feeling like (a) charity

My cranky old landlady is lovely, mad as a box of frogs, but lovely.  Profoundly deaf to the extent that conversations are rarely two-way, you try to enunciate clearly so she can lipread, but still suspect she’s more interested in what she’s saying than what you, or indeed anyone else has to say.

Like my own mother, and they’re similar ages, she’s an old school twitterer who has to verbalise everything.  The sort you couldn’t imagine sitting still long enough to watch a feature film, at least not without some serious fidgeting.

Given her effervescent eccentricities it’s curious that she manages a considerably sized ward for the mentally ill.  It supported my hunch that those professionally inclined towards basic sympathetic care aren’t always the best equipped with empathy.  I was always bewildered by my mother’s long and apparently rewarding term as a Samaritan.

My landlady likes me, a lot, but it’s easy charming most women over 40.  I keep my flat clean, pay my rent, am polite, helpful (“What’s Amazon?…  ‘Down Loading, you say?’ – Don’t go speaking a different language on me now,”) occasionally cheeky but never push it.

She’d made quite a thing about my Christmas present, asked me my parents’ address and had it sent there.  “You must open it last now, on Christmas Day, you promise?”  She often asks me to promise her things which are actually favours she’s doing me.  “You will let me clean your kitchen while you’re gone?  You promise?”

I hadn’t thought THAT much about the gift – decent bottle of Scotch perhaps?  Nice Thai bride like a few doors down?  Feeling the urge to reciprocate on some level, I’d left a small bottle of bubbly and chocolates inside the oven, where I knew she’d be cleaning as she has an absurd attachment to the oven in my flat.

Dad handed me a modest looking envelope from under the tree on Christmas Day.

An ordinary Christmas card… then.. my face fell as, one by one, twenty pound notes came dripping out.  Twenty of them.  Two hundred stupid pounds, which she’d brazenly just send through the post.  The lunatic.  I felt saddened and grossed out.  Did she consider how I might feel to get this, or just think about the act of donating?  Or did she just automatically presume I’d be delighted for two hundred quid?

I freelance, mostly from home, and don’t think she quite appreciates how much work you can get done online today.  Not sure how much she believes me when I say I’m doing ok, getting by.

I didn’t know what to do with it, this oddly vulgar seeming wad of cash.  Didn’t feel comfortable accepting it.  If she’d just said she’d only charge me half rent over Christmas instead, I’d have gratefully accepted and just tweaked my standing order details online.  Having it physically in front of me like that was altogether different.

She keeps some grand gestures like this from her husband, so I resolved to check with him that he knew, make clear that I would return if he wanted, or donate to a charity.  Though it’s in twenty pound notes, it still doesn’t feel right keeping some and giving the rest away.

A couple of hours ago I mentioned it to him and he waved me away with a “that’s what she’s like,” or words to that effect.  It still feels weirdly sordid and unearned, so I shan’t tell her, will act grateful and overwhelmed, but think I’ll donate to the Alzheimers charity my Dad’s running the marathon for.  Mental health seems fitting.


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