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Joan Tully

"Mum, is it all right if we use your best cut glass vases?" a voice called through the bathroom door.

"You can use what you like," Beattie answered. Closing her pale blue eyes, she rested her head against the pillow of soft bubbles that had crept up the bath as she sank into the hot water that soothed her aching joints. Her hair was freshly permed, but what did it matter if it was getting wet? Today was her day - no 'phone to answer, no letters to write, nobody harassing her to stick to the schedule. Her children were even making the lunch.

She smiled as she heard the chink of crockery and the clatter of cutlery in the room below. She recalled other days when she had shut herself in this room for a bit of peace and quiet. The delicate water lilies and pastel decor had always calmed her down. In fact, this was her favourite room in the house.

They'd had some good times in this old place. It had been tough raising the family and money had been tight; there always seemed to be bills to pay. But they'd managed, and the hard work had reaped its own rewards.

Squinting up at the clock on the wall, she could just make out that it was almost twelve o'clock.

"Better get on," she sighed reluctantly.

Slowly she hoisted herself out of the bath and onto the chair which her daughter had thoughtfully lined with a towel. Grabbing at a bath sheet from the radiator, she accidentally knocked a smaller tower onto the floor.

"That'll do for my feet," she muttered to herself, wiggling her toes in its warm softness. She often talked to herself. Sometimes she thought she was the only sane person in the room.

"Don't forget all the little creases," she mimicked. But today she would do only as much or as little as she wanted with her own body. She giggled mischievously.

Once dry, she scattered talcum powder all over herself - and the floor.

"Mum, are you all right?" a concerned voice came through the door.

"I'm fine - except I thought I said I didn't wasn't to be disturbed," Beattie joked.

"Sorry." The voice tried to sound contrite and footsteps retreated quickly down the stairs.

Beattie's day clothes lay in a neat orderly pile on a stool beside her.

"Thoughtful of Sally to buy me a smart trouser suit for today," Beattie said feeling pleased. Today she couldn't be bothered to battle with tights. Anyway, socks were warmer for her feet.

Once dressed, she looked in the mirror. A few strands of blond damp hair clung to her forehead, but otherwise her 'shampoo and set' had survived the steam.

She pulled on her jacket. Her daughter had very good taste.

Around her, on the floor, lay all the wet towels - and the heaps of talc.

"Oh, well," she chuckled, "who cares?" Over the years she had cleared up for everyone else. Now it was her turn to be clumsy.

Gliding down the stairs, she felt pampered and ready to face the world. Her son was waiting at the bottom and escorted her through into the dining room full of people. A huge cake stood in the centre of the table.

"Happy Birthday!" everyone chorused.

"Could we have a photo' of family on one side and friends on the other, please?" the young reporter from the local newspaper requested. "And could someone open one of the cards for her to hold up?"

"I'll have you know, young man, that I may be 90 today, but I can still do everything by myself." Beattie's eyes twinkled at the reporter from her wheelchair, her arthritic hands fumbling to open the pile of cards in front of her.

Her family on one side of her, and the team of carers on the other, winked at each other. "To Beattie," they said in unison, raising their glasses.

We shall be delighted if you visit our sister site at Wickford and District Talking Newspaper for the Blind and see what those dedicated charity workers are doing.

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