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©Anna Lukala 2019

JEAN

These images are taken over several years of my neighbour Jean, who I used to visit regularly to keep her company and give her a hand with whatever she needed. She was very independent, and physically active elderly lady, but she had no relatives or any friends as such.

Majority of the time she made no sense, or she would repeat stories like it was the first time she met you. This is probably some of the reasons why she ended up rather lonely and isolated, living with only her beloved cat Precious as company. 

 

Main talking points used to be about her finishing her music degree at Royal School of Music that she begun sometime in her youth, but never apparently graduated. She also wanted to go to Malvern piano holidays, she told me how she would take part in a piano playing final, she would play Beethoven wearing a midnight blue satin dress, she would finish the piece to a standing ovation and end up winning a trophy. She never made it to Malvern nor did she enrol to music school. 

 

She loved to talk about buffon hair-dos, teeth whitening, skin creams, she could speak cat language and see dead people (yes, apparently her house was haunted).

She bought all her dresses on mail-order from Manchester and liked to look nice. But still very frugally she would repair holes in her stockings by hand.

She claimed she was great granddaughter of Lady Jane Stanton, who lived in Trentham Gardens near Stoke, and because of this she was of course an aristocrat. I never understood where these stories came from (or, if the people were real or fictitious ones that she conjured up in her mind) but they were repeated thousand times. 

I remember smiling politely thinking she is a bit mad everytime she told me, as a devote catholic she actually met the Pope in Rome after taking her mother on a pilgrimage trip to Italy. This turned out to be their last trip together, as her mother soon after died of cancer. I always took these stories with a pinch of salt, some more bonkers than the other. But then one day, out of nowhere, she showed me a framed picture of her with the Pope. Well that told me!

That made me think maybe she isn't as mad as she appeared, she certainly knew how to play the piano for example. Still I never got to the bottom of what was real, what was stories in her head, and it really doesn't matter. I am just glad she had someone she could tell these stories to, with that rather strange child's voice of hers, as they seemed very real and important to her. 

 

Now dementia's taken hold of her and she lives in a residential home. She doesn't know who I am anymore.