FIONNA INWARD ALLEN
Pandemic Pie: a monologue
Pat is 73. She has spiky red hair with grey at the temples. She has a mug of tea at her side which reads “World’s Best Grandma”.
We are in her front room. There are ornaments and lamps and Pointless is on the TV. Every now and then she gets distracted by it. To begin she is holding a framed photograph of three small children which she points at.
©Meg Hodson Photography
Pat is 73. She has spiky red hair with grey at the temples. She has a mug of tea at her side which reads “World’s Best Grandma”. There is a wedding ring on her finger which she twiddles from time to time. We are in her front room. There are ornaments and lamps and Pointless is on the TV. Every now and then she gets distracted by it. She is holding a photograph with three small children which she points at.
This one’s Archie. He’s the eldest, he’s five. I collect him from school on Fridays for his swimming lessons. He’s my baby. And this little rum’un is Charlie. Ooooh, Charlie, he’s gonna break some hearts that one. He’s here on Tuesdays. He’s just turned three. Likes trains so we go down and see those at the station. And this is our newest little fella, this is Gabriel, my eldest’s, who’s (thinks) 20 months now? Very with it, very clever. Keeps me on my toes. And I go to him on Wednesdays.
And it’s been very hard. Very hard indeed.
Taking up her tea, she turns to the TV
Ooh, I hate these ones.
She squints at the TV through her reading glasses
Countries whose first vowel is an A. Something African? Chad?
She shouts at the TV
Chad! No Afghanistan! No, let’s stick with Chad.
Beat as she sips her tea and glazes over at the TV and back into her thoughts
I mean, I’ve actually enjoyed the time by myself more than I thought. Doing a bit in the garden. Started some clematis up the trellis. I’m trying to structure my day a bit. Y’know, get up the same time, go to bed. The girls have always nagged me anyway about being too busy. House wives register, book club, Thursday night quiz at The Crown.
Oh, but they keep you young, kids. They keep you looking at the world, going 'wow!' Look how many legs is on that… centipede! Just watching them eat something new for the first time. Like when I put Branston pickle on Charlie’s sandwich and his eyes nearly popped. He’d eat that stuff on ice cream.
Eyes on the TV. Someone has just said Accra
Accra, that’s a capital! Not a country. Pffffft.
I mean, my daughter, she’s got me on the Zoom, and that’s fantastic. I can see Archie doing his reading. We’re reading George’s Marvellous Medicine at the moment. And Charlie, running around with his (pause) bottom out, painting in the garden. But. And technology’s great. But, where’s grandma’s cuddle? And the little hands. You just want to touch them. Smell them. Their heads. And I should, I should be grateful I can see their faces. Their beautiful big faces in the screen but… I’m 73. And, I’m missing things!
Missing new words. “Mamm-mar” he says when he sees me – Gabriel - on screen. “Mamm-mar”. Well, I should feel lucky, ‘cause what he’s saying is “I know you! You’re the nice lady who looks after me on Wednesdays!” But he’s got all this hair now, a great whoosh of hair across his forehead and he’s got all his teeth! Before this I was watching those things happen… very slowly. The first word, the first steps. I mean, it’s a cliché isn’t it – “they grow so fast”. But.
Throughout this next bit she twiddles her wedding ring a lot
Without them… Well, it’s all rolling past me, without me, and I’ll never get it back. All this time that’s been stolen. It’s a one off, watching it. Watching them. Grow.
She is visibly upset. She picks up her tea. She puts it down and sighs long and hard.
If Ted was still alive though, that’d have been… I don’t know if I’d have survived it. You know he had, well, terrible dementia. Forgot how to talk and eat and go to the bathroom. I used to joke that I was changing everyone’s nappies! (In a funny voice) Line up everyone!
When Wendy came to help every morning and before bed, well that made it all so bearable. I felt like a right… like I wasn’t a very good person having my cup of tea while she was in the bathroom changing his nappy (she corrects herself) his pad. But you can’t do it all.
Presumably they would have stopped Wendy coming over to help? If it’s 'no contact'? (Beat) No, it’d have killed me.
Looks at the TV. Another sip of tea. She says the first line to the TV.
I’d never been so thankful for my grandsons at that point. They brought me all the joy. When life was such a challenge with Ted being ill, schlepping that wheelchair up and about. (Beat) Their little arms around me. Their sloppy kisses, wanting Grandma to read stories. It put a warmth back into me that looking after Ted turned to stone. You’ve gotta be hard. You’ve gotta be. Being a carer. Rock hard. But they melted me.
When the virus started. At first I was more bothered about the garden centres closing. No, no, don’t shut Dobbies. Not finished me garden yet! But it’s just something to pass the time really. To distract me from not seeing those little boys.
(Directed at the TV) I’ll switch this off.
She gets up, switches off and sits down. There’s a small knock on the window pane. She stands again and leans towards it.
(Over-the-top) Thank you!
(She sits again) That’ll be my Sainsbury’s. Priority customer don’t you know… Well, at least there’s some advantages, being an old hag. (She cackles)
They said, didn’t they, a staggered return… to normal. I bet that means keep the over 70s in doors. They’ll be a rule: A slogan.
(Thinks) Be a star: don’t hug Grandma!
Beat whilst she chuckles at her own cleverness, then crosses into daydreams. Throughout the first part she gets more and more excited and animated.
When this is all over, properly over, I’m gonna kiss those dirty little peachy faces until… I don’t when. They can… they can stay up till midnight doing jigsaw puzzles, playing with their cars. They can eat chocolate cake for breakfast and for dinner. I don’t care if they get fat. More of ‘em! More to squeeze and kiss.
Until then, it’s just me. Me and Alexander Armstrong. Me and The Zoom – and lots of time and gardening and… Well, I better get that shopping off the step before my berries defrost. Going to bake a pie. Not really sure who for. Just fancied it. In fact, does pastry freeze well? I’ll Google it. I could freeze it for the boys. They’d love that. Grandma’s Pandemic Pie we can call it. Grandma’s Pandemic Pie… I can tell them on Zoom. They’ll like that…
She gets up, collects her cup and walks towards the door