THE PAINTER

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 15 January 2011

The call came at 9.45. had just listened to Giles Brandreth on Desert Island Discs. He's one of the reasons I could never vote Tory.

I dressed quickly in dark, sober clothes. Not deliberately but because that was how I felt.

I'm driving Jim's car, mine is in the garage. I found out today it's going to cost 700, they'll have to wait the tax-man wants all my spare cash. The bloomin' Jackmobil has also decided to die. It'll either go to the scrap heap or justify its existence by costing less than 200....we await the estimate.

I set off at 10.30 and arrived at Barnet General hospital an hour later. Paid my 4 quid parking and found Juniper ward.

I was called Jennifer Juniper way before Donnovan wrote the song, I lived upon a hill but that was the only similarity between me and the hippy songster.

My brother and his two sons were at my sister-in-laws bedside. She was hooked up to an oxygen tube, drugs were being administered to her in trickles.

At 59-years-of-age she'd been struggling with her health for years. I couldn't eat so had a mug of coffee. Time feels different in a hospital. By 2.00'clock it was clear that she was being kept alive because of the policy to maintain life at all costs. Neither me, my nephews or my brother could justify the use of so much technology when it was clear she was struggling to stay alive, it felt like she had gone.

I left at 4.30. There had been a downpour and huge puddles slowed the traffic on the A1. I had Radio 3 on, Tchaikovsky's 'Nutcracker' soothed my savage breast.

I arrived in Hackney, having taken the wrong turning, by 5.30. Walked to the New Arcola which is practically opposite Dalston Junction. My mobile trilled it was Jim talking me through the directions. He made me jump as he was standing opposite me. We collected my ticket and set off for some supper. A wonderful Turkish restaurant served us humous, chips and a plate of roasted vegetables. I was starving.

I used up all the battery on my mobile making constant phone calls to my brother to check out the state of play.

THE PAINTER, written by Rebecca Lenkiewicz, is about Turner the eponymous painter. The theatre was the paint factory where Turner had his paints made. TOBY JONES, my husband JIM BYWATER, NIAMH CUSACK, DENISE GOUGH, AMANDA BOXER and IAN MIDLANE, work superbly in this tight production. I was absolutely freezing, had to take my boots off and rubs my toes throughout, but the play is wonderful. Rebecca has managed to make spaces that the audience can fill. The acting is comfortable. The design, lighting, sound terrific. I cried as did most of the women around me.

The Mayor gave a speech at the beginning about the support of the council and Bloomberg Bankers, thanking voluntary workers and all who had made the evening happen. We were making history, us the audience and them the lovely cast. You must try and get a ticket, it will be hard, THE ARCOLA is going to be the hottest thing in town.

MEHMET ERGEN, the director and life force behind the Arcola is delightfully understated, as is his direction.

The after show party was upstairs. Bowls of nuts, bowls of olives, free wine and beer and a cool local band with a baby on drums and a beautiful girl playing the accordian and singing whilst squeezing.

I called my brother in the interval and my sister-in-law's condition had not changed.

I called again at 10.40.

My brother and his two sons had had the same thought at the same time. Why was she being pumped full of oxygen when it was clear that it was the only thing keeping her alive. My eldest nephew approached the doctor and asked them to remove the tube as the three of them wanted to see her face. She died within ten minutes of the tube being taken away.

Whilst we were crying at the play my sister-in-law died. At exactly 10.10.p.m.

A calm descended on my family.

The reality of death, the finality of her passing. The knowledge that after years of fighting she was now without pain.

Doesn't make it any easier for my brother, who has been her carer for years, who will now have to rebuild his life, but at last she is at peace.

It felt awkward celebrating my husbands success and my brothers loss at the same time. But that's the cosmic joke ain't it.

Jim and I are having a whiskey together, we both need a wind down.

I missed my yoga today, but when I awake tomorrow I shall go to Balham and let Mr. Bikram do his stuff.

Right now, though, I think I need another whiskey.

Jeni Barnett tells of her scrumptious time at Good Food Live in her first audiobook! Download NOW from iTunes

Comments

1. At January 15, 2011 1:38 AM Pauline Jones wrote:

Oh Jeni, you have a wonderful ability to bring us into your world, to share your pleasures and your sorrows. I hope you know how much we all care.

Big hugs
Pauline x

2. At January 15, 2011 3:35 AM christian wrote:

When anyone returns home.
It is always sad for the one that remain.
But for the soul on the journey home it is full of light, happiness and good health.
Cx

3. At January 15, 2011 7:25 AM Gillian Gilbey wrote:

Jeni, Would like to wish you and your family long life on the passing of your sister-in-law. Condolences to your brother and his family.

4. At January 15, 2011 8:07 AM Glenn wrote:

Dear Jeni,
so sorry to read your heartbreaking blog. You really are an amazing woman. Sending you all lots of love.
xxx

5. At January 15, 2011 9:27 AM Rhianon wrote:

I recognise the hospital scene totally. We held my Mothers hands whilst she slowly left us.
And yes, I'm still having 'another whiskey'.

6. At January 15, 2011 3:07 PM Lindy Fleetwood wrote:

Oh Jeni have no idea what to say other than mine and many others thoughts and prayers are with you and your family at this time. Go on have another whiskey Love to all xxhugxx

7. At January 15, 2011 6:40 PM Kirsten Alicia wrote:

Jeni, my deepest sympathies to you, your brother & his sons & to all who knew your sister-in-law. I am so sorry.

8. At January 15, 2011 8:44 PM LV wrote:

Christian, i believe your words are truth and wisdom.
Love and Light,
xLVx
...

9. At January 22, 2011 12:52 AM green funds wrote:

Starting step by step is the way to go. Small steps could bring in a huge difference. Just using alternative fuels can bring a major change in the environmental conditions. It is high time one put an end to fishing for ways to make personal profits at the stake of the environment. The current situation is our fault and it is up to us to amend it.

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