Virginia Barton

1 November 2015: The Ladder


1 November 2015


Do you sometimes pause, as if on a ladder, and look up? Yes, here I am (you say to yourself), and with luck quite a few more rungs to go yet. And then you look down – oh dear, so many more rungs below, disappearing into the just-remembered distance. It’s called Sudden Age Awareness. Scary, actually.

On a recent visit to my doctor, she said casually:

“Oh by the way, Virginia, I see you haven’t given us any instructions for your End of Life Care. We like to have a copy here for out-of-hours doctors, paramedics, and the like. Could you bring something next time perhaps? And the same for BH, please.”


end is near cartoon

Who hasn’t thought about the end of life? But not just yet, please! Life is too good, too full of surprises, too beautiful to be planning for the end of it. What about all those bulbs I’ve just planted, and those shrubs I ordered for the border? Besides I haven’t finished sorting out my mother’s letters; neither have I written my Book, nor visited Tate Britain, or re-read The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists. Just possibly one of the grandchildren will get married?

There are a thousand and one other things I mean to do before I die. But since it’s the almighty doctor asking for action, something must be done. (Have you noticed that these days we take more notice of what the doctor says than anybody else, or is it only me? The priest, in an excellent sermon, may suggest we go to confession more often; the bank manager may repeatedly suggest putting a little something aside for the future – but it’s the doctor who gets results.)


I did as asked and became rather moist around the eyes doing it; it seemed such a shame!

Of course it makes very good sense and will save the family a lot of bother. The almighty doctors are not above being sued by a mercenary, litigious public and my wishes may prevent such unpleasantness.

As requested, I did have a go at BH. His response was both typical and hilarious:

“Anything you say, dear.”

It could have been my father sixty years ago, when asked what he would like for supper.






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