written and posted by members of Lancashire Dead Good Poets' Society

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

A Brief Encounter with Sadie Trotter

11:35:00 Posted by Jill Reidy Red Snapper Photography , , , , , , 7 comments
Whenever I hear the words, ‘Brief Encounter,’ my mind leaps (like many others’ I’m sure) to the film of the same name.  A railway station cafe, a meeting of soulmates, the impossibility of a relationship, the parting of ways.  A bittersweet and poignant tale.  

My own brief encounters have been nowhere near as romantic or tear jerking as the original.  However, there have been several of these encounters over the years, some more newsworthy than others. 

Three or four years ago I was about to cross the prom near my house when I noticed an elderly lady, standing on the edge of the kerb, her head turning rapidly back and forth as she waited for a gap in the traffic. I approached her and asked if she’d like help crossing the road. ‘I’m fine,’ she said, ‘but I’ll help you.’  I laughed and we linked arms and crossed the road. For an old lady she was pretty nippy, and we only slowed down when we reached my house.  ‘This is me,’ I said, turning to go. However, I hadn’t reckoned on this lady’s ability to chat. I don’t think I’d ever met anybody who could match me.  

I’m ‘Sadie,’ she said, then, like 007, added, ‘Sadie Trotter.’ 
‘Jill,’ I replied. 

She started to tell me how she’d lived in the house next door when she’d first moved to Blackpool with her husband and children.  After a few months, her husband had died of a brain tumour and she’d been forced to move back in with her mother.  It seemed to me that this lady was suffering from some form of dementia as she talked very lucidly about the past, but struggled to remember where she lived now.  I listened for a while longer, the whole time time watching her with my photographer’s eye. I’d been out taking pictures of the sea, and my camera was slung round my neck. I could feel my fingers twitching to press the shutter and capture Sadie’s animated face. She was talking so quickly now, that her false teeth kept dropping down from her upper gums. Periodically she sucked the teeth back up, and hardly pausing for breath, would continue with her memories.  Her son had also died, many years later, another brain tumour.  She had looked after her mother when she became senile, whilst holding down a job at a local bank.  She was eighty nine and all she had left now was a daughter, who lived in Manchester and rarely visited.  This was one sad tale but Sadie didn’t tell it that way.  Looking back seemed to make her happy.

She laughed when I asked if I could take her picture.  ‘You don’t want a picture of me,’ she said, looking coy, and I could see a glimpse of her younger self.  She adjusted her hat and her teeth and gave me a smile.  I took a few quick shots, and told her I’d print one out and post it through her letterbox - once we’d established where she lived.  She seemed to know which direction to take so I offered to walk her home, we linked arms again and she set off at a brisk pace.

I printed out the picture, put it in a frame and called round a few days later.  With hindsight, I suppose Sadie was pretty trusting to let me into her home just like that.  She made me weak tea, produced a plate with neat slices of Battenberg, and continued to tell me her life story.  Her husband had been a vicar, and Sadie was obviously still very religious.  As I got up to go, she grabbed my hands, motioned for me to sit down again, closed her eyes and began to pray.  To an atheist this was a somewhat surreal experience.  

I called every few weeks after that.  Each time would follow a similar pattern:  Sadie would answer the door, comment on my purple hair, make me tea, offer me cake, and continue (or recap) on her life story.  Sadie sat before me, frail and weak, toothless and almost hairless.  The teeth apparently only appeared on special occasions, and although she enjoyed my visits, these obviously didn’t quite cut it.  The photographs on every shelf and filling every bit of wall space told their own story:  A plump, coiffed Sadie hanging onto her very own vicar’s arm and smiling shyly at their wedding nearly seventy years before; a motherly Sadie with two young children on the beach;  Grandma Sadie standing proudly next to a grandson in cap and gown.  And of course, a tiny, smiling Sadie, hanging onto her hat and her teeth in the wind outside my house.  Over the next eighteen months I continued to visit, sometimes taking the grandchildren, who had to be bribed with the promise of chocolate biscuits and very strong cordial.  Sadie loved to see the children and always went out of her way to play with them, but as time went by I realised her health was failing, both physically and mentally.  The children became harder to persuade to come with me, so I went back to visiting alone.

One day there was no answer when I rang the bell.  The neighbour informed me that Sadie was in hospital, and promised to phone me when she was home.  Or if she didn’t return…..  

I felt incredibly sad.  I never saw Sadie Trotter again, despite calling several times, and I never heard from the neighbours.  A couple of months ago I spotted a ‘For Sale’ sign in Sadie’s front garden. 

Our ‘brief encounter’ hadn’t had a lot of romance but it did end up a bit of a tear jerker.  

RIP Sadie Trotter, you were a lovely friend for a short time.

A Life by Jill Reidy

Cluttered room, a tray of tea
Cake arranged in tiny squares
Heating and hopes high
A lifetime on walls and shelves
Births, marriages and deaths 
And everything in between
Sadie talks
I sip weak tea, take a bite of cake and listen
It's a long tale
Ninety years of ups and downs
Joy and sadness
Disappointment and despair
Rheumy eyes plead with me to stay
A visitor 
A listener
A friend
Sadie suddenly looks solemn
Takes my hands, lowers eyelids
Says a prayer
I focus on her wedding ring
And ponder the unfairness of life

Thanks for reading…….. Jill 



Liz Dee said...

Jill, that's a lovely story of your encounter(s) ... I wish I'd known her too. Liz x

The Sea Croft B&B St Annes said...

Oh how lovely and sad all at the same time xx

Myra said...

This is very poignant Jill. It takes so little to connect with another human being, but you gave a lot. Loved reading this.

Steve Rowland said...

A beautifully written and touching blog, nicely summarised in your poem. Thank you.

Kittyjack said...

Ahhh Jill pet I am saddened to hear that Sadie has passed, God love her. You would of made a lovely lonely lady very Happy with your visits and the joy she must of had seeing grandchildren again even though they were yours pet. Loneliness is a terrible terrible thing and she must of looked so forward to your visits. I am sad we will never hear of her again, but I no she will be looking down on you and thanking you so much for the kindness you had shown her. R.I.P. Sadie you sounded a beautiful soul xx��❤

Anne Cameron said...

I loved reading this beautifully written piece. How fortunate you both were to meet and enrich each other's lives

Jill Reidy Red Snapper Photography said...

Thanks everyone for lovely comments. For some reason, I can't reply to you individually, but your comments mean a lot, thank you xx