Sunday 20 March 2022

Meeting Leonie, a wonder woman of 90

Someone for the crossing

Leonie Irene, 90, is the last of 7 siblings, she is now the only surviving one, her big sister having only died recently. She wanted to cross the junction at the intersection where Hulme Hall Lane meets Oldham Road to get the Miles Platting Post Office and corner shop to do some shopping, so, she asked if I could help her cross the road.

I gave her my arm as you used her wheelie bag in the other hand to give her support as we made to cross the road. Asking where I was from, I told her I had walked from the centre of town and she recalled that there used to be a Whitworth Street School for Girls bordering the canal where her mother used to be a cleaner.

Down memory lane

Keen of sight and hearing, she was observant and quite sharp, though her short term memory seemed to frequently fail her, the conversation was a thing of patience and care because I probably told her ten times where I lived and then she would recall I had told her before and that her mother did work at the posh school which has now been absorbed into another school system.

She talked of how Manchester had changed that transport into Manchester then was by tram, but that was a long time ago, it made me feel quite young that when I said I was 56, she said I did not look a day over 40.

From a list and much more

Getting her to the shop, she insisted she had to treat me to something, the shopkeeper was new, but he had seen her two weeks before, she did not recognise him when she said she had not seen him before and then her shopping began. The newspaper she paid for and put in her shopping bag as she brought out a shopping list for milk, butter, and dinners.

For the milk, I asked if she wanted the blue top (full milk) or the green top (semi-skimmed milk), she decided on one each of the smallest size bottles to fit in her fridge, a large container of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!, and some sandwiches that she could not persuade me to have. I took those to the till and paid for them.

Treats for her and I

However, the shopping was not done, as she had picked up a loaf of bread and the dinner was not the sandwiches but ready packed meals that you could put straight into the oven. At which point she got three different dinner packs and persuaded me to take a pack of fish and chips.

Unawares to her again, I paid for the order. Then she wanted chocolate bars, some biscuits, and a can of All Day Breakfast, all those she got separately, which I allowed her to pay for as she would have been all too aware of her spending nothing in the shop.

Every few minutes she would wonder if she had everything on her shopping list and probably something else and each time, I would assure her of what she already had in her bag whilst hoping to help her remember what else she needed.

Repeated answers and new questions

After the shopping, I helped her back across the road to the bus stop and waited with her until her bus arrived. That was when I asked for her name which was apparently given to her by one of her elder sisters who had been reading some posh book, she said. When I told her my name, she spelt it out correctly. She then asked what I do and then she surmised I must be well educated. Many more questions she asked including if I was married, quipping that maybe I had not met the right girl. I told her, I do not like girls, she chuckled.

She deduced that I probably did not have a family as in a nuclear family and for relations, she said but you have people. I am not as inquisitive or I might have asked if she was married or had children and grandchildren, I hate being intrusive if personal information is not freely volunteered.

Quite remarkable, she wanted me to get on the bus offering to pay my fare, I had already walked miles and I told her I was just out for exercise. When I bus arrived, I got her on and told the bus driver she was only going one stop, I bid her farewell as she shook my hand, thanking me for helping her, recollecting we had just met down the road.

Waking down, I met up with her at the next bus stop where she had alighted. I asked if she had far to go, she said it was only around the corner and she will be fine. We shook hands again and she went on her way. At 90, she was no pushover, I was quite enriched by this brief encounter that probably lasted an hour. That was just part of my evening out in Manchester.

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