There didn’t seem to be much difference between being asleep and awake these days, she thought, her eyes opening for the first time that morning. Sleep gave her the ability to act, without sufficient opportunity, while being awake afforded plenty of opportunity and cause, but little, if any, scope for action.
Staring up at the grey ceiling lined with hairline cracks, as she did each morning, she wondered if routine was as good a thing as she always thought it to be, especially when she was younger and believed propensity towards routine to be one of her strengths. Propping herself up with somewhat tremulous arms, she swung her feet off the edge of the single bed in the corner of the room and thrust her already-chilled toes into the pair of threadbare but warm slippers below. Allowing her breathing to slow down from this mild exertion, she contemplated the journey of a few steps from her bed to the hot water kettle on the counter at the other end of the room. Did she have any Darjeeling left?
She’d have to find another kettle in a bit; this one would be leaking soon and new ones were so dear. Of course, they would be sturdy and locally made, imports having ceased for quite a while, but costly nonetheless. Holding the kettle under the tap in the now-brownish porcelain sink, she filled it with a little water and plugged it into the fiddly socket in the wall. Stretching up, she reached for the grey enamel tin and gave it a few compulsive shakes before prying open the lid and fishing out the last bag of English Breakfast Tea. Insipid as she thought it to be it would have to do. The last biscuit had been eaten 24 hours ago; gingerbread biscuits they were, with green and white sugar frosting. Pouring the steaming water into a mug proclaiming her to be the “World’s Best Aunt”, leaving the teabag soaking within, she shuffled over to the lone window at the foot of her bed. Holding the hot mug tightly with her bony fingers, she leaned against the window frame and looked out into the misty grey, the same shade as yesterday and the day before and the day before that. Dark figures moved through the haze, feet crunching gravel in regular, almost melodic rhythm; her beloved countrymen on their way to work in factories perpetually struggling to keep alive.
Feeling a chill, she thought briefly of turning up the temperature a notch, then thought better of it; there was never enough money for some of these luxuries. She once considered these so necessary that she never even gave it a thought. In any case, it would be more prudent to fix the gaps under the doors and in the roof before thinking of turning up the heat. Draining the last of the warm liquid in her mug, she walked back to the sink, tossed the spent teabag into the bin and rinsed the mug with a splash of icy water from the tap, kept it aside and considered the rest of the day. The old have so much time for consideration.
One of the things with growing older was the gradual disconnection with relevance. Before the onset of this twilight, hers was the only opinion that mattered; and then came the mists that preceded the night. Some would say the mists were of her own making, and the night, inevitable. Nonetheless, from a time when she granted relevance, to now being the definition of irrelevance – how time affected the fortunes of man.
The screen in the centre of the room was one of her oldest possessions. Gifted by a most charming eastern businessman with a keen interest in Great Britain and Europe, it was one of the few pieces she was able to retain, and then because it had a functional purpose. Created from a particularly hardy variety of Teak, the screen comprised several intricately carved panels joined together with hinges in an upright position, and separated her personal living quarters from what she liked to call “The Office”.
The other thing about being her age or perhaps, being her at this age, was the nearly complete absence of hunger. She had to remind herself to eat and then again the right foods in the right amounts. Too much meat and her ankles would bloat, overdo the vegetables and her plumbing would be clogged for a week, and too much sugar would have made her doctor from way back when peer at her over his thick-rimmed glasses and slowly shake his head, holding back a lecture, but only because he’d let her have it so many times in the past without apparent effect; she had a sweet tooth that wasn’t going away. Earlier, she would swallow nutritional supplements and exist on meal replacement shakes – some of the luxuries that had disappeared along with her country’s commercial prowess. She missed the monthly check ups, relegated now to a once in a year event – most doctors had gone back to their native countries. Today, as with nearly every other day, it would have to be a piece of dry toast smeared with bitter, thin marmalade washed down with another cup of tea.
Twenty minutes later, brushed and combed, washed and dressed, she crossed the wooden screen, over into The Office, walked over to the bare desk and lowered herself, slowly, into the chair behind it, leaning on the desk as she did so. Both of them had see better days, thought the British Prime Minister, as she prepared to face another post-Brexit decade.