Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Journeys (and hello, Els!)

Alfred Wainwright (1907-1991) published handwritten Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells (and other places), illustrated by his own drawings, which he compiled between 1952 and 1966 and which have given inspiration to many walkers over the hills and mountains.

I sat in my confused aunt's care-home library yesterday, leafing through one of Wainwright's books as I waited to speak to the assistant manager. The book was about one of my favourite places, Sutherland in north-west Scotland. Wainwright writes, "No direct descent from the summit of Caisteal Liath is possible, other than by falling off it to certain death, and steps must be retraced to..." [and a detailed route is then described]. "This alternative route of return is strongly recommended."

It made me smile. A little later I went to my aunt's room, where she lay ill. Her eyes were very blue and very blank. I wasn't sure that she recognised me. Then I took a big photo of my late uncle from her bedside cabinet, turned it sideways to where her head lay on the pillow and said, "Who's this?"

She gave a small but very sweet smile and whispered, "My husband."


  1. Oh Isabelle, this is both sad and beautiful. Watching mind and memory evaporate, and discovering which memories remain, as though indelibly imprinted, bring tears, sadness, and a gladness.
    You are caring for your family in so many ways, and all with such love.

  2. So dear Aunty still has some memories. It is sad when it gets to that stage. Always go and see them if you are able - I had experience with both an old aunt and MIL who had to be ferried about, visited for years then they both died very unexpectedly and I was glad I had done as much as I could for them when they were still alive.

    I ( we actually, 2 oldies and 2 young ones )will be arriving in Edinburgh by train on the afternoon of Saturday 16th July from York at 2.15 pm and departing for the Lakes district on Monday 18th at 7 pm.
    So not a long time in your lovely city.
    If you would like to meet for a drink or a coffee or something that would be great. Please let me know closer to the time.
    Hugs from Ali.

  3. Beautiful, Isabelle. So sorry.

  4. So sad, Isabelle - would that there were an alternative route of return.

  5. That just made me cry!

  6. Sending you a big hug x

  7. Oh...that is very touching. With your compassion you are a natural Carer, dear friend. If ever you quit teaching, you would make a valuable volunteer visitor in an aged care facility.

  8. Oh no, this just made me cry. Your poor aunt - I am very glad that she has you to take care of her.