Wednesday 19 April 2017

Sue, who always had time for me, just to listen, with a coffee and some cake

Someone posed the question after sharing this article on Facebook: What are GOOD things to say? What would you like to hear other than 'cuppa?' Which immediately brought back memories of my wonderful friend, Sue, who was always there for me during the dark days of my son's eating disorder. Sue, who lost her life to breast cancer five years ago (is it really five years?), who would willingly lend an ear over a coffee and cake. Just after she died, I wrote the following at a writers' workshop in an attempt to describe what Sue was like which I haven't posted online until now:

"This much?" she’d ask, tentatively holding three-quarters of a teaspoon of Nescafe.

"Yeah, that’s perfect," I’d say to Sue.

Yet she’d never have coffee herself, preferring herbal tea. She’d keep a stash in her handbag just in case.

And never anything sweet. "I must be the only person in the world who hates chocolate,” she’d say, handing me a massive M&S fresh cream ├ęclair with an expression that said 'indulgent Grandma'.

"You spoil me," I’d say, never daring to admit that I loathe fresh cream.

Her house was immaculate. The kind of house where you wouldn’t even ask if you should remove your shoes; you’d just do it. Of course her taste wasn’t my taste. Tall languid figurines embracing, polished dark-wood furniture with marshmallow cushions, a glass-domed clock and – always – Benji, her Shih Tzu, coiffured within an inch of his life, loyally protecting his mistress on the slippery cream leather sofa.

She herself was dainty, almost birdlike, in smart leggings and a fitted sweater with one of her many scarves draped artfully round her neck in a way I never quite managed to imitate.

"You always seem to get it just right," I said a few days before the cancer finally claimed her. "And I think the red works."

"It’s not too Jane Goldman?"

"No, it’s more Marcia Cross. I promise!"

"But dare I wear it to church? Or is it a wig too far?"

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