1st Tuesday of the Month

2nd June 2020











Today it’s my aunt’s 91st birthday. 

I’m writing this yesterday.

Not today.

Because today, I’ll be with her.

I’ll be with her, celebrating a birthday she won’t remember she has.

And after, won’t remember she’s had.

But in the moment of having it, I’m going to do all I can to make sure she’s happy. 


My aunt loves her birthday.

She loves being made a fuss of.

She loves food. 

And she loves presents.


She and I are very alike.

More alike than I’m happy about, to be honest.

Because I haven’t always found it easy, being her niece.

She isn’t easy.

She often tells me I was a horrible child.

She often tells me that my dad was sad.

That he wanted a proper little girl.

I used to be frightened of her.

I used to not feel good enough.

But she’s not who she was then.

And neither am I.

One of the blessings coming out of this illness, has been the chance to start again and become friends. 

To find we love each other, after all. 

And for me to discover that we are alike.

Stubborn, too quick to judge, soft-shites underneath it all, opinionated and united in a deep love of comfort food.




And Cake.

If it’s not fancy.

We’d always pick mains over a pudding.

But if at all possible we’d have both.

And seconds as well.


So that’s what we’re doing.

Right now.

As you read this.

Me, my aunt and my wife will be sorting through the food shop, talking about it, putting it away, opening presents, then talking about food and then eating food.

And then we’ll talk about the food we just had.


And then she’ll forget what we’ve just done.

And talk about something from her past as if it were today.

But she won’t forget how she feels.

Even if she has forgotten why she’s feeling it.


I’ve noticed this pattern is intensifying through lockdown.

I don’t think I’m imagining that.


Her memories now come and go more quickly.

She doesn’t remember about the covid-19 pandemic until we remind her to step back.

No kissing.

No cuddling.

Over and over we try and remind her.

And then she forgets again, forgets, remembers.

She is an expert in hiding the fact that she’s forgotten things.

She hides in plain sight.

I’m like that too.

Always hiding.

Me and my aunt.

We know our audience.

She has attitude and amazing comedy timing.

Those are her tools.

She’s been hiding that she can’t remember things for so long. 

Had us fooled for years.

Until it all fell apart and we discovered the truth.

All the things she could no longer hide.


Washing Up.


Rotten Food.

Piled high behind her door.

Don’t come in.

I’ll meet you at the gate.

In the end it was the smell that gave the game away.

Through all that, she never missed a beat.

And still, on she goes.

Using those skills.

And I use them too.

Check out my plays.

Always, the pain and anger sits seething behind the laughter.

I just dropped my guard there.

Won’t happen again.

Keep up.

Both of us.

Two peas in a pod.

Even now, if you met her, you’d think she was fine.

She isn’t.

She’s got a chronic and shit disease that is slowly destroying her amazing brain. But that doesn’t mean she isn’t clever.

Fuck me.

She’s so clever.

The convolutions she goes through to pass as ‘really quite alright’. 

That kind of brain power got others to the moon and back.




She doesn’t remember about the pandemic.

Which in some ways is a blessing.

She doesn’t spend her days worrying about it, as many elderly and vulnerable people do. 

She floats through it.


But that doesn’t mean she hasn’t been soaking up the anxiety.

That doesn’t mean that she isn’t missing the support and social trips she used to enjoy.

The supermarket sweeps she would unleash upon anyone she could convince to take her down the shops. 

It is something to behold.

Her darting down isles.

Looking for a feeling she can’t put her finger on any more.

It’s the feeling of being heard and seen.

It’s the feeling of making a choice.

That’s what she rushes down those isles looking for.

Shopping for the woman she was and the household she ran 30 years ago.  Racing to pick up huge joints of meat.

Massive bags of veg.

Countless stuffed toys.

And then she brings them home, where they sit and rot until someone manages to convince her that the veg and meat has turned.

No she says.

That’s a terrible waste.

The irony is entirely lost on her.


That was her favourite hobby.

Before lockdown.


Now we buy then wash all of her food.

Sensible portions.


Double checking.

Did you wash that?

Trying to prevent.

Trying to keep her safe.

The cost of protecting her is leaving her out of even more of her own life.

And she doesn’t remember why.

But she misses the things she can’t remember.

I can see her retreating further into her own head.

I can see her less and less in the here and now.

Our here and now.

This now. 

Her now.


Because, however old and fucked, it is still her now, too.


Her birthday.

On her birthday.

She will have a big trifle and food and flowers.

All washed.

All as free of any unseen threat as we can make them.

She will have video messages from family.

We will eat food.

We will be in her head with her as much as we can.

We will hear again about the days she had as a young student, fighting to get a place to become a doctor.

When it was almost impossible for girls to get a place to study.

She did it.

My god, did she ever.

Out shone.

Out worked.

Out did.

She did it.

So determined.

So fucking determined.

We will hear about the years of NHS service.

The journey’s through snow drifts.

The right way of doing things.

The digs she lived in.

The things she has seen.

That no one should have to see.

She got used to.

Took it in her stride.

I can’t imagine how.

The shits she had to work with.

The people she has loved.


And we will listen.


We try to listen as if it’s all brand new.

We will need a break sometimes.

I’m sorry.

Sometimes I’ll just need to pop to the kitchen.

For nothing at all.

Just to have a bit of a break.

For a moment.

So that I can come back and really try and be in the moment with her.

To really try.

To try and listen as we’d like to be listened to.

As if the world has not changed around her.

We will act as if that world still values and respects her.

We will act as if her service, is still remembered and still valued.

Has not been forgotten.

Has not been erased.

Even though the government does not remember her.

Does not care.

Will not care.

Refuses to do the things that equal care.

Instead, preferring a murderous muddle of a policy.

Can you call it a policy?


We can call it a policy.

It is not incompetence.

It is policy.

We can call it what it is.

A murderous policy, putting the responsibility of this pandemic onto the individual.

As if catching Covid-19 were a fucking lifestyle choice. 

Loosening the lockdown against medical advice.

Loosening the lockdown while removing people from the shielding list.

Via text apparently.



Getting back to normal.

It’s about personal choice and staying alert. 


She will not remember any of this.

Even so, hopefully she will survive it.


If we can help it.

She will hopefully live through it.


Despite the risks being cranked up.

As the lockdown loosens.


She will not remember their trip to a bluebell woods.

Their entitlement.

Their knowledge that they can.


You know.





Getting back to normal.

Jesus Christ.

To have such little self-respect.

Back to normal.

To actually have so little respect for anyone.


She will not remember that today. 

This fucked idea.

That people are simply the worth of what they produce.

Laid bare.

Laid raw.

Laid out.

Everything out there.

Not even ashamed.



No dignity. 

I will try and not think about this as we sing happy birthday, while praying we are not passing anything on.

In our spit.

In our breath.

I will try my best to act like I don ‘t remember a thing. 

But I will.

And I hope you will too.




Also by Emma,