Flo is seventeen today. In our advent picture she wears one of a series of Christmas fairy dresses Jackie made for her. This, the first our granddaughter remembers, was in 1999. Jackie also took the photograph of the garment that was worn daily until it split as Flo grew.
Whilst a violent gale-force storm beat the garden trees into submission, bending a huge fir as if it were Robin Hood’s longbow, I spent the day scanning some old Rivett family photographs, beginning with one of Helen with Jackie in the arms of Albert Rivett, otherwise known as Grandy. This would have been soon after my lady’s birth in June 1948.
The prints had been sent to Helen by her cousin Adrian and she had entrusted me with the task of enlivening these old treasures.
As always, it seems, when we are subjected to inclement weather, we suffered power cuts. At first these were intermittent and of limited inconvenience, namely Jackie having to reset the cooker before it would work again, and my losing the photographic retouching on which I was working at each brief intermission. And there was quite a lot of retouching required.
Electricity is the sole source of power in our flat, so when the 3 p.m. cut continued long-term we were in darkness.
Sitting in the twilight pondering, my mind wandered back to the Soho of the 1970s when Jessica, Michael, and I lived in Horse and Dolphin Yard. One late afternoon I received a phone call at work from Michael who had come home from school to find we had no electricity. It turned out quite well for him because I sent him to the cinema whilst I set about sorting the problem.
A few telephone calls from me established that our supply had been disconnected. ‘Why?’, I wondered. This seemed a reasonably simple question, but the answer was a little slow in coming. What transpired was that the gentleman in the flat above had not paid his bill and we had been cut off in error. It actually took some little time to establish that I was not our neighbour pretending to be me, who had paid his bill. Reconnection required an emergency call-out. This also took some time.
A few days later I received a bill for investigation and emergency reconnection. I was not desperately pleased about this so I politely informed the representative of the electricity board how they could dispose of their invoice. With the letter in which I offered this advice I enclosed my own bill for necessary disbursements. These included the cost of candles, Michael’s cinema ticket, and a Chinese takeaway meal for three. Strangely enough, my expenses, to the penny, amounted to the same figure as the board’s demand. I believe I added a lightbulb broken in the chaos to make up the figure.
Out of the goodness of their hearts the electricity suppliers waived their charges. They didn’t, of course, settle my bill, but I had had a bit of fun.
At five o’clock this afternoon we were speculating as to whether we would need to have another Chinese takeaway instead of Jackie’s superbly prepared meal, when someone up above said ‘Let there be light’. And there was. And it was good.
Corey, in America, joined us on Skype for the cutting of the cake after we had finished our meal of cottage pie followed by bread and butter pudding with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden, Becky Maxi Coke and I finished the Carta Roja.