The Consolation Of Solitude

“I vont to be alone”, Swedish-born film star Greta Garbo is reputed to have said.  It’s all I remember of her. Never saw any of her films; didn’t understand the mystique surrounding her. I thought she was odd. Did she marry? Have a lover? Have children? I’d no idea, but her desire to be alone seemed an aberration. I was young then. It would be a long time before I understood.

Grief Interrupted

It has been a year now since Peter lost his struggle to breathe, his heart and lungs no longer able to bear the strain of fighting against the aggressive Parkinson’s disease that ravaged his body and mind for 12 years. A year since I’d stood at his bedside that night in mid-October staring at the gray corpse that hours earlier had been my brother. I sobbed convulsively, “He suffered so much,” I howled. My husband held me. Our youngest brother Michael choked back tears.

On Not Getting Down To Write

I think this morning, after I check the headlines and start the laundry, I’ll get going on a couple of pieces of writing I have in mind.  Exploratory things.  One, an account of my year in Walthamstow, East London over 40 years ago; a year of robust immigration to the UK of British Subjects from India and Pakistan. I was living in Manor Park, E. 12, and teaching reading in a primary school in E. 17. The idea for this piece was sparked by a news story I’d recently read about the arrest of several putative airplane bomb plotters from Walthamstow . I think I’ll see if I have anything to say about that so I begin:


We are sitting in the living room, the late afternoon sun making its way toward the horizon, casting a warm glow on the walls. My son and I have been chatting, catching up on family news. He is about to leave when we are startled by what sounds like an escalating argument on the street below.

In Flight

We have boarded in Rome.  He is already seated in his leather Business Class reclining window seat, a glass of champagne on the little pull-out table. I have the aisle seat and nod to him, offer a brief greeting and busy myself with settling in for the long trans-Atlantic flight. The flight attendant comes around and –it being only 10:00 in the morning –opt for orange juice.  My companion, probably in his 50s, leans forward and takes a second glass of champagne. The attendant pauses, looking intently at him, and says, “Weren’t you just here yesterday?”  Oh, those business fliers, I think, back and forth, up and down.  No wonder he needs two glasses of champagne before breakfast.  He nods at the attendant, who is poised to offer a snappy reply, and says softly,  “My mother has died – while I was flying to Rome.  I got the message when I landed.  I have to go home– right away.”  The attendant, visibly jolted, takes a couple of beats and offers her condolences.


It’s been a very long day. This morning, intending to walk to the Piazza Venezia, for shopping and lunch somewhere nearby, I set off from the train station at Piazzale Flaminio. In the wrong direction. Again. My son warned me, the first time I’d embarked on an exploration of Rome, not to orient myself by the Tevere, the ancient river that snakes its way across the eternal city. It is very easy to get disoriented. He, having lived in Italy for most of his adult life, was right. Again. I’d walked straight down the Via del Corso toward the Piazza Venezia. But, turning left at some point instead of right, I’d crossed the river twice, ending up in the hills above the Vatican, far from my destination in a residential neighborhood bereft of cafes and bars where I could sit, rest up from my meandering, and have a bite to eat.  I walk and walk, further and further from my original destination.  This journey has now become my destination. And while the neighborhoods are leafy and homes quite lovely this is not where I want to be. I am tired, beyond hunger. My head is beginning to ache and I must sit down.

The 57

I didn’t notice her when I got on. It is my first time riding the #57 bus in our new neighborhood. Figuring out the cost of the trip and digging in my purse for the correct change preoccupies me. As the bus lurches into action I grab the pole, struggle to keep my balance, and fling myself into the nearest vacant seat. Fumbling with extra coins, I toss them into my purse and hear a voice nearby.  “Excuse me,” she says.  I look up.  She is sitting to my right, on a seat reserved for the elderly or disabled. “Excuse me,” she says again, leaning forward. “Would you take some advice from an old lady?”