PC 194 Waiting for …….

The wonderful lines “What is this life if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare.” from the poet William Davies remind me why, in observing life with all its complexities, nuances and interactions, we need to engage our brain; as Pooh would say: “sometimes my brain hurts.” Of course often you are waiting for …….

PC 194 1

I have never seen the play ‘Waiting for Godot’ (1953) by the Irish playwright Samuel Beckett. Apparently two men chat on the stage, exchanging ideas about this and that, and admit they are waiting for Godot, whoever he is. A slave and his master enter …… and exit. Godot sends a message that he won’t be coming today – maybe tomorrow? By the end of the play Godot has not made an appearance and the two men have waited and waited, hoping for enlightenment from Godot. For whatever reason, the phrase ‘Waiting for Godot’ has lodged itself in my psyche although I am in no hurry to watch the play; just doesn’t appeal.

Some things worth waiting for are outside of our control, like the weather. Waiting for the rain to stop before walking the dog/hanging out the washing/gardening is literally in the lap of the gods  ….. and no end of pacing and getting anxious is going to change that. In my last PC I recounted our experience stuck in the apartment lift – waiting for help!

PC 194 2

I love classical music and particularly that composed by Jean Sibelius (see PC 109). Heavily scored for the brass section his Symphony Number 4 is a wonderful romp through some Finish landscape until it reaches a crescendo and pauses ….. waiting …. and different conductors stretch the waiting seconds ….. for ever. If like me you want to faux-conduct and you have raised your arms in anticipation, getting it right is ….. well …. waiting!

My dear mother stayed in a nursing home for the last year or so of her life, for some reason reading, inter alia, ‘To War with Whittaker’ over and over again (Note 1). To visit her I would work my way through multi-cultural, mixed-ethnicity of Clapham Junction and take the two-hour-plus train to Sherborne in Dorset; I arrived on another planet where ‘ethnic diversity’ was something they read about or saw on television. At home one evening, I got a call from the staff to say they thought my mother was fading. I said I would take the first train in the morning. I walked up Sherborne High Street, picking up a bunch of flowers as I did so, and headed into the nursing home. My mother’s room was on the first floor. As I walked down the corridor a nurse popped her head out of an office to say that, sadly, my mother had died a couple of minutes previously. I walked into my mother’s room, now still and lifeless, and before I thought about grief and sadness, I couldn’t help saying out loud: “You could have waited a few more minutes, Ma!”

That experience came to my mind here in Estoril where someone is dying of cancer, too young. The prognosis is a matter of months rather than years. An extrovert, larger-than-life character, they have been hugely philosophical about their various treatments and diagnoses of the last twelve months. Now it seems the end is in sight, although there is huge denial that that will happen. I was struck the other afternoon when I saw them, in their silk pyjamas, opening the shutters of windows that overlook the pool …….. where life was going on as normal ……. whereas they were waiting …….. I am sure we all feel an unspoken sadness and helplessness, only able to offer love, prayers and lots of gin.

TAP Portugal aircraft at Lisbon Airport

One of the many modern afflictions is waiting for some call centre to answer. For instance, I had been on the telephone to TAP Portugal for over two hours before Andrea was able to do what I wanted. Initially the system doesn’t seem to acknowledge anyone is waiting until you have been listening to the musak for 22 minutes. Fortunately the ‘speaker option’ on your ‘phone allows you to leave it on the table, playing the musak to itself while you get on with other things – providing you stay within reach. Then Katrine answered, working from home, God knows where. It didn’t matter; could she solve my problem? In these circumstances the worst words you can hear are: “Let me put you on hold”. Later, having taken me off hold, she asked if it was OK if she transferred me to another department. What can you say: “No!” – as that would have resulted in the continuous tone, one’s disbelief that after 55 minutes the call has ‘dropped out’ – either accidentally or on purpose! Then Bruno took all my details, again, and put me on hold ……. I waited, read more of my digital Times newspaper, made myself another coffee ….. until Bruno came back ……. and then the call dropped out. Ninety minutes and counting. Another attempt, another requisite 22 minutes before Andrea answered. By now I had a ‘Case Number’ that comprised so many numbers another minute went by just speaking them. And so it went ….. more waiting …… more ‘on hold’ ……. but eventually after close to two hours and a half ……. the waiting ended and I heard those most lovely of words: “We will send you an email confirming everything! Have a nice day.” Easily pleased huh?

And lastly we British have a reputation for queuing patiently. We don’t acknowledge many saints in England apart from our patron St George although the phrase ‘having the patience of a saint’ comes to mind …. waiting for …….?


Richard 3rd September 2020

PS My chum David Morley, who has a beautiful mansion in south west France (see PC 18), has solved the puzzle of the street numbers (see PC 193). They are measured from the start of the street, in metres. No 240, the old No14, should be 240m from the bottom, No16 is another 52m up the street. So I used my calibrated ‘pace’ and walked the street; ‘tis true!

Note 1 ‘To War With Whitaker’ was the title of the wartime diaries of Hermione, Countess of Ranfurly. My aunt’s colleague Peggy (see PC 114) read Jane Austin’s Northhanger Abbey at least once every year for her last twenty years. Must be something in the water?

One thought on “PC 194 Waiting for …….

  1. Now there’s a job creation scheme, measuring the metres to re-number houses.  I wonder who thought of that idea, shall I call Boris? Eddie 


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