My Name is Eva An absolutely gripping and emotional historical novel - Suzanne Goldring
Quiet! Tall gin mixer required for full menu (3,6)
Mrs T-C, 6 October 2016
We Never Have Fish
Mrs Evelyn Taylor-Clarke, Evie to loved ones long gone, Eva for a brief but special time and Hilda, during her temporary stay in the nursing home (where staff always used the first Christian name recorded on patient notes), is thinking. Danielle, catering manager at the Forest Lawns Care Home, will be back again soon with her clipboard of menus, asking her to decide what she would like for lunch.
‘What will you have today, Mrs T-C?’ she’ll say, tapping her board with her ready pen, impatient for a decision.
The care home caters very well for its residents, with three options of main course every day for lunch and two choices at teatime, which Evelyn still prefers to call supper.
Should she choose the chicken or the fish today? Fish or chicken? What should it be? Evelyn knows she had fish yesterday, cod mornay it was, with a lovely cheese sauce and mashed potatoes. The day before she chose smoked haddock with a soft-poached egg and spinach. Today, there is a choice of fish pie, vegetarian lasagne or roast chicken, but it might be helpful if she tells Danielle she wants fish again and complains that she hasn’t had any for a very long time.
Pat is coming again this afternoon and there might be more questions. She has been turning up with questions ever since she began preparing to put the estate on the market. She never had any questions while Evelyn still lived at Kingsley Manor – in fact, she hardly ever visited – but that was before she had power of attorney and thought she knew what was best.
The drawing room is quiet this morning; only a couple of other residents have settled themselves in the high-seated, winged armchairs after breakfast. Evelyn shakes her Daily Telegraph to straighten the pages and turns to the back. She always reads the obituaries first, although most of her acquaintances are long gone – she has outlived so many. Then she turns to the weather forecast and the crossword. She studies the clues, both those across and those down, turning the newly sharpened pencil in her fingers. She likes to keep her pencils dagger-sharp. Yesterday, she asked Sarah, the Forest Lawns activities organiser, for a supply of pencils with rubbers. That’s what she needs, sharp pencils with erasers attached to the end, just like they all had when she was training in the war. Doesn’t anyone use them any more? So much better when you want to correct a mistake. But it wasn’t a mistake, was it? Very little in Evelyn’s life has been a mistake, apart from the one she can never forget.
With a quick light hand, despite her arthritis, Evelyn fills in the clues with pencil. Really, Mr Thursday is hardly challenging; even the anagrams are easily solved. She will have to pretend again, so once she has completed the puzzle, she finds a pen in her patent leather handbag and then scribbles over the pencilled words in each white square of the grid with black ink, changing the letters so they no longer link up in a tidy and comprehensible pattern; they are no longer words, just nonsense.
On Monday, she noticed Fay, one of the regular nurses, glancing at the paper after she had finished rewriting the words in the puzzle. She looked at the crossword, frowned, then gave Evelyn a pitying smile and said, ‘Well done, Mrs T-C. You’re still keeping your hand in, I see.’ And Evelyn smiled back, but her smile was for herself, for her own amusement, at the thought that Fay would never realise she had sprinkled the squares with the odd letter from the Cyrillic alphabet, and nor did she notice when Evelyn occasionally popped in a word or two of German.
Last week, waking from a nap in the lounge, Evelyn had decided to have fun when Mary brought her a cup of afternoon tea. ‘Danke, liebling,’ she said. ‘Du bist sehr gut für mich.’ And she had enjoyed seeing the woman’s look of confusion and relished hearing the words she spoke to her colleague standing by the tea trolley, pouring more cups for other residents slumped in their armchairs. ‘Bless her,’ Mary had said. ‘She must be dreaming she’s back in the Old Country.’ And the two women cast fond looks at her as they poured and stirred the tea and placed mugs in the shaking hands of those who