What To Do?
Good evening. I'm confused about what call you? Mr. Leyland? Ronald? Peter? Pete?
A few days ago I asked to speak to Peter Leyland. The nurse said, ‘Who?’ After I explained exactly who I wanted, I heard her say, ‘Phone for you, Mr Leyland.’
The next night she said, ‘Phone for you, Ronald.’
The next night she said, ‘It’s your phone call, Peter.’
And now it’s, ‘Pete, it’s your call from John.’
And I’m hearing you already have a reputation as a storyteller.
Well, the word seems to have spread.
It certainly has. As the nurse was bringing the phone to you she told me, ‘Oh, Pete has such good stories. We all like to listen.’
Some of the nurses are a bit bossy, but I’m well treated. Fed. Watered. Warm. If there are any faults they are probably mine. See, they park you up for the day, but if you want to you can go into the big communal area. It’s like a hall. With a TV.
Have you spent much time in there?
Not really. I suppose I could mix in a bit more. But everyone’s just sitting around, watching. It’s all a bit vegetable. The thing is that Mum and I never went in much for watching the telly. We’d watch the news, and the weather, and then — BANG! — off it went. It didn’t hold much interest. On the whole we couldn’t be bothered. When we were there together, we had each other. We could read. Sometimes we’d chat. It was good. We’d have an argument. We were each other’s company. We were not great watchers.
What I do like to do is think. To imagine things. At night, when it’s quiet, my mind runs riot for a while — all sorts of things crop up in my head.
My Aunty Florrie was like that. It might be a Leyland thing. When we were boys in the old home in College Street, she’d not sleep. It was an old-fashioned house, with a passageway down through the centre, and living and dining rooms off to one side. The bedrooms were on the other side, next to each other. Granddad would take himself off to bed — he was still working at that time, with his horse and cart, delivering things. And he was working hard, and he was in his 70s, so he imagined he needed a bit of sleep. So he’s lying there at night, trying to get some shut-eye, and Florrie must have been tossing about, or creaking the floorboards or something, and she was just through the wall.
Old Phil would shout out, ‘Go to sleep you old fool! GO TO SLEEP!’
That’s a bit rugged isn’t it? A bit strong?
Oh, I heard it more than once — with my own ears. ‘GO TO SLEEP YOU OLD FOOL!’ She was disturbing the old man.
Sometimes, when I’m not sleepy, I keep awake and I find that one thought leads to another then another. I remember things I didn’t know I knew! It’s amazing. Intriguing.
In the quiet, and in the dark I can SEE anything I want — anything at all. It’s in my mind. It’s right there.
When you’re 100, I guess it’s only the memories that keep me going. So much has gone. But the memories do keep you going.
But you’ve moved on, you’re 100 and a half. The 21st of July. I was there. I gave you half a birthday card and half a block of chocolate.
You young ones do make a bit of a fuss, and the chocolate’s gone already.
Now, getting back to the ‘Pete’ thing. There are a few old-timers in here, and one of them is a guy, and he’s named Pete. So there’s the two of us. He’s a big, powerful man, and he sits up the other end of the table from me. And then there’s me — also ‘Pete’ — the weedy one — down here at this end. So I’ve nicknamed him. ‘BIG PETE’.
Does he like the name?
Don’t know. Big Pete hasn’t said much. He’s not like me in that respect. A bit quieter. So here we are, the two of us, just here — parked up together in Te Whanau — Pete and Pete — just filling out the last few days of our lives.
A few days! We need a bit longer than a few days! The Library in Palmy want all these stories printed up, indexed, and bound in a book. That’ll take more than a few days! And, as well as that, I’ve got a very big problem.
What’s your problem?
It’s this old man I know. He won’t shut up. His mind’s too active. He keeps pumping out stories and memories faster than I can write them up.
So what to do?
Well, the stories I’ve already got, I’m going to get them into print as quick as I can. Then I can start Volume Two.
So the book’s coming along okay? You can do this kind of thing? It’s all beyond me. I know nothing about turning it into a book. I'm content to be the gasbag.
I’m onto it. There’s help available — people to check my typing — and give advice about setting things out. Kathi’s daughter, Caroline, has given me a few pointers on improving my first effort at a cover. It’ll fall into place.
That’s good. In fact it’s a bit of history, you might say. But it’s a lot to take on — a lot to manage.
I’m working on it.
And then? Volume Two, eh?
One step at a time. One at a time.
Next story. 59. A Most Versatile Magazine.