Thursday 5 May 2011

Mary, Queen of May, and the Almost Holiday

It has been quite a week, one way or another, nationally, internationally, personally. A photograph has accompanied me through the week, delighting me every time I see it.

Just a jokey picture Mary sent to cheer me :)
This is Mary Haybittle, Day of the Royal Wedding, complete with daisy chain, posy and celebratory red nail polish. Her husband, Dr John Haybittle, was my father's Physics tutor at the Cambridge hospital I now spend half my life in. Father was the only student of John's that Mary agreed to meet, because he sounded so interesting. They entered into a conversation of poetry, literature and philosophy that continues to this day; a conversation they allowed me to interrupt many years ago. Mary started writing me letters the year we moved to England, even though she and I lived only a village away from one another. And to this day, the letters arrive, in blue ink, "... Thinking of you, dearest Shaista. This isn't a letter. Just a hug, Mary."
This is how I learned to write. In the receipt of, and the replies to, Mary Haybittle of Shelford. When Mary reads this, and sees her picture, she will phone and say, "Oh Shaista!!"

Mary has seen much of history, much of life. There is very little she does not know, in the deepest sense of that word. And knowing translates into understanding. At every crossroads of my life, at every heartache, one word, one line from Mary, soothes me. When I was younger, in hospital, at 9pm one night, I demanded, "I want Mary!" in a peremptory way. Mum was so embarrassed, but she obediently rang, and Mary arrived. As she always does, one way or another.

I was supposed to be in France today. I booked a little holiday months ago, a tour of the Chateaux and Gardens of Normandy. It would have been nice, on the trail of Guy de Maupassant and Monet, but my heart wasn't in it. Not just because of the General's passing, but because our friend Dawn rang from hospital to say farewell, she was moving on, and what a privilege it had been to know us. Couldn't leave. Am sitting beside her as I write. She fell asleep after eating a mango Mum sent for her. The whole mango! Funny how pleased you can be when a mango trumps cancer. I told Dawn that I have just been interviewed by Sherry Blue Sky at Poets United for their Life of A Poet series. She was chuffed. Click on the link to read the interview if you like. I had fun doing it :)

Mary would say I can always run off to France another time. And anyway, it's bucketing down in Normandy, I might have been rained away.


Lele said...

f-a-b-u-l-o-u-s interview! your soul glow Shaista, so does your entire family! as Japanese say `mune hare yo` (be proud of!). It is incredible how your writing is touching! many many hooray! :) see you soon my friend (breaking #digitallife!)

Sherry Blue Sky said...

Oh Shaista, I am so sorry about Dawn, and glad you went to sit by her bedside. Your radiant smile will comfort her. Lovely that she enjoyed the mango! I am glad you enjoyed the interview. It is still making me feel terrible that you stayed up late the night of the General's funeral to complete it - above and beyond the call of duty, my girl! People are so enjoying getting to know you. Your fame is spreading far and wide, across the Pond:) You are such a lovely and beautiful human being! Hi to your folks and also a "congratulations" for raising such splendid offspring.

lupie said...

Mary, a person of such important influence in your life. It is nice to have someone you feel in sync with .. in a way, I think of my aunt when I read your post, the only one who understands my deepest, sometimes very dark feelings.

So sorry to hear about Dawn. You are such a kind, good friend to be by her side. Oh well, some other time for France then, when the weather is much prettier! :)

Congrats on the interview. Will listen to it when my internet connection behaves!!!

Hugs to you Shai and loads of love going your way! Take care!

Shaista said...

Lele, cannot wait to meet, finally :)

Sherry, thank-you for asking to interview me, and don't feel bad. I wanted to do it, and the General would have been pleased too :)

Bin, Lupus Laureate, it's nice being published in the same medical journal as you!! Cheers!

Lorenzo — Alchemist's Pillow said...

Oh, Shaista, how movingly you convey the pain and beauty you live in and with. I am going over to check out the interview now. I, too, am a believer in the healing and soothing power of M&M (mango and Monet).

Jenny said...

Joy and sorrow. Such a balance we need to achieve in our lives every day. Your story was touched my heart.


Great blog!!

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