What's new with Janey
01 November 2010

Notes from a broad

Things have been worrying me deeply. I have been looking up the internet and trying to figure out if I have either- eye, bowel, lung or brain cancer, turns out am old and have nothing like that.
I have stopped smoking and so has my wonderful daughter Ashley, the feeling of her supporting me has been awesome. I really feel its time to get fit, lose weight and get off the fags.

I am not going to be one of those women who starve themselves, this about me trying to feel better about myself.

But I have been having strange pains and boils again.

I just get random pains then go search them on websites, years ago when you had random illness’s an old granny or a woman in your street who kept cats and made gooseberry jam would diagnose your illness in the absence of a doctor.

I recall we had a woman just like that in our street, called Maggie who made flowers out of twigs that she shaved at the end into chrysanthemum heads; it was amazing how she did it. Anyway we called her Maggie Make-believe as she told fantastical tales about ships, pirates and past lives. She also made poultices and gave out herbal type medical advice to anyone who would listen. She also drank home made nettle tea way before the bored housewives of Chelsea discovered its healing properties.

There was an old woman called Auntie Jean who lived in Maggie’s bedroom, Auntie Jean was completely ancient, she looked like a skeleton in a crocheted matinee jacket, her white hair haloed in wisps around her angular white face. She whispered and waved when I came to visit her, and smelt of talcum powder and death.

I never wanted to see this woman who really wasn’t my Auntie Jean, even at eleven years old I knew that was a wee woman waiting to die as Maggie Make-believe made chrysanthemum flowers in the living room and dipped them in blue food dye to sell. But my job was to go shopping for Maggie, she loved me and would bring me in, let me make a disfigured flower then usher me into the talcum room of death to sit by Auntie Jean who looked and sounded like a ghost.

The worst thing was when Auntie Jean asked me to sing a wee song for her. I couldn’t sing and was constantly aware that my shitty voice might have been the last thing she heard on earth. So then wee fat Maggie would come into the room and sing so loudly I was worried we would miss Auntie Jean’s last breath, it just didn’t feel right to be belting out a Tom Jones song to a frail dying woman.
Maggie was a gypsy-ish woman, I suspect. She was a fat as she was tall and wore big flowery dresses and spoke funny. She really loved Auntie Jean and took great care of her.

Maggie’s house was immaculately clean and I am sure she looked after Jean better than any medical staff at that time in the 1970s. I have to say I was relieved when Auntie Jean finally died, as I was worried that she would die during my frequent visits and I didn’t want that to happen.

Maggie was serenely accepting of Jean’s death, something I hadn’t witnessed in my family or my life at that time. She didn’t believe in God, she believed in fairies, woodland earth or something to do with nature reclaiming its own and sang a big song when Jean died with the windows open flung wide (to let her spirit go free). She put the radio on full blast and we both danced to a Marc Bolan song as Jean’s dead body lay in the next room, I was freaked out at first but Maggie assured me Jean loved music and happiness. I was either helping a wee hippy celebrate death or I was enabling a mental person…either way it was ok and felt quite good at the time.

I was thinking about Maggie the other day and decided to write this blog about her, for back up info I called my brother and asked him “do you remember Maggie Make-believe who lived in our street?” Well he didn’t and I am starting to think I imagined her! If anyone out there recalls a lovely cuddly wee woman called Maggie who lived in Kenmore Street in the mid 70s and who made wooden flowers and could cure verrucas and made her own cough medicine and pain poultices, do let me know._