me off, I made it out. I’ve been living for the 1.25 million children who didn’t.”

She said. Leaving to get her Tube. I give her a hug.

And all cause I cocked up booking tickets for yesterday like I was meant to.

Bonus material: she knew an exceptional amount about East African Asians from driving around Kenya by herself in the 60s. She had a kindle but refused to get a cover, keeping the original polystyrene case. She told me that she’d just had a fucking GREAT kebab across the road…

And with her final visit before she can’t travel anymore, she just wants to see Kashmir one more time. First place she ever went with her husband as freewheeling teens.

Missed football for this, but it was worth it. I write a lot about older people, often bereaved, and talking to someone in that situation was incredibly moving.

Dignity shot through with a wearying loneliness. Fitting that it happened the day after I read this.

Not sure what the people we crammed in next to thought of us but I’m glad these things can happen.

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