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The Hobbit

In God’s waiting room – Mandela and Jean?

Today I’m writing about something very personal – something which those who are connected with me on Facebook may well have picked up already.

The truth is my godmother, who was 93 on Saturday, is dying. She’s slowly slipping away to whatever comes next. My family all knew this would happen at some point and I’m very thoughtful about it today. Maybe she’ll make her way up those golden steps in illustrious company as life seems to be pushing Nelson Mandela in the same direction.

As my family faces this moment, you may think we are all weeping at the thought of losing her – but we’re not. We are sad and reflective. But we’re glad that the end is coming for her. Is that very terrible?

When she was about 88 or so, she had a stroke which, over time, meant going into a supported nursing home. She’s a widow with no children of her own, her nieces were all over 60 themselves. I saw her several times in the home near Bath, where she has received first class care, and took the children with me, which has always delighted her.

But over the last couple of years, health episodes and further strokes have left her in a more or less vegetative state. She is unable to do anything for herself, is unable to communicate at all and it was only her eyes which gave you any clue if she actually knew you were in the room. Being there is more of a duty than a pleasure and that’s the truth of it.

From this information you might think that this is all very sad, an old lady slowly slipping away. But this ‘old lady’ was a strong, feisty woman, outspoken, sometimes ill-advisedly, and in love with her wider family. Born in 1920, she grew up in a poor family, the youngest child. She spent much of her life caring for her brother Bill, who was, what we called then, a spastic but, in today’s language, he was affected by cerebral palsy.

She married Ivan, who then went to serve in Burma during the war. Aunt Jean was, apparently well known as a well-dressed, beautifully turned out lady who lived life to the full. She had no children of her own and, when her parents died, she became a carer for Uncle Bill.

Wishing my godmother well on her final journey....

Wishing my godmother well on her final journey….

That’s what I remember from my childhood- Auntie Jean and Uncle Ivan living in a house with Uncle Bill, who was friendly but a little scary to me. She was my godmother, lived within a half mile of my grandparents, so we saw them often. She did tea and cake very well and had a very long garden with fields to the side where we could sometimes play. Her house felt dark with small rooms, a bit like a hobbit hole. It’s funny what the mind of a child remembers.

Later, after Uncle Bill and Uncle Ivan passed away, she seemed to live a quiet but happy life in her Somerset home and once a week visited my gran, her sister-in-law. They had regular spats, and I guess that was a theme of their relationship. When my gran died my Aunt Jean missed her terribly and made no bones about it.

Now she’s the last of that generation of the family – ironically she was the youngest and lived the longest. I sense she longs to be free of the prison of her body, and although I don’t see her much now, I’m aware that her leaving will widen the gap left by not having any of my grandparents or aunts or uncles from that generation. They filled my childhood to the brim as there were so many of them.

My message to her – good luck and God Bless Aunt Jean. I’d like to think I’d feel the moment when it comes, but I doubt I will. Thank you for all that you were to me and my sister, my mum and my dad, my aunts and uncles and my cousins. I hope what comes next brings you joy.

Review of two films in UK cinemas now – what do you think?

I love the cinema – really, really love it. But I don’t always get time to see all the films I’d like so recently I had a cinema day – yes I went twice in a day. It’s a quite surreal thing to do, especially at this time of year. It can feel like you’ve had a day in darkness….with the added benefit of popcorn!

The first film was Twilight – Breaking Dawn Part Two. This was a necessity as I’d read the books, watched all the other films (more than once) and had two daughters nagging endlessly.  I have to say on a scale of one to ten – I’d give it a seven. Plus points were that it rounded off the saga really well, in many ways better than the books where everything seems to end so weakly. Also Bella actually took on a bit of colour and energy – as there were many times in the previous films when I wanted to almost punch her for being so insipid. And of course there was plenty of Edward and Jacob, which always helps. Though frankly Carlo and Jaspar weren’t too shabby either, though almost inconsequential.  I was mulling over my favourite character in all the films and decided that Alice probably came out near the top.

After lunch it was Skyfall. Friends had raved about the film to me so I was really, really excited to see it. There was much talk of a big secret. Also it included Daniel Craig and Dame Judi Dench, so who couldn’t be bowled over by them? But I’m afraid this film didn’t match my expectations. It just didn’t have the action sequences that I have come to expect from recent Bond films. and it seemed to have a bit of a copycat theme – I got a strong feel of the Bourne series here, but just not handled as well. Like the recent follow-up of the Bourne trilogy – tried hard but just lacked that raw drama.

The storyline was reasonable, bit too personal for me, and it featured Scotland which helped. But overall I felt a bit let down. So much emphasis on everyone being too old – and a baddie who was personal but less ‘big picture’ and having a very, bad hair day.

Overall a film which lacked the creativity factor of other films, Casino Royale was much, much better in my view. I probably will buy the DVD just to see if I’ve been a bit too harsh but both me and my better half felt the same. Seven out of ten is a generous score I think.

But I’ve still got the film of the year to go – The Hobbit. One of my favourite childhood books, alongside Lord of the Rings. I’m expecting a nine or ten to take me into Christmas and to prepare me for the annual local pantomime. We’ll see…….

Cheetah sitting on anthill in Mara Kenya

Waiting for the next big film to come out – The Hobbit…

 

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